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Revolutionary Cab-Suspension Technology

By on September 1, 2019

Link Introduces Intelligent, Semi-Active, ROI Cabmate

Link Mfg., Ltd. recently introduced its ROI Cabmate Semi-Active Cab Suspension during a “Ride & Drive” event held at its corporate offices in Sioux Center, Iowa. The newest and most advanced version of its popular Cabmate cab suspension, Link’s Road-Optimized Innovations (ROI) technology delivers a new level of ride quality that responds in real-time to road and weather conditions.

In his opening remarks, Link president Jim Huls commented on Link’s depth of experience dating back to 1980. “The Cabmate premium cab suspension dramatically improved comfort and safety in Class 7 and 8 cabs. Today, Link is the global leader in cab suspensions with the two-millionth Cabmate rolling off the assembly line in May of 2019. The new ROI Cabmate will usher in a revolution in computer-controlled suspension systems for OTR sleeper-equipped trucks and other vehicle applications.”

Monitoring, Assessing, Adjusting

The ROI Cabmate Semi-Active Cab Suspension employs multiple sensors and is constantly assessing environmental circumstances while responding simultaneously. An accelerometer monitors the motion of the cab, while a position sensor measures the movement and velocity of the cab in relation to the frame.

Using Link’s proprietary algorithms, the system’s electronic control unit (ECU) gathers and interprets the stream of information from all sensors in real-time and responds by continuously adjusting the stiffness of shock absorbers and the filling or exhausting of air from the system’s air springs to optimize ride stability and comfort. The entire ROI system operates on less than 10 watts of power.

Dynamic Dampening

“With Link’s ROI Cabmate, drivers will benefit from enhanced ride quality that relies upon a constant state of dynamic dampening,” said Michael Hof, Link’s vice president of new business development. “With adjustments being made hundreds of times per second, the system responds appropriately at each instant. Drivers and passengers ride in relative comfort on smooth highways and experience significantly less movement on uneven or off-road terrain. The system also compensates for unexpected encounters, such as potholes and uneven railroad crossings.”

Rigorous Testing

During the ROI Cabmate’s development, Link’s 39 years of cab suspension experience positioned it like no other to put the prototypes through their paces. Link is certified to IATF 16949 standards (previously TS16949), and over the years, the company has assembled a world-class testing lab that quantified the new suspension’s performance.

Lab data collections indicated a significant performance improvement in all areas of measurable ride quality. The quantitative difference could be examined by comparing the vehicle’s numerical ride characteristics, but for the qualitative differences, Link set its sights on real-world testing in customer fleets. Twenty test units have logged almost 1.4 million miles to date and continue to validate performance by rolling up more every month.

Gary Van Ekelenburg, director of equipment for C.R. England had this to say. “As a family-owned, customer- and employee-focused corporation since 1920, we’re always interested in learning about new technologies that can improve driver comfort, increase job satisfaction, promote safety and reduce maintenance costs. Like most fleets, we’re very familiar with Link’s traditional Cabmate suspension, so field-testing Link’s new ROI Cabmate was a logical business decision and gave our drivers and our company a chance to experience the future of HD cab suspensions.”

The ROI Cabmate Semi-Active Cab Suspension System also features electronic height control. The system minimizes air consumption compared to traditional height control valves because it does not fill or exhaust air in response to dynamic suspension motion. The system is designed to produce a better overall ride regardless of road surfaces and atmospheric forces, such as wind shear.

Commercial availability in new trucks is expected in late 2020 or early 2021. Availability of retrofit kits is expected in mid-2020. To learn more and view a video and high-resolution images of the ROI Cabmate Semi-Active Cab Suspension, please visit linkmfg.com/ROI-Cabmate-page.

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FIELD-TESTING REPORTS

Three customers who are participating in the Link field testing presented their ROI Cabmate Semi-Active Cab Suspension System experiences to date and were available for one-on-one follow-up discussions. In their own words, here’s what they had to say:

Joel Morrow

“While my brother and sister have been running Ploger’s day-to-day operations, I’ve been on the road for 32 years and 4.5 million OTR miles. I get paid to drive, but love being our company’s concept-tester, R&D guy. When it comes to leveraging the benefits of new technologies, I’ve learned to be very analytical. Cost-benefit assessments have to be objective, bottom-line oriented. I like what we’re seeing in the new Link ROI Cabmate. That’s why I’m here, sharing our experience to date.

