As we drive our semi-trucks, we encounter many different road conditions. In some ways, our job is similar to that of a ship's captain. The engineers that design our trucks have the daunting task of enabling a truck to carry freight, ride well, and still be able to handle well through evasive maneuvers.
There are many challenges presented in designing a truck or trailer suspension. Let's just take axle loads, for example. In some cases, an axle can weigh as little as a few thousand pounds and all the way up to 20,000 lbs, which is ten times more weight. Of course, with permitted loads, these loads can even have a larger difference in weight. Most of this variance in weight has been handled by using an air ride suspension, which can vary the spring rate according to the load.
All this makes me think of “the good ol' days”. Spring ride suspensions were the norm, and air ride seats were used to isolate the driver from the jarring ride while driving down the highway. I still remember the drivers in the old cab-over trucks looking like a piece of popcorn bouncing around in a popcorn-making machine.
In 1980, LINK developed the CABMATE. It was the first cab, air suspension. I remember when this innovation came out. It took a lot of the “back slap” out of the old cab-over trucks and trailers riding on spring ride suspension. For you younger folk, the “good ol' days” weren't all that good when it came to riding quality and ergonomics.
Most trucks today ride incredibly well in comparison to the trucks I started my career in. The engineers are to be commended for including three suspension systems to isolate a driver's body from shock and vibrations while traveling down the roadway. As a person who has helped tune suspensions on a race car, I have a lot of respect for the task of making a suspension perform properly. On a race car, it’s fairly easy because you are tuning the suspension to work at a specified weight on a specified surface. Of course, there are exceptions to this such as an off-road race vehicle like the Baja 1000 where the terrain is constantly changing. But even in a situation like this, the weight remains relatively stable.
A truck suspension engineer has the task of engineering a suspension that handles, brakes, and rides smoothly with a gross combination vehicle weight that varies from a tare weight of 33,180 lbs (in my case) and a fully-loaded weight of 80,000 lbs. Things like shock valving, spring rates, and many other components have to be designed to perform in a wide array of conditions. Needless to say, compromises have to be made to accomplish the suspension engineer's task.
Every so often in my career, there have been innovations much like the original LINK CABMATE cab air suspension that have changed ride quality in a very definable manner. With cab suspensions, there was always a little bit of a disconnection of the cab and the chassis. In many cases, it would make the truck feel less stable than it actually was. We did, however, get a quantum leap in ride quality which offset most of the negatives associated with the less stable “feeling”.
I am proud to say today that has all changed with the ROI CABMATE from LINK Mfg. The ROI CABMATE has added an electronically controlled shock absorber to the cab air suspension, which has enabled the system to constantly adjust the dampening characteristics of the shock absorber instantaneously as we travel down the roadway.
Quite simply, the ROI CABMATE cab air suspension has to be experienced to fully appreciate the benefits. I feel as though my 2018 Cascadia rode incredibly well, but I can honestly say that the addition of the ROI CABMATE has dramatically changed the ride and handling characteristics in a positive direction. Many of the roads I drive on today seem to be trying to replicate a torture track where they test vehicles for durability. In the past, if I had anything on a seat or on my dash, it would be tossed to the floor. By accident, I left my cellphone on the edge of the dash during my maiden voyage in our 2022 Freightliner Cascadia, which is equipped with the ROI CABMATE, and it never moved. Other positive features have been, coffee doesn't splash out of my cup on the road, increased cab stability, and a smooth and less fatiguing ride. I can see why the ROI CABMATE has won the HDT Top 20 Products Award, along with the North American Truck Writers 2020 Jim Winsor Memorial Technical Achievement Award. I can honestly say this cab air suspension truly has moved the bar higher as a standard in regards to ride quality, handling, and comfort.