Products: Drivetrains
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VIDEO: Meritor Marching 6x2

Meritor says that the SmarTandem delivers great fuel savings, especially when spec'd correctly.

FLETCHER, NC. — At a press event last week, Meritor demonstrated a new 6x2 axle that they say will, when spec'd as a system, improve fuel efficiency anywhere from two to four percent.

Dubbed the SmarTandem axle, Meritor explained that they took the best features from their Fuelite 6x2 and their 14x, specifically the weight and fuel savings of the Fuelite and the traction performance of the 14x. Advanced electronics help prevent wheel slippage, and automatic differential lock gives additional traction very close to what the 14x delivers in that department.

Meritor put significant market research into the axle, and took note of the changing times where ten years ago fleets were looking for a five percent fuel savings versus today's race for a one percent fuel savings.

"The price of fuel has pushed manufacturers to new fuel savings and economy heights," said Charlie Allen, general manager, Rear Drive Axles. Those 6x2s, common in Europe, offer considerable weight savings — nearly 400 .lbs lighter — require less maintenance and less rolling resistance.

But spec'ing is important, Meritor stressed. First you need to understand your operating conditions: geography, driver turnover and your driver training program. A load management system was highly recommended, and Meritor showcased MeritorWABCO's electronically controlled air suspension (ECAS) as an option. An ECAS systemis key for tire life, Meritor said.  Tire selection, too, is highly important. "You can't take those super efficient tires out," said Matt Stevenson, general manager, North American Field Operations & Marketing. "These 6x2s need drive tires."

At first glance, the new axle doesn't seem like the right option for Canadian carriers Meritor admitted, simply based on geography and winter conditions, but if spec'd correctly, it could work nicely for fleets that run north-south, Stevenson said.

The axle is expected to hit the market in 2013, but in the meantime, check out these videos for a demonstration on how it works with the ECAS, both in automated and manual settings. Charlie Allen explains the system in the second video. Today's Trucking will have more on spec'ing axles in an upcoming issue.

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