Makers of ABS equipment have recently started signing licensing agreements with the inventor of a required electronic circuitry. The $1.50-per-tractor-trailer fee will be far less than the initial $10 PLC4Trucks inventor Al Lesesky and his company, Vehicle Enhancement Systems Inc. (VES), first asked for, but much more than manufacturers claimed the technology was worth.
PLC4Trucks allows trailer ABS to send a malfunction signal to a tractor's cab, triggering a warning light that became a federal requirement March 1. A stockpile of electronic chips with the "light the light" circuitry allowed production to continue past the deadline while negotiations with Lesesky continued.
Eaton Corp. and ArvinMeritor’s Meritor-Wabco division have both signed agreements with Lesesky for use of the technology.
Although members of the PLC4Trucks consortium thought the technology was a generic design, Lesesky informed them that he had applied for a patent on the use of the P-485 chip. When it came through on Oct. 3, 2001, he demanded that ABS makers pay $5 per use, or $10 per tractor-trailer. When manufactures balked, claiming the technology was worth only $0.10, Lesesky dropped his demand to $1.50.
Intellon Corp., the maker of the electronic chip that uses the circuitry, is also making an agreement with VES. Intellon said it has agreed to collect the licensing fees and pass them on to VES, and VES is dropping a related suit against Intellon.
Intellon's P-485 chip is installed in the ABS control modules that go on trailers and tractors, which then communicate through existing wiring via powerline carrier signals. This avoids the need for a separate trailer-to-tractor connector cable, which truck fleets had opposed.
OEMs have been able to keep producing vehicles because ABS makers had a surplus of equipment with pre-patent chips. The surplus developed as truck orders plunged because manufacturers had stockpiled chips, thinking that record 1999 sales would continue into this year.