Once more, I’m out on my annual limb, bravely choosing 10 products that made me sit up and take notice last year. A very personal list with which you may well disagree. So be it.
Some of these choices are pretty obvious, some less so, and it could easily have been 25 instead of just 10. I got to six worthy products pretty easily but the last four… well, I could probably replace them with others from my shortlist and feel just as confident that I had 10 significantly useful additions to the world of trucking.
I generally shied away from the world of telematics and digital wizardry because it’s usually impossible for me to judge why one product might be better than another.
And while there were important introductions last year, I’m not including trucks here. I don’t usually cover trailers here either, but one did seem especially significant to me.
The Top 10
Mack’s Twin Y Air Suspension
Alright, on to my decidedly personal top 10 list. I haven’t ranked these products in any order except alphabetical by company name, though one does stand out in my mind so I’m putting it first. But it’s really two, sort of.
Mack’s Twin Y air suspension and Volvo’s Blade suspension share the same design, though each is ‘optimized’ as marketing people like to say for the respective trucks, specifically for available axles. The Twin Y has been sold for a few months now, but I believe the Blade is not yet ready for market.
Using a unique Y-shaped high-strength-steel design, it’s offered with proprietary Mack axles. It delivers what the company calls “unmatched comfort, handling and fuel efficiency for highway customers desiring a smoother, more stable ride.”
The Twin Y, up to 400 lb lighter than other air suspensions, is available on Pinnacle axle-back and axle-forward models featuring Mack S38 and S40 series axles with C125/126 and C150/151 carriers. In Volvo guise, the new Blade air suspension will be available on VNL and VNM models.
The suspension includes two stamped high-strength-steel Y-shaped blades per wheel end. The blades are joined to the axle with both upper and lower seats, which greatly reduces suspension windup and significantly improves tire traction and braking control, says Mack. The axle seats are clamped to the axle housing by Huck U-bolts on both sides and never need to be re-torqued.
Bushings in the upper and lower axle seats are said to offer greater roll control and deliver easier handling. The Twin Y requires less maintenance and extends tire and component life, according to Mack. By being non-reactive to torque, the suspension allows input torque ratings up to 2050 lb ft in higher gross-combination-weight ratings.
The Twin Y’s design means the load on the suspension is entirely on the air ride and not on the pivot bushing. There are no wear pads to wear out or bushings that need lubrication or maintenance.
The blades of the new suspension are stiff vertically and flex laterally, allowing them to track and reduce tire scuffing, improving tire wear. Customer field tests reported up to a 25 percent improvement in tire wear because of this alignment feature, claims Volvo.
I wasn’t the only one to like this suspension. Mack’s Twin Y won the prestigious 2013 Swedish Steel Prize, an annual award recognizing the world’s most innovative design utilizing high-strength steel. Mack was one of four finalists.
Bendix Trailer Info
The Bendix Trailer Information Module (TIM) is an easy-to-use stand-alone system that offers comprehensive access to key trailer diagnostic and operational information — with simple three-button navigation.
The module is attached to the trailer (can also be handheld) and allows a driver or technician to troubleshoot trailer ABS quickly or pull information such as system diagnostics and service-interval status with no additional tools.
It also allows a user to view the trailer’s roll-stability system interventions, axle load, and ECU test capability. It can be mounted almost anywhere on a trailer and is designed for use with Bendix TABS-6 Advanced and TABS-6 Advanced MC stability systems for trailers. On trailers equipped with a J1939 version of the SmarTire Trailer-Link Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) by Bendix CVS, it will also provide tire-pressure and temperature data.
Cummins and Eaton combined forces last year, producing a powertrain package to fight the idea that only fully integrated manufacturers can link engine and transmission efficiently.
It combines an Eaton Fuller Advantage Series automated mechanical transmission with new Cummins ISX15 SmartTorque2 ratings. They say it can improve fuel economy by three to six percent, lower maintenance expenses, and reduce total-lifecycle costs.
How well can an independent company’s component mesh with another’s in electronic terms? Cummins people have long said that it’s perfectly possible to engineer engines so that they mate “perfectly” with an Eaton or Allison or whatever other transmission electronically. And with the truck at large.
The Eaton Fuller transmission is offered as a small-ratio-step overdrive model with new Cummins ISX15 SmartTorque2 ratings: the ISX15 415 ST2, with torque of 1450 to 1650 lb ft, and the ISX15 450 ST2, with torque of 1550 to 1750 lb ft.
These “next generation” ratings precisely match power and load demand.
Saying that the cost of downtime is too often ignored, Decisiv is a software outfit selling a cloud-based service-relationship management (SRM) platform on a monthly subscription basis. It’s inexpensive enough for an owner-operator but strong enough for a big fleet. It minimizes days out of service “by integrating communications, collaboration and content across the entire trucking service and repair ecosystem of fleets, service providers, and manufacturers.”
