Reducing Lube Use in Trailer Couplings

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MELBOURNE, Australia – V.Orlandi, an Italian towing systems supplier for original equipment manufacturers in Australia, is developing products that use less lubricant to help its customers reduce pollution.

At the Australian Trucking Associations Technical and Maintenance Conference here last month, V.Orlandi Technical Manager Carlo Tagliaferri said his company and other suppliers are working to develop coupling systems from alternative materials to cut lubricant use.

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[The company] is trying to replace components like bushings or other wear parts with other materials to reduce lubricant [usage].

V.Orlandis drive is in response to its customer demands to be more ecological. Our customers – which include original equipment manufacturers and some of the worlds biggest truck manufacturers, particularly in Sweden and Germany – are interested in products that dont need to be continuously filled [with lubricants and greases], and are able to reduce pollution and ecological impact.

The company designs and makes ball race assemblies, fifth wheels, tow bars, drawbars and kingpins that hitch trailers and other implements to on- and off-road tractors in the automotive and agricultural machinery markets. Traditionally all of these couplings require continual lubrication. For example, ball race assemblies are lubricated with grease that must be re-applied at intervals ranging from one or two weeks to three months.

V.Orlandis customers include some of Europes biggest truck builders, including Iveco, Volvo, Scania, Daimler Chrysler, Man and Renault. Many of these companies use V.Orlandis facilities in Brescia, Italy, to stress test their new towing equipment. V.Orlandi is also partners with agricultural OEMs such as Massey Ferguson, John Deere and Argo Tractors.

The firm is researching new compositions for lubricants to meet the demand for greener products. You can save a quantity of lubricant by spraying a mix of air and oil, Tagliaferri said, commenting on tests the company had conducted. This could be more appreciated as a greener solution.

Tagliaferri said V.Orlandi, which has been supplying its products through distributors in Australia for the past 20 years, is establishing its own facilities in the country. He said the company recognizes Australia as an important market and testing ground for its equipment, partly because of one unique trucking practice: the use of road trains.

Here in Australia you have something that we don’t have in Europe – road trains, Tagliaferri said. Road trains consist of a tractor unit pulling as many as four trailers. They can be seen traversing long distances of thousands of kilometers between population centers in mostly desert environments.

Coupling systems need to be able to carry loads of as much as 200 tons in Australia, Tagliaferri concluded.In such conditions, reducing lubricant use is not taken likely.

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