An Australian company, could be set to revolutionise the ways trucks and trailers ride and track on roads with its air suspension management system, which has taken 15 years of development.
Base Air has launched its air suspension management system which it says will help make our roads safer with a system it says ‘redefines air suspension systems in heavy-duty vehicles’. The name Base is derived from the acronym for ‘balanced and safety enhancement’
The company says that its system can be added to any heavy vehicle, either on the production line or as an aftermarket addition, for around $3500, equalising pressure across an air bag suspension system
Base Air says that by adding its compact air management system to any heavy-duty vehicle, drivers will experience ‘best-in-class ride and load stability, which in turn reduces tyre wear, freight damage, and most importantly, increases safety for all drivers on Australian roads’.
The essence of the Base Air system is that it ensures what the company describes as front-to-back and independent side-to-side dynamic suspension control.
The system also provides symmetrically equalised air pressure and balanced suspension loads when dynamic control isn’t required.
Air is independently delivered to each suspension airbag, significantly improving the vehicle’s handling and ride-height. The system actively and mechanically adjusts vehicle suspension in real time and in response to changing vehicle dynamic and driving conditions , such as offset weight, weight shift, load changes, body roll, axle input, braking and accelerating, etc.
The bottom line according to Base Air, is it provides a heavy-vehicle combination with a dramatic improvement in overall stability as well as potential fuel consumption, tyre-wear and driver fatigue improvements, while also improving load integrity with less vibration and shocks.
Base Air’s initial concept of stabilising heavy vehicles was in using two height-control valves rather than one, which came after consultation with a close-knit community of rural Victorian truck drivers, with the focus being on improving vehicle stability and reducing driver fatigue.
The key difference and major leap forward is the fact that the system links the two sides of the air suspension system to allow equalisation and balance side to side, something they say many believed couldn’t be done.
Matt Vaughan is the Victorian-born founder and director, who initiated the business venture in 2008, following a conversation with truck driver friends highlighted the need forlow cost safety technology for heavy-duty vehicles.
“For decades, the trucking industry has faced criticism and challenges around driver and load safety,” said Vaughan.
“2019 saw the most truck driver fatalities in Australia of the last decade*. Couple this with the fact there are more and more truck driver registrations each year**, there’s an urgent need to work together to ensure the industry is better equipped,” Vaughan added.
Vaughan told a small gathering of truck media in Sydney this week, that he spent many years patenting and testing variations of his Base Air product in the United States, which he rightly cites as the ‘the largest market of heavy, medium and light-duty vehicles in the world’.
Base Air claims that since inception it has received in excess of $12 million in financial backing from major industry players, particularly across rural Australia.
While Vaughan, a former AFL footballer and Melbourne publican, is the founder and director, the company’s managing director for the past year has been Mark Thiele, who came to Base Air after spending 20 years as national procurement manager of Toll Group and 45 years in the transport industry. Thiele says he was won over by the Base air system following trials on Toll vehicles.
The company’s advisory board includes high profile journalist, Ray Martin, who says he was won over by Vaughan’s enthusiasm and commitment to a concept that Martin believes will eventually be seen as another great Australian invention that will change the face of road transport.
“We met in a coffee shop in Sydney more than a decade ago when Matthew approached me with such enthusiasm, knowledge and determination that I was instantly drawn to the Base Air business and wanted to be involved and see him succeed,” said Martin, who adds that while he is on the advisory board he is not a shareholder in the business.
“I’ve spoken to truckies and seen their excitement for this product knowing the difference it will make to their industry,” Martin told us at the media event.
Martin has clearly helped open some important doors for Vaughan, introducing the idea to Dick Smith who gave his endorsement, as well as well-known businessman and entrepreneur, Mark Bouris.
Also on the advisory board is Dr Aidan Harston, a patent attorney and biochemist, whose firm handled the patents for the Base Air system
Vaughan has had plenty of challenges and hurdles over the past 12 years but says in the end the ‘science has proved the benefits and has won hard-nosed transport operators over’.
Although Base Air is only now publicising its concept, it says that its air management system is already fitted and running on more than 120 vehicles with some of the country’s most hard nosed transport operators who are also among some of the nation’s biggest fleets , including Toll, Martin’s Stock Haulage, Wickham Freight Lines and Blenners Transport.
During the media gathering the company showed testimonial videos with the likes of Wickham Freight Lines boss, Graham Keogh, Martins haulage MD, Jason Martin and Blenners’ owner, Les Blennerhassett, all of whom cited improved stability, reduced tyre wear and more comfort and less driver fatigue, as well as a dramatic reduction in freight damage. Martin says his company is fitting Base Air progressively to all of its prime movers and more than 260 trailers.
The transport bosses opinions were backed up by their drivers who said they would not go back to a conventional sprung rigs.
Possibly one of the most telling endorsements is that of the cautious and conservative Paccar organisation, which is already suppling Base Air kits to its dealerships throughout New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, through its Paccar Parts division, with plans to expand across the nation in the very near future according to Base Air. This followed a program of testing of the system that attracted the endorsement of its former chief engineer, Noelle Parlier, who recently left Australia to take up a new role at Paccar HQ in Seattle.
Vaughan sees the system potentially being fitted to Kenworths as they come down the line at Bayswater in the near future.
The system costs about $3500 to retro fit to existing trucks or trailers and Base says it is working closely with truck suspension specialist companies such as Hendricksson and SAF Holland as well as OEM trailer makers.
The Base kits will be assembled at its factory at Yatala near Brisbane, using valves and components from suppliers including Italian based global pneumatics specialist, Camozzi.
Vaughan says that the decision to first introduce Base Air in Australia was an easy one.
“As a country boy, I’ve grown up around many who work in and for the industry and have heard stories about driver fatigue and safety first-hand,” he said.
“Australia relies on its transport and logistics and it’s a no-brainer for me that Base Air shows its impact here locally first,” he added.
“Soon after, we will emerge in overseas markets,” said Vaughan said.
On the surface Base Air appears to be a massive leap forward in terms of safety, ride, efficiency and cargo management, but we would like to sample the system first hand to see for ourselves if reality matches the hype.
Base Air has promised T&B News a test of the new system back to back with a conventionally sprung truck in the next few weeks and we will report on it as soon as we have had the chance to sample it.
To see Base Air’s system in action or hear industry testimonials visit. www.baseair.com.