Yaw Stability Control of Tractor Semi-Trailers
Seyed Hossein Tamaddoni Saied Taheri
Center for Vehicle Systems and Safety (CVeSS) Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA USA
Copyright © 2008 SAE International

Tractor semi-trailer stability during emergency braking and steering maneuvers has been an issue that was improved through implementation of Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS). Although some improvements have been achieved, the need for new control methodologies is evident from the number of accidents reported by NHTSA involving tractor semi-trailers. In this paper, a new control algorithm has been developed for improving the tractor semi-trailer stability through utilization of yaw moment, i.e., tire differential braking strategy. This new, multifaceted, adaptive control algorithm which allows the estimation of the unknown vehicle parameters through use of the adaptation laws is based on the Lyapunov Direct Method. A tractor semi-trailer model with four degrees of freedom was used to develop the control algorithm and the adaptation laws. The controller was implemented on a 2-axle tractor 1-axle van trailer in TruckSim 7©. The simulation results show the performance of the proposed controller for enhancing tractor semi-trailer stability during a step steering maneuver.

Tractor semi-trailer stability control system that prevents them from spinning out and drifting during emergency braking and steering maneuvers have been developed and recently commercialized by several companies. A comprehensive literature review conducted in [1] reveals that electronic stability control can effectively reduce single-vehicle crashes in cars and SUVs by 30-50%. And fatal rollover crashes are estimated to be about 7090% lower with ESC regardless of vehicle type. WABCO, a leading provider of ESC to commercial industry has recently announced their cooperation with EU on mandating use of ESC on all new commercial vehicles (includes only certain classes) by 2010 [2]. In 2006 Bendix Corporation announced that they have experienced an 800% growth in their commercial vehicle stability control program [3].

Although the available commercial ESC systems have improved the road safety by utilizing the braking system to provide the needed stabilizing moments [4-6], there is room for improvements if this functionality is integrated with active front steering [7]. Recent researches on modeling a tractor semi-trailer combination vehicle include classics dynamical models [8] and flexible and modular nonlinear dynamic handling models [9]. This paper models a simple linear tractor semi-trailer system with four degrees of freedom: lateral velocity and yaw rate of both units: tractor and semitrailer. Recently many feedback control systems are introduced to improve Tractor Semi-trailers stability and handling comfort. These systems take environmental information from the existing sensory suite of vehicle and command the actuators based on their inference of current situation. The sensor set of the existing yaw control systems consists of four wheel speeds, steering position, yaw rate, lateral acceleration, and in some cases one or two pressure sensors. Hence, the existence of non-deterministic states limits numerous previously published, full-state feedback control methods of being applicable on an actual vehicle. This paper introduces an adaptive control algorithm based on Lyapunov Direct Method which is capable of estimating unknown vehicle parameters, e.g., tire cornering stiffness. This methodology can be extended to higher order systems of vehicle equations of motion, linear or nonlinear. The evaluation results of our control strategy on a virtual environment of TruckSim 7© show the potentials of this method for future implementation in electronic stability control system of tractor semi-trailers.

The mathematical model developed for this study is shown in Figure 1. Four degrees of freedom are considered. Both the tractor and semitrailer have two degrees of freedom of yaw rate and lateral velocity. The equations are constrained by the fifth wheel equation. Equations of motion are given by Equation 1:

⎧mv + muφ = Fyf + Fyr + Fy 5 ⎪ ⎪ I zφ = l f Fyf − lr Fyr + ( lr + e ) Fy 5 ⎪ ⎨ ⎪mt vt + mt utφt = Fy 5 + Fyt ⎪ ⎪ I ztφt = l ft Fy 5 − lrt Fyt ⎩

Fyi = Cα iα i .



where, i may denote front (f), rear (r), or semitrailer (t). The equations defining the slip angles for the tractor front and rear tires as well as the semitrailer tire are given as:

αf =δ −

v + lfφ u


vt = u sinψ + v − (lr + e)φ cosψ − l ftφt , ut

( = u cosψ − ( v − (l

) + e)φ ) sinψ ,

ψ = φ − φt .
Tire lateral forces are assumed to be linear and are given as:

v − lr φ , u v − (lr + e)φ − (l ft + lrt )φt α t = −ψ − . u

αr = −





l ft

u v

lrt ut vt

Figure (1). Top View of Tractor Semi-trailer Model

Assuming small relative angle between tractor and semitrailer ψ the equations are simplified.

for this steering maneuver and can serve as the controller predictive model.

cosψ = cos (φ − φt ) = 1, sinψ = sin (φ − φt ) = φ − φt .


