AUSTIN, Texas—Fontaine Fifth Wheel unveiled its new SmartConnect fifth wheel at American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition here, promoting it as “a fifth wheel with a brain.”
“Basically, we’re taking the guesswork out of fifth wheel maintenance and automating it,” Shane Wolfe, director of engineering, explained to FleetOwner in the company’s booth.
Similar to other fifth wheels, the SmartConnect system includes an indicator light that notifies the driver of the fifth wheel’s locking status. But what sets SmartConnect apart are its predictive maintenance capabilities, Wolfe explained: Not only do sensors monitor the fifth wheel lock position, the system also collects and processes data related to hardware components’ positioning, wear, and need for adjustment.
“It can accurately anticipate maintenance needs before problems surface,” Wolfe said.
LED flash codes then provide drivers with advance notice that fifth wheel service is required at the next maintenance interval. Hardwired connections not only simplify the installation of an optional in-cab indicator light but also provide fleets the flexibility to expand SmartConnect functionality as more features become available. Currently under development are kingpin and top plate sensors to collect vibration data, again the automate and anticipate maintenance, Wolfe noted.
The system is CAN bus capable right out of the box, using the SAE J1939 communications protocol. When integrated with the truck OEM’s CAN and telematics, SmartConnect will seamlessly transmit lock status, hours of use, number of couples, and maintenance alerts to fleet managers.
The bottom line is that SmartConnect will extend the life of the fifth wheel while also providing the cost and safety benefits of reduced hardware failures and dropped trailers, Wolfe explained.
“We’re genuinely excited about this product,” said Paige Petroni, company president. “SmartConnect is the world’s first smart fifth wheel, and I’m incredibly proud of our engineering and management teams for their remarkable accomplishments. This innovation can significantly assist fleets in lowering maintenance costs while elevating operational efficiency.”
Fontaine Fifth Wheel SmartConnect will be available in 2024.