“Ride quality is somewhat duty-cycle dependent. We’re testing on our pick-up and delivery trucks, as well as OTR trucks. Our local drivers love ROI Cabmate. Once they try it, they want it. They experience conditions that align perfectly with ROI Cabmate’s key benefits. OTR evaluation requires a different set of criteria. Based on the relative roughness of local roads and smoothness of most interstates, you also have to look at other factors.

“OTR drivers clearly prefer the enhanced ride quality of long-wheelbases. I’m looking to improve fuel economy by shortening wheelbases to tighten the cab-to-trailer air gap without negatively impacting ride quality. Broadside wind shear is another OTR factor. I’ve found that ROI Cabmate helps keep the center of gravity inside the frame rails. With stop-start technology on the rise, we’re also seeing disrupted sleep patterns for team drivers and driver-trainers occupying the sleeper berth. 

“I’m finding dash cams and other video surveillance are very useful in documenting what drivers feel inside the cab. Similar to NASCAR and other forms of professional racing, truck drivers may have difficulty explaining to engineers what’s happing in the cab, why a given technology is better or worse. In my role as a driver-tester-owner, I’m looking for difference makers. Every day, our on-going evaluation is further documenting that ROI Cabmate is a winning technology.” 

Charles McPhereson

“I’ve been driving professionally for 35 years, but only one year at Valley. I started driving a 2018 Peterbilt 389, then was assigned to a new 2019 model that I’ve driven for more than 50,000 miles. When I did my first walkaround, I noticed the ROI Cablink. That’s when I learned this truck is a test vehicle. I drive all 48 states and see a wide range of pavement conditions from very smooth to quite rough.

“When I was sent here to Link, the possibility that the ROI Cablink was going to be removed crossed my mind. I’ve really grown to like it and appreciate the improved ride characteristics. I was relieved to learn that the test is ongoing, and the ROI Cablink was staying on my truck. I pull a lowboy trailer for delivery of ag machines and other heavy equipment. My loads are rarely under 80,000 pounds and can go as high as 130,000 pounds. 

“In general terms, I can say the dampening effects are much more positive, and the ride is much smoother. There are no sudden movements. These benefits are very noticeable on the state and county washboard roads that I frequently encounter. I’m usually on the road a month at a time and carry a fair amount of food and supplies. I quickly noticed cabinet doors stay closed, and things aren’t bouncing around and falling on the floor. My body even feels better at the end of the day than it previously did.

“Also, I think the onboard electronics are subject to less shaking and jarring. Another thing I noticed is the microwave plate doesn’t rattle like I was accustomed to. The structural integrity of the truck seems much tighter, and I think it will remain tighter for a greater number of years, increasing the trade-in or resale value. I hope other drivers can relate to these in-use differences I’ve experienced with the ROI Cablink.”

Captain Faust Velazquez

“Although I loved being an airline pilot, I joined a 3PL company founded by my father. Fortunately, during the five years I worked with him before he passed away, my father taught me a great deal about logistics, warehousing, supply chain management and transportation. Today, we’ve grown to be one of the largest 3PL providers in Mexico, serving many clients across a diverse range of business sectors. We operate a fleet of more than 100 trucks.

“We were pleased that Link asked us to participate in the field testing of the new ROI Cabmate Semi-Active Cab Suspension system. The new technology was installed on four Freightliner Cascadia trucks, one 2019 and three 2018 models. The trucks were used on an approximate 700-mile roundtrip from a suburb of Mexico City to Guadalajara and back. From a height of 7,614 feet at our Mexico City headquarters and primary operation, we drop very close to sea level at Guadalajara.

“In addition to the elevation difference, the highway is not up to U.S. interstate standards. The route provides an excellent test for determining the performance of cab suspension systems. Tests were conducted with two groups over five to six weeks each. Initial blind testing was conducted without drivers knowing the trucks were equipped with the new technology. Parallel tests were then run with the second set of drivers knowing about the installation of ROI Cabmate.

“We’ve logged about 345,000 miles so far. Somewhat surprisingly, the driver evaluations from the two groups were remarkably similar. Key findings documented the improved performance of the ROI Cabmate: smoother ride, enhanced ergonomics, reduced driver fatigue and higher productivity. We were also able to achieve improved driver satisfaction and less wear and tear on the cab taken as an integral truck asset. We’re continuing our four-truck evaluation program and contributing data for Link’s field performance testing that involves a total of 20 trucks.” 

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