Business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan predicts that the U.S. commercial vehicle market share for disc brakes will erode that of drum brakes, which have commanded a retail price advantage over discs but may lag in stopping performance.

The upcoming commercial vehicle stopping distance final rule from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is expected to mandate as much as a 30% shorter stopping distance, will prompt OEM’s to give disc technology a second look. Disc brakes generally provide more stopping power than drums.

According to the firm, in the Class 8 truck market drum brakes commanded 96.3% of revenues compared with the remaining 3.7% in 2005. By 2012 the revenue share of disc brakes will increase to 13.7%. In the medium-duty market in 2005 drum brakes had a 55% share of revenues to disc brakes’ 45%. By 2012 Frost & Sullivan says the shares will be 41% and 59%, respectively.

“Truck makers seek greater durability and reduced replacement needs of brake components, and disc brakes need less maintenance than drum brakes,” stated Avijit Ghosh, GIC industry manager of automotive and transportation for Frost & Sullivan in an emailed statement. “The price difference between disc and drum systems is decreasing.”

In spite of this, discs brakes will be facing stiff competition from larger enhanced drum brakes. According to the firm, many truck makers are considering larger drums to meet the NHTSA mandate, especially on Class 8 trucks.

“Truck fleets prefer drum brakes because their technicians are familiar with repair and replacement of these systems,” Ghosh said. “Therefore, aftermarket manufacturers have started focusing on performance drum brake component packages that are lightweight and provide better stopping power.”

So basically, although using disc brakes to meet the upcoming NHTSA standard may be easier for OEMs from an engineering standpoint, market demands could put a lid on growing that market.

“Price pressure from truck makers and increased penetration of lower priced off-shore products lower replacement opportunities for higher priced disc brake components in North America,” Ghosh said.

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