Rolling over rugged off-road terrain, hauling heavy loads and tackling tasks that require your drivers to get in and out of the truck countless times throughout the day are all par for the course in vocational truck applications. It’s hard work tackled by tough equipment, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard on your drivers.
The driver shortage continues to be a challenge. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) cited the driver shortage as the industry’s top concern in its latest “Top Industry Issues” report for the fourth year in a row. It puts added pressure on fleet managers to make driver comfort a priority equal to the equipment’s ability to efficiently and productively tackle its application. No small task, especially in the vocational segment.
“Vocational jobs are hard on trucks, hard on equipment and hard on the body, and you want to be as cognizant of the driver’s comfort and their health as possible,” said Sean Whitfield, director of truck marketing, Hendrickson. “Hendrickson designs, manufactures and supplies different types of suspensions for different purposes. Suspensions have evolved greatly over the years, and driver comfort, ride quality and equipment protection have been key elements of that.”
Steel spring suspensions used to be the go-to vocational suspension spec to tackle the tough tasks, but the ride was rough compared to air-ride suspensions that gained ground in the on-highway segment, but don’t offer the durability needed in the vocational segment.
Hendrickson, for its part, developed a rubber elastomer suspension product that is put in place of the steel springs, offering an improved ride and better durability, with the HAULMAAX EX heavy-duty rubber suspension. It’s designed with vertically angled bolster springs carrying the majority of the payload in compression during the empty or lightly loaded condition. As load increases, ride and stability characteristics of the suspension change to meet the application’s needs without an abrupt change in suspension feel. The superior ride translates to reduced road shock and vibration to the vehicle that contributes to longer service life of the cab, chassis and body equipment.
“One of the other advantages of the HAULMAAX EX suspension compared to steel spring suspensions is a lower cost of ownership because of the reduced maintenance involved,” Whitfield said. “You don’t have as many bushings and lubrication points, and you don’t have to replace a steel leaf spring. There are some general maintenance checks from time to time, but it’s not necessarily something that you have to take out to grease, replace, etc. The longevity of these rubber components is much better than the steel springs.”
While driver comfort continues to grow in its importance, you still need to make sure the suspension fits the application. An unplanned maintenance event because the suspension was improperly spec’d will definitely make you and your driver unhappy. When it comes to rubber suspensions for vocational applications, the HAULMAAX EX, for example, is designed with up to a 70,000-lb. site rating for the 46,000-lb. capacity suspension. For more rugged applications, the HAULMAAX EX offers capacities up to 52,000 lbs. to support the most demanding vocational applications.
This article was sponsored by Hendrickson.