Fatigue Fracture of a Highway Tractor-Trailer Steel Drawbar
A drawbar connecting two tank-type trailers of a highway gasoline rig broke while the rig was on an exit ramp of an interstate highway. The drawbar was a weldment of steel plates, tubes, and castings. Light fractography showed no discernable causes for the failure, but a TEM fractograph at 20,000x revealed fatigue striations and corrosion products on the fracture surface, indicating that this area was probably the site of fracture origin and that it had cracked before the accident happened. The casting on the right side of the drawbar contained large voids and a significant amount of porosity. Electron fractography established that the cast connection on the left side failed by brittle fracture. Metallographic examination showed poor weld quality in the casting-to-tube joint. Evidence found supports the conclusions that the drawbar fractured in fatigue, which originated in the weld joining the cast connector to the right side of the drawbar assembly. The crack initiated in a region of poor weld quality. A contributing factor to fracture of both connectors was the presence of voids and porosity in the castings. Recommendations included revising the welding procedures and instituting receiving inspection of the connection castings.