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MHT's Dier: R&D paves way to innovation

At an all-day news conference here this week, Kelly Dier, president of Marmon Highway Technologies (MHT) outlined how the firm’s investment of over $25 million in research and development (R&D) since 2003

BIRMINGHAM. At an all-day news conference here this week, Kelly Dier, president of Marmon Highway Technologies (MHT) outlined how the firm’s investment of over $25 million in research and development (R&D) since 2003 enabled its 13 companies to develop and introduce--- from last year into this year-- a wide range of new products and solutions. Dier said the total R&D investment equates to a quadrupling of MHT’s previous annual R&D expenditures.

Dier said the numerous introductions being made across the MHT brands are “innovations aimed at assisting OEM, fleet and aftermarket customers to operate more efficiently through weight savings, reduced maintenance costs and extended product life.” He noted that MHT has also spent over $130 million in the same period on equipment and facilities to design, test and manufacture these new products.

““While other companies pulled back to try to wait out the latest cyclical downturn in the trucking industry, we’ve used our financial strength and stability to invest in the future for our customers,” said Dier at the media event, which was held in conjunction with a stop by MHT’s mobile “private trade show-- Ideas in Motion — under a tent at Boyd Bros. Transportation’s Birmingham terminal.

The show, which travels in a special trailer hauled by a classic Marmon tractor, brings new products and technology from the various MHT companies directly to fleet customers’ locations.

MHT is the parent of these 13 companies: Fontaine Fifth Wheel, Fontaine Modification Company, Fontaine Spray Suppression, Fontaine Trailer Company, Marmon-Herrington, MHT− Europe, MHT− South America, Perfection, Triangle Suspension Systems, TSE Brakes, Webb Wheel Aftermarket, Webb Wheel OEM and Webb Wheel Transit.

According to Dier, MHT took stock of its operations and market positions in the industry and determined it would “turn its focus from producing the best possible commodity products to developing innovative technology that adds more value for customers.”

Products, technology and services featured at the Alabama event ncluded:

  • Fontaine Ultra line of fifth wheels, including the Fontaine Ultra NS, the only fifth wheel to offer infinite, automatic slack adjustment; the Fontaine Ultra LT, the lightest-weight fifth wheel slider system available; and the Fontaine Ultra HD, a lighter-weight, heavy-duty fifth wheel for severe service applications, said Fontaine Fifth Wheel.
  • Certified installation of alternative fuel engines, alternative fuel delivery systems and auxiliary power units (APUs) by Fontaine Modification Company.
  • Flex Wedge lightweight mud flap retaining system, fiberglass fenders, Hogebuilt wide-based tire fenders, heavy-duty construction fenders, and Body Armor fender coating to protect against unsightly pings showing through to the front of a fender, shown by Fontaine Spray Suppression.
  • Modular Fontaine Magnitude 55MX heavy-haul trailer and patented lightweight Fontaine Revolution Hybrid Dropdeck trailer that Fontaine trailer said “boasts a concentrated load capacity of 54,000 lbs. in just five feet.”
  • Tire Pressure Adjustment System (TPAS) that allows the fastest possible deflation, as well as individual tire pressure settings, said Marmon-Herrington.
  • Lightweight leaf-spring replacement for Mack camelback suspensions by Triangle Suspension Systems.
  • TSE Omnibrake High Output Technology (HOT) for disc brake and S-cam drum brake applications> TSE said it is “a proven alternative to piston-type disc brakes that provides higher parking or emergency force while maintaining low hold-off pressure — all in a smaller profile.”
  • Per Webb Wheel Products, “the lightest aluminum trailer disc wheel hubs available; the patented Webb Vortex brake drum that is lighter, cooler and less expensive than standard drums; W43 asbestos-free friction for the transit market; and Super Kits, an innovative, superior-performing brake drum, friction and hardware package for the transit and coach markets as well as other severe-duty applications.”

Executives on hand from the various MHT companies also discussed their individual and joint efforts to advance R&D for their product offerings:

  • TSE Brakes announced it is partnering with sister firm Webb Wheel in the use and development of a state-of-the-art research and development facility in Cullman, AL.
  • Fontaine Modification reported consolidating all of its R&D activities in a centralized “Innovation Center,” established at its headquarters in Charlotte, NC, to “ensure consistent quality and results, with unbeatable speed-to-market” times.
  • Fontaine Fifth Wheel noted that its headquarters in nearby Trussville, AL, includes the biggest fifth wheel research lab in the world.

“I’m really proud of what we have done over the last several years,” Dier said. “But I truly believe that the best years for our organization are ahead of us. Our ongoing commitment to research and development, supported by state-of-the-art manufacturing, will ensure that MHT companies continue to create new technology and products to help our customers grow and prosper.”

Marmon Highway Technologies (MHT), a Berkshire Hathaway company, is one of 11 sectors of The Marmon Group, which is described as “an international association of about 130 business units that operate independently within diverse business sectors.”

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