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SAF-Holland on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report

How SAF-Holland Became A Global Leader

SAF-Holland is a leading global commercial vehicle supplier and the largest independent listed manufacturer of chassis-related systems and components for trailers in North America and Trucks and Busses in Europe. Their product line includes Fifth Wheels, King Pins, Coupling Products, Landing Gears, Axles and Suspension Systems. 

Recently we interviewed Carl Mesker, who is the VP of Sales and Service at SAF-Holland and we were surprised by what we learned about SAF-Holland and the products they manufacture.  

History of SAF-Holland 

SAF’s legacy started in 1881 when Paul Zill, a blacksmith from Keilberg, Germany developed the Zill two-way plow for the agricultural industry. As the popularity of his plow grew agricultural axles were added to the product line. The family operation evolved to became Otto Sauer Achsen Fabrik (SAF), a leader in the design and manufacturing of integrated axles and suspension systems for commercial trailers. 
Similar to SAF, Holland’s legacy also started in the agricultural industry in 1910 with the introduction of a safety release hitch for horse-drawn plows. Gerrit Den Besten was the founder of the “Safety Release Clevis Company” in Corsica, South Dakota. The company found new market opportunities in the automotive industry and moved operations to Holland, Michigan. After relocating the company, it was renamed The Holland Hitch Company, and this family-owned business grew into a global supplier in the commercial transportation industry. 
In 2006 the German Group SAF and the North American Holland Group merged to form SAF-Holland and has become one of the leading suppliers for the global commercial vehicle industry. Currently, they are the largest air disk brake manufacturer in Europe and the largest independent listed manufacturer of chassis-related systems and components for trailers in North America. 

Leading Edge Technology 

Through product development and innovative technologies, SAF-Holland continues to grow globally. Whether it’s their Air Sliding Frame Suspensions, Air Fixed, Mechanical Sliding, or Mechanical Fixed suspensions, they have developed leading-edge technology that greatly enhances the service life of their suspensions for the end-user. Backed with exemplary global service support, fleets can depend on SAF-Holland to provide them with world-class suspension systems.  

Although suspension systems themselves have not structurally changed all that much in recent years, what has changed is the use of sensors. There are places in the suspension where you can put a sensor to determine load information, performance, and critical feedback for safety systems. These sensors are manufactured with advanced technology that has been developed by SAF-Holland and its partners. 

Weight reduction is also a key struggle in the transportation industry. SAF-Holland uses stronger steel in their suspension systems.

This means that they can use less material, lowering the weight of their products. Lowering the weight of a vehicle, while keeping its strength and durability, lowers the cost-per-mile for fleets.  

SAF-Holland is not only manufacturing suspension systems, they are the only aluminum fifth wheel supplier to the commercial vehicle industry. Holland’s fifth wheels embody a history of evolutionary designs that expand fifth wheel function and value. These innovative advancements guarantee performance and offer proven value for every application. 

Support for the Aftermarket 

When the OEM side of SAF-Holland is working on the development and manufacturing of new products, cooperation with the aftermarket ensures that fleets who have equipment with SAF-Holland products will receive support throughout the entire life cycle of the vehicle. By integrating the OEM and aftermarket, SAF-Holland not only can manufacture high-quality products for the OEMs, but they also can prepare the aftermarket for servicing and repairs.  

“It starts early on. As soon as the product is in the development stages for the OEM, the collaboration with the aftermarket starts,” said Carl Mesker, VP of Sales and Service at SAF-Holland. 

Furthermore, SAF-Holland knows exactly what materials are going into their parts, so they have a decent idea of the wear life, and can prepare for the inevitable wearing of parts, providing the fleets with aftermarket replacement parts exactly when they are needed.  

After SAF-Holland manufactures their products for the OEMs and the warranty expires, they slowly start phasing out the support for the aging parts. After some time, it completely becomes the responsibility of the aftermarket side to manage the remaining life of that product. Meanwhile, the OEM side of their business is developing new products which will one-day be managed by the aftermarket side of the business and this cycle is how SAF-Holland has become a global leader with trailer axles and suspension systems and many other products.  

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Author: Jamie Irvine

Jamie Irvine is the host of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and a consultant that works with manufacturers, distributors, and SaaS companies serving the heavy-duty truck parts industry.


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