HENDRICKSON Truck Commercial Vehicle Systems officials announced the introduction of OPTIMAAX, a revolutionary new liftable forward tandem axle system with automated controls. Rolled out at the 2014 Mid-America Trucking Show, the new tandem-axe system represents Hendrickson’s latest offering in the company’s 100 year history of advancing the commercial vehicle suspension industry through design innovation.

Hendrickson’s OPTIMAAX system is a new 6×2 solution to help fleets save fuel cost, tire wear, and weight with comparable handling to 6×4 tandem axle configurations. Operating as a liftable axle in the forward tandem position, this system provides versatility for fleets with variable loads by using axle capacity only when required.

In comparison with the traditional 6x4 tractor configuration, The system eliminates over 350 pounds by replacing the forward tandem drive axle and suspension with an integrated liftable non-drive axle and suspension which is automated with weight sensing controls. This proprietary, fully automated control module eliminates driver intervention and training and allows the tractor to adapt to the requirements of the load; raising the axle when the additional capacity is not needed and lowering the axle to distribute the load evenly when required.

OPTIMAAX also provides load equalization between the tandem axles when in the lowered position to ensure compliance. Fleets and drivers can take comfort in the fact that the system achieves this flexibility while delivering the traction and handling drivers have come to expect.

In addition to substantial weight savings, The OPTIMAAX system delivers superior cost of operation savings by improving fuel economy by up to 5% through the elimination of the second drive axle and the lifting of the non-drive axle. Another added benefit is tire wear savings by utilizing the liftable axle only when load demands require the additional axle capacity.

David McCleave, director of marketing for Hendrickson Truck Commercial Vehicle Systems, said: “The OPTIMAAX system is the enabler for the On-Highway tractor 6x2 market segment. Lifting the forward tandem axle when loads don’t require the axle capacity eliminates rolling resistance and tire scrub providing the optimized solution to fuel and tire wear savings. With its weight, fuel, and tire savings combined with the elimination of driver intervention through the fully automated control module, OPTIMAAX is ideal for fleets in need of additional flexibility and operational cost savings for variable load on-highway tractor applications.”

Offered with a 20,000-lb capacity, OPTIMAAX will be available for OEM specification in North America in the fall of 2014.

Hendrickson officials also announced the introduction of SOFTEK NXT, a light-weight front steer axle with mono-leaf spring suspension. SOFTEK NXT is Hendrickson’s latest system innovation providing a light-weight front steer axle and suspension system which combines the company’s STEERTEK NXT axle with its proprietary and industry leading SOFTRIDE Monoleaf Spring Technology.

This complete system saves up to 118 pounds compared to traditional two-leaf spring and I-beam axle systems. The SOFTEK NXT system is designed for heavy-duty truck applications rated from 12,000- to 12,500-lb capacities with additional axle ratings available soon; all of which capture the characteristics of traditional mechanical suspensions while significantly reducing weight to help increase fuel economy and payload capacity.

At the foundation of the system is Hendrickson’s STEERTEK NXT Axle. With its box-shaped cross section design, STEERTEK NXT provides improved handling and performance over traditional I-beam axles. Further, the continuous beam architecture contributes added durability while the patented axle seat configuration offers increased vehicle ground clearance.

“SOFTEK NXT’s weight savings is derived from two sources,” McCleave said. “First, the Monoleaf Spring design utilizes Hendrickson’s proprietary SOFTRIDE technology and saves up to 72 pounds while improving ride and comfort by eliminating the inter-leaf friction found in typical multi-leaf configurations. Second, SOFTEK NXT’s lightweight clamp group holds it all together utilizing a patented cutting edge design to provide an additional 46 pounds of savings over traditional systems. Fleets and OEM’s alike are demanding significant weight reduction opportunities to reach current and looming regulation fuel saving objectives. SOFTEK NXT delivers on that challenge while also providing additional industry leading cost saving and performance benefits.”

Compatible with drum or disc brakes, SOFTEK NXT incorporates a two-piece knuckle assembly featuring premium kingpin bushings and seals for improved bushing life. The two-piece configuration also significantly reduces the maintenance time required to service kingpin bushings. Maintenance savings also come through the use of rubber spring eye bushings.

SOFTEK NXT will be available for OEM specification in North America in fourth quarter 2014.   ♦

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