Gaining traction in Europe

In Product Profile, October 201911 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 18, 2019

A proud New Zealand company, Tidd Ross Todd (TRT) has evolved to be a full-service supplier to the local trucking industry. Now, one of its in-house developed products is going international.

Photo: The new system wheel end installed.

And we‘re not just talking three hours westward to Australia. No, TRT has a presence there too. Now, though, it has its sights set squarely on the European market with the latest generation of Traction Air, its central tyre inflation (CTI) system. The Traction Air story goes back more than 22 years, when TRT developed it to meet demand from industry for a high-quality, but reasonably priced, CTI system. The current system was then developed around 13 years ago and – undergoing various phases of technological development since – has proved itself to be very successful, gaining significant market share in Australasia (it is also the OE system fitted by Scania Australia). In New Zealand, Australia and parts of Asia, Traction Air can be found across all sectors and in any application that has an off-road component to it, where tyre pressures would need to be finely adjusted to afford the vehicle optimum traction. In predominantly on-road applications, the advantages of a CTI system are numerous. Operators can expect enhanced tyre life, better fuel consumption, reduced downtime, and reduced impact on all components thanks to the correct pressure being maintained for the terrain and speed. If a small leak develops the system can keep the tyre‘s pressure up (depending on the rate of the leak and the size of the vehicle‘s compressor) so that the vehicle can safely reach its destination.

Photo: The first installation of the new stainless steel threechannel pressure cell and filter assembly.

The ambition to enter Europe came about four years ago when Gavin Halley, national sales manager at TRT, became aware of a potential opportunity in the region. However, it wasn‘t simply a case of shipping over some units. After studying the market, the TRT team realised that the existing platform would need to be developed to both fulfil the needs of the market and meet Compliance Europe (CE) regulations. “About two and a half years ago the decision was made to design purposebuilt, multi-channel systems (front, drive and trailer axles) for the European market.

We invested a lot of money and resources on research and development; the new system had to be better than anything we‘ve offered before. We looked at every component that went into the system and how we could improve on it. As a result, everything has changed – it‘s a ground-up, blankpage, nuts and bolts design,” says Gavin. This meant redesigning the system‘s hardware and developing new software to control it, all while using CE-certified components. Before we get into the hardware, Gavin explains that it is the new software that really gives this latest generation of Traction Air the advantage.

Photo: GPS speed up technology independent of the truck.

Photo: The first front axle installation on a new V8 Scania in Sweden.

“This system is designed to be at the forefront of CTI, so we needed to make sure the design is future-proof and could be integrated with the vehicle‘s systems.” It uses CAN bus communication – just like all modern vehicles – to send signals between the electronic control unit (ECU) and the functional components of the system. This means that potentially connecting to a vehicle‘s system will be easier, as well as cutting down on the metres and metres of cable traditionally used to wire up such systems. “Many additional input and output options are available and every form of communication protocol, including Bluetooth, cellular and RF to name a few. These have been built into the new ECU for expansion in the future,” Gavin adds.

For the driver, control of the system is via one of two new interfaces – a double-DIN touchscreen unit for multi-channel systems, and a single- DIN unit for single- or dual-channel systems. The information displayed can be personalised to the customer‘s requirements. There are even options for personalised screens with the customer‘s branding or messages. “One key difference is the size of the LCD screen and the level of engagement with the driver. They‘re much more aware of what‘s happening – from a safety aspect, as a vehicle owner, you want to ensure the driver always knows what‘s happening with their vehicle.

Photo: MTS Haulage Ltd‘s Scania with Traction Air installed.

“Everything within the system is easily changeable. The programming functions are simple and effective. We can set the speed and pressure settings for an individual customer‘s operation, or customise the safety thresholds for any specific task or fleet requirement. The system can be updated through loading data from a USB, or we can talk the customer through the background key entry functions over the phone,” says Gavin. As with the current system, a GPS receiver is used to accurately measure ground speed independent of the vehicle. On the hardware side of the system, Gavin explains that the driving force behind the new development was to put the highest levels of protection into the system from the outset. For example, given Europe‘s harsh environment, the new system features a thermal switch and heater elements that click in at -20°C to maintain an even operating temperature in the pressure cell.

“We couldn‘t find valves from any supplier that could operate at -40°C, which is important for preventing the valves from potentially locking and for protecting the integrity of the system. The pressure cell, pneumatic control centre and wheel-end packages are entirely new,” he says. They‘ve also been built out of stainless steel – to withstand the salt laid onto the roads during snowy conditions – and feature a ‘very heavy-duty‘ sealing system. They have also added new filtration elements and IP66 rated seals, so the environment inside the pressure cell remains sterile and contaminant free. Likewise, the all-new wheel-end packages feature strengthened sealing arrangements and improved bracketry for bolt-on-bolt-off ease of fitment and maintenance. The new system has been put through its paces locally with testing in extreme off-highway environments, as well as in Scandinavia all through the winter. Scandinavia, along with the United Kingdom, is the first European markets to have units installed. The Scandinavian market will also be offered pre-prepared axle systems that carry factory warranties.

Photo: The newly installed Traction Air system on TRT‘s TIDD PC28 Crane for operation in Australia maintains tyre pressure at a constant 896 kpa (130 PSI).

“Our distributor in Scandinavia is Bevola, which specialises in traction solutions and has a strong presence in the logging sector,” says Gavin. “Traction Air is a complementary product to many other systems Bevola provides. Sweden‘s industry is so advanced – if we can get a stranglehold there, we can get into any market.” With the first installations happening there now, TRT‘s Kiwi techies have been training up the local installers – and moving into the UK directly. Gavin is upbeat. “The feedback from testing with our distribution partner and our field testing has been incredibly positive, many of our existing clients are keen to adopt the new technology.” He‘s quick to point out, though, that the new system does not make the existing system obsolete.

“While we designed it for Europe, the new system meets all regulative requirements in New Zealand and Australia, so it will inevitably flow into our Australasian markets. The existing equipment will always be available from TRT and will continue to be fully supported in all aspects.” Support for the new system is by way of a three-year/500,000km warranty on all electronics and pneumatics, and a 12-month warranty on wheel-end bearings and plumbing. All that needs to be done in terms of maintenance is to check the filters every 12 months.

Photo: The existing Traction Air system installed on a DPS Haulage Ltd, Kenworth. There is no visible difference with the new system.