Member Spotlight: Base Air’s Mark Thiele

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more passionate industry person than Mark Thiele. After a multi-decade career in transport (and a large stint with Toll) the ever-effervescent Thiele is now finding his kicks as the new managing director of the suspension modification system business, Base Air.

The brainchild of founder Matthew Vaughan, Base Air is an air pressure control system designed to improve efficiency and safety through the typical air suspension on a prime mover or a semi-trailer.

Now operating across multiple major fleets, and distributed through major networks, we recently sat down with Thiele at its Gold Coast HQ to discuss the origins of Base Air, its recent HVIA Safety Innovation Award, and the companies that are adopting the technology.

Q: How did Base Air begin?

Our founder, Matthew Vaughan, has been working on the Base Air project for 17 years.

Hailing from Victoria, he went to America and did a lot of testing and trialling over there hoping to find a solution for a better and more comfortable truck.

The results all came back – we needed to balance the air on either side of vehicle. So, he developed a method called crossflow technology.

He (Matthew) then sourced a quality valve manufacturer, Camozzi from Italy, to make our valves under patent and Matthew’s been out here trying to progress it through the industry ever since.

Q: For the non-experts, how does it work?

Typical truck or trailer air suspension manages pressure using either one height control valve (HCV), or two. These create single or dual-circuit air systems. It sounds complicated – because it is.

However, the only thing that’s important here to know, is that each setup has its own pros and cons.

Generally, vehicles with single air circuits (like most trailers) are better suited to stable, level pieces of road. Vehicles with two circuits (like some prime-movers) are better at maintaining stability when entering large bends, or unstable pieces of road. In these vehicles, however, there is difficulty sustaining equal pressure across both circuits over time.

Base Air allows a truck or trailer to have a single or dual circuit air system, as required.

We use two HCVs, a dual pressure protection valve, and unique crossflow technology, to achieve this. The two HCVs can “talk” to each other, via this crossflow technology, and decide by themselves when to be individuals, and when to come together.

We integrate into existing air suspension and have been certified by all the major OEMs (Hendrickson, SAF-Holland and BPW).

For the non-expert, Base Air is a best-of-both-worlds solution, that maintains stability for driver and freight across varying road conditions.

Q: How did you come across Base Air?

Matthew and the staunch supporter of Base Air, the famous journalist Ray Martin, approached Toll many years ago when I was still working there as National Fleet Procurement Manager. They mentioned that they had this dual HCV system and I must admit I thought “Here we go again, someone else is trying to sell us something”.

But Toll gave me Base Air to test and trial over the next two years. I tested the system on a lot of vehicles within the Toll business and quickly understood how good it was.

I was so impressed with it that Matthew asked me if I would come on board and set this place up. They were working out of a little garage in Toowoomba with a couple hundred bits and pieces of fittings and that sort of stuff.

Q: Who has Base Air right now?

At the moment we’ve got Wickham’s, Blenner’s, Martin’s, Emerald Carrying, FuelTrans, Monaro Fuel, Visy, Camlin Transport, Colpak Logistics, to name a few.

There are still a lot of operators out there to chat to, but Martin’s would have to be our biggest supporter.

Q: What results are your customers seeing?

Our clients are indicating that the system makes the truck much easier to drive, the drive is also more predictable and allows the driver to put the truck where he wants it to go and it stays there.

This is then helping driver fatigue and safety.

Due to the equal and even pressure, we’re also finding tyre wear is reduced , providing the operators with cost savings.

Q: Who should have Base Air?

Our opinion is that Base Air should be fitted to all dangerous goods trucks, no ifs or buts.

But all trucks will benefit from the system, general freight, heavy haulage, and all that stuff should have Base Air fitted, a bit like EBS.

Q: Is there the potential for a factory option at Kenworth?

PACCAR Parts is our distribution partner for Base Air, having stock at all 57 Australian dealerships. We also have a network of 30 + accredited installers nationwide.

We have several trailer OEM’s already installing Base Air down their manufacturing assembly lines: Haulmark Trailers, Tieman, Holmwood Highgate, CIMC, Rytrans, Byrne Trailers, Cannon Trailers, Jamieson Trailers, Vawdrey, Tuff Trailers, ATE Tankers, TUFF Trailers, Bruce Rock Engineering and Metro Engineering.

Q: Your system was acknowledged recently with the HVIA Safety Innovation Award. Was this expected?

We were in great company with the quality of the safety innovations also in contention, so we didn’t expect it.

After the consistent feedback from drivers over the last three years, however, we were not surprised – if that makes sense.

We have over 600 Base Air-equipped vehicles on the road right now and the overwhelming response from drivers has been how safer they feel, and how less fatigued they are at the end of the journey.

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