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Bendix produces 3 millionth air disc brake for trucking industry seeking safety and savings

Bendix-Spicer joint venture benefits from disc for drum substitution in trucks, trailers and buses


The Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake joint venture is marking a nearly eight-fold increase in air disc brake production as the trucking industry seeks cost savings from improved safety and lower maintenance expenses.

The joint venture of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and Dana Inc. (NYSE:DAN) recently surpassed 3 million air disc brake units in North America. Bendix and its German parent, Knorr-Bremse (OTCMKTS: KNRRY) have produced more than 40 million air disc brake units.

Drum brake sales remain dominant in North America, but the share of air disc brakes has doubled since 2014. Bendix claims the ADB22X system accounts for about 80 percent of that share. 

“Bendix is benefitting from the move from drum brakes to disc brakes,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Navigant Research.

The joint venture sold about 27 percent of air disc brakes in 2018, said Keith McComsey, director of wheel-end marketing and customer solutions. It migrated the lightweight air disc brake design from Europe in 2005.  

“It took eight years to reach the 400,000-unit production mark in 2013, but just five more to hit the 2 million mark in December 2017,” said Nicole Oreskovic, the joint venture’s product line director for air disc brakes.

Safety Benefits

Air disc brakes have shorter stopping distances and help reduce the risk of being flagged by safety inspectors for out-of-adjustment brakes due to an internal adjustment mechanism, “McComsey told FreightWaves. The Bendix ADB22X beats the federal safety standard of 250 feet stopping distance by 50 feet. Air disc brakes practically eliminate brake fade common to drum brakes, which expand away from the friction when hot.

Total cost of ownership

Bendix created an online configurator to show the five-year truck ownership cost savings of air disc brakes over drum brakes. Disc brakes cost up to $3,000 more than drum brakes on a new truck, but the payback can be substantial.

“As fleets gain more knowledge of total cost of ownership and its benefits, the majority of fleets are going to make the move,” McComsey said. 

Air disc brakes helps make the Wingman Fusion collision mitigation system more effective because of reduced stopping distances, especially if installed on both tractor and trailer axles. 

“They work best when they are together,” McComsey said.

Customer adoption

Peterbilt Motors Co. and Kenworth Truck Co. units of PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ:PCAR)  International trucks from Navistar Inc. (NYSE:NAV), Daimler Trucks North America (OTC:DDAIF), and the Volvo Trucks NA and Mack Trucks units of Volvo Group (OTC:VLVLY) all offer the Bendix ABD22X system. 

The system, which Bendix claims offers straight-line stopping of a passenger car, became standard on Peterbilt and Kenworth Class 8 tractor steer axles in 2013. They are standard on all axles of the Peterbilt 579 and Kenworth T680, and the International LT Series along with several vocational models. 

The system also is offered by all major trailer and bus manufacturers.

Bendix makes the truck and trailer air disc brake systems in Bowling Green, Kentucky. 

Market players

A 2.2 percent global compound annual growth rate for all air brakes is expected between 2019 and 2023, according to Technavio, a global technology research and advisory company. Bendix’s main competitors are Akebono Brake Industry Co. Ltd. (OTC:AKBIF), Meritor Inc. (NYSE:MTOR), WABCO Holdings Inc. (NYSE:WBC) and ZF Friedrichshafen AG. 

ZF expects to close a $7 billion acquisition of WABCO in early 2020.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.

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