What's new in: Trailer suspensions

Technologies are improving durability and performance

Price and performance are often considered first with equipment, and trailer suspension repair or replacement is no exception. Like virtually all products, durability and quality that deliver quick return-on-investment are first and foremost on the minds of customers.

“Our Intraax and Vantraax suspensions are … known for their reliability and durability,” says Brian Buckham, senior marketing manager-trailer commercial vehicle systems for Hendrickson USA, which will be celebrating its 100th year in business in 2013. “[Our products] deliver enhanced ROI, matched with world-class warranties and unconditional customer support from a brand they can trust.”

Improved materials and production enhancements have allowed Hendrickson to reduce weight and improve reliability, durability and productivity of its Intraax and Vantraax products.

“The design optimizations … have resulted in weight reductions that translate to more payload and ultimately increased ROI for our customers,” says Buckham. “Our suspensions are designed with fewer wearable parts than those of competitors, so maintenance is considerably lower for trailer owners.”

According to Buckham, the company’s Quik-Align notouch pivot connection and axle alignment system and its Quik-Draw pneumatic pin-pull mechanism for sliders have helped improve user productivity. “Hendrickson was first to incorporate the 5.75-in. large diameter axle (LDA) into its suspension designs, reducing system weight while increasing bending stiffness and strength compared to a standard 5-in. axle,” he adds. “By the end of [this year], LDA axles will be fully integrated into all Intraax and Vantraax models.”


At Meritor Trailer Products, Bill Wakefield, managerstrategy and product management, is seeing more customers looking for technology to help them reduce costs.

“The first is helping to reduce the cost of ownership, especially in critical areas such as fuel economy, tire wear and maintenance. We are working toward lighter-weight materials, weight-efficient designs, and suspension designs that prioritize improved tire wear and fuel economy,” says Wakefield. “The second ... is intelligent feedback. Customers want technology that will help them be more efficient, such as a suspension that sends a warning signal to the driver when it is not operating at correct ride height or when the slider pins are not properly engaged.”

This information is gathered by the Meritor DriveForce field team, Wakefield explains, and funneled to product engineering groups. “This feedback helped us develop products like the Meritor RideSentry air ride suspension that offers better axle alignment, which results in greater fuel economy and tire wear because the trailer’s axles remain more dynamically aligned going down the road. The MTIS can add 1.4% fuel savings, according to a DOT study released earlier this year,” adds Wakefield.

PRICE CONCERNS The Meritor MTA Suspension family of products offers equivalent fuel efficiency improvements as the Ride- Sentry, while offering a “unique bushing and shock absorber design that works together to create better braking, handling and ride quality than competitors’ products,” he says. Even as technological advances improve durability and reliability, price still remains a contributing factor when purchasing a suspension, says Bill Hicks, director of product planning for trailer systems at SAF-Holland.

“Customers are asking for new trailer suspension models with technologies that balance price with enhanced overall value, performance, and quality backed by a strong after-sales and service network,” he says. “Added safety features, corrosion protection, and weight reduction for increased fuel efficiency are key areas of interest.”

SAF-Holland recently launched the CBX Series to address these needs. The CBX line includes a slider tandem suspension and fixed-frame suspension models with capacities from 23,000 to 30,000 lbs., including underslung and self-steering models. They use the company’s fusion beam technology.

“SAF fusion beam technology effectively reduces beam weight without compromising beam strength or integrity through the fusion of a proven cast beam and a fabricated tail section,” Hicks says. “The lighter-weight beam allows fleets to increase payload and thus improve profitability.”

The line includes the CBX self-steer axle (SSA), which combines SAF axle technology from Germany with North American-based CBX Series air suspensions for a lightweight, high-performance, rugged self-steer system, Hicks points out.

“The CBX SSA combination greatly enhances overall truck/trailer maneuverability, significantly reduces tire scrub, and improves overall trailer frame durability,” Hicks says. “The new SAF CBX self-steering suspension/axle system features the latest lightweight fusion beam technology available in two different steer angle models.”

The new, optimized self-steer axle will provide a wheel cut of 20 deg. or 25 to 30 deg., depending on model, he adds, and advanced SAF integral disc brake technology is standard on the initial offering. “The axle suspension system is designed to turn easier, greatly reducing tire wear and improving fuel economy by reducing drag and tire scrubbing, which can also lead to frame damage, torsional stress, and wear,” Hicks says.

The series include the SAF self-steering CBX23, SAF self-steering CBX25, and SAF self-steering CBX25/30. The CBX23 and CBX25 models deliver capacities of 23,000 lbs. and 25,000 lbs., respectively, while the CBX25/30 offers an additional 30,000 lbs. of load-carrying capacity at creep speed (5 mph or less) and 25,000 lbs. of capacity for on-highway operation.

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