Autieri, drivers and trailers: indispensable helpers also in the FFAA

(To Gianluca Celentano)

And yet, there are also them, counted in all respects among the vehicles even if they have no engine and sometimes hidden by the imposing shape of their engine that attracts looks and curiosity. Without a doubt, the trailers are the versatile rotated tool to which the FFAA entrust the transport of a very long list of materials and vehicles used for both operational and logistical tasks.

If the trucks attract the attention it is also true that the materials transported do not go unnoticed, especially when the floor is a Centaur rather than one Ram, the fuselage of a Jet or, more simply, a rotatable trailer kitchen.

In fact, everything that is not tactically transported with a CH-47F double-rotor helicopter in the operating area, reaches the border of the mission on board special military semi-trailers or isolated trailers.

Trailers: trucks and lorries

Without entering into complex descriptions of the regulations of the CdS that regulate the trailers (classification code O) it will be interesting to make some distinctions, in fact not all trailers are the same and there is a precise procedure to follow before hooking the tractor or tractor - the vehicle driving - to his trailer.

The category of trailers includes both i semitrailers - commonly called trucks - superimposed on the road tractor (ex: Stralis and ACTL) and insulated trailers, ie those equipped with a rudder and towed by a tractor which is in turn subject to the load; a complex that takes the name of truck, the same name that your car has when it draws the trailer for the holidays. However, it is good to underline that the maximum speed limits with trailer are the same for all and fixed in 80 km / h on motorways, the march must only take place on the first two lanes freeway to the right.

What is the procedure to follow? In reality it is a numerical value given by the ratio between the PTT (total mass at full load) of the trailer and the tractor, the ratio between the two masses must fall within specific values, whether it is a heavy truck or a trailer of a rolling kitchen or caravan. A heavy truck trailer can not exceed 150% of the mass of the tractor, while a semi-trailer is 145% and a trailer, just to give an idea, 80%.

To understand the importance of this rule let's get to know the axles of a trailer ...
Try to imagine the load on the floor of a tank Leopard from 40 tons that at first, lifting the brake, is positioned on the semi-trailer letting us hear its characteristic and fascinating rumble. Consider that a 2 or 3 axle tractor, coupled to a semi-trailer with 3 axles, can support as a PTT a load of 44 tons. However, a single axle with twin or single wheels but with a wide radius can safely handle a maximum load of well 12 ton, but the value can increase up to 20 in relation to the distance of the second nearest axle.

So a trailer for every situation? No, the Army would prefer to adopt multipurpose versions of standard trailers or with low-end platforms at the top of the range for strength and thickness of the longitudinal sheet metal. In fact, if in civilian logistics the number of axles translates into higher costs due to friction, in the Armed Forces the semi-trailers often have from 3 to 5 axes, but also more if they have to load heavy tanks . A choice that optimizes and simplifies the use by the Military Engineers.

Trucks and military tractors

So much "cavalry" is a must when it comes to unloading power by exploiting the torque range to move armored vehicles or heavy military bulldozers, and come into play are the engines Cursor o Tector of Iveco.

The ASTRA Iveco with the ACTL is in pole position as a truck or tactical tractor especially in the SM 88.50 TIM 8x8 version, but then there is also the Iveco road Stralis from 480 or 560 cv.

The dimensions of the wheels and the strength of the steel rims, in the militarized versions of the trailers, make the difference on the maximum values ​​of the PTT and the quick and operative choice falls on the standard or lowered platforms equipped with platforms suitable for loading other vehicles.

Self-steering and demountable trucks, tandem or tridem

Both as an aid to the maneuvers, and to avoid dragging the rear axle in the corners with greater consumption, the trailers and sometimes the tractors adopt a hydraulic self-steering system on the last or third last axle. The system uses a control unit that identifies the position of the vehicle up to 10 km / h and, thanks to a pressure switch, it generates compression in a lung that makes steering the axle. The more axles are present in exceptional transports, the more the system is indispensable.

It is actually a very clever solution to the roll-off loading system, which does not require the presence of a telehandler to position the containers on the floor. Used on the Iveco Astra APS 8x8 "Heavy Duty Truck" versions, the system uses a hydraulic arm to position the shelter on the ground or load it; operation that takes place leaving the gearbox in neutral and unrestrained vehicle, so that the two resistances, caisson and engine, overlap. The hydraulic arm occupies a little 'space on the back but for logistical and operational uses where the length of the tractor is about 10 meters - the maximum 12 for vehicles - it is really exceptional and during the various calls I got to work appreciating it with interest.

Over time we have dealt with several tactical trucks like the ASTRA ACTL and you will have realized that off-road use of a truck imposes a group of 2 rear axles called Tandem (photo). A tilting system on a cradle: if one goes up the other goes down. For road vehicles the contiguous two-axle system does not provide a cradle but independent pneumatic suspensions, and if the axes are 3 the system is called Tridem. For the moment I have no data even from TATRA defense, on the presence of solutions tridem cradle and for operational use. The concept, a bit like the tracks, is basically to always have wheels on the ground and in adherence thanks to a sturdy structure with a simpler operating geometry than rigid or independent bridge solutions.

