A new cab air-suspension system delivers a smoother ride for trucks and tractors, and therefore their occupants, especially over harsh pavement and railroad crossings, says Link Manufacturing, maker of the Cabmate suspension that forms the basis for the new product.
Cabmate ROI, for Road Optimized Innovations, actively damps out shock and vibration instead of doing it passively, as does the current Cabmate product.
Cabmate came on the market in 1980, following its invention by Bill Nibbelink, “a local trucker who was determined to improve the driver experience,” said Jim Huls, Link’s president. Shortly after starting the company and getting his device into production, Nibbelink sold the firm to a family of investors which still owns it. Link has since expanded its product offerings to include air suspensions for lift axles, tandem- and single-drive axles, and an air management system for tires.
A few years ago, Link’s engineers began working to make the current Cabmate perform actively, using sensors and an electronic control module that adjust damping rates of advanced shock absorbers and air springs, and do so about 200 times a second, Huls and other Link officials said. Sensors include an accelerometer under the cab that measures vertical motions, while the ECU uses proprietary software developed in-house based on road-condition experiences.
More work is done by ROI Cabmate’s shock absorbers, so less air is exhausted from air springs as they soften and harden while cushioning and stabilizing the cab. The new system also uses an electronic height control valve to keep the cab level. The system has undergone more than 1.5 million miles of testing, much of it by fleet customers in their in-service road tractors.
As with the current product, ROI Cabmate will protect the cab and its contents from damage, keeping it in good shape and preserving or enhancing resale value, said Michael Hof, VP of new business development. Of course, contents include the driver and any passengers, especially anybody occupying a sleeper bunk while underway. He or she tends to the feel vibration and bouncing because of the bunk’s position, near the rear cab mounts.
“With Link’s ROI Cabmate, operators will enjoy the enhanced ride quality of a vehicle in a constant state of dynamic dampening,” Hof said. “With adjustments being made hundreds of times per second, the system can respond appropriately at each instant, thus drivers and passengers immediately have a very soft shock when traveling on a smooth highway, and a very stiff shock when driving on uneven or off-road terrain. The system deals with unexpected encounters, like potholes, in real time.”
Hof estimated that ROI Cabmate will add about $2,500 to the cost of a new truck, but that would be made up in greater driver satisfaction and better driver retention for a fleet. The cost of replacing a driver today can be in the thousands of dollars, so one driver who doesn’t quit might more than pay for that higher purchasing price.
ROI Cabmate will first be available in January as a retrofit kit that includes new shocks, air springs, sensors, wiring, and the ECM. It can be used to convert existing Cabmate suspensions to the new system. Later, truck builders will offer it on new vehicles.