Freightliner upgrades medium-duty, vocational lineup with new Plus series

Sept. 13, 2022
Freightliner has enhanced versions of its M2 and SD models, including the M2 106 Plus, M2 112 Plus, 108SD Plus, and 114SD Plus, providing a major update to the interior and electrical systems.

YPSILANTI, MichiganFleet and their drivers’ needs are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Truck interiors matter. Safety matters. Serviceability matters. Performance, productivity, durability, maneuverability—they all matter.  

That’s why after decades of strong performance in the vocational market, Freightliner is now introducing its new Plus series—enhanced versions of its M2 and SD models, including the M2 106 Plus, M2 112 Plus, 108SD Plus, and 114SD Plus. Introduced more than 20 years ago, the M2 lineup historically has been Daimler Truck North America’s (DTNA) best-selling medium-duty product, company representatives told industry media during a ride-and-drive event at the American Center for Mobility here in late July.

The enhanced models provide a major update to the interior and electrical systems of the M2 and SD models. Collectively, the Plus series is designed to take Freightliner’s medium-duty and vocational lineup to the next level with improved driver comfort and increased productivity potential, according to DTNA.  

The new Plus series will succeed the legacy M2 and SD products. The ramp-up of the Plus series production is set to begin in Q3 2023. 

New interior

The new Plus series trucks now feature an all-new interior designed for a more comfortable, safer driving experience with improved ergonomics and increased storage. Enhancements include all-new trim levels designed for customer preference and applications; improved insulation that muffles exterior noise and provides greater thermal efficiency; a driver-centric dash and information center; a customizable switch layout; ergonomic seating; steering wheel with integrated controls; a transmission control stalk that allows automated manual and automatic shifting and engine braking functions from the column for safer operation; and a configurable dash panel featuring 2.5 times more space for truck equipment manufacturers to utilize.

"Creating the Plus Series had to do with the operator and the driver experience," explained Greg Treinen, DTNA heavy vocational product marketing manager. "These drivers are sitting in their office for eight to 10 hours a day."

Some of the key customer feedback Treinen and his team heard was that fleets and drivers loved legacy-model features like visibility, maneuverability, cab durability, cab construction and configurations, frame rails, and back-of-cab updates from years ago.

"While the Plus Series represents a major change, there has been an evolution over time," he pointed out. "They love all those features we talked about, but the interior was something we really needed to focus on to keep that leadership position in the market."

One notable update is an improved door panel and dash material for reduced squeaks and rattles on off-road job sites. The team also integrated a new grab pocket on the door so an adult up to 300 lb. could utilize the pocket as an additional point of contact for safety.

Also optional on both sides of the cab are aluminum kickplates so workers could kick debris from their shoes on job sites that have a lot of mud and grime.

"Our product updates are very customer-driven, so if you look at the M2 from the medium-duty perspective, it has been such a strong performer in the marketplace," Mary Aufdemberg, DTNA’s general manager of product strategy and market development, told FleetOwner. "It has been the market-share leader for so long, so we haven’t had to update it. Then, it became time. It became a matter of where do we want to focus our updates and what’s most important. Safety is definitely a big piece of that.'

"As the world evolves, driver expectations evolve," she added. "That led to the interior update that has controls at your fingertips and a quieter, more comfortable ride."

Safety and connectivity

For the first time, the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of safety systems is now available across Freightliner’s entire vocational and medium-duty truck lineup.

Fleets selecting the combination of Detroit engine and DT12 transmission have access to the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of safety systems. In addition to being available with all Detroit engine models, customers will for the first time be able to order certain Detroit Assurance features when spec’ing a Cummins engine.

Standard selected safety featuresincluding active brake assist, lane departure warning, and optional side guard assistallow for increased safety on the road or job site. Additional features like Adaptive Cruise Control, which automatically adjusts cruