A road train
A road train is a combined multilink vehicle consisting of a tractor and a trailer (a trailer road train), or a semi-trailer (a semi-trailer road train). Road trains can be formed of trucks, passenger and passenger vehicles.
In passenger traffic as road trains are used trailed (multi-car) and articulated (multi-sectional) buses, trolley buses and streetcars. In articulated road trains separate sections are used as semi-trailers, connected to the head section-tractor by flexible coupling so that the road train has a common passenger compartment. The trailed road train is formed of individual non-passenger cars that are controlled from one cabin of the head wagon according to the multiple unit system (CMU). In contrast to car trains-buses and -trolleybuses and multi-car streetcars, multi unit streetcars are usually two-cab (control cabs are located at both ends of the system).
Official Russian interpretation
Russian road traffic regulations  interpret a road train as “a motor vehicle coupled with a trailer(s).” Further, a mechanical vehicle is defined as “a vehicle, except a moped, powered by an engine. The term also applies to any tractor or self-propelled machine,” a trailer is “a vehicle not equipped with an engine and designed to be driven in conjunction with a motor vehicle. The term also applies to semi-trailers and trailers.
Thus, the definition of a road train also includes a streetcar with a trailed car. This conclusion is somewhat paradoxical, since a streetcar is not an automobile (but is a motor vehicle).
Auto trains in the U.S.
Historically in the U.S. a very significant portion of intercity freight transportation is done by road – through private road tractor-trailer trains, often supplemented by trailers. There are communities of “long-haul truckers” – drivers-owners of such trains. There is a widespread practice of convoys, which may include one or two dozen trains and stretch for hundreds of meters.
Road trains in Australia
Australia is sometimes called the land of road trains. Australian road trains usually consist of a tractor and two to three trailers, the usual length of such a train reaches fifty meters, there are also road trains with seven trailers, capable of carrying up to 190 tons of cargo  .
Since the beginning of the horse-drawn carriage, and then especially in the streetcar systems that replaced it, trains have been widely used. Multi-car CME and multi-sectional articulated streetcar trains are the most common form of multi-unit urban transport and public transport in general after rail trains.
Buses, as well as trolleybuses, with trailed cars were and are used in some countries. In the USSR, prototypes of ZIS-155 bus trains were not in operation. However, in Leningrad and Krasnodar trolleybus trains were operated under the CME system. In post-Soviet Tallinn, bus trains operated on a number of routes.
According to a letter from the California Division of Motor Vehicles, a bus trailer in the U.S. is a trailer or semi-trailer used to transport more than 15 people, including the driver, and includes a trailer and towing vehicle, which is a truck, or bus. In the U.S., however, such bus trains were only more or less widely used on urban routes before World War II.
In poorer countries like Cuba and India, bus companies sometimes use trailer buses. They are more economical because they use regular trucks as a hauler, which at other times can also be used for freight transport. However, this means that a second crew member, the conductor, must be present in the vehicle to sell and check tickets. In Western countries, wages are too high, so this form of public transport is not common.
However, in many countries, bus trains often continue to be used as tourist trains between cities. For example, in the U.S. it is most often a tractor with a bus semi-trailer, while in Japan there are two coupled bus cars, the first of which has a normal passenger compartment, and the second contains penal sleeping places for overnight stays and service compartments (kitchen, WC, luggage).
At the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition/VDNKh/VVC in Moscow for a long time so called “park car trains” ran in the form of microbus trains RAF-980/979 and then RAF-3407/9225/9226, and later children car trains made of carriages, styled as a train. Currently the route is served by regular buses.
In many fleets in other countries similar minibus and car/electric car trains are often used as pleasure trains.
What is an auto train and peculiarities of its use
What you don’t see on Russian roads. Among the motley participants of the road, some instances cause special interest, for example, you can meet the massive trains, carrying multi-ton cargo of different origin, called road trains.
These unusual representatives of vehicles have their own characteristics, and manage them much more difficult than an ordinary truck or car with a trailer, such TC is not good maneuverability and requires special driving skills, so the driver to sit behind the wheel of a tractor, you need to have the appropriate category of rights.
This type of vehicle with a multi-ton weight and large size, given the danger presented by the “flyweight” to other road users, as well as a large load on the pavement, traffic regulations impose special requirements.
What it is
A road train is a combined vehicle formed of several links – a truck tractor and rolling stock, namely, trailers towed by it, or semi-trailers that are supported on the frame of the tractor. A road train may consist of cargo, passenger and passenger vehicles. According to Russian traffic regulations, a road train should be understood as a mechanical vehicle that is engine-driven and coupled with a trailer (one or more). Although this interpretation can also include a streetcar with a trailed car, no one calls it a road train.
Car trains are classified according to different parameters, thus, cargo trains are divided into the following types according to their purpose:
- Universal. They are used to move various objects.
- Specialized are adapted for the transportation of special cargo and have a special body – dump trucks, container trucks, refrigerators, tanks, panel trucks and others.
- Special (for the movement of permanently mounted on them equipment – power plants, compressor units, workshops, etc.).
According to the type of connection of a tractor-trailer with a road train are separated:
- Trailed. They are formed by a lorry with a flatbed or van body, and one or more trailers.
- Fifth-wheelers. A road train consists of a tractor and a semi-trailer, the front axle resting on the tractor through a fifth wheel. The cargo is in the body of the semi-trailer.
- Road trains consist of a tractor and a road tractor trailer, equipped with support beams for fixing the long goods.
Road trains are cost-effective to use for trucking, with the roadway having to meet higher requirements than when a single vehicle moves over it to be more efficient. To minimise damage to the road and to ensure safety, there are limits on the size and total weight of lorries, and there are penalties for breaking those limits. Compliance with the rules (checking the weight of trucks and axle loads) is monitored by the State Automobile Inspectorate in accordance with the norms in Russia, regulated by Federal Law №257 and Government Decree № 272.
In order for a vehicle that acts as a tractor (truck, wheeled tractor with a trailer of 1.4 t or more, or an articulated bus, trolleybus) to be allowed to operate on roads, it must be marked by a special identification sign “road train” in the form of three orange lights placed horizontally with a distance between them of 150-300 mm on the roof of the cab. So other participants of road traffic will be able to recognize this type of vehicle, and to make the vehicle visible from afar, it must be equipped with LED lights on the perimeter.
According to paragraph 19.8 of the RF Traffic Code, the identification sign “road train” must be turned on when driving at night and in poor visibility conditions, as well as when stopping or parking.
In addition, safety is conditioned by proper load distribution when placing objects, negligent attitude to this point can lead to the fact that the train will drive from side to side, which creates the risk of accidents. Federal law states that the transportation of large-sized indivisible cargo by road train requires obtaining the appropriate permits (issued by Rostransnadzor of the Russian Federation). Permits are also required for the transportation of dangerous goods. When drawing up documents, all parameters of the vehicle, the number of axles and the load on them, as well as how to connect the tractor with trailers or semi-trailers are taken into account.
Maximum dimensions of freight vehicles
Road transport in international traffic on domestic roads is carried out in accordance with international treaties and Russian legislation. The adopted standards, which specify what values correspond to the permissible weight and dimensions of a road train, are designed to ensure the safety of transportation. Restrictions are aimed at reducing the risk of accidents and contributing to the quality of delivery of objects, violation of the established norms entail fines.
According to the rules adopted in the European Community, the following train dimensions are applicable:
- Width for all vehicles – 2.55 m, for isothermal vans – 2.6 m.
- Height for all vehicles – up to 4 m.
- The maximum length from front to rear point of the combination vehicle – 18.75 m.
In the Russian Federation, Federal Law No. 257, as well as the Government Decree No. 272 on this matter. Appendix 3 lists the maximum allowable dimensions of trucks, cars and trailers moving in the Russian expanse:
- Width for all vehicles is 2.55 m, for isothermal vans – 2.6 m.
- Height for all vehicles – up to 4 m.
- The permissible length from front to rear point of the vehicle – 20 m, and the load must not protrude beyond the limits of the vehicle more than 2 meters.
At the same time to the transportation, carried out by special vehicles, including tractors with trailers or semi-trailers, the rules of the road have such requirements:
- The weight of the transported cargo must not exceed the permissible values that the vehicle manufacturer has specified.
- It is forbidden to operate a vehicle with fully or partially obstructed headlights or registration plates.
- The transported goods must not obscure the view and interfere with the operation of the vehicle.
If the transported object is indivisible without loss of performance, and its characteristics are beyond the legally prescribed limits (the cargo is considered oversized), respectively, the length of the train will be longer than permitted. Transportation in this case is allowed only in compliance with the conditions stipulated by paragraph. 23 OF THE RF HIGHWAY CODE. According to the rules, if the load protrudes more than 1 meter and the sides of more than 40 cm, it must be marked with warning signs “oversized cargo”, as well as lights and reflectors in the front of white, rear – red.
The movement of oversized cargo greater than 4 meters in height and projecting beyond 2 meters to the rear, including road trains, is possible under the rules prescribed in the regulations of the Government and the order of the Ministry of Transport № 258. Thus, to carry out the transportation the following conditions must be met:
- The route must be agreed in advance.
- The availability of permits is mandatory.
- It is also envisaged to be accompanied by patrol cars of the traffic police or the traffic police.
- If the road surface is damaged by oversized vehicles or other infrastructure, the owner of the vehicle must compensate for the damage incurred.
Maximum permissible weight for trucks
Legislation also sets out the weight limits (i.e. the total weight of the vehicle and its load), axle loads, permissible overloads, and rules for driving above the limits.
The weight limit for each vehicle is specified by its manufacturer, and this parameter can be found in the certificate (PTS). In addition, Annex 1 of Government Decree No. 272 specifies the permissible weights, taking into account the number of axles. Thus, the following restrictions apply for tractor-trailer and tractor-trailer trains:
- Three-axle – 28 tons.
- Four-axle – 36 tons.
- With five axles – 40 tons.
- With six or more axles – 44 tons.
Another important parameter – the load on the axles. As a rule, the rear axle carries the heaviest load due to the design features of trucks, where the placement of objects of transportation is assumed to the rear. Permissible axle loads are given in Appendix 2 to Government Decree No. 272. The maximum permissible values of this parameter are also the basis for limiting the passage of certain types of vehicles on the roads and are indicated by special road signs in some areas.
According to federal law, the overload must not be more than 2% of the allowable value. For vehicles whose gross weight exceeds 44 tons, you must obtain a permit, which will be presented a route and other data, and when the laden vehicle weighs 80 tons, the route must be made by officers of the State Automobile Inspectorate.
Penalties for Violation
There is an administrative responsibility for neglecting the rules of the current legislation in accordance with Article 12.21.1 of the RF Administrative Code, and individual entrepreneurs bear the same responsibility as legal entities. For violators, which include the driver, the person responsible for transportation, the legal entity, and the owner of the vehicle, fines are imposed for exceeding the permitted weight and dimensions; in addition, if the overload exceeds 50%, the driver loses his license for 6 months. The vehicle itself together with the cargo is sent to the penalty area. Besides overloading the fines are imposed in case of providing false information about the weight in the documents, exceeding vehicle dimensions by 10 cm, absence of permits for transportation of large objects, deviation from the route.