Meritor introduces integrated suspension

Move positions Meritor as complete undercarriage supplier.Meritor Automotive unveiled its first new product since the spinoff from Rockwell: an integrated tandem trailer air suspension system that features an integrated slider, trailer axles, and brakes. The system is being offered through Rockwell Heavy Vehicle Suspension Systems Inc. (RHVSS), a joint venture formed last year in which Meritor holds

Move positions Meritor as complete undercarriage supplier.

Meritor Automotive unveiled its first new product since the spinoff from Rockwell: an integrated tandem trailer air suspension system that features an integrated slider, trailer axles, and brakes. The system is being offered through Rockwell Heavy Vehicle Suspension Systems Inc. (RHVSS), a joint venture formed last year in which Meritor holds a majority interest. The RHP Highway Parallelogram, which is aimed at the dry van and refrigerated trailer market, saves weight, eliminates dock walk, and offers easier maintenance.

"The RHP is the proof of our stated goal of becoming a complete trailer undercarriage supplier with durable, low maintenance systems and components which help customers operate safer and more efficiently," says Prakash Mulchandani, president of Meritor's Worldwide Truck and Trailer Systems business.

The new sliding tandem, which is rated at 36,000 lb., is centered around two V-shaped control arm brackets -- rather than two separate trailing arms -- resulting in a design at least 26% shorter and 275 lb. lighter than conventional trailing arm suspensions.

Air springs are mounted directly over the axles, allowing the suspension to move only up and down and thus improving ride quality, according to Bob Zirlin, director of marketing for Meritor's Worldwide Trailer Products business. The air-bag positioning also helps ensure longer life from the uniform movement during the 3-in. jounce and 5-in. rebound, as opposed to the fan-type stretching that occurs in traditional trailing arm suspensions.

The configuration also allows a near-perfect axle-to-axle equalization, he says, eliminating axle torque and providing tailored roll stiffness to control trailer lean.

Dock walk is eliminated because the upper and lower control arms are parallel to each other, which restricts a trailer's motion to a vertical axis. The suspension's upper and lower control arms move up and down in a parallel motion whenever weight shifts on the trailer bed, rather than moving in the forward arc that is typical of trailing arm suspensions. Because the axles do not rotate, there is no tendency for the trailer to move forward, explains Ervin VanDenberg, president of Rockwell Heavy Vehicle Suspension Systems.

Since the unit has an automatic height control valve that lets air out of the bags so the trailer can nestle down on the bump stops, the trailer can adjust to any dock height.

Plus, the unit is maintenance-friendly, offering easy access for better servicing. Urethane pivot bushings, which provide better performance than traditional rubber seals, can be replaced without special tooling. The lower control arms are adjustable, allowing easier alignment.

The RHP comes standard with Meritor's TQ trailer axles and 16.5 x 7-in. Q Series cam brakes and is backed by a 5-yr./500,000-mi. warranty. TP and TB Series (new unitized hub system) trailer axles and 16.5 x 7-in. or 8-in. Q Plus cam brakes are optional. Also, Meritor automatic slack adjusters and Rockwell WABCO antilock brakes can be added. The unit also includes two shock absorbers -- one for each axle -- although a total of four can be used.

The new system will be available through most major North American trailer manufacturers this month. Meritor plans to be able to supply the market at large by mid-1998.

More new air-suspension models, including single axle and non-sliding designs, will be introduced by RHVSS over the next two years.

OEM also begins offering electronic engines in its low-cab-forward trucks.

Peterbilt Motors Co. has introduced a 4x2 tractor version of its medium-duty Model 330. Production is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. The new tractor boasts a wheel cut of 50 degrees for maneuverability, as well as an all-aluminum, corrosion-resistant cab.

According to the OEM, the vehicle will fit "exceptionally well" in the 4x2 segment of Class 7, which accounts for about 20% of that market. "The 4x2 Model 330 tractor is targeted at several large Class 7 market segments," said Peterbilt general manager Nick Panza. He listed these as beverage delivery, general freight over urban/suburban routes, and lease/rental operations.

Peterbilt chief engineer Bob Morrison stated that the tractor configuration completed various test procedures, including finite-element analysis, strain-gauge evaluation, and durability-track runs. He said these results were compared to test findings from the initial development of the Model 330 "to ensure our customers receive the same durability and reliability."

The OEM also announced that it is now offering electronic engines in its Model 320 low-cab-forward trucks, which are popular in refuse operations. Available are the Caterpillar 3126 and Cummins M11+E diesels.

"The availability of electronic engines allows us to satisfy the needs of our current low-cab-forward customers who are purging their mechanical engines," noted Panza. He also pointed out that the engines "open the door to new markets."

The Cat 3126, a 7.2-liter inline 6, is available on the Model 320 in ratings from 230 to 300 hp. Peterbilt said the engine features programmable electronic parameters to increase fuel efficiency and to specify unique operational characteristics, such as those found in PTO applications.

The Cummins M11+E is offered on the Model 320 in ratings from 280 to 400 hp. The OEM said it provides an excellent horsepower-to-weight ratio and is compatible with both manual and Allison HD automatic transmissions. According to Peterbilt assistant general manager Dan Sobic, the high horsepower range of the M11+E creates "new market opportunities for the Model 320" in construction and auto-transport applications.

The 1998 Dodge Truck lineup includes a new four-door "Quad Cab" Ram pickup, significant updates for the Ram Van, and an entirely new compact utility vehicle derived from the Dakota pickup chassis.

Adding rear doors to both sides of the full-sized Ram's extended Club Cab, the new Quad Cab offers easier access to its bench seat/cargo area with the two additional doors swinging open rearward almost a full 90 deg. In addition to the large, single opening created by the front and rear doors, Dodge has integrated the seat belts into the seat structures, doing away with ceiling and door-mounted belts, and maintained a flat floor sill across the entire opening.

