A face-off on communications: ABS warning light spurs industry action

A task force meeting of the Electrical & Instruments Study Group lent a forum to suppliers eager to discuss how they would develop a tractor-to-trailer communications interface for an ABS warning-light system.Truck-Lite's Brad Van Riper said the manufacturer favors an external "communications bridge," using technology adapted from the military, to provide an ABS warning system with an in-cab light.

A task force meeting of the Electrical & Instruments Study Group lent a forum to suppliers eager to discuss how they would develop a tractor-to-trailer communications interface for an ABS warning-light system.

Truck-Lite's Brad Van Riper said the manufacturer favors an external "communications bridge," using technology adapted from the military, to provide an ABS warning system with an in-cab light. Dubbed SmartLite, the system is available now.

Van Riper said the system, which uses Power Line Carrier/Spread Spectrum (PLC/SS) technology, surpasses the requirements of TMC's Recommended Practice 144. Truck-Lite is developing nationwide distribution for SmartLite.

PLC4, a consortium that includes truck and other equipment manufacturers, plans to develop a "P485" integrated circuit using PLC technology. In its simplest form, this approach would require no extra computers or wires to handle ABS warning. According to PLC4, it will survey fleets to determine which would be the "best wire" to run the system through.

The consortium expects to begin production next year in order to be in place by March 2000, when the FMVSS 121 legal requirement on ABS warning goes into effect. PLC4 said its solution would come in the form of "open architecture," available to all companies to use without licensing it.

Air-Weigh's Martin Ambros said the firm will use a frequency modulation (FM) version of PLC technology, instead of spread spectrum, since it is a mature technology that is widely used and understood. He noted that FM allows an architecture that grants "time slots" to systems requiring a communications interface.

Grote Industries' Jim Hanson said the company will use Power Internal Communications technology (PICT), which he described as its version of PLC. PICT, he said, meets TMC Recommended Practices 137, 141, and 147.

This approach enables transmitting via the turn-signal circuit. Hanson said its solution is available now as three UltraPlex product offerings. One UltraPlex system offers an ABS fault light, a second system adds an auxiliary on/off switch, and a third carries additional features.

Eaton Corp. said its Tire Monitor System is the first in a new series of products designed to reduce tire costs. It uses radio-frequency (RF) technology and in-tire pressure sensors to alert the driver to lost pressure. A "check tire" light signals when air is needed -- before the tire is in danger of being destroyed or run to a point where it can no longer be safely repaired or retreaded.

The company said it will offer independent Tire Monitor Systems for tractors and trailers. In addition, unique codes for each tire sensor programmed into the receiver will ensure the system will monitor tire pressure for only the vehicle on which it is mounted. Eaton plans to offer the product through both OEM and aftermarket channels, including tire-supply channels.

Eaton reported that its new trailer ABS system simplifies diagnostic access and offers a more modular, flexible design. The system displays blink codes via an ABS warning lamp located on the side of the trailer.

The maker's latest 4-channel tractor ABS system was designed to meet the needs of OEMs requiring frame-mounted ABS control units. The frame-mount version boasts a new strain-relief design said to protect the wiring harness.

Availability of a new series of Eaton Spicer heavy-duty tandem axles was announced by Eaton through its affiliation with Dana Corp. The extra-heavy wall, 46,000-lb. GAWR DS463-P axles are designed specifically for heavy-hauling, logging, mining, and export applications. The company also revealed a new series of Eaton Spicer TD583-P tridem axles, primarily targeted at Canadian logging operations.

Larry Strawhorn, vp-engineering for the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), said that eventually regulations will be drafted requiring the retrofitting of conspicuity materials on trailers. "There's no rule as of yet," he explained, "but a docket is open to discuss this."

Docket MC-94-1 specifically probes retrofitting trailers built before December 1993. Although no rule now requires it, Strawhorn said ATA advises installing reflective markings on trailers "where sensible," given the physical condition of individual units.

Meanwhile, he said the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is implying that maintenance and repair work on vehicles should ensure that it remains in "continual conformity" to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). "Fair wear and tear alone make this unrealistic," Strawhorn stated.

