What type of brake parts are you using?

The deep economic downturn in the U.S. in the recent past, which inhibited the regularity of general maintenance, appears to be lifting. In line with this, the financial statistics for fleet operators this year are looking much more positive.

Despite cost increases in some maintenance areas, such as tires and oil, there have been corresponding decreases in others, mainly driven by ongoing vehicle quality improvements and a return to more traditional replacement cycles.

Safety Critical Parts

When it comes to safety critical parts, such as those included within a braking system, proper, regular maintenance and the use of premium original equipment (OE) quality parts directly translates into increased automotive safety, optimum driving performance and significant cost savings.

With the ever-increasing cost of labor and raw materials, margins are being squeezed on every level, and fleet operators cannot afford to have their vehicles off the road numerous times due to repair. Due to knowledge, experience and manufacturing processes in line with the vehicle manufacturers’ regulations, OE-quality parts help minimize vehicle repair downtime.

Time is money, and quality really does count when it comes to aftermarket parts that are exposed to the endurance cycles of fleet operations. Fitting cheaper, lesser quality parts is a false economy.

They likely won’t last as long, provide the same level of safety and may fail more often, requiring the vehicle to be off the road more often while these parts are exchanged. This inhibits the economic efficiency of the fleet, losing money for the fleet.

There may often be a high price to pay for fitting a low-cost part.

Misconceptions

Price pressures and the misconceptions that all parts are the same may put fleets at risk.

The quality of an automotive part cannot be determined by visual inspection. While an inferior replacement part may look exactly the same as a name brand counterpart, it is the construction, manufacturing and testing of the part that counts – from the initial design and testing processes, through to the quality of the steel and level of control over the manufacturing processes to the component’s, form, fit and function.

Low-quality parts are cheaper to produce, but this rarely results in the high quality that a fleet operator needs.

By its very nature, a fleet vehicle is likely to be in almost constant use. That means that the components inside the vehicle will have to endure a great deal of wear and stress. They really do need to be of the highest quality.

Vehicle quality continues to improve with each successive model year, with the nation’s fleets making significant contributions to the improvement of road safety today. In part, this is due to more robust parts and improvements in general material quality.

It is also due to better testing procedures, more stringent legislation and advances in technology.

Safety Systems

Then there are the recent advances in vehicle safety systems, including both active safety systems, which help in preventing accidents, and passive safety devices, which help to mitigate their effects. Examples include systems that help prevent skidding, wheel locking and loss of control under heavy braking (ABS) and systems that improve braking performance (electronic braking systems).

There are systems to aid stability control, as well as roll-over control systems. In addition, there is adaptive and advanced cruise control, which helps the driver maintain a safe, constant distance from the vehicle ahead, and systems that help improve visibility around the truck, reducing the number of blind spots and improving indirect vision, including special mirrors, camera systems and radars.

Furthermore, lane guard assistance technology is now available which warns the driver if he leaves a marked lane without using his indicator, and collision warning systems which help alert drivers when they are closing too quickly on another vehicle or object.

There have also been significant advances with regards to tire safety, including innovations in treads adapted to each axle, better road holding, reduced water projection and under-inflation detection/warning tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).

Quality and Performance

While safety systems are very helpful for safe driving, it is still the vehicle’s brakes that stop it. The brake system and the quality of its components help to determine its performance.

Improved performance is realized from high-quality brake parts. They last longer, decrease stopping distance, perform better under extreme conditions and, as a result, help to improve the vehicle’s overall safety.

Mark Thorpe is the product group manager for TRW Aftermarket, North America (www.trwaftermarket.com). The global leader in safety systems, the company is also a leading provider of original equipment quality replacement vehicle parts, as well as service, technical and diagnostic support to many of the world’s motor manufacturers and the independent aftermarket across the world.

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