thumbnail group

Connect With Us:

ME Channels / Motorized Vehicles

Access Hardware Technology Goes Off Road


Off-highway equipment is starting to appreciate the benefits of automotive technology for use in the cab and chassis enclosure. 

The upsurge of new technology available to the off-highway industry has provided engineers with a multitude of design options for interior cab and chassis enclosure applications. Influences from the automotive industry have led to the incorporation of next-generation technology into off-highway applications, offering more benefits to the end user. Because off-highway equipment operators often spend long periods of time within vehicle cabs, equipment manufacturers are increasing their focus on enhancing comfort and convenience. Many are choosing to integrate features from automotive applications into off-highway designs to improve the end-user experience despite adverse off-highway environments and long hours of operation.

Two common automotive technologies surfacing in off-highway equipment applications today are electromechanical locks and latches (EMLs) and Common in automobiles, electronic access solutions are beginning to find their way into the hands of off-highway equipment operators.position control devices for touchscreens. 


Positioning Technology

Advancements in electronics are leading the way in off-highway equipment applications as manufacturers incorporate these features into their designs to accommodate operator preferences. The shift from analog to digital control systems and the availability of touchscreen technology, for example, have allowed the companies that manufacture them to incorporate more features into operating system controls. With the increasing use of touchscreen technology to monitor and control vehicle systems, off-highway equipment manufacturers are outfitting vehicles with display mounts that allow for greater control of the LCD screen.

For instance, industry safety trends are influencing off-highway equipment manufacturers to maximize visibility in the cab. More glass, however, means more glare for the operator. To alleviate this issue, engineers are integrating positioning solutions such as display mounts that enable effortless display positioning and infinite angle options.

In applications requiring more adjustment, such as when operator height must be accommodated, there are tilt and swivel mounts that tilt both vertically and horizontally, with a range of motion stops for added flexibility. The positioning capabilities of the mount allow the screen to be tilted in different directions to suit the height differences of multiple operators who may use the same vehicle. 

Position control solutions chosen for off-highway applications should be robust in their construction and able to withstand vibration and bumping that may result during operation and transportation. To accommodate operator preference, it is essential that a display mount support the screen or monitor when it must remain stationary, yet be easy to move when repositioning is required. Display mounts should offer a full range of motion, easily allowing the operator to hold a screen in a precise position without any setscrews, torque handles or other user intervention.

Off-highway equipment operates under far more punishing conditions than do passenger vehicles, so components must be robust.

When specifying display mounts into off-highway designs, it is important to select components capable of a reliable, repeatable cycle life that outlasts the lifetime of the vehicle. Mounts should be designed to prevent the slow fading from a user-set position to an undesirable position, known as drift, eliminating the need for service or adjustment.

Electronic Access Solutions

Another area of new technology growth in the off-highway industry is the transition from mechanical to intelligent electronic operation. As new technologies become more readily available, manufacturers are seeking products that simplify integration and offer enhanced safety features to the end user. Electronic access solutions (EAS), for example, streamline the incorporation of standard automotive features, such as remote-controlled, keyless entry door systems into off-highway equipment. An EAS is composed of three primary components: an access control or input device, an EML and a system for monitoring the status of the access point.

RFID access control devices provide keyless electronic actuation in entry door application and improve the operator experience. When used together with a key fob-style wireless transmitter, the Southco RF Wireless Controller allows for remote locking and unlocking when combined with an EML, such as Southco’s Electronic Rotary Latch. This EML works similar to a standard rotary latch, but facilitates electronic actuation through the use of the controller.

The controller can protect off-highway vehicles against the threat of theft or misuse on the job site. When used as part of a complete electronic access system, key fobs replace mechanical keys and add convenience for the operator, who can easily lock the cab from the ground. Installing a wireless system replaces universal existing lock-and-key mechanisms that come standard with off-highway vehicles, and because the locking mechanism is housed inside the enclosure, creates a clean exterior appearance that protects it from vandalism.
An electromechanical lock is the central component of an electronic access solution.
New advancements in technology have also enabled electronic locking where it was previously not possible. Southco’s Sealed Heavy Duty Electronic Actuator, for example, provides powerful electronic actuation in outdoor environments. This fully-enclosed actuator is constructed of corrosion-resistant materials that protect the mechanism against moisture and dust, and can be used to actuate mechanical locks and latches. The actuator operates via signals received from access control devices, which actuate the connected rotary latch to remotely open the door.

