When it comes to detailing what’s truly “new” regarding this year’s crop of new models, it’s not all about the physical components that make up tractors and trucks anymore. Sure, we can talk about engine offerings, aerodynamic shaping, brake system types, and much more. Yet often, many of the new features on a commercial vehicle touted as a new model today are now also centering on items such as built-in remote diagnostic capabilities or new telematics packages that help foster deeper collaboration between fleets and other customers, dealers and specific OEMs.
Some of the new upgrades involve the addition of alternative fuel packages that allow certain trucks to be reconfigured to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), propane, electricity, or some form of energy that isn’t purely diesel or gasoline fuel. General Motors is one OEM making a big push in that direction for this year as well as 2018 and beyond.
Often, too, the “new model” designation encompasses enhancements made to a particular configuration within certain truck brands—enhancements that focus on vocational applications, or ones related to fuel economy.
Then there are the custom configurations OEMs are introducing across the truck spectrum, especially in the light vehicle space, to try to capture more business from consumers and commercial clients alike by offering beefier off-road specs or work truck packages that better tune vehicles for specific kinds of operating environments.
Ram Trucks has been very involved in this type of activity of late. So have other OEMs—it’s all part of creating more versatile work tools for the commercial fleet customer in the modern era, explained John Schwegman, U.S. director of commercial product and medium duty for the General Motors fleet division. In an interview with Fleet Owner, he stressed that although the demand for greater fuel economy “has always been important and will stay that way,” especially for light- and medium-duty units, the desire now is for more options and overall capability when it comes to vocational-focused platforms.
“These fleets don’t want a lot of frills, but they do want functionality,” he explained. “They don’t want leather interiors or chrome, but they do want safety features such as collision mitigation and automatic emergency braking systems. There is a definite trend towards a willingness to pay for them.”
That’s one reason that more mid-level and base-level trim packages will incorporate safety technology now and in the future. “They’ve become very popular [systems] across the work truck buyer spectrum; we’ve heard that loud and clear,” Schwegman noted.
That holds true on the heavy-duty end of the truck spectrum as well. For example, Peterbilt Motors is making the Bendix Wingman Advanced collision mitigation technology package a standard feature on its Model 579 highway tractor, while Navistar is going to make Bendix-brand air disc brakes standard equipment on each axle of its brand-new LT Series highway tractor.
While the goal of such new model features is to improve safety for truck drivers and other motorists surrounding them on the highway, there are potentially big cost benefits for trucking companies, too. In fact, one fleet that tested collision mitigation technology found it reduced rear-end crashes by about 70% while also cutting by 70% the severity of the remaining 30% of crashes.
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