The agency claimed that referencing FMVSS places three burdens on fleets:

1. Carriers must have knowledge of FMVSS.

2. Carriers must ensure that the sources of vehicles/components are capable of certifying that those products meet FMVSS.

3. Maintenance personnel must recognize that there are FMVSS and "know" whether the repairs they make will restore the vehicle to its "initial" condition.

"FMVSS are applicable to manufacturers, which have design engineers and laboratories," Strawhorn argued. "Lacking such capability, carriers are unable to judge whether components or repaired vehicles meet the rules." Yet, he said, this issue remains unresolved.

The new windshield rule, which rewrote FMVSS 393.60 concerning the glazing in specified openings, took effect Feb. 9, 1998. The key changes are:

* Each truck, tractor, or bus must have a windshield.

* Transponder mounting allowed at top of windshield if placement is no lower than 6 in. from top, in the center, and out of the wiped pattern.

* Official decal placement must be at bottom or sides of windshield, no higher than 4.5 in. from bottom, and out of the wiped pattern.

Strawhorn said ATA is already working with DOT to resolve problems related to these new installation limitations.

Citing the growing acceptance by major manufacturers of its Axilok unitized wheel bearing nut system, Metform Corp. has published a comprehensive set of installation instructions to aid in proper retrofitting.

According to Metform, the one-piece Axilok design removes the guesswork when locking in end-play adjustment of wheel bearings required by traditional three-piece designs. Correct final end play is determined by rotating the Axilok through a prescribed number of adjustment slots on the retainer cage. "We're making these instructions available so maintenance personnel understand the proper application and use of Axilok," noted Terry Kohler, vp-sales and marketing.

The 23 SI heavy-duty alternator from Delco Remy International is designed to quickly charge batteries for diesel-powered delivery trucks in stop-and-go applications. Introduced at TMC's annual meeting, the 12V model has an output of 100 amps, while the 24V model offers 70 and 50 amp outputs.

Other features include a brushless design, vibration-resistant frame, an integrated circuit regulator with low parasitic draw, and a 12V bridge to limit voltage spikes. When spec'd with Delco's 41 MT starter and three Delco 1150 series batteries, the 23 SI alternator has a 3 yr./150,000-mi. warranty.

Introduced at the same time was Delco's 31 SI heavy-duty alternator designed for high output at engine idle speeds. The 12V brush-type alternator produces 120 amps at idle, and has a maximum output of 200 amps. It features diode corrected bridges to protect against voltage surges, and provides external fault detection.

Delco also unveiled a low-voltage disconnect (LVD) device that automatically disconnects non-critical battery loads to preserve power for starting. The solid-state device cuts in at 12.3V and reconnects all loads when batteries are charged to 13V. An alarm is sounded one minute before it cuts in, and it can be manually overridden to connect or disconnect.

Silver Eagle Manufacturing Co. introduced a full line of converter-dolly products and a new trailer suspension.

The Value-Added (VA) dolly is designed for double- and triple-trailer applications. It differs from Silver Eagle's CST20 A-type dolly by offering a bolted drawbar design and 1/4-in. steel construction. The Super-C dolly features a double-drawbar design and lockable self-steering axle.

The tandem dolly is engineered to support the heaviest payloads. It boasts a no-slack suspension for improved roll stability, a bolted frame and drawbar eye for easy maintenance, and a dual-stage spring suspension mounted in rubber blocks for a smooth ride.

The tandem-axle suspension is also available to trailer manufacturers for customers demanding maximum ride performance at a lower weight and cost than air-suspension systems.

There was no shortage of liftgates, lights, ladder racks, or other light-truck accessories at the National Truck Equipment Assn. (NTEA) Exhibition last month, but the Las Vegas Convention Center floor seemed dominated by the trucks themselves -- vehicles in the Class 3 through Class 6 range, many of them 1999 models.

* Mitsubishi Fuso showed its recently introduced FG 4-wheel-drive medium-duty cabover (12,000 lb. GVWR) with a 5,510 lb. front-axle.

