Jose Manuel Alvarez
Director General
Cofremex
/
View from the Top

Safety is All About Prevention, Not Correction

By MBN Staff | Tue, 01/01/2019 - 16:41

Q: How is the implementation of NOM-012 impacting demand for electric brakes?

A: We have seen a positive change in demand due to normativity but also safety factors. The Mexican heavy-vehicle industry is highly reactive and, unfortunately, it has taken several fatal highway accidents for people to realize the need for these products. When we started operations in Mexico, to really penetrate the market we had to shift our focus to highlight the cost benefits of our units rather than the safety advantages they provide. Now, people are finally taking safety into consideration. We are present in 5-6 percent of the Mexican vehicle park, which is hardly a representative percentage. If electric brakes were installed in 80 percent of the vehicle park as in Europe, the country’s rate for fatal accidents could be reduced by 80 percent.

Our strategy for raising awareness about our products has focused on service and training. Operator turnover is a critical issue in the Mexican market, making training essential to ensure quality operations. We can sell the best products in the market but without proper use, they can become the worst.

Q: How has your relationship with OEMs evolved and what do you see as the biggest challenge to penetrate this market?

A: We have already achieved homologation with several OEMs, including Kenworth, Volvo, Navistar and Daimler. However, we do not seek to become part of their assembly lines due to the complexity of our components. All accessories such as electric brakes are integrated at the OEM plant but at a separate shop. Our main strategy in this segment has been to achieve homologation with the main players in the market. Other brands like Scania and MAN also represent an opportunity to grow but they already have their own electric brakes, making it difficult to introduce our products. Still, the participation of these brands in the Mexican market is minimal, so we are not overly concern about not being able to target them.

In terms of our relationship with fleets, our products are already used by the largest fleets in the country. Our challenge is knowing how to approach the SME sector and that will be our focus in 2019. These players are still not investing in technology and safety, which should be a priority.

Q: What are the main advantages for clients using electric brakes as support for the engine brake system?

A: The problem with pneumatic or mechanical brakes is that when they overheat, they stop working. That is not the case with an electric system, which will continue working as long as there is battery life. Our clients have noticed extremely good results from using our products. Autotanques Nieto, for example, was recognized by PEMEX three years in a row as the most stable company in terms of sinistrality due to the use of electric brakes. Furthermore, regarding savings, the company now spends more on air conditioning maintenance than on brake component maintenance and replacement.

Tires are another good example of the advantages of using electric brakes as support. A Michelin retailer in Queretaro told us that thanks to our components, its rethreading business has improved and it is able to salvage 90 percent of tires for reuse.

Q: How has Cofremex’s technology evolved to adapt to client needs?

A: In 2017, we released a new system to prevent operators from neutralizing the engine while driving and letting it rev free. Neutralizing the engine and then trying to lock a new gear might not work in some cases, which could lead to accidents. Our system locks the truck’s maximum speed, thus providing safety according to a company’s standards. In 2019, we want to go a step further and prioritize satellite control for our electric brakes. This will allow fleet managers to map routes and remotely limit the trucks’ maximum speed, not to a fixed standard but to the variable speed limit of each highway segment.

Q: What are your development expectations for 2019 based on your results over the past year?

A: Even though the elections are over and we have a new president, there are still many uncertainties in the market. We still do not know how the new administration will fare or the impact from the tariffs imposed by the US on steel and aluminum. We have positive expectations and we still see Mexico as a great investment destination but there are complications that need to be solved. As a result, we have revised our projections downwards in line with market trends.

 

Cofremex sells electric-brake systems for heavy vehicles. The company also provides spare parts and maintenance for these components and offers training for operators to know how to work with these parts

Photo by:   MBP
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