THE BIG THING IN 2008

Rolf Lockwood

December 19, 2007 Vol. 3, No. 26

Predictions aren’t my strength, sad to say. Well, that’s not quite true. I can tell when my beloved Maple Leafs are going to lose a hockey game: namely, whenever I’m watching. And, like many husbands, I know when I’m going to be in the doghouse at home: whenever I wake up. Beyond that, life’s pretty much a mystery so I take it as it comes and just roll with it.

However, I’m going to wander out on a limb here and make a prediction about the hot product of 2008. It’s not new and it’s not revolutionary any more. It’s widely available in one form or another from three manufacturers, and you can spec it on pretty much any tractor or trailer. In some cases it can even be retrofitted. It’s not wildly expensive, but it hasn’t yet taken off, and in fact it’s only installed on a tiny minority of the trucks that roll across North America. Most interesting of all, it can save you millions of dollars, literally.

Care to guess what I’m on about here?

I’m talking about roll stability control or electronic stability control or whatever such anti-rollover devices are called. They’re made by Bendix and Haldex and I think the first one on the block came from the MeritorWABCO Vehicle Control Systems joint venture, which has just launched its third-generation Roll Stability Support trailer system.
It’s described in some detail in the first new product item attached to this newsletter. The cool thing there is the price – just $700-$900, and not much more for an easy two-hour retrofit. This is no-brainer territory.

Over the last few years I’ve seen these systems in action many times at test tracks here and in Europe, where the technology was first introduced, and I’m completely convinced – like 110% — that they’re worth having. I’ve driven the Bendix Electronic Stability Control product on a
frozen-lake test track in northern Michigan and was amazed at what it let me do. Like pushing an ordinary 5-axle tractor-trailer into an abrupt lane change to avoid a stationary obstacle at 30 mph and pulling it off – on packed snow!

As a certain credit-card company likes to say, I wouldn’t leave home without it.

I think it’s about to become standard equipment on North American trucks and trailers, as it is on Volvo and Mack trucks, as well as one Freightliner model. It will soon be standard in Europe, by European Union decree. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has urged that such systems should be voluntarily made standard fare by every truck-maker, and I agree with that stance. CTA chief David Bradley rightly calls anti-rollover devices “pretty cheap insurance,”
and he’s on the money. I’ll argue with him about speed limiters until we’re both blue in the face, but not about this. Except I’d include trailer makers too.

Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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