SAF Holland targets top fleets within Saudi Arabia's trailer market

The trailer-suspension and brake systems provider is targeting Saudi Arabian fleet operators with axles that refill tyres and safety-boosting disc brakes

Jean Khoury, MD of SAF Holland Middle East, alongside a disc brake display at the brand's stand.
Jean Khoury, MD of SAF Holland Middle East, alongside a disc brake display at the brand's stand.

SAF Holland is currently marketing several unconventional trailer technologies in the Middle East, including Tire Pilot, an upgraded axle system that automatically refills tyres to the correct pressure, and disc brakes optimised for nine-tonne axles – eyeing Saudi Arabia in particular.

PMV Middle East caught up Jean Khoury, who was appointed as MD of SAF Holland Middle East just two months ago, at Automechanika Dubai 2017, where he explained the products that the company thinks have an edge, despite the slowdown in the heavy commercial vehicles segment.

He noted: “For us at SAF Holland, the trend is quite good. We are adapting products that have been requested h in the area, and we are also trying to bring some innovations which are very successful in Europe, such as Tire Pilot, which is the technology that we are using to control and refill the tyres.

“Tire Pilot is an electronic system that controls the air pressure in the tyres, using air from the same reservoir as used anyhow for the brake system and air suspension system — it then refills the tyres whenever the pressure is below nine bar.”

This technology is advanced for the market, and only provided by a handful of manufacturers. The advantage of the system is that by maintaining the right pressure, the tyres last for longer.

According to SAF Holland, on a 40t articulated vehicle, the rolling resistance of the tyres accounts for approximately 30% of the diesel consumption, and 50% of this is caused by the trailer’s tyres.

Tire Pilot uses the pneumatic air supply for the brake or suspension systems to pressurise the axles, which then connect via a tube to a valve in the wheel hub in order to interact with the tyre. Because of the specific design changes required to accommodate the system, it must be built into the axles during their manufacture.

Khoury continued: “This is intended to be ordered by the trailer OEM. When you order the axles, you just request the tyre reinflation system. Usually in Saudi Arabia they use 3x9t axles, and they can put this on each axle.

“Gorica, Al Shirawi and Bion are all interested for Saudi Arabia. The regulatory authority, SASO, is making a lot of moves in the direction of more safety and more control for trailers, and we know that other countries will follow.”

He added that once SAF has a chance to meet Saudi Aramco, which sets the guidelines for dangerous goods transportation: “We should be able to convince them that they should accept it.”

SAF Holland is also promoting its disc brakes in the region, especially in Saudi Arabia, which has stricter weight regulations – since disc brakes only work with axle loads of up to 12t, while nine-tonne axles are preferable.

Where applicable, however, the disc brakes have a significant advantage over drum brakes, including better reliability and safety. They are also easier to maintain, with fewer parts and a semi-automatic adjustment mechanism that requires the operator to turn just one screw. 

Critically, disc brakes also maintain brake efficiency even at 700°C, whereas drum brakes have a maximum capacity of 250°C.

Khoury said: “We have here two big fleets — Maraya and SABCO in Saudi Arabia — who are insisting on using disc brakes, because they understand the advantages, and step by step, the trailer manufacturers are being convinced that this is a feature that we need in this market.”

For the moment, however, the load on axles in the Middle East is typically very high, with 90% of the market employing 16t capacity axles, according to Khoury — a load at which disc brakes are not advisable. But increasing weight restrictions in the Gulf will present a widening window for SAF.

In general, he added, SAF is “doing a lot of business in spare parts in the UAE” through its warehouse and offices in Jebel Ali, Dubai, where it employs 20 people.

And commenting on Automechanika, he adds: “At this exhibition we have seen signs that the market is starting to move a bit, especially for spare parts. By the end of 2017 the market will be more stabilised and more people will go for investment.”

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