Other major changes for all 1998 Ram pickups include horsepower increases for both the Magnum 5.2-liter (220 to 230 hp.) and 5.9-liter (235 to 245 hp.); availability of the V-10 gasoline and Cummins 6-cyl. diesel engines on short-wheelbase Club and Quad Cab models; and completely redesigned brake systems with standard rear-wheel antilock and optional four-wheel ABS.

Inside the Ram, 1998 brings a passenger-side air bag with a disconnect switch, a new instrument cluster, and a redesign for the truck's pull-down "Business Console" storage area. The extended cab versions also get a new cargo bin under the fold-up rear seat that can be easily removed.

While the full-size Dodge Ram Van is outwardly unchanged for 1998, over one-third of its components are new, according to the company. Chief among the changes are entirely new light- and heavy-duty brake systems from Kelsey-Hayes featuring twin-caliper discs in the front and larger drums in the rear. The large van also gets a new Bosch rear-wheel antilock system as standard and an optional full ABS, also from Bosch.

Other changes for the 1998 Ram Van, which is offered in GVWs up to 9,200 lb., include a frame extension that reduces the doghouse intrusion into the passenger compartment, a 10-hp. boost for the optional Magnum 5.9-liter V-8, and a new fuel tank that allows a full-size spare tire to be moved to the underbody.

Based on the recently redesigned Dakota compact pickup, the new Durango utility offers eight-passenger seating in a compact size or up to 88 cu. ft. of storage space with the second and third seats folded down. The new light truck also offers towing capacities up to 7,300 lb.

Engine options for the Durango include a 3.9-liter V-6, as well as the Magnum 5.2 and 5.9-liter V-8s, all mated to 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmissions with full- or part-time 4-wheel-drive differentials. A 2-wheel version will also be offered in 1999, according to Dodge.

Cummins Engine Co. and Eaton Truck Components Operations-Americas have co-developed an integrated torque-control concept that allows truck operators to spec moderately priced engine-transmission packages that will provide the same hill-climbing capabilities as higher-cost powertrains.

For its part of the deal, the engine maker has incorporated dual power-torque curves into the ECUs of 14 ratings, ranging from the M11 310 to the N14 500 Plus. With this move, Cummins provides drivers with the ability to tap into an additional 100 lb.-ft. of torque in 9th and 10th gears. The extra torque is what improves grade-climbing performance, and reduces trip time and shifting.

However, the special dual ratings are only available when used in conjunction with Eaton Fuller's Super 10 Top 2 gearboxes. These transmissions have been approved for the special applications in both their direct and overdrive versions, including the newly released 1,750 lb.-ft. capacity model.

With automatic shifting controlled by the engine ECU, the Super 10 Top 2 is a logical match for dual-personality engines, says Tim Morscheck, Eaton's business unit manager for automated transmissions. He points out that high torque inputs can be handled by the Super 10s because of their unique power flow. "The boxes use their auxiliary sections to accommodate the higher torque in the top two gears," Morscheck explains.

A new low-profile truck tire from Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. for free-rolling wheel positions features a 14/32nd-in. tread depth for longer tread wear. The 982 lo-pro also boasts decoupling grooves to improve overall traction and reduce shoulder wear, as well as lateral grooves and blading to enhance wet traction.

According to Kumho, the tire's computer-designed five-rib tread pattern resists uneven wear and offers reduced rolling resistance and running temperatures.

The 982 is available in 295/75R22.5, 285/75R24.5, 11R22.5, and 11R24.5 sizes. Kumho notes that the 11R22.5 and 11R24.5 sizes do not have decoupling grooves.

The newest version of Hutchens Industries' classic 4-spring, short rocker arm trailer suspension -- the Hutch 9700 Series -- features a number of design changes. These include an improved spring seat that more efficiently transfers forces from the axle to the spring, a lighter-weight top plate that provides greater stability under U-bolt clamping loads, and lightweight fabricated or cast steel hangers and equalizers.

The heavy-duty suspension is intended for 22,400 lb.-GAWR applications, but with a spring change it can handle up to 24,000 lb. Like its 7700 Series predecessor, the 9700 is a modular system that can be configured for a variety of missions from simple single-axle setups to 4- and 5-axle sequenced suspensions, including extreme 121-in. spreads.

According to Hutchens, the improved spring seat design, as well as the broad range of steel and composite leafspring designs, provides a smoother, more comfortable ride for the driver.

Ferodo America Inc. Heavy Duty Products Div. has introduced three new brake linings designed for specific applications: the OE-230, the Combo Friction, and the Premier 23.

According to the manufacturer, the OE-230 lining is engineered for dump trailers, spread-axle trailers, and single- and tandem-axle dump trucks, as well as mixer, refuse, and logging trucks.

The Combo Friction product combines semi-metallic cam blocks with organic anchor blocks to offer braking power, fade resistance and recovery, and consistent wear across all temperature ranges. It is suited for applications in which balanced wear and stopping performance are important, such as spread-axle tandem trailers and dump trailers.

Ferodo says the Premier 23 lining features extra heavy-duty performance that offers smooth stopping power, excellent resistance to brake fade, and exceptional wear resistance. The block is tested and certified for 19,000- to 23,000-GAWR applications.

All three new products boast wear indicators. It's time to reline when the block wears down to near the base of specially cut notches in opposing corners of the lining.

To reduce the risk of strain injuries and to speed setup times, Bee Line is offering lightweight aluminum tooling for its frame-straightening equipment. According to the company, the new tooling -- six part numbers, including two knees and four bars -- weighs less than half that of standard steel tooling. The aluminum tooling is said to be as strong as steel parts and fully interchangeable with them.

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