ABC’s Vinh Lam with a genuine Firestone air spring – look-alikes may produce only minor and temporary gains in the short term but introduce major and ongoing risk of breakdown, accident and downtime.
As cost pressures bite on suppliers to Australia’s major industries, safety can often be the first casualty of cutbacks to operating costs.
In very price-sensitive industries, such as transport, vehicle maintenance and logistics, cutbacks can lead to contractors turning to non-OEM parts for systems vital to road safety and on-time performance of vehicles.
But the apparent savings on offer from non-genuine parts are often illusory for operators involved in safety-aware industries, such as mining and energy, quarrying, oil and gas, manufacturing, food and agriculture production and processing, construction and infrastructure engineering. Look-alike parts produce only minor and temporary gains in the short term but introduce major and ongoing risk of breakdown, accident and downtime, say major suppliers to the light, medium and heavy vehicle industry.
“Typically as prices go down with non-OEM parts, the margin for safety and reliability sinks with them. These products are not generally as good as the originals they imitate – quality doesn’t come free – and typically they struggle to offer the lifespan and safety margin of genuine parts,” says Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, which is Australian distributor of the world’s top selling air springs for heavy truck suspensions, Firestone.
Of all the trucks on the road today with air suspensions, more than half are equipped with Firestone Airide air springs. Airide air springs are sold directly to original equipment truck, trailer, and suspension manufacturers.
“Operators buying look-alike products are seldom making any saving at all really – they are just selling their risk management cheaply. Any small savings on products that don’t offer the same quality, performance and reliability as the genuine original can be wiped out in an instant by a single accident of downtime incident that puts a million-dollar truck off the road,” says Air Springs Supply Sales Manager Mr Russell Chown.
Similar views are voiced by one of Australia’s most experienced specialist heavy brake companies, Australian Brake Controls (ABC) which produces transport, off-highway and industrial machinery braking systems engineered for optimum reliability and safety. ABC is also known for engineering systems for hydraulically braking of light and medium trucks so they can tow air-braked trailers.
“We know it is tough out there for transport and off-highway equipment operators and we are sharing the pain with them. But cutting corners with lower-quality parts is no way to extend the value and life of vehicles and machinery costing hundreds and thousands and sometimes millions of dollars,” says ABC Engineer Vinh Lam.
Towing a heavy trailer around worksites can be a potentially hazardous, high maintenance undertaking – especially where vehicles have to cope with the slopes, loads, roads and surfaces encountered around mines, quarries, infrastructure and landscaping sites as well as farms. Trucks, tractors and specialized machinery can be subjected to loads that will place unusual stresses on standard components, including high demands on suspensions and braking systems in situations where operators need to selectively and powerfully apply stopping and holding power.
“Such demanding situations are no place for compromised performance,” says Mr Lam. “If you are going to do it at all, you have got to do it properly. Too much is riding on a vehicle’s suspension and brakes to cut corners.”
Suspension and braking risks also exist for lighter vehicles, says All Air Suspension, which specializes in air helper suspensions for vehicles such as 4WD, utes, vans, and other machinery used for on and off-highway jobs and for towing.
Vehicles without the right suspension components and setups for varying loads (such as a tank being progressively emptied in spraying operations), unevenly distributed loads or for towing can immediately experience a host of problems that compromise safety immediately and can ultimately wreck the vehicle involved.
“Not only can steering and braking be immediately compromised by poor load distribution, but also the chassis and tyres are placed under immense pressure by loading distortions,” says All Air Suspension Sales Manager James Maslin. “Unevenly loaded vehicles can be subject to increased sway because of lateral forces, while trailer-imposed ball weight will cause headlights to shine up into the trees or blind other drivers. A perfectly good familiar vehicle can become a safety nightmare if its suspension is not properly set up to tow or cope with varying loads.”
Operating in conjunction with national air suspension specialist Airbag Man, All Air addresses these challenges with Ride-Rite, Coil-Rite and full air conversion kits manufactured in Australia incorporating high quality Firestone airbags identical in construction to the tough Firestone airbags used in the suspensions of trucks and semi-trailers. Thousands of the suspensions have been installed on scores of vehicle types over more than a decade.
A Ride-Rite kit as installed on diverse vehicles including Landcruiser 70 series, right
“A key to the integrity of these kits is the use of quality engineering and quality airbags, which are vital to safety and reliability where vehicles are subject to widely varying conditions,” says Mr Maslin.
All Air Suspension and ABC source their air springs from Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, which has more than 30 years experience as Australia’s leading supplier of Firestone air springs and associated pneumatic technology for the transport sector, including heavy duty Firestone Airride rolling sleeve and convoluted airbags.
“Substitute airbags can be closely modeled on the appearance of Firestone original, but many have problems associated with poorer quality design, engineering and construction,” says Mr Chown. “This can adversely affect reliability, serviceability and risk management, which are crucial to transport operators,” he says.
“Firestone air springs meet and exceed the world’s most rigorous testing standards. They don’t leave the factory without first passing 190psi (13 bar) proof testing,” says Mr Chown.
When it comes down to it, trucks are a major livelihood for many and vital to a huge range of businesses, so keeping your truck running and on the road is crucial. Truck manufacturers know and trust Airride as OEM and Firestone is constantly working to set the quality bar higher, said Mr Chown, adding that Firestone is the only air spring manufacturer in the world with manufacturing facilities in the US.
Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, recently enhanced its commitment to national and global standards of quality assurance by gaining ISO 9001: 2008 Quality Management Systems – Requirements certification. The company places a high priority on continuously reinforcing its customers’ confidence in doing business with an organisation that can consistently meet or exceed their needs on time.
For further information about this media release or the name of local fitting specialists for All-Air Suspension and Airbag Man products, please contact All-Air Suspension, 10 Angas St, Meadowbank, Sydney 2114
Ph (02) 9807 7641, fax (02) 9807 7643 www.wa.allair.com.au
All-Air Suspension can also supply contacts for national availability of the product.