Xpress braking

“More value added per vehicle” is one of the stated objectives of SAF-HOLLAND in order to increase organic sales as part of “Strategy 2020” – particularly when it comes to the North American trailer market. The beginning switch from drum to disc brake technology offers a substantial opportunity to increase the value added per vehicle. SAF-HOLLAND received its first major order in 2016: a total of 1,800 U.S. Xpress trailers were equipped with complete axle and suspension systems including disc brakes, representing a landmark order for the market.

U.S. Xpress headquarters
Established trust
Gerry Mead, U.S. Xpress (right) and Pat McNamara of SAF-HOLLAND in conversation

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, we meet with Gerry Mead, Senior Vice President of Maintenance at U.S. Xpress. He shares with us his views about innovation, specifically disc brake technology that has generated more and more interest in the North American trailer market. During our visit at U.S. Xpress headquarters, Mead is not going to miss the chance to personally showcase the new trailer equipped with SAF-HOLLAND’s new P89 disc brakes. He has been in the business for over 27 years and oversees the fleet of logistics company U.S. Xpress in Chattanooga – a fleet consisting of over 15,000 trailers and almost 7,000 tractors on the move across North America. In March 2016, Mead was honored as Truck Fleet Innovator by the renowned magazine Heavy Duty Trucking. This award was for efficiency and the use of solar technology. Now Mead, together with SAF-HOLLAND, is onto the next innovation breakthrough: disc brakes for U.S. Xpress’ fleet of trailers. Though air disc brakes are the standard in Europe, it’s still not a large percentage of the market in the United States. Disc brake technology introduced to North America in the early 1970’s, suffered from substandard materials and braking equipment that was the wrong size. As a result, the industry stayed with drum brakes which, despite their moderate performance and difficult maintenance, has continued to be the predominate brake technology used in North America.

The fleet
U.S. Xpress has over 15,000 trailers on the road
"At U.S. Xpress, we are proud of our willingness to try new things." Gerry Mead, Senior Vice President Maintenance, U.S. Xpress

But not at U.S. Xpress: Mead has 1,800 trailers equipped with disc brakes and each and every brake came from SAF-HOLLAND. U.S. Xpress is now no longer ordering drum brakes for its trailers, and its entire fleet is expected to be converted within the next six years. That’s good news in terms of traffic safety: “The braking distance with disc brakes is significantly shorter than with drum brakes, which is an invaluable advantage,” said Mead adding: “The advantages are there from day one, of which safety plays a key factor in choosing air disc brakes. The benefits of this technology need to be seen from a holistic perspective.”

Gerry Mead
is certain that disc brakes are the right choice
“The time has come, and we are well positioned to further the conversations with the key fleets in North America with regards to the P89 disc brake.” Pat McNamara, Director National Accounts at SAF-HOLLAND Inc.

The fact that the breakthrough for trailer disc brakes is now imminent can be traced to the long-term cost advantage for the fleet operators. The purchase price of disc brakes is higher than that of drum brakes. Yet, disc brakes feature a higher degree of efficiency and durability and require less time for maintenance – time that can be used with the vehicles to earn more money.

Pat McNamara
Director National Accounts
Mike Colaccino
Senior National Account Manager

Still, it took a very North American approach to persuade Mead even though a European disc brake for trailer axles has been on the US market in a slightly modified form for a long time. The breakthrough at U.S. Xpress can be attributed to the entry cost of the P89 disc brake that is perfectly tailored to customers’ needs. The P89 is part of a complete single source axle and suspension system that SAF-HOLLAND offers and a key reason for Mead’s choice because it gives him a single point of contact and access to SAF-HOLLAND’s close-knit service network. “The right package for the new technology was simply not available until we sat down together in Nashville a year ago. We talked through the project and then sealed it with a handshake,” Mead remembers. SAF-HOLLAND Director of National Accounts, Pat McNamara expects that a number of fleet operators will follow the example of U.S. Xpress. “The time has come”, says McNamara adding, “We are well positioned and excited to further the conversations with the key fleets in North America with regards to the P89 disc brake.”

“Safety played a key factor in choosing air disc brakes.” Gerry Mead, Senior Vice President Maintenance, U.S. Xpress
Working behind the scenes
Disc brakes provide more safety

The US market is different and, in many ways, harder – the romanticism of the trucker lifestyle still plays a larger role here than in many countries. When Mead and McNamara talk about future challenges it becomes obvious that the industry won’t run out of ideas. “Telematics solutions for trailers will be the next big trend,” says Mead. And he wants to be there to help shape it: “At U.S. Xpress, we are proud of our willingness to try new things.”

SAF’s P89 disc brake systems are on the rise


less weight per axle is possible with the special lightweight design.


longer maintenance intervals due to optimized pads.


comprehensive warrenty which puts the P89 at the forefront of the competition.

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