José Álvarez
Director General of Cofremex
View from the Top

New Norm Will Boost Safety-Oriented, Cost-Saving Components

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 11:33

Q: How do Cofremex’s products help freight transportation companies reduce costs?
A: Our maintenance-free electric brakes are based on the same physical principle that powers magnetic levitation high-speed trains. These braking units are connected directly to the truck’s powertrain without having to use conventional friction brakes. This effectively reduces wear on conventional friction braking systems and multiplies their useful life up to 500 percent. Our brakes are not based on engine revolutions but on cardan shaft revolutions as opposed to engine brake systems. This enables them to effectively curb engine revolutions, reducing fuel consumption and brake pad exhaustion. Electric brakes can cut the requirement for brake pad replacements from once every three or four months to once every three or four years. Trucks and trailers equipped with our components need to use the clutch less and their tires experience less heat and suffer less friction-related erosion. This translates to vehicles spending less time in the shop thus improving route times.
Q: What challenges has Cofremex faced in penetrating the Mexican market?
A: The company had to shift its initial safety-oriented sales strategy to a cost-savings approach, mainly because transportation companies are unwilling to invest beyond meeting minimum safety standards. People in this industry worry about 1 percent savings on fuel but usually do not consider the costs of an accident. Transportation companies must still face costs related to ownership, repairs and maintenance even if the unit remains inoperative for months.Companies must change this mindset to reduce costs and become more efficient. At the same time, there should be a Technical Vehicle Inspection norm that works. If it takes half a day to go through the norm, a mechanic will not read it and simply approve everything. It is necessary to have simpler regulations that can be reviewed by a mechanic in half an hour and that addresses critical components in heavy vehicles.
Q: Does Cofremex have any plans to implement electric brakes as standard original equipment?
A: It is too complicated to introduce this equipment directly in OEM assembly plants. Our strategy is partnering with dealerships so that vehicles leave the dealership equipped with braking units financed by the dealership. Our technology can then be included in the final bill but instead of being installed in the production site, it is installed in a semi-centralized shop.
Q: How will NOM-012 impact Cofremex when enforced?
A: One of the key advantages we had before arriving to Mexico was being already homologated with European manufacturers. Cofremex’s electromagnetic brakes are homologated for up to 85 ton and comply with this new Mexican regulation on vehicle weight and dimensions. According to this norm, trucks weighing between 12 and 25 ton must have an engine braking unit or an auxiliary braking unit. Since vehicles in that segment do not have engine braking units, they will have to be equipped with electric brakes. Making friction-free brakes mandatory equipment will enable Cofremex to grow exponentially. There will be an enormous impact in the heavy vehicle aftermarket because clients will have to implement auxiliary brakes.
Q: What growth expectations does Cofremex have for 2017 and 2018?
A: We started operations in Mexico in 1997, selling only one brake unit that year. Now, we expect to close 2017 with over 2,000 units sold. Autotanques Nieto, Praxair, Pinfra and other companies that transport hazardous materials are key clients. CEMEX’s mixer trucks as well as some of Holcim’s and Cementos Moctezuma’s are also equipped with Cofremex brakes. Some OEMs, such as MAN or Scania, already equip their vehicles with similar braking systems to what Cofremex can offer, so our goal is to work with other manufacturers. We have landed a project with Hyundai to supply mobile shops for the company’s distributors. It will not be necessary to take trucks to the shop. Instead, the shop will go to them.