Finally, the equations are rewritten in the standard state variable form of equation (6).

x = Ax + Eδ


x = ⎡ v φ φ φt φt ⎤ . ⎣ ⎦



The model was developed in MATLAB© Simulink® and was evaluated with TruckSim 7©. The understudy vehicle was assumed to be an unloaded 2-axle tractor 1axle van trailer (parameters available in TruckSim 7©). Figure 2 shows the simulation results for a constant vehicle speed of 70 km/hr and a step steering input of 30 degrees. As shown, the 4 DOF model is fairly accurate


The control algorithm and the adaptation laws found using equations (9), (10), and (11) were implemented in the simulation model discussed previously. An interface was develop to link Matlab© Simulink® to TruckSim 7© simulation environment. As was shown in the previous section, the controller requires desired values of yaw rate and lateral velocity for tractor. Since the current paper deals with yaw control, desired lateral velocity was assumed to be the same as lateral velocity. The desired yaw rate of tractor was derived from the linear model and is given as:

Figure (2). Tractor Semi-trailer Model Response; Time History of: (a) Tractor Lateral Velocity, (b) Relative Angle Ψ, compared with TruckSim 7© results

φ desired =

uδ ⎛ u2 l f + lr ) ⎜ 1 + 2 ( ⎝ ucrit

⎞ ⎟ ⎠


Assume the equations of motion are given in the standard form shown in equation (7):

(12) Since the controller gave up on the desired value of lateral velocity, the system would be controllable through tractor and semi-trailer yaw moments only. All simulation runs were done at a constant vehicle speed of 70 km/hr and a step steering input of 30 degrees. In addition, the control parameters were defined as following:

x = Ax + Eδ + U ,


Γ = diag (1e19,1e20,1e19 ) D = diag (1e2,1e2,1e2 ) ⎡Cα f ⎤ ⎡1e6 ⎤ ⎢ ⎥ ˆ p = ⎢Cα r ⎥ , p (t = 0) = ⎢1e6 ⎥ ⎢ ⎥ ⎢Cα t ⎥ ⎢1e6 ⎥ ⎣ ⎦ ⎣ ⎦
The results are shown in Figures 3-5. Figure 3(a) indicates that yaw rates of both tractor and semi-trailer follow the desired yaw rate for 30 degree step steering input. Figure 3(b) is the time history of tractor lateral velocity for controlled and uncontrolled cases and shows the stabilizing effect of the controller.

where U denotes the counter force and moment inputs required for improving vehicle stability. To derive the control algorithm and the adaptation law, we consider the candidate Lyapunov function:

V ( x, t ) =

1 T ⎡ x x + pT Γp ⎤ − ∫ ( xT Ax ) dt , ⎦ 2⎣


where x = x − xd . Since A is a negative definite matrix due to the physics of the system, V > 0 . It is proved in [11] that the control law

ˆ ˆ U = xd − Axd − Eδ − Dx,
and the adaptation laws


p = Γ −1 H T x,


stabilize the system of equation (7), where control gain matrix D is a positive diagonal matrix, adaptation gain matrix Γ is a positive definite matrix and

ˆ ˆ A = A − A , E = E − E.
Adaptation coefficient matrix H is defined as

H p = Axd + Eδ .



It must be mentioned that this level of control activity has been seen on the vehicle stability controllers in the market today which use the anti-lock braking (ABS) capability to generate the required moment. Figure 5 shows the estimated values of cornering stiffnesses using the adaptation algorithm. It can be seen that the controller is capable of estimating the needed cornering stiffness for stabilizing the vehicle.

Figure (5). Time History of Adaptation of Cornering Stiffness

Figure (3). Time History of Controlled and Uncontrolled Responses: (a) Yaw Rate, (b) Lateral Velocity

Figure 4 shows the control efforts required to keep the vehicle stable. These are the tractor and semi-trailer yaw moment in (N.m) that must be generated by the tires through the application of differential braking strategy.

A new control algorithm was designed using the Lyapunov Direct Method. The control algorithm and the adaptation laws based on a four DOF model of tractor semi-trailer were tested and evaluated on TruckSim 7©. The results obtained for a step steering input of 30 degrees indicated the potential for this controller to be used in conjunction with an ABS to generate the brake forces required for stabilizing a tractor semitrailer during emergency maneuvers.

1. Susan A. Ferguson, “The Effectiveness of Electronic Stability Control in Reducing Real-World Crashes: A Literature Review”, Traffic Injury Prevention, volume 8, issue 4, 2007: 329-338. 2. WABCO Welcomes Pending EU Mandate on Electronic Stability Control (ESC) for Heavy Trucks and Buses, WABCO Press Release, 2005. 3. Bendix Electronic Stability Experiences 800 Percent Growth, Bendix News Release, 2006. 4. Kaneko, T., Kageyama, I., “A Study on the Braking Stability of Articulated Heavy Vehicles”, JSAE, review 24, 2003: 157-164. 5. Tianjun, Z., Zong, C., Zheng, H., Tian, C., Zheng, H., “Yaw/Roll Stability Modeling Analyses and Control of Heavy Tractor-SemiTrailer”, SAE Intl. Asia Pacific Automotive Eng. Conf., USA, 2007. 6. Miege, A., Cebon, D., “Optimal Roll Control of an Articulated Vehicle: Theory and Model Validation“,

Figure (4). Time History of Controller Inputs


8. 9.



Vehicle System Dynamics, volume 43, number 12, 2006: 867-884. Rangavajhula, K., Tsao, H.S.J., “Active Trailer Steering Control of an Articulated System with a Tractor and Three Full Trailers for Tractor-Track Following”, Intl. J. of Heavy Vehicle Systems, volume 14, number 3, 2007: 271-293. Wong, J.Y., Theory of Ground Vehicles, 3rd edition, John-Wiley & Sons, USA, 2001. Gafvert, M., Lindgarde, O., “A 9-DOF TractorSemitrailer Dynamic Handling Model for Advanced Chassis Control Studies”, Vehicle System Dynamics, volume 41, issue 1, 2004: 51-82. Dahlberg, E., Commercial Vehicle Stability Focusing on Rollover, ISRN: KTH/FKT/D-01/09-SE, 2001. Tamaddoni, S.H., Taheri, S., “A New Control Algorithm for Vehicle Stability Control”, ASME Proc. of 10th Intl. Conf. on Advanced Vehicle and Tire Technologies (AVTT), NY, USA, 2008.

Cα r Cα t Fyf Fyr Fy 5 Fyt is Iz I zt
m mt u ut v vt

Tractor rear tire cornering stiffness Semitrailer tire cornering stiffness Lateral force of tractor front tire Lateral force of tractor rear tire Lateral force of vehicle fifth wheel Lateral force of semitrailer tire Steering angle ratio Tractor yaw moment of inertia (about vehicle z-axis) Semitrailer yaw moment of inertia (about vehicle z-axis) Tractor mass Semitrailer mass Tractor longitudinal velocity Semitrailer longitudinal velocity Tractor lateral velocity Semitrailer lateral velocity Desired Values of states Estimated states Error between actual and estimated values of states Estimated vehicle parameters Error between actual and estimated values of parameters Adaptation gain matrix Control gain matrix

Seyed Hossein Tamaddoni is a PhD student and Graduate Research Assistant in Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech (tamadoni@vt.edu). Saied Taheri is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of Intelligent Transportation Laboratory at Virginia Tech (staheri@vt.edu).

ˆ x x

ˆ p p


αr αt δ φ φt ψ
lf lr l ft l rt

Tractor front wheel side slip angle Tractor rear wheel side slip angle Semitrailer wheel side slip angle Applied steer angle at Tractor front wheels Tractor roll angle around roll axis Semitrailer roll angle around roll axis Relative angle between tractor and semitrailer Horizontal distance between tractor COG and tractor front axle Horizontal distance between tractor COG and tractor rear axle Horizontal distance between semitrailer COG and vehicle fifth wheel axle Horizontal distance between semitrailer COG and semitrailer rear axle Horizontal distance between tractor rear axle and vehicle fifth wheel Tractor front tire cornering stiffness


Cα f