Regulations and vehicle office

Thanks to the 138 code of the highway code that regulates vehicles and drivers of the Armed Forces and State Bodies, these bodies have full autonomy in the management of their motorization and driving licenses, but it must be remembered that the same discipline of the road code of any other motorist. For example, only a state of necessity can authorize overriding in this sense as established in the emergencies of the 177 article. The classification of military licenses offers seven models and four variants, which translates into a greater driving opportunity compared to the 16 civil categories.

In the barracks who will take care of the means will surely have in his pocket the driving license book with the 4 and 5 model with the addition of the three ABC extensions. But it is still the department's vehicles office, as was the case at the time of the lever, to coordinate and manage the military driver and from this office decide the means to be used and compatible trailers as well as the daily transport services or the use for a mission longer or as aggregates to another department. The conductor, generally a corporal, will come out of this office along with his sheet of paper, paper and fuel card always referring to his head office that will be constantly updated in the carrying out of the transport.

Curiosity: With a military license 2 model, equivalent to the civil B, you are allowed to tow up to 1000 kg against the 750 kg provided for the B license, while with the 3 model, the civil C, the towable mass is the same but can be promiscuously transported up to 20 people with a vehicle greater than 3,5 tons.

Rolling kitchens and toilets

To all of us we will remember a military course, the famous single-axis rotary kitchen developed on the trailer, often driven by an AR76, ACM80 or CM52. Surely it will be easier to remember the tastiest flavor of the kitchen in the fields, but the historic rally from 200 rations - AO53, dell'Orto or Bifoni - similar to trailers Ben-Hur ww2 Americans, was used until the early '90.

Within the epoch Calabrese logistic trailers - they looked like railway carriages - and those coming from the US Army, but restructured under license in Italy, command stations, radio stations and mobile workshops were set up. During the camps the showers were made under tents where pipes passed with different dispensers and a diesel boiler provided to heat the water, but I already hear your comments and advance that often the shower was cold but still invigorating ... The bathrooms were instead created in metal boxes and the logistics and ingenuity of the marshals of the Minute maintenance guaranteed to find plumbing, sewage and electrical connections.

Today, as had happened for some time in the advanced armies, everything travels on alloy modules transported on trucks or trailers. Much more practical light and complete, they lack nothing and guarantee privacy when it comes to toilets. In the list of conformations there is also the laundry and baker form. Also the rolling workshops are interesting and above all complete for every type of repair or even rectification.

Reversing a nightmare without exercise

Experience and practice are always necessary and mandatory on heavy vehicles, buses or lorries. The big truck drivers argue, with good reason, that if you have learned to drive with the gearbox Fuller and on the truck you can call yourself a driver. In fact, when maneuvering in reverse it is easy to lose the trailer that is to take a different direction from the desired one and in addition you have to add the cars that you pass behind while maneuvering.

Turkish engagement: The military tractors also on the front under the cab are provided, in addition to the common front hook, of air vents for coupling the trailer. Under certain conditions it may be convenient to position the tractor on the front of the trailer by hooking it on the front side to perform the reversing maneuver with a little more simplicity. But beware, it is important to always put the wheel stop wedges before removing pressure from the trailer.

Exercises: In case the responsible marshal allows it, it would be a good training to place a road train on the square with cones that simulate a stalemate and perform a lot of reversing exercises with a turn to elle. I tell you now that you sweat a lot and the results are seen after weeks, but it works.

I did it with the articulated 18 meters inside the depot, observed with some amazement by some colleagues; however, this practice was useful on the road but it is good to specify that the truck is even more difficult in reverse than the articulated lorry.

A civilian experience with the semi-trailer

They asked me to replace a colleague for the delivery of heavy construction machinery, which I carried out with some experience. The problem was that the street did not exist because everything was under construction, so having few references I had to navigate at sight and intuition. I had identified the construction site, the road as the crow flies passed over a large, partly paved country road that prevented entry into the town in the province of Milan. I admit that I wanted to ask some clarification to the Nigerian walker on the corner, but I preferred to avoid reaching the goal at sight. After one kilometer, the road narrowed and there was a stream beside it, and on the other a newly fertilized field. Nice feeling really ...

As soon as I was about to get closer to the articulated truck - I had a load of thirty tons - I felt the ground give way and the truck tilt even though everything was dry and beaten. A feeling where your heart is in your throat and I do not wish anyone! Not being able to turn, I engaged the reverse gear and walked away trying not to get bogged down. Luckily I came out a bit 'folcloristically following another path and perhaps, I thought later, I should have asked the gentle Nigerian Miss where to take that road ...

And the measures?

Forty-four tons is the maximum load limit for the towing tractor complexes, even military not exceptional, but the value rises to 54 and 56 ton only for particular means of work, eg. lorries transporting sand. The maximum lenght of the lorries is 18 meters derogated from 18,75 in certain conditions, while it is 16,50 meters for articulated lorries. The maximum height for all is 4 meters and only special buses arrive at 4,30 meters.

I dedicate the article: To my friends Autieri, of which I remember three victims of Nassiriyah, to the availability and humanity and to the civil commitment of the brig. January Francesco Lo Iacono - 3 ° Cerimant - with the initiative in schools "La Buona Strada della Sicurezza", but also by now too vexed truck and bus drivers, whose current rules of a short-sighted globalized market, are breaking up an indispensable professional sector distributing among other things lack of work, scarce tax exemptions and unfaithful competition, deliberately forgetting that the Italian drivers are among the best in the world!