The Australian distributor of some the world’s top selling air springs for truck and bus suspensions says the counterfeit parts problem plaguing car makers is also compromising the safety of vehicles.
Air Springs Supply – distributor of Firestone Industrial air springs – is vigorously supporting new warnings from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries about the escalation of non-genuine parts coming into this country, including safety-critical components such as brake pads and airbags.
Air Springs Supply Sales Manager Russell Chown says the problem spotlighted by the Federal Chamber could be even more severe in its consequences in the work vehicle and trucking sector, if vehicles up to the size of road trains weighing more than 100 tons use non-genuine parts that fail in service with some of Australia's major industries that depend on good risk management by suppliers.
"The safety risks in heavier vehicles are even worse than in cars with non-genuine parts, because the bigger the vehicle the greater the hazards from compromised suspension reliability and stability. Local transport operators and businesses dependent on trucks – and that's nearly all of Australian industry – are open to safety and downtime risks when they are short-changed by some look-alike products that don't offer the same quality, performance and reliability as parts such as Firestone air springs, which are fitted as OEM parts on many of the world's leading trucks. It doesn't matter if you are carrying groceries or coal, people or manufactured products, the risks are not worth taking."
Chown said the issues arising from the counterfeit problem were clearly underlined by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries recently (May) in response to a report by the OECD and EU's Intellectual Property office that imports of counterfeit and pirated goods make up around 2.5 per cent of global imports in a trade worth billions of dollars a year.
"There are major downtime and safety risks with counterfeit air springs and with look-alikes, which can be marketed online and directly at cut prices – risks which are not always apparent to the naked eye but which are built in to copy products not subjected to the same manufacturing standards and performance testing.
"It's like buying cheap tyres for your most expensive business asset. You wouldn't do it. It is saving a few cents to risk big dollars. Yet a work vehicle's air suspension is every bit as important as tyres for reliability, safety and risk management across major industries using trucks, including automotive and transport, mining and resources, manufacturing and logistics, fleet management and contractors."
"We know imitation is meant to be the highest form of flattery, but cashing in on someone else's reputation is totally different. Firestone and Air Springs have spent decades building the air spring market by delivering high safety products that are so tough they are warranted to be free of material defects and/or workmanship for 3 years or 300,000 miles (480,000 kms) whichever occurs first. Firestone air bags often exceed 600,000 and 700,000 km."
Unknown operators selling cheaper products might disappear at the first sign of trouble and be nowhere to be found when things go wrong or an accident or insurance situation arises, says Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, which has 40 years' experience as Australia's leading supplier of Firestone air springs and associated pneumatic technology for the transport sector, including heavy duty Firestone Airride rolling sleeve and convoluted airbags and Ride-Rite and Coil- Rite supplementary air suspension kits for lighter trucks, utes, vans and 4wds.
"With Firestone, we back the performance and traceability of our product throughout Australia, where we've built up a formidable network to ensure truckies and work vehicle owners get the same quality as OEM's". Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd has enhanced its commitment to national and global standards of quality assurance by gaining ISO 9001: 2008 Quality Management Systems – Requirements certification.
"Substitute airbags can be closely modeled on the appearance of Firestone original, but many have problems associated with poorer quality design, engineering and construction. This can adversely affect reliability, serviceability and risk management, which are crucial to transport operators," says Chown. "Sensible operators wouldn't think of putting their costly vehicles on inferior look-alike tyres – that would be appalling risk management – so why would they fit suspension look-alike products inferior to the world's Number One air spring, which is used as OEM technology by leading truck makers?
The first step in determining whether a product is a genuine Firestone Airide air bag is to read the assembly order number (AON) on the label adhered to the bead plate i.e., W01-358-9082). If the number is illegible, read the bellows number which is normally molded directly underneath the Firestone logo. A style number such as 1T15M-6 or 22 would tell exactly which bellows is needed and one could skip steps 2 and 3. If the bellows number is illegible, then determine whether it is a convoluted style or a 1T style by comparing it to the pictures in this guide. Where further verification if required, the Firestone Air Spring replacement guide provides comprehensive, illustrated advice.