Overdrive Extra

Randy Grider

Meritor demos SMARTandem, expects growth in 6×2 axles

| December 07, 2012

Meritor offers demo of its SMARTandem at Fletcher, N.C., plant.

Gearing up for an anticipated uptick in the 6×2 axle market, Meritor showcased its SMARTandem axle at a press briefing this week at its Fletcher, N.C. plant. The new axle is expected to be released in late 2013.

Meritor anticipates the demand for 6×2 packages, which features a single drive axle with a complementing tag axle, will  increase about 15 percent over the next few years.

“The SMARTandem offers about 400 pounds of weight savings and a 2 percent improvement in fuel economy, but it also rated to handle a GCVW (gross combination vehicle weight) of 110,000 pounds and 2,050 ft.-lbs. of output torque,” said Charles Allen, Meritor general manager of Fleet Drive Axles. “For somebody who can use it, like a flatbed operator, there is no better way to have that kind of weight savings.”

See video of SMARTandem demo here. (Note: I shot the video on my camera phone so sound quality is less than desirable. The truck loaded with 80,000 pounds is starting off on an incline with soapy water added to tires to reduce traction. First attempt is in regular 6×2 mode and the second attempt is after load shift and diff lock are engaged.)

While widely used in Europe, single drive axles are only now gaining momentum in the North America market. Among the top by concerns by fleets have been traction, tire wear, resale values and driver acceptance.

Meritor officials believe their technology-proven and field-tested offerings in the 6×2 market — the FUELite Tandem, which also will soon include an electronic controlled air spring (ECAS), and the SMARTandem, featuring the load shift of the FUELite and an automatic differential lock — will make the 6×2 configuration comparable to the 6×4.

Matt Stevenson, Meritor general manager of North American Field Operations and Marketing, says with the ECAS system on the 6×2 setups, it will get “pretty darn close” to the 6×4 on tire wear, and as far as resale value, which is are calculated at about $5,000, the fuel savings over four years or less will offset the difference.

Stevenson said the trucking industry is running out of “low-hanging” fruit when it comes to sizable weight reduction and fuel economy gains. “The 6×2 is definitely a low-cost way to pick up enhanced fuel economy,” he says. “We are thinking in five years, this could be as high as 18 percent of the traditional on-highway truck market.”

Meritor also noted its recent investments in its operations, which total $23 million in the past three years and another $6 million in 2012. These include a new carburizing furnace, an input shaft cell and pinion hard turn at the 30-year-old plant, which encompasses 504,000 square feet.

The demo of the SMARTandem was impressive, but the true test will be in driver acceptance. Tell us, drivers, would you consider a 6×2 setup if it offered basically the same traction, tire wear and saved you money?

  • Stanley Lippard

    BunniRabbyt It is about time they thought about getting away from 6X4 drive axles. Back in the 70s they were lots of trucks using single drive axle with tag axles behind. Tha downside if you dont have have a dump or a lift on that back axle you can hang up on uneven terrain even suck as ice and snow I hope the builders have thought of that. I was in flatbeds and we got off the road often. I always said the tandem drive was a whole lot of money repair weight and not used. I am almost thinking it was a marketing thing. It is just like a 4 wheel drive vehicle everybody thinks they have to have one or else they cant go in the snow great marketing but in alot of cases just a waste of money. How did we make it in the 50s and 60s you had to have a jeep to get a 4 wheel drive I applaud Meritor finnally a new mousetrap

  • Raap

    Thank you for your thoughts, Stanley. I had a small hand in developing the system and I couldn’t agree with you more.
    To answer your question, the system does include an algorithm to ensure the drive axle always has the load it needs to launch the vehicle forward no matter what the road conditions, even if the tag axle is on much higher ground than the drive axle (and the suspension is within its use limitations). Also, it does include dump and lift modes so the driver can override the standard height & load algorithm to improve trailer hooking and unhooking.

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