Photo: Wabco

Photo: Wabco

LOUISVILLE, KY — Wabco North America says air disc brakes are now selling at a high enough rate that it is building a plant in the United States to manufacture them instead of importing them from Germany.

The company is spending $17 million to erect the factory in Charleston, S.C., said Jon Morrison, Wabco’s president, Americas, at a press briefing Thursday, just before the opening of the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville. Production will begin this fall, and will help bring down the cost of ADBs for truck buyers.

Air disc brakes go on 15% of new Class 8 trucks and about 10% of new trailers, he said. That reflects 60% year-over-year growth in ADB sales in the last couple of years. Penetration should rise another 5% in three to five years.

Disc brakes’ advantages over drum brakes include better performance, longer pad life, easier maintenance, and fewer out-of-adjustment problems that lead to citations.  Millions are being used in Europe and have proven safe, reliable and economical, Morrison said, and the word is getting out here.

European truck builders adopted ADBs years ago and customers accepted them, he explained. In North America, many truck components are specified by buyers who prefer air drum brakes for their familiarity, economy and satisfactory performance. Drum brakes meet the latest federal stopping distance requirements, so have been viewed as entirely adequate.

Discs have been heavier and more costly than drums, too, but that’s changing through careful design, Morrison said. The latest Wabco product is about 10 pounds per brake lighter than a typical drum brake. Prices will come down through greater volume, and the new factory in South Carolina will further lower the cost of manufacturing by shortening the supply chain.

Lower prices should bring ADBs in line with drums and encourage more sales, he said.