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Hendrickson celebrates 100 years of service to trucking industry

Hendrickson President and CEO Gary Gerstenslager told reporters at the Mid-America Trucking Show that his company's history is based on innovation which continues today.(The Trucker: CLIFF ABBOTT)

By CLIFF ABBOTT
The Trucker Staff

3/22/2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Drivers who spend much of their time off the highway are probably more familiar with the name Hendrickson than those who commonly see “freight, all kinds” listed on bills of lading, but both groups are likely to have experienced the benefits of the company’s products.

Celebrating 100 years, Hendrickson Truck Suspensions has been supplying suspension assemblies and axle systems to the trucking industry around the world for decades. That’s the message put forth by Gary Gerstenslager, president and CEO, at the company’s 2013 Mid-America Trucking Show here.

Hendrickson is well-known for production of durable suspension systems that utilize rubber components to absorb weight, particularly in off-road, heavy-duty applications. A key innovation from the company was the “walking beam” suspension, introduced in 1926 while the company was still manufacturing trucks.

Today, trucks around the world travel on Hendrickson suspension components and many are equipped with stainless-steel clad or polymer molded bumpers manufactured by the company as well.

As the company celebrates a century in business, Gerstenslager pointed out that its history is based on innovation which continues today.

Vice President and General Manager of Hendrickson’s Commercial Vehicle Systems Doug Sanford took the podium to discuss the company’s focus on rear tandem axle configurations, especially in the heavy-duty market. He discussed the company’s Ultimaax Advanced Heavy-duty Rubber suspension, which will be available to the North American market in the fourth quarter of this year.

Over 5,000 comparable units have been in service in China, accumulating more than 400 million miles of service since 2010.

Drivers who are familiar with older versions of Hendrickson’s rubber suspension may recall a ride that was less than smooth when the trailer was empty or lightly loaded. The Ultimaax suspension addressed the issue by adding “shear springs” to the unit, which smooth the ride. The progressive rate springs take on the heavier loads, ensuring a smoother ride at any trailer weight.

Initially, the suspension assembly will be offered in 46,000, 52,000, and 60,000 lb. weight capacities. A heavier 70,000-85,000 pound version for the severe-duty market is due for production by mid-2015.

Perry Bahr, vice president and general manager of Hendrickson Trailer Suspension Systems was next, touting the company’s Zero-Maintenance Damping (ZMD) shockless sliding trailer air-ride suspension.

Air-ride trailer suspensions have become extremely popular since the smoother ride is easier on both cargo and driver. A drawback, however, is the need for shock absorbers to dampen the recoil of the compressed air bag, or spring.

Because of the prevalence of trailer pools used in “drop and hook” operations, intervals between maintenance opportunities can be substantial. Shocks can begin leaking or otherwise fail between scheduled maintenance sessions, resulting in a rougher ride or a DOT violation at inspection time.

The Hendrickson ZMD, according to Bahr, eliminates the problem by eliminating the shock absorber altogether. Instead, pressurized air channels between the piston and bellows of the air bag perform the damping function typically handled by shocks. “Robust chain down-stops” prevent over-extension of the air spring, another function usually handled by shock absorbers.

The result, says Bahr, is a product that drivers will love for the ride and maintenance managers will love for being maintenance free.  

The Hendrickson MATS display featured a number of the company’s innovative products, pointing the way to their next century of production. Nestled among them was a solid reminder of the company’s past; a 1928 Hendrickson truck, complete with an early version of the firm’s walking beam suspension.

The display was a reminder of how long Hendrickson has been, and intends to be, an important part of the trucking industry.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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