Bendix Makes Investments To Double Air Disc Brake Production Capacity

July 2024

AVON, OH…  The air disc brake (ADB) market for commercial vehicles in North America continues to expand, with adoption rates on Class 6-8 vehicles topping 50% – up from approximately 25% in 2018. Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix), the ADB market leader that introduced its pioneering Bendix® ADB22X® air disc brake in 2005, is positioned to meet the accelerating customer demand through strategic production investments designed to support ADB growth.

The investments have prepared Bendix to accommodate 100% growth in ADB production dating back to 2018, with a more than 30% increase in volume realized to date. 

“Adoption rates for air disc brakes have grown sharply in the last few years and anticipating that growth has been the foundation of the investments we’ve made – all with the commitment to support what this market needs in ADB volumes for tractors and trailers,” said Nicole Oreskovic, Bendix vice president of sales and marketing. “Bendix has led the way in the development and advocacy of air disc brakes since 2005. We continue to adapt our design and manufacturing processes for increased capacity, uniquely positioning us to enable and help drive the market conversion to ADBs, as we have for the last 20 years.”

Bendix, the North American leader in the development and manufacture of active safety, air management, and braking system technologies for commercial vehicles, is a part of Munich, Germany-based Knorr-Bremse, the global leader in air disc brake production at more than 50 million and counting. Bendix produces the Bendix ADB22X and Bendix® ADB22X®-LT air disc brakes at its wheel-end manufacturing operation in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The ADB22X®-LT is engineered specifically for trailers.

The company’s ADB production numbers reflect the market growth since the Bendix® ADB22X® air disc brake launched in 2005. It took eight years to reach the 400,000-unit production mark in 2013, but just five more to hit the 2 million mark and three more to double that milestone.

Largest Installed ADB Capacity in North America

According to Aaron Schwass, Bendix vice president, Wheel-End North America, Bendix has focused on three primary aspects at its Bowling Green facility, helping drive the goal of doubling the operation’s production capacity and addressing customer need. Some of the investments were part of a 130,000-square-foot expansion completed at the plant in 2020. 

“Bendix has the largest installed air disc brake assembly capacity in North America for the commercial vehicle market thanks to our sustained investment focus over the years,” Schwass said. “That position is further bolstered with strategic levers that have put us in position to meet current and future ADB demand.”

Specifically, Bendix installed a high-volume assembly line, which has increased ADB assembly capacity by more than 40%. The company also expanded its resources with additional machining capacity to support the increased volumes.

The third key focus area was an increase in supplier capacity, both in product-specific tooling and supplier development, to enable the supply base to sustain the level needed to support Bendix’s internal capacity.

In addition, Schwass cited the co-locating of some R&D personnel and test equipment in the Bowling Green facility to help expand the capability and efficiency of the plant. Beyond Bowling Green, Bendix invested in the capability of air disc brake aftermarket operations at its Huntington, Indiana, facility.

Bendix air disc brakes are part of the company’s full complement of wheel-end solutions, including drum brake systems, automatic slack adjusters, spring brakes, friction, and remanufactured ADB calipers. Bendix ADBs are available at major truck OEs and major trailer manufacturers, along with leading full-line North American school bus manufacturers and intercity coach manufacturers in the United States and Canada.

Air Disc Brakes Are the Future

With air disc brakes, drivers appreciate shorter stopping distances, along with smoother, straighter, and more stable stops, for a car-like feel and virtually no brake fade. Combination vehicles with ADBs on all tractor and trailer wheel-ends boast a 50-foot shorter stopping distance compared to drum brakes. As a result, fleets that equip ADBs report increases in driver satisfaction and retention.

A fleet’s decision to spec air disc brakes depends on its application and business needs. Return on investment (ROI) in ADBs usually depends on a combination of factors, including lightweight design, extended brake system life, quicker pad changes – roughly one-quarter the time of drum brakes once the wheel is off – and a longer friction duty cycle. Across a wide range of applications – line haul, refuse, and school bus, for instance – fleets are seeing lower total cost of ownership through the adoption of ADBs. In addition, more and more fleets are benefiting from ADBs because of their positive impact on CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) scores and brake inspections – for example, Bendix ADBs have an internal adjustment mechanism, which decreases the possibility of brakes being found out-of-adjustment during inspections.

“Safety plays an important part in ROI as well, and when we look at braking technology through the lens of making vehicles safer for drivers and others sharing the road, air disc brakes contribute to that,” Oreskovic said. “Fundamentally, they help make roads safer.”

A critical way ADBs may improve safety is by further enhancing the capability of collision mitigation systems, which depend on stopping power at the wheel-ends to work at their best.

“Commercial vehicle safety technologies are becoming more integrated and complex,” Oreskovic said. “As we talk about autonomy and electrification, from a foundation brake perspective, ADB is a key contributing technology to support and enable where the industry is going.”

In that way, Bendix’s role as a complete safety system provider is key.

“As a safety system provider, we look at the whole safety system, air disc brakes included,” Oreskovic said. “We’re examining the tractor and trailer and constantly working to refine, evolve, and enhance the system so that all parts are working optimally both individually and together. That comprehensive approach is at the core of who Knorr-Bremse and Bendix are as companies.”