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Taking the show on the road

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Meritor was absent from this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show, having decided the considerable resources required to exhibit there would be better spent giving fleet customers the chance to experience its products...

ATLANTA, Ga. — Meritor was absent from this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show, having decided the considerable resources required to exhibit there would be better spent giving fleet customers the chance to experience its products first-hand.

The first of those customer-oriented events was held today at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with about 50 fleets attending. The focus was on currently available technologies that can improve safety and/or efficiencies for fleet customers.

Customers were joined by more than 50 Meritor engineers and technical product experts, who over the course of the day were readily available to discuss the technologies at a high level.

“We decided to put our funds towards doing these events and on technical presentations to end customers through the year,” said Timothy Burns, vice-president, North America, with Meritor.

Products demonstrated today included: Meritor’s RideSentry trailer suspension; the Q Plus drum brake and EX225 disc brake; the RPL permanently lubricated driveline; the FueLite 6×2 axle with electronically controlled air suspension (ECAS); and collision mitigation systems from Meritor Wabco, including the new OnGuard and their SmarTrac stability system.

As brakes go, Matt Creech of Meritor’s brake group, said the new Q Plus drum brake, designed to meet tighter stopping distance requirements for tractor-trailers that went into effect in August 2011, have strengthened the value proposition for drum brakes. He said lining life has been extended up to 100%, meaning fleets with short trade-in cycles may never have to do a brake job.

The larger brakes are better at dissipating heat and the new friction material used on the Q Plus brakes has been specifically designed for either steer or drive axle positions.

With the new stopping distance requirements, the steer axle is now providing an equal share of the braking power, meaning it’s working 60% harder than it did previously. The enhancements, Creech said, “change the whole dynamic of the vehicle, provide more even wear and better driver feel.”

While there was initially a widely held belief that disc brakes would be the only answer to the new stopping distance requirements, Creech said Meritor’s Q Plus provides stopping power that’s almost equal to discs. The Q Plus boasts stopping capabilities of 220-230 feet compared to 210-220 feet for disc brakes, both options well under the new requirement of 250 feet.

Meritor has also taken weight out of the Q Plus, thanks to a stamped steel spider that shaves five to six pounds per wheel end, without a compromise in performance, Creech said.

Meanwhile, Meritor will soon be offering its EX225 disc brake in linehaul applications, with Mack and Volvo planning to offer it on steer axles in the third quarter and drive axles in the first quarter of 2014. Peterbilt is currently conducting field trials on the new disc brake, International is providing it upon special request and Freightliner and Western Star are expected to offer it next year.

Pad changes can be done up to 75% faster than a drum brake shoe replacement, which was demonstrated at the Speedway, where fleet attendees had the opportunity to swap out a set of discs while a seasoned technician conducted a drum brake job nearby. The fastest of the truck guys was able to replace the discs in less than three minutes.

Still, Creech said the drum/disc debate must take into consideration many factors, not the least of which is purchase price. Creech said the high-performing drum brakes are likely still a more attractive option for most linehaul fleets, with the exception of those who are willing to pay a premium for enhanced performance.

Karl Mayer introduced the RPL driveline, which is the only permanently lubed driveline on the market. It’s not exactly new – its development can be traced back the Rockwell days, hence the R in RPL – but Mayer said it’s not well known that the RPL is widely available and usually for less money than competitive models that require lubrication.

Meritor had on display an RPL driveline that was pulled and disassembled – and still in good shape – after 1.25 million miles with a large US carrier. While fleets may be wary of lube-free drivelines, the RPL is backed by a four-year/400,000-mile warranty. Mounted with four bolts, it can be easily removed if necessary.

The RPL makes up about 40% of Meritor’s driveline sales and it’s standard on Volvo trucks and an unpublished option on others.

Mayer said fleet customers should be asking for it, because “There’s definitely a chance to upgrade performance and lower the acquisition cost of your vehicle.” Grease savings alone, he noted, can total $414 based on 18 grease jobs over 900,000 miles.

Sean Gainey, product manager for Meritor’s drive axle group, discussed the benefits of the 6×2 FueLite and Meritor Wabco ECAS. The FueLite reduces weight by 400 lbs, while the ECAS electronics seamlessly shift weight to the driven axle in low traction scenarios.

Gainey noted trucks have put on about 300-400 lbs over the past decade due to new emissions systems, and a 6×2 spec’ can restore that lost payload. Fuel savings can total 2% or more, which amounts to $1,400 per year at $5/gallon averaging 7 mpg.

The FueLite comes standard with the DualTrac axle so wide-base tires can be used, providing another 370 lbs of savings, bringing the total weight savings to close to 800 lbs.

ECAS is available as a retrofit kit for fleets that are using 6×2 axles and struggling with traction. Meritor recommends spec’ing the FueLite and ECAS together as a system. Officials told Truck News some Canadian fleets have expressed interest in 6×2 axles, but B.C., Ontario and Quebec have regulations on the book that currently prohibit their use. Industry is working to have those rules – which were intended to address issues with lift axles – clarified to allow the more widespread use of 6×2 axles in Canada.

Meritor is planning more customer-focused events throughout the year.

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1 Comment » for Taking the show on the road
  1. Mike Pennington says:

    Thorough reporting, James. Hope you found some of the leading Canadian fleet execs there too.

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