The flexibility that electronic access solutions offer allows them to be integrated into many off-highway enclosure applications such as engine covers, baggage doors, access panels, tool boxes, truck hoods and storage compartments. When specifying an electronic access system, it is important to choose an EAS that enables access management and prevents unauthorized access through the use of concealed latching that eliminates vandal entry points. An effective electronic access system should allow the convenient, simultaneous locking or unlocking multiple access points. Additionally, an EAS must be designed with a mechanical override feature to allow manual release in the event of a power failure.

Changing Market Standards

As new technologies continue to emerge in the off-highway industry, manufacturers face challenges in meeting regionalized regulations in the global manufacturing environment. Requirements within the global off-highway sector dictate standards for materials used in the production of component parts, such as metals and chemicals, as well as requirements for withstanding shock and vibration.

In anticipation to changes to RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive 2011/65/EU, which is scheduled for review by the European Union (EU) in 2016, manufacturers and suppliers who export to the EU as well as around the world are exhausting products that contain lead. In response, engineers must ensure that their designs contain components that are free of this material.

Another EU-mandated requirement is compliance with REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals). Regulation No. 1907/2006 establishes specific duties and obligations on companies in the EU that manufacture or import chemical substances on their own, in preparations, or in articles. Because a part has the potential to be recycled from one vehicle to another, manufacturers of off-highway equipment must ensure that their global suppliers are compliant with REACH to protect future end users as well.

North American Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) dictate everything from materials used to operating temperatures and crash sustainability in the production of vehicle parts. Because many off-highway OEMs produce vehicles in locations around the world, components designed into applications must be consistent across regions in order to maintain compliance with FMVSS.

To ensure the global accessibility of their products, off-highway equipment manufacturers must choose parts that perform against even the most stringent requirements.

Global Design and Supply Requirements

Balancing product development and supplier budgets continues to be a struggle due to the ever-changing state of the global economy. In response, many manufacturers have chosen to meet their global supply needs by designing and manufacturing components closer to the source of demand.

Global supply needs often dictate how designers decide which parts to use, because import/export cost can be high and can impact overall production costs. By integrating locally-produced components, off-highway equipment manufacturers investing in new technologies will experience decreased cycle times and reduced product development costs. Using regionally serviced parts also helps manufacturers reduce inventory without compromising service or productivity.

From interior applications such as storage compartments and entry doors, to exterior engine hood releases and toolboxes, off-highway designs must optimize durability, safety and performance and lower cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle. Additionally, off-highway vehicle maintenance needs require replacement parts that can be secured quickly, due to mounting costs that operators face when vehicles are out of service.


Choosing an Off-Highway Solutions Supplier

When selecting an access hardware solutions provider, it is important to select a supplier that offers best-in-class, industry-standard products for the off-highway industry and also has the capacity to integrate new technology trends into its product offering.

Because the overall shape and design of cabs and chassis are constantly evolving, off-the-shelf solutions may not always be an option when specifying a new access hardware application. A supplier must have the ability to modify proven solutions or integrate them into custom designs to accommodate these changing design trends. To meet the needs of new design applications, a supplier must possess the capability to leverage its engineering leadership to provide new technologies that build upon core access hardware solutions.

Products incorporating new technology must be compliant with global industry standards no matter where they are manufactured. Choosing a supplier with a global footprint allows manufacturers to secure resources wherever they are in the world—allowing an application to be designed in one country and manufactured in another, and facilitating the sourcing of replacement parts.

A best-in-class off-highway access hardware solutions provider should have the following characteristics:

  • Global supply and manufacturing presence
  • Meets industry compliance standards across the globe
  • Core line of hardware that meets interior and exterior off-highway application needs
  • Cutting-edge, innovative product design and development to meet next generation end user needs 

Edited by Yearbook Editor James D. Sawyer from material supplied by Southco Inc.

This article was first published as a digital exclusive for the 2013 edition of the Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing Yearbook. 

Published Date : 10/18/2013

Editor's Picks

Advanced Manufacturing Media - SME
U.S. Office  |  One SME Drive, Dearborn, MI 48128  |  Customer Care: 800.733.4763  |  313.425.3000
Canadian Office  |  7100 Woodbine Avenue, Suite 312, Markham, ON, L3R 5J2  888.322.7333
Tooling U  |   3615 Superior Avenue East, Building 44, 6th Floor, Cleveland, OH 44114  |  866.706.8665