Air Disc Brakes – Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them

How one fleet has made air disc brakes and S-cam brakes live together in peace and harmony

The Have-Nots
For every Air Products that has procured air disc brakes for their tractors, there's a Haas Carriage, that has tried and failed to equip its fleet with these rare brake components.

"We've been interested in them for years and years," says Terry Hass, president of the Louisville, KY-area cabinetry hauler. "Last year was the first time I sent out my basic spec's. On my options list I put air disc brakes on, and I sent it out to four vendors, that I recall. They weren't available with any of them.

"I think it's lack of demand," Haas says. "I've read some of these surveys, and near as I can tell it's lack of demand."

Even though the company doesn't haul dangerous loads, safety is a big reason Haas wants air disc brakes. "We think they'll stop quicker and last longer—those are the two main things," he says. "The safety factor plays into this a lot, because if it shortens the stopping distance, it can save a crash, or even a life."

He also sees a significant maintenance benefit from using air disc brakes, because the pads are so much easier to change than drums, and because it's easier to visually inspect pads.

With only 32 tractors in the fleet, Hass Carriage doesn't have the same kind of clout with OEMs a larger fleet would. Instead, Haas is relying on persistence. Every year, he attends major truck shows, and every year he spends time talking with air disc brake suppliers. "We live just across the river from the Mid-America Truck Show and we see all the major vendors who display there. They're trying to get us to put pressure on the truck OEMs, so they can get them, I do believe."

Haas believes that's a good strategy, and he hopes it might pay off by next spring, when he'll be ordering four to six new tractors and six to 10 new dry van trailers. Although he splits his purchasing between several OEMs, all it will take is for one supplier to say, "Yes, we can get those for you" for Haas to be happy.

"If somebody offers air disc brakes, we'll favor them over someone who doesn't," Haas says. "If one guy has air disc brakes and they're reasonably priced, we'll probably go that way."

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