Makers of antilock braking system (ABS) equipment have recently started signing licensing agreements with the inventor of a required electronic circuitry. The $1.50-per-tractor-trailer fee will be far less than the initial $10 that PLC4Trucks inventor Al Lesesky and his company, Vehicle Enhancement Systems Inc (VES), first asked for, but much more than manufacturers claimed the technology was worth.
PLC4Trucks allows trailer ABS to send a malfunction signal to a tractor's cab, triggering a warning light that became a federal requirement March 1. A stockpile of electronic chips with the “light the light” circuitry allowed production to continue past the deadline while negotiations with Lesesky continued.
Eaton Corp and ArvinMeritor's Meritor WABCO division have signed agreements with Lesesky for use of the technology.
Although members of the PLC4Trucks consortium thought the technology was a generic design, Lesesky informed them that he had applied for a patent on use of the P-485 chip. When it came through Oct 3, 2001, he demanded that ABS makers pay $5 per use, or $10 per tractor-trailer. When manufacturers balked, claiming the technology was worth only $0.10, Lesesky dropped his demand to $1.50.
Intellon Corp, maker of the electronic chip that uses the circuitry, is also forming an agreement with VES. Intellon said it has agreed to collect the licensing fees and pass them on to VES, and VES is dropping a related suit against Intellon.
Intellon's P-485 chip is installed in the ABS control modules that go on trailers and tractors, which then communicate through existing wiring via powerline carrier signals. This avoids the need for a separate trailer-to-tractor connector cable, which truck fleets had opposed.
OEMs have been able to keep producing vehicles because ABS makers had a surplus of equipment with pre-patent chips. The surplus developed as truck orders plunged because manufacturers had stockpiled chips, thinking that record 1999 sales would continue into this year.
Haldex Restructures Product Centers
Haldex Brake Systems has reorganized its product centers to provide a global focus on product development and manufacturing activities. Four product centers have been established:
Braking Controls Product Center will have global responsibility for ABS/EBS product families, brake actuators, and braking system valves. Robert Else will manage the unit.
Air Supply and Suspension Controls Product Center will have global responsibility for air compressors, air treatment and management devices, and suspension control valves. The unit will be managed by Gary Broda.
Foundation Brake Product Center will have global responsibility for automatic and manual brake adjusters and air disc brake activity. Magnus Bergstrom will manage this center.
Friction Product Center, managed by Ron Rana, will have responsibility for Haldex brake friction products worldwide.
Under the new structure, customer contact will continue to be handled by Haldex divisions in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.