As the regulations and compliance change the equipment used on trucks and trailers to aid productivity and compliance moves forward, PowerTorque talks to Airtec about the next generation OBM.
n recent years technology around compliance for trucks has been accelerating. The demand from both transport operators and the regulatory authorities are needing and asking for ever more data. That data is useful both in productivity terms for the operators and to ensure compliance for road managers in the states.
At the same time the technology itself has taken quantum leaps in sophistication, while reducing in size at every new iteration. What began life as a simple pressure gauge on a trailer air system is now a precise piece of kit using the latest technology and AI to keep the truck and trailer loaded right.
The original Airtec unit in this space was developed in 2003, and by 2007 the onboard mass (OBM) policy was coming together . This has been an evolutionary product, changing regularly to make it work for the OBM scheme, then going to being interoperable with other devices.
“Now, we’ve got a whole range of new telematics providers, and 5G is coming in, so we have had to start again, because our old product was from before the iPhone was developed,” says David Hewett, Airtec Corporation Director. “So now we’ve got tools like Bluetooth and other things and the whole market’s changed.”
There’s a number of things which Airtec has done to service the requirements from the rules around OBM set by Transport Certification Australia (TCA), as far as data acquisition and speed of data. At the same time, support for a device has been improved to give more access to the situations and configurations in which it is working.
The new Airtec AXS SmartOBM is made with components from all over the world and assembled in Australia. In the past, the company had been manufacturing in Singapore.
“We identified that with this whole OBM regulatory scheme and changes around the whole new revision of the product, meant the next iteration needed to be made closer to home,” says David. “So we’ve been developing this new system specifically for what operators want to do with it.
‘We have the team of people that can bring them together, design them (the AXS) from the ground up based on what we know. The new model has also been designed to also anticipate changes that will be expected in the next iteration of mass rules.”
Communication is handled through the Bluetooth-mesh, Airtec can connect to the system directly and do firmware upgrades, change configurations and other settings a lot quicker than in the past. The new componentry means the size of the unit fitted to the truck and trailer is considerably smaller.
“With this new unit we have been able to raise the bar and start to see the data every second now,” says David. “Customers want data right now, so keeping up with that, it’s been a challenge. It’s about adding all of this extra functionality, with people requesting more and more functions.
“At the moment, operators are looking for better response time when they’re loading, looking to see a live weight every second. The aim is to be even more accurate and efficient during the load ing process. All of this technology is helping the AXS to be more efficient to run their business.”
During the development process the operation had 3d printers running 24/7 drawing tools and jigs and fixtures in order to speed up the design phase.
“We are through the design phase,” says David. “We have the equipment now on vehicles. We’re in the test phase. We’re pretty confident with the level of accuracy, repeatability and assurance that we want them to achieve.”
Those developments further downstream will use the latest unit and will consist of software updates. There is latent functionality already in there and the system will be able to start pulling other data out at different points. If there is an improvement, Airtec will be able to roll it out on all of the existing devices.
“This process is already happening with TCA having preliminary discussions about new functionality that we haven’t heard about before,” says David. “Everything evolves, as you learn more, you find products, weaknesses, in a constant improvement cycle. Learning things in the field, feedback, things that don’t work, things that do work.”