The Decisiv system drives uptime by delivering “the right information, to the right people, at the right point of service” through a shared-view web portal that streamlines communications, approvals, and notifications. SRM makes the repair process more organized and the result is shorter shop times and better productivity.
This isn’t maintenance software, but it’s integrated with quite a few software tools like those offered by TMW, as well as with IT and business systems.
Detroit’s DT12 automated manual transmission, now in full production, is said to enhance fuel economy for over-the-road/linehaul applications while also saving weight – it’s 120 lb lighter than competitive models.
The 12-speed transmission was first available exclusively in the Freightliner Cascadia equipped with a Detroit DD15 engine, and in other Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) vehicles at later dates. The DT12 accommodates all DD15 engine ratings. Additional versions for DD13 and DD16 engines will be released in 2014, with 8- and 16-speed models coming soonish.
The DT12 combines the operational ease of a two-pedal automatic with the efficiency of a manual transmission, says Detroit. The factory-installed Detroit Virtual Technician onboard diagnostic system should mean improvements in uptime.
Superior Slide Trailer
Fontaine’s new Infinity Superior Slide trailer features independent sliding axles and is claimed to be the market’s most versatile platform trailer. It can be configured as a closed-tandem-set at the rear, the same up front, a full 10-ft spread axle, and any combination in between.
Fontaine says the design arose because several jurisdictions are enforcing kingpin-to-axle regulations, and drivers need an easy way to stay in compliance since the rules and their application vary. The Infinity Superior Slide means drivers can change axle settings quickly and easily, making it well suited to leasing and rental operations.
The entire Infinity line is constructed with fabricated steel mainbeams and cross-bracing, aluminum floor and rear skirt, and with Fontaine’s exclusive RASR routed-aluminum side rail. The result is said to be a durable trailer that balances strength, weight, and economy.
An In-Cab Gym
Freightliner’s In-Cab Training (FIT) system provides drivers with full body-strength and conditioning workouts in the comfort of their own cabs. It’s the first-ever OEM-designed and integrated in-cab exercise and flexibility product, developed in collaboration with Rolling Strong – a leader in driver wellness programs, we’re told. They had input from drivers who put prototypes to use.
Truck drivers also have access to health, wellness and nutrition information, as well as a personal trainer, via the FIT Channel (on www.rollingstrong.com) and through blogs, videos, and forums located on the Freightliner Trucks online community (www.teamrunsmart.com).
The system is available as a factory-installed option in all Freightliner Cascadia and Coronado sleeper cab models and for retrofitting in Century Class and
The Solar Truck
Gotta like this one: Mitsubishi Fuso has entered into a strategic partnership with eNow that brings buyers a useful range of solar-based auxiliary-power-system options. They go from 30-watt systems to help keep batteries charged to 6400-watt systems that can power liftgates. They can help users comply with idling and emissions regulations, of course.
Solar panels, usually mounted on the box roof, can do a lot. At the simplest level they might supply power for safety lights on light-duty road construction and service vehicles, for example. At the other extreme, they can keep cold-plate storage systems charged or run evaporator fans while in operation, extending daily range while reducing both fuel consumption and maintenance costs.
Hadley Height Control
Electronic height-control systems have traditionally required several separate components: the valve manifold itself, an external sensor, and the associated electronics. Hadley’s SmartValve combines these into one, fitting within the same envelope as mechanical height-control valves.
Drop-and-hook operations are made faster, easier, and safer, with no need to crank the landing gear as often or as far. It means fewer trips out of the cab. SmartValve is installed on the tractor, so drivers won’t struggle against the weight of the trailer, even fully loaded.
This will reduce back strain and eliminate a top source of injuries in trucking, which in turn should reduce workers’ compensation premiums.
Again, I’m not the only one to like this one. Frost & Sullivan recognized Hadley with the 2013 North America Frost & Sullivan Award for Customer Value Leadership.
Last but not really least, I offer RuptureSeal. Saddle-tank ruptures or other liquid-tank discharges in the trucking industry are so common that Glenn Cox, a former Ontario police officer and volunteer firefighter, felt the urge to find a solution. And he did.
The RuptureSeal is an easy-to-use handheld device that’s inserted into the rupture and is claimed to seal the leak in seconds. It consists of a steel pin inserted into the tip of a nylon locking tie. The tie goes through a semi-spherical ball of specially formulated silicone that sits in a nylon cap. The locking mechanism is incorporated into the cap. At the other end of the tie is a ‘T’ handle.
With one hand you flip the pin from the perpendicular position so that it’s parallel to the tie, insert it into the rupture, and with the other hand hold the plug in the rupture; with your free hand you pull on the handle until the clicking stops. The silicone is compressed into the rupture and takes its shape whether it’s smooth or uneven.
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