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The Expanding Air Disc Brake Market in North America

Learn why air disc brakes are rapidly expanding in North America on commercial vehicles.

Episode 91: In this episode we discuss air disc brakes. Steven Robert, is the Air Disc Brake Manager at BBB Industries, and he talks to us about how the air disc brake market is growing, and the benefits ADBs have over drum brakes.

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Air Disc Brakes and Commercial Vehicles

Air disc brakes are most popular on commercial vehicles in Europe but have been gaining more popularity in North America in recent years. They first started in North America in the 1980’s for refuse, firetrucks, and oil tankers. Expanded in late 90’s to early 2000’s to coach buses and transit buses.

“The biggest application where we’re seeing the most growth is in class 7, and class 8 trucks and trailers. What has led to that is the OEM’s starting to spec out their units, and making air disc brakes the standard,” said Steven Robert of BBB Industries.

S-Cam Drum Brakes Vs Air Disc Brakes

S-cam drum brakes were the standard for many decades. But the problem with this style of brakes is that they require a lot of maintenance and there are many parts that wear and need to be replaced.

Air disc brakes offer these advantages:

  • Better fuel efficiency
  • Less weight
  • Not as noisy
  • Increase of safety (Shorter stopping distance compared to drum brakes… 16% stopping distance decrease)
  • 30% more money to outfit commercial vehicle with ABD over drum, but the maintenance is much less.
  • Simpler design
  • Less brake pull, more straight-line stability

“Bendix technicians have shared that they can perform 4 pad changes on an air disc brake unit, in the amount of time it would take to do one brake shoe job… that’s 4 times the amount of savings,” said Robert. That represents a huge savings in labor when doing repairs and saves fleets money over the lifetime of the truck or trailer.

Not only are air disc brakes much better from a maintenance and repair perspective but drivers really appreciate the improvement to stability, braking performance, and the feel. “It’s almost a passenger car-like feel, but on a commercial vehicle, that today’s ADBs offer,” said Robert.

Lifespan of Air Disc Brake Calipers

Realistically fleets and expect to get 3-5 years out of an air disc brake caliper, but it really depends more on the miles. The averages seem to be between 200,000 – 250,000 miles, after that fleets will probably have to look at getting their calipers remanufactured.

These air disc brake calipers are built to last, but moisture can cause the caliper to wear out over time. Regardless of what causes the caliper to fail in the end, it is a part that can be remanufactured, so fleets shouldn’t get rid of their cores.

The Market for Air Disc Brakes

“We’ve roughly estimated that the ADB market in North America is between 400-500 million dollars. It really is this huge growing market,” said Robert. In 2015 only 15% of Commercial Vehicles had air disc brakes, but in 2018 that number had climbed to 25%. The current trend indicates that about 40% of commercial vehicles will have air disc brakes in the next 3-4 years.

When we look to the future, within 10-years air disc brake technology will be found on most commercial vehicles and be the most popular option. As commercial vehicles advance with electric and autonomous technology, air disc brakes seem to be the choice of brakes for the commercial vehicles of tomorrow.

Meeting or Exceeding OEM Specifications

As a remanufacturer, BBB Industries see where parts generally fail, and with that knowledge they can redesign and improve those faults. “We look at the OEM as a guide, and with reverse engineering we get their specs as a general gauge, but then we look at it to make improvements”, said Robert. BBB Industries uses an EOL tester which is the ultimate test to see that you have an OE quality unit. The EOL tester acts as if the unit is attached to a vehicle, compresses with air, and tests alignments of pistons, and makes sure everything is working properly. It logs the data and qualifies that they have remanufactured a good, working caliper. With this technology and other quality control steps in place BBB Industries confidently supplies the heavy-duty aftermarket with remanufactured calipers that meet or exceed OEM specifications.

Disclaimer: This content and description may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, The Heavy-Duty Parts Report may receive a small commission. 

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