Hadley Products of air horn fame has introduced a multi-function height adjustment valve for tractor air suspensions. Called SmartValve, the device combines several components into one housing, and is said to solve major fleet challenges of driver shortages and increased fuel costs.

The SmartValve raises and lowers a tractor’s chassis to match that of the trailer’s upper coupler and kingpin, saving drivers time and effort, said Bob Dubsky, Hadley’s president. It helps reduce back and leg injuries because it can eliminate the hard labor of raising and lowering trailer noses when their heights don’t match a tractor’s.

It speeds hook-and-drop operations and will pay for itself in six months or less, Dubsky contended during a press conference on the eve of TMC’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.  

Extensive testing at the Bosch Automotive Proving Grounds in Indiana validated the time saved by SmartValve in these operations as compared with mechanical height control valves. In high-frequency drop-and-hook ops, SmartValve saves each driver a week’s worth of time every year. That equates to increased productivity and annual savings of $1,350 per driver for the fleet.

Insurance industry officials say that raising and lowering landing gear is one of the top sources of driver injuries, Dubsky said. The chief cause is falls from equipment. SmartValve minimizes these injuries by reducing the landing-gear cranking, and reducing some of the need to get out and into the cab. Fleets will benefit through reduced workers’ compensation premiums.

Easier operations can help recruit and retain drivers, said Bob Zirlin, director of marketing. In a survey Hadley conducted of drivers familiar with both SmartValve and mechanical height control valves, all drivers questioned enthusiastically preferred SmartValve.

The SmartValve  electronic height control system can also help fleets save fuel, Dubsky said. Fuel economy is improved through greater ride height accuracy, resulting in reduced compressor run time and avoidance of unnecessary valve actuations.

SmartValve provides truck builders with a tool to design more aerodynamic tractors because it can automatically lower vehicle ride heights by 1 to 2 inches at highway speeds. Lowering occurs at 45 mph, while raising happens at 35 mph, he said.

Hadley track-tested this future function with extensive SAE J1321 Type II fuel economy runs. The results show a 0.7 % improvement on the specific tractor model tested at low ride height.

With new tractor designs, that could mean savings of $700 or more per year for every tractor in the fleet, Dubsky said. A 100-unit fleet would save 17,500 gallons of diesel every year.

SmartValve is available today as a retrofit kit for specific applications, with additional coverage planned for the months ahead. SmartValve will be available later this year for installation by truck builders.

Hadley is a supplier of components for Class 5-8 trucks, tractors and trailers and other transportation equipment. More information is at www.hadleyadvantage.com.