Industry Advocates Use of Electronic Brakes

By Sandra I. Erwin

A consortium representing brake manufacturers is working to inform military truck-buying agencies on the benefits of electronic braking systems. The technology is widely used in European truck fleets, but has not been adopted in the United States yet.

An electronically controlled braking system essentially is braking by wire. It involves substituting a wire with an electronic signal, instead of the current system, which uses compressed air in a tube. “Rather than sending a message to the wheel via compressed air in a long tube, 1920s style, we are doing it electronically,” said David Hammes, chairman of the electronic brakes task force of the American Trucking Association.

“If you compare to an aircraft, a pilot in World War II had a joystick with a wire connected to the aileron, the rudder and the wing flaps,” said Hammes in an interview. “Today, the pilot has a wire that sends an electronic message to a motor that turns the aileron, the rudder and the flaps. We are doing the same with trucks.”

In heavy trucks, brake by wire will “save lots of money in assembly, because you are not connecting plastic tubes and rubber hoses into the valves, you are connecting wires,” he said. “It saves a lot of room under the dashboard.”

Today, he added, “You have to tweak and play with the valves and the hoses. With electronic braking, the balance will be an instantaneous signal to the wheel.”

The U.S. brake manufacturers currently are working together to make sure that the technology is compatible with every truck make. They want every component from every competitor to be compatible, said Hammes.

He is not sure how long it will take for the U.S. government to mandate electronic brakes, which is the only way that manufacturers will use it. Hammes recalled that it took 20 years for the U.S. government to endorse anti-lock brakes (ABS).

“The North American brake law is in the process of being rewritten to allow for braking by electronics,” Hammes said. “Just like ABS, nobody will buy it unless it is mandated.”

He estimates that it would cost $500 to upgrade a truck from conventional to electronic brakes with air disks.

Topics: Manufacturing, Manufacturing Technology

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