Meritor predicts major advances in truck brakes

An evolution from brakes to "stopping systems" will not only increase medium- and heavy-duty truck safety through improved performance, but also cut brake system weight, increase durability, and reduce or eliminate maintenance and service, says Walter Frankiewicz, vp and general manager of Meritor Automotive's worldwide braking systems group.

The next five years, Frankiewicz predicts, "will bring more braking system advances than the previous 50 years," including "orchestration" of engine, suspension, and foundation controls to provide automobile-like stopping distances for trucks.

In the near term, Meritor is developing a new 4-wheel hydraulic disc brake system with an integral parking brake for smaller E-commerce delivery trucks, according to Paul Johnson, director of engineering for the braking systems group. Based on the company's medium-duty hydraulic brake systems, it should provide better durability in intra-urban delivery applications than light-truck systems adapted from passenger car products, he says.

For heavier vehicles, the company is working to reduce the complexity of air disc brakes by reducing the current 100 or so mechanical components in the caliper to only 12 or 15 and cutting the weight and size of the caliper by two-thirds, says Johnson. It is also developing an advanced parking brake mechanism for air discs that would engage electronically when air pressure is removed.

The next two to five years should also bring electronic braking systems (EBS) to the North American market, says Johnson. Among the benefits, EBS will provide "greater total stopping system accuracy and control for tractor-trailer combinations."

The advent of EBS will also move brake service from diagnostic to prognostic, allowing the system to predict when it will need servicing and eliminating the need for visual and manual inspection.

Another technology with the potential to bring dramatic performance improvements to truck stopping systems is what Meritor calls "friction coupling." Using additives to change the metallurgy composition of drums and discs, this technology couples them with various friction materials to provide "optimum adhesion and braking performance for specific applications and driving conditions," says Johnson.

Looking 10 to 15 years down the road, Dennis Sandberg, recently named president and general manager of the Meritor Wabco Vehicle Systems Control joint venture, believes that EBS, combined with a multiplexed electronics network, will provide "a super-efficient stopping system."

"Information from what could be dozens of sensors on the tractor-trailer will be fed into the multiplexed data bus," according to Sandberg. "All the shared data that has been collected from monitoring devices - rpm, wheel speed, yaw rate, steer angle, even radar or infrared sensors monitoring objects around the vehicle - will be used by braking, engine, transmission, and suspension controllers to achieve what we call orchestrated slowing and stopping." That might include shifting to a lower gear, modulating engine speed, or even deploying an air spoiler wind brake in combination with actuating the brake calipers.

Automatic tire chain system, Onspot's Model 03, for plow and utility trucks that require maximum ground clearance, offers 121/2 in. of ground clearance while providing the operator the safety and convenience of engaging the chains at the flip of a dashboard switch without having to stop the vehicle.

Teknor Apex's Tire Material Group is introducing a new nationwide emergency road service program through its retread dealer network. The service is provided 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and can be reached by calling 1-877-590-APEX. According to Teknor Apex, customers will get on-highway tire service with call to roll time averaging less two hours.

The SuperSight collision avoidance system from Superior Signals uses a rear-mounted vehicle camera to help drivers avoid accidents while backing up. The SuperSight is offered in three different configurations, with a standard black-and-white screen up to a deluxe color liquid crystal display monitor.