FIVE years ago, Pinnacle Express Inc, Ann Arbor, Michigan, converted its fuel hauling fleet to SAF suspension systems with air disc brakes. It didn’t take long to prove the safety and performance benefits of that decision.
“When we tried our first air disc brakes, we had a big six-axle transport full of fuel going to Grand Rapids (Michigan),” said Jim Fox, vice-president and general manager. “The driver had an incident in front of him where he had to dynamite the brakes and shut the truck down like right now. Tractor, trailer, driver, and cargo—65 tons gross vehicle weight. When he dynamited the brakes, he shut that truck down in what he guessed was about 235 feet. The rig made funny noises, but it stopped.
“Since then, everything we’ve spec’d has been ordered with air disc brakes—tractors since 2009 and trailers since 2010. The drum brake system is obsolete. Air disc brakes are the future. Everybody’s going to go this way sooner or later.”
Established in 1995, Pinnacle Express specializes exclusively in transporting aviation fuel throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest. More recently, the carrier has expanded into Texas with vehicle locations in San Antonio and Tyler.
The aviation fuel hauler runs Freightliner Cascadia tractors and DOT406 aluminum tank trailers built by Polar Tank Trailer Inc and other cargo tank manufacturers.
Safety wasn’t the only reason for the shift from drum brakes to disc brakes on tank trailers. Maintenance costs are down and brake reliability is up.
“Our brake maintenance went nearly down to nothing on the trailers with air disc brakes,” Fox said. “We’re not having to grease slack adjusters, s-cams, the tubes, or the bushings.
“For every set of pads we’re changing, we probably would have had to change two to three sets of brake shoes on a drum brake system. A lot of times, when we do change the brake pads, it takes us longer to get the tire off than it does to change the brake pads.
“When you have a $100,000 piece of equipment, the less time it’s out in the shop getting worked on, the more time it’s out in the field delivering revenue to get that oil going, the happier I am.
“Performance of the disc brakes is so much better than the drums. If you think about it, the trucks going down the road and the drums getting hotter and it’s expanding. On the disc brake system, even when the rotor expands, the calipers gripping it tighter.” ♦