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As TPMS Evolves, Technology Expands Into Commercial Segment

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No federal mandate exists for TPMS in the trucking industry, but that hasn’t stopped TPMS manufacturers and marketers from keeping busy developing technology for over-the-road rigs and much larger equipment, such as earthmovers.
Schrader International is developing a TPMS package for heavy-duty OTR equipment and a TPMS fitment for commercial truck segments, both markets where proper tire inflation means a better bottom line due to improved treadwear and fuel economy and reduced downtime.
Operational costs will be a driving factor for TPMS to blaze a trail into the above-10,000-pound vehicle markets. After all, it’s no secret that proper tire inflation translates into money in the bank by improving treadwear and fuel economy, all while reducing downtime.

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Virginia-based Schrader International is a producer, supplier and marketer of TPMS components and tools to automobile manufacturers, as well as the automotive aftermarket, service and repair industries. The company is developing a TPMS package for heavy-duty OTR equipment, as well as a TPMS fitment for commercial truck segments.

In a series of responses, Paul Wise, Schrader’s director of product line management and marketing, provided insights into the emerging TPMS technology for larger vehicles.

Tire Review: Why is Schrader targeting a TPMS package for earthmover equipment?
Wise: “Schrader has created a global program approach to aggressively pursue growing markets surrounding the heavy-duty or OTR segment. Large, costly tires on machinery in mining, excavating and large construction environments have critical operational uptime requirements. OTR tires can cost $20,000-$30,000 or more and be in short supply, so delaying their replacement and optimizing their performance, along with increasing overall equipment uptime, are critical business objectives for operators and fleet management organizations.

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“Schrader has developed its OTR program to provide repair products, design services and on-site service and repair to customers in this business segment. We make it available throughout our global network, but especially in western Europe, Russia and the rest of eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. We also have developed a TPMS package for OTR tires that includes sensors, valves, scan/programming tools, and data collection for storage and display that is expected to be commercialized and available in the future.”

TR: Why hasn’t Schrader gotten into commercial truck TPMS markets earlier?
Wise: “Schrader continues to pursue different TPMS packages and configurations for vehicle types beyond passenger car and light-truck vehicles. We conduct continuous development around these products and believe that one or more of them will be adopted successfully by customers in adjacent market segments beyond our strong base in the automotive OE market and aftermarket.

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“We conduct ongoing development for variations of TPMS packages beyond classic valve-mounted sensors that could be used across a wide variety of applications, including heavy-duty trucks, fleet vehicles, buses, vehicles equipped with specialty rims, motorcycles and others.

“Variations of Schrader’s TPMS technology could provide enhanced tire performance and tracking data to the driver or fleet operator. Other real-time data could be included, such as tire pressure and temperature, inside-tire air temperature, vehicle load or force, tire dimensions and characteristics, and tire performance and expected longevity. While these technology sets are not commercially available at this time, it is expected in the future.”

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TR: Give us insight into a potential Schrader TPMS package specifically targeting medium truck commercial fleets.
Wise: “The Schrader TPMS technology packages for medium truck commercial fleets could include elements such as a right-sized sensor package and scan/programming tool, as well as data collection, storage and display units for the OE and replacement.”

TR: What are the driving forces that will help expand TPMS use on 18-wheelers?
Wise: “Markets beyond passenger and light-truck vehicles have existed for some time and will continue to grow. Vehicle management factors, such as increased uptime, cost of downtime due to tire failures, tire shortages, fleet maintenance targets and increased visibility of tire contributions will drive their use on truck fleets, as well as OTR equipment.”

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TR: Why isn’t TPMS expanding more quickly into other markets?
Wise: “From Schrader’s perspective, we ensure every commercially available product from us is fully market-tested and is the right fit for the intended market. Our opportunities will come from making sure that our TPMS packages for alternative vehicles are commercially viable and thoroughly tested, while their components can be seamlessly packaged together.

“Additionally, there may be several TPMS variants that meet the needs of our customers to provide them with choices and the flexibility to use one or more features to meet their needs for safety, enhanced tire data and, ultimately, extended tire performance.”

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TR: Is TPMS going to be for steer, drive and trailer tires?
Wise: “It could be, if customer demand is there for these specific purposes. Our company takes the time to listen to our customer base and deliver solutions to customer-driven needs.”

TR: How will on-board TPMS control units adapt to different vehicle configurations, such as single vs. multiple trailers, and will signals be strong enough to be received from trailer tires?
Wise: “We have ‘vehicle system specifications’ in development. The Schrader designs in these various TPMS packages are based on plug-and-play technologies that adjust for multiple system configurations based on the system’s radio frequency performance. Based on our test results, we will be able to make design decisions for several application scenarios.”

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TR: Will the control unit be accessible to the rig driver or the home base of operation?
Wise: “Display units could be in the cab for the driver, but more likely, the information will be captured and wirelessly routed to a central office where operational or fleet managers could proactively monitor, track and record information.
“Schrader’s systems will offer plug-and-play capabilities to meet customer requirements. Some customers may decide that they don’t want a driver to be distracted by an additional display in the cab, while other customers may determine the information is useful to their drivers.”

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TR: What will be the warning threshold for a tire pressure drop on a medium truck?
Wise: “Our systems currently in development could allow a fleet manager to set individual warning thresholds specifically for a cab or its trailer.”

TR: Do you see government TPMS mandates for commercial rigs?
Wise: “That’s hard to predict. For all drivers and vehicle types, Schrader supports global adoption of TPMS due to its safety, fuel saving and air quality benefits. Europe and Asia-Pacific countries are currently adopting passenger and light-truck TPMS regulations that are tighter than the U.S. TREAD Act.”

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TR: Does the vast array of existing TPMS sensor protocol complicate its implementation for commercial trucks?
Wise: “The current Schrader EZ-Sensor programmable TPMS sensor can be set for most make, model and year protocols in the passenger and light-truck aftermarket. It is conceivable that this technology could be extended to other TPMS applications, packages and vehicle types.”

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