Two major players
THERE are two major global players in the independent truck transmission business.
Both are market leaders on their home patch and both have sprinted ahead of the rest of the industry on the back of huge military contracts.
In the US, Allison Transmissions has been getting the power to the ground across a huge variety of defence gear, from light commercials to tanks, including the M1 Abrahams main battle tank that is joining Australia's tank corp, with over 1100kW of power from the Honeywell gas turbine engine.
In Europe, ZF plays similar games with the NATO countries and their suppliers.
It's a highly profitable market, with maintenance seen as an absolute essential, and parts availability critical to the success of builders of vehicles that troops' lives depend on.
Then there's the buses, and that's where ZF has made some significant gains in Australia.
ZF's product range is quite a bit wider than Allison's. Basically, it designs, develops, provides and maintains most of the support underneath the skirts of those swoopy looking buses and trucks that are overtaking the old barn door approach to exterior styling for commercial vehicles.
Perth's bus fleet is a good example. Almost half the TransPerth fleet runs ZF transmissions with shock absorbers, steering and suspension components all coming from the same engineering team.
ZF's transmission expertise is closely linked to the latest developments in hybrid drivelines, with a specific 8-speed box for hybrids, and a 9-speed automatic unit designed for transverse engine layouts.
An all-electric axle drive is ready for use in passenger cars as well.
Last week the company opened a new facility in Malaga, north of Perth, to help support its growing market presence in the midst of the mining boom.
The new facility doubles the previous space available and will allow the company to include critical parts inventory as well as training facilities for the many truck dealerships who have ZF equipped products rolling in for servicing.
The workshop is equipped to conduct full service and remanufacturing work where external workshops do not have the special tools required.
For operators of trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles fitted with SACHS suspensions, Lemforder steering and Boge shock absorbers, the new operation will provide another level of comfort while operating in some of the harshest conditions in the world.
Chris Adcock is the managing director of the Australasian operation and he says the WA market is very much on the radar at company headquarters.
"In a global sense, Western Australia is a very important market, and we take pride in being able to provide an improved service to our growing clientele in this region," he said.
More truck manufacturers are including ZF manual and AMT gearboxes in their products now than ever before.
A good example is Hino's use of the ZF AS-Tronic AMT transmission for its 700 series prime mover, which includes ZF's hydraulic retarder.
With a whopping 4000Nm of retardation it's like tossing a boat anchor out the window, and is more than capable of keeping a fully loaded B-double under control without the service brakes down the Greenmount Hill.
No doubt there will be more to come from ZF in the future.