Cristina Commendatore | FleetOwner
Phillips Industries CEO Rob Phillips

Phillips expands, adds new business unit to group of companies

Feb. 28, 2023
The new business unit, Phillips Innovations, will focus on sustainable energy technologies, including solar power and electrification products for trucks and trailers, and patented vision systems for backup cameras.

ORLANDO, Florida—As Phillips Industries expands its business units, CEO Rob Phillips is adamant about filling in current gaps in the market—keeping fleet needs in mind.  

“We work actively with all the fleets that demand our products, but we don’t sell to fleets directly,” Phillips told trade press during a Feb. 26 press conference at American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council's 2023 Annual Meeting. “We spend a lot of time talking to fleets and listening to the things that they need.”

See also: More TMC 2023 coverage from Orlando

After evaluating what’s missing in the commercial truck and trailer space, Phillips announced the formation of a new business unit. Phillips Innovations will act as an accelerator for bringing new products into the Phillips platform by collaborating with technology providers that are developing new solutions for transportation.

“Opening our minds to what we can’t do allowed us to look at different players in the market and look at how we can bring in those core technologies,” Phillips said. “We studied what’s missing, and we still believe that trailers are treated like second-class citizens."

“Solvable problems are seldom heard, and there are answers, but they aren’t being listened to,” he added. “OEMs are adding technologies on the trucks and on the trailers, but they are not making future-proofing standard, which is something that needs to be done.”

With that in mind, Phillips is focused on developing new products in three areas: trailer visibility (think camera systems, radar, and creating more technology on and around the trailer), electric vehicle (EV) power systems, and sustainable energy technology.

A closer look at Phillips Innovations

At launch, Phillips Innovations will have two key areas of focus: sustainable energy technologies—including solar power and electrification products for trucks and trailers—and patented vision systems including what Phillips said is “the industry’s only truly universal” backup camera using open-source software and mobile applications, expected for release in Q2 2023.

To help achieve its mission, the Phillips Innovations business unit will bring on technology partners Merlin Solar, ProEV, and Spartan Radar this year.

Merlin’s exclusive partnership with Phillips Innovations will bring to market what Phillips referred to as "advanced, purpose-built" solar-powered solutions for smart trucks and trailers. The Merlin solar-grid patented technology is currently being used to power creature comforts in Class 8 cabs and on trailers to power liftgate batteries.

Initially, Phillips Innovations will develop solar-power kits to market through the OEM dealer network and aftermarket distributors. The partnership will progress to marketing options for powering reefers and electric drive axles as it increases market share on trailers and becomes a viable option for trucks.

The alliance with ProEV combines Phillips Industries' experience in Class 8 commercial truck and trailer components with ProEV's expertise in high-voltage harnesses and electric vehicle technology to develop high-voltage and cable customer harness assemblies for electric and fuel-cell Class 8 trucks and trailers.

See also: Is it time for smart trailer adoption?

To round out the offerings, as Spartan Radar’s exclusive partner for Class 8 trucks and trailers, Phillips Innovations will launch trailer blindspot detection devices and layer its patented radar technologies onto its trailer cameras to improve situational awareness for trailers and reduce accidents. This partnership combines the Phillips connected trailer, safety lights, and vision technologies with Spartan’s advancements in radar to bridge the gap between truck and trailer safety solutions.

For all technologies, Phillips also emphasized the importance of seamless integration for fleets. "If anything is going to work from a fleet perspective, it has to be able to be put on at the OEM and just as easily in the aftermarket," he said.

Phillips Innovations and its partners are intent on bringing new technologies to the industry as trucking moves to electric and autonomous vehicles, the company noted. 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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