Phillips launches new business unit to accelerate trucking tech

The Phillips Family of Companies has launched a new business unit to accelerate the adoption of new technologies that can benefit from Phillips’ OEM relationships, expertise and production capabilities.

Phillips Innovations has come out of the gate with three partnerships, including one from Canada. They were revealed at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) spring meeting.

CEO Rob Phillips said the company wants to continue to grow, without replicating technologies that already exist or are in development. “It’s about, ‘How do we really avoid rebuilding the wheel when that’s already been done really well?’” he explained at TMC. “How do we build relationships with the people who have built the wheels?”

Phillips Innovations
(Illustration: Phillips Innovations)

More than 99% of Class 8 trucks and 80% of trailers are delivered from the factory with Phillips components. It also enjoys a healthy aftermarket business.

Phillips said the new business unit will leverage that position to help startups bring to market ideas that are badly needed. The recent launch of its EC47 7-way connector with ethernet, CAN, and auxiliary connections gives Phillips more options when it comes to connecting with new technologies on the truck and trailer.

The new business identified three areas to focus on: trailer visibility; electric vehicle power systems; and sustainable energy technology. “For us, it’s about finding the best companies that are out there and collaborate as partners,” Phillips said. “We are focused solely on making game-changing technologies available to our existing customers.”


The first three companies to be brought under the new organization are Spartan Radar, Merlin, and ProEV, the latter of which is a Canadian company.

Spartan Radar produces a patented multi-zone object detection radar that Phillips plans to couple with its own trailer back-up camera. This will give operators more visibility and alerts when something moves into the path of a backing tractor-trailer. Phillips Connect recently announced plans to bring a trailer back-up camera to market. Customers will purchase the hardware but not have to pay recurring subscription fees, a decision Phillips said was done in the best interest of the industry’s safety while sacrificing revenue.

Eventually, Spartan Radar will be able to provide 360-degree bird’s eye views of the tractor-trailer.

Merlin produces flexible solar panels that are extremely thin and durable. Each panel has its own microcontroller so if one panel is broken the others will continue to function. The panels can be attached to the fairing of a tractor or the roof of a trailer, offering enough power to keep a cab comfortable for drivers during an entire 36-hour reset.

Currently, Nussbaum is using the panels in the U.S., and has installed it on 70% of its trailer fleet. The panels eliminate idle time for drivers, saving one gallon (3.8 liters) of fuel per hour. The trailer panels can also power the liftgate. Eventually, Phillips said, the panels will also be able to supply power to electric drive axles.

ProEV makes high-voltage wiring harnesses. Phillips sees the potential to combine these with its own low-voltage harnesses to better supply power to battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric trucks. It marks ProEV’s first foray into the commercial truck business.

Phillips Innovations has set up a sales team for the new business and is currently seeking new products to add to the portfolio.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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