"The value of EBS is being clouded by familiarity with the basic air braking system. "

When evaluating the benefits of a new vehicle braking technology, issues of safety, reliability, maintainability, performance and cost payback become intertwined. Buyers are faced with the difficult task of untangling these issues when attempting to justify the new innovation's use.

The largest obstacle technology has to overcome to gain acceptance is familiarity. For instance, the basic air braking system for commercial vehicles has been in existence for over 75 years. Buyers know how it works, what causes breakdowns, and how to fix it. Drivers have learned how to use it and are comfortable with it.

As such, displacing air brake systems will not be easy. The basic premise of technology is that it provides a solution to a given problem. When a stand-alone solution tackles a longstanding problem, acceptance is quick and easy. However, when the solution is more complex and the problem has already been addressed with initial solutions, acceptance is much more difficult.

Electronic braking systems ( EBS) is a more complex solution to the problem of braking. Today, the value of EBS is being clouded by familiarity with the basic air braking system that has been in use for over seven decades. In EBS, computer-generated commands are used to control the braking function, rather than the familiar pneumatic controls trusted for so long. EBS challenges the notion that pneumatic controls are safer. When taking into account enhanced features such as anti-lock braking, rollover protection. and drive stability control, the question becomes whether a computer or a professional driver is better equipped to handle emergency situations. The customers that need to embrace this new technology are the same people threatened by it.

However, the benefits of EBS are too great to go unnoticed. With EBS, safety is enhanced through improved timing and optimized brake force application. How electronics enhance mechanical systems is best illustrated in fighter planes and space exploration vehicles. Electronics have been in reliable use in these applications for 40 years.

Despite its unfamiliarity in the trucking industry, EBS has a lot to offer. An attractive cost/benefit value proposal can be built on the enhanced performance and functionality of the system. Cost-saving features of EBS include data logging and routine maintenance, which help to reduce vehicle downtime and towing costs. Preparation needed for roadside examinations and even potential dynamometer testing can be eliminated. All the data required for these checks will be available in the system for telemetering rather than manual inspections and waiting lines. The elimination of vehicle downtime due to failing a roadside check or eliminating one or two tows will more than offset the price of the new system.

The insurance industry's realization of the safety benefits and reduced accidents associated with rollover protection and drive stability control also figures into the value equation. In addition, more savings can be realized through reduced lining wear and labor associated with timing integration of the tractor and trailer. Intangibles such as brake feel impact on driver retention also is enhanced.

EBS will mature as a product in this industry to the extent that it cost-effectively solves problems for the owners and operators of commercial vehicles. Once that has happened, the acceptance of the technology in this industry will no longer be an issue.