* GMC/Chevrolet displayed prototypes of a new C/K full-size pickup, the 1999 GMT 800, with 4-wheel disc brakes. It will be rolled out over the next three years.

* American Isuzu presented its new 1999 NQR (16,500 lb. GVWR) low cab forward with a 175-gross hp.4-cyl. diesel engine developing 347 lb.-ft. of torque, as well as a 14,500-lb.-GVWR version of its 1999 NPR-HD Diesel.

* Navistar International displayed its 4700 LPX low-profile, medium-duty, 4x2 conventional with a 190-hp. International T-444E engine.

* Ford highlighted its 1999 medium-duty F-800 Series (26,000 or 33,000 lb. GVWR) with Cummins 5.9L mechanical diesel. It will be available with four engine/transmission combinations featuring the Cummins 5.9L ISB electronic diesel in ratings from 175 to 215 hp. Other 1999 models included a Super Duty F-550 (17,500 lb. GVWR) Crew Cab 4x4 powered by a 235-hp., 7.3L Turbo Diesel V8 and featuring 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS; a similarly equipped Super Duty F-350 (12,500 lb. GVWR) SuperCab 4x2; and a Super Duty F-250 Super Cab 4x2.

* Dodge Truck showed its Ram 3500 4x4 Quad Cab with a 24-valve version of the 5.9L Cummins diesel, and a Ram Van 1500.

* UD Trucks showcased a Model 1800 (17.995 lb. GVWR) tilt-cab forward-control truck.

* Freightliner showed several chassis from its Custom Chassis group.

(For additional NTEA news, see Truck Technology, p. 24.)

A new service manual from the Spicer Driveshaft Div. of Dana Corp. will be offered to customers in a 150-page printed version, as well as on a CD-ROM. The company is also making the manual accessible on line (www.dana. com) for printing, not downloading, specific pages.

Horton Vehicle Components Inc. reported that its Adaptive Control System (ACS) concept is continuing to undergo field-testing, which began last year. ACS involves using a drive hub with a variable-pitch fan controlled by multiple vehicle sensors and sophisticated electronics. "Field tests of ACS to date ... confirm our initial expectations of its ability to stabilize engine-coolant and charge-air temperature," said marketing vice president John Goodman. Horton expects to release an ACS system to the market by the middle of next year.

Atro Engineered Systems showed its new greaseless spring-eye bushings for Class 7-8 trucks, which feature a special urethane material that is bonded to the spring pin, which eliminates lubrication. In addition, the outer sleeve has been heat-treated so it won't deform when pressed into a worn spring eye.

According to Tom Olszewski, Exxon senior technical advisor, emissions regs may bring the "early arrival" of EGR (exhaust gas re-circulation) technology to heavy-duty engines as early as the 2000-model year. Olszewski said the next proposed heavy-duty oil classification (PC-9) will be driven by emissions levels, including a 50% drop in NOx mandated for 2004.

A new FW2000 Series onboard vehicle PC from FieldWorks includes a server component, a "high-bright" display, and backlit keyboard. The system can be customized by adding wireless technology, GPS, data radios, and other devices through PC Card slots and serial ports. Floppy and CD-ROM devices can be connected via cabling to the server, which can then be mounted in a remote location up to 16 ft. away. According to FieldWorks, since FW2000 can connect to many vehicle subsystems, it can reduce the number of proprietary boxes needed on a vehicle.

Michelin Tire Co. gave TMC members a preview of a new dealer business information system that will allow them to offer fleet customers complete retread tire management services. The new system will be officially unveiled later this spring.

GT Development Corp. introduced a the Series 98 line of switches for heavy-duty trucks: a compact wiper controller designed for trucks that place a premium on dashboard space; a dash valve for controlling chassis-mounted accessories; and seat valve for controlling the height of heavy-duty air seats.

The Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Assns. and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence have named Sidney I. Elford 1998 TMC/SAE Technician of the Year. TMC has also named David Foster as its new general chairman and treasurer.

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