GM develops system to make towing behind pickup trucks safer

January 24, 2020

A deer leaps into the road. It freezes in your pickup truck's lights. The impulse is to slam on the brakes, but the heavy trailer you're towing could buckle and crash into the truck or flip them both. What do you do? 

GM is developing an advanced trailer braking system that will let pickup truck drivers react to such perilous situations the same way regardless of what they're towing. Essentially, GM is modifying its eBoost braking system found on the 2020 GMC Sierra and 2020 Chevy Silverado and applying it to trailers equipped with electric hydraulic disc brakes.

The upgraded brakes available on most trailers are better at stopping than drum brakes, and combined with the electronic wheel speed sensors on eBoost, GM says it can reduce the stopping distance of a truck towing a 9,000-pound trailer by 20% from 60 mph to zero. That's a difference of about 40 feet, according to GM, and in closed testing, the eBoost-equipped trailer can stop within feet of a truck that is not towing. Imagine coming down a hill, round a bend, and the road is blocked. Coming to a stop 40 feet before you would without eBoost could make a life-saving difference. 

Graphic of GM's eBoost trailering concept

Graphic of GM's eBoost trailering concept

GM says the system can be used on trailers with multiple axles with varying degrees of weight.

Using disc brakes with what is essentially an antilock braking system and stability control helps to reduce trailer sway, as well as improve stopping distance. The system uses the existing seven-pin trailer wire connector found on most trailers.

Since the technology must be equipped on the trailer, the question remains if GM will sell the technology to trailer manufacturers or begin manufacturing its own line of trailers. What is certain is that it will be more expensive than the basic trailers with drum brakes.  

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