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(thomas mountain) Eritrea Needs Training for its Drivers, Operators and Technicians

Posted by: thomas mountain

Date: Friday, 11 January 2019

Eritrea Needs Training for its Drivers, Operators and Technicians

Eritrea needs training for its drivers, operators and technicians. A
good example of this is in its new mining ore transport industry.

Today Eritrea is running upwards of 200 trucks delivering 25% zinc ore
concentrate (previously copper concentrate) from the Bisha mine in
Gash Barka to the ore loading port in Massawa. These are brand new
trucks made by a joint German (Man Trucks) and Chinese (Sinotruk)
partnership and are modern, including something no other truck in
Eritrea has, an engine brake.

Engine brakes automatically shut off diesel fuel to the engine when it
is running down hill under loads, effectively eliminating the power
stroke without interfering in the compression stroke, in effect
turning the engine into a large compressor with the resistance being
used to slow down the truck, as in Engine Automatic Brake. When the
driver takes his foot off the accelerator pedal the engine brake, when
turned on, automatically shuts of the fuel, turning the engine into a
compressor/brake. When the driver step back on the accelerator pedal
the engine brake automatically shuts off, restoring fuel to the engine
and allowing the power stroke to resume and powering the truck.

In most countries any large truck carrying heavy loads down steep
inclines are required to have an engine brake, and every one of the
new Sinotruk's has one.

The problem is none of the drivers in Eritrea has ever seen one
before, all the heavy trucks in service today in our country date back
from before engine brakes were widely introduced back in the 1980’s.

When a large truck carrying a heavy load, 30 tons or more as in the
ore concentrate from Bisha, goes down a long steep incline like the
road from Asmara to Massawa, the only way the drivers, without an
engine brake, can maintain safe operating speeds is by down shifting
the transmission to use the engine to hold the truck back. If the
driver misses a shift and the transmission goes into neutral
disconnecting the engine from the drive train the truck can “runaway”.
Conventional air brakes, what was the only braking system in older
trucks, overheat and fail if the driver has to rely on them to control
vehicle speeds.

This in why engine brakes were introduced, for with them the driver
merely had to take his foot off the accelerator pedal and the engine
brake would take over turning the engine into an air compressor (noted
for it loud bop-bop-bop sound) and the truck would immediately start
to slow down and would continue to do so until it comes to a complete
stop, or the driver steps back on the pedal, restoring the fuel supply
and normal driving operation.

I cant tell you how many times I have driven uphill from Massawa to
Asmara these past years since copper/zinc mining started in Bisha and
smelt the burnt asbestos brake pads on trucks passing me coming from
Bisha with a full load.

I also wondered why these new trucks did not have engine brakes, with
its distinctive, loud (some urban areas require them to be turned off
in their jurisdiction due to their loud annoying nature) blatting
roar.

After years of smelling burnt out brakes and passing crashed runaway
trucks on the Massawa to Asmara road I finally stuck my head inside
one of the new Sinotruk cabins and low and behold there was the engine
brake button on the dashboard, bearing the white letters of EAB,
engine automatic brake.

I turned to the driver and managed to ask him in my broken Tigrinya
what this button, EAB, was for? His answer? Guduf, guduf, don't touch
that, it causes the engine to make a loud noise and stop.

How many trucks have been destroyed going down the Asmara-Massawa
road, how many lives lost when a driver missed a shift and the truck
“ran-away”, eventually crashing?  And all of this could have been
prevented if the drivers had used the engine brakes their trucks were
equipped with?

I asked the Sinotruk dealer in Eritrea if I could see their driver
manual for their trucks and was handed a glossy booklet…entirely in
Chinese. That’s right, no english translations for the drivers manual
so no driver in Eritrea, even those few who could read english, could
learn how to use the EAB, engine automatic brake.

So guduf, guduf, don't touch the EAB, remains the rule of the road
today in Eritrea’s mining transport industry. With the new
Dubarwa/Embadurho copper mine and Danakali potash mine starting up
this year in Eritrea another 400 or more trucks will be added to our
government run fleet, with potash being transported from Colouli in
the Danakil to Massawa by the same rolltainer system, and trucks, for
all three mines.

All that needs to be done is take a short training video off the
internet showing visually how the engine brake works and translating
the words and graphics into Tigrinya and our drivers would join the
rest of the modern transport industry and start to use something so
vital to road safety and vehicle efficiency, the engine brake.

This is an example of why Eritrea needs training for its drivers,
operators and technicians, for we are spending tens of millions of
dollars on modern trucks and Caterpillar equipment where the operator
cab looks more like a computer bay than a bulldozer cabin. All to
often lack of training is effectively preventing efficient use of
these badly needed machines. We could start by asking the Sinotruk to
translate their drivers manuals into english, at the least. Better
yet, make an instructional video on how to use the engine brake in
Tigrinya and require all the drivers to watch it.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we look at how a modern preventative
maintenance program in Eritrea’s mines would prevent tens, even
hundreds of millions of dollars in lost production time by using a
state of the art, and very simple, oil analysis program to prevent
equipment failure in the field.

Thomas C. Mountain worked in the heavy equipment field in the USA for
twenty years, and was a Heavy Equipment Instructor and Foreman for one
of the largest mining, construction and energy companies in the
country. See thomascmountain on Facebook, thomascmountain on Twitter
or best reach him at thomascmountain a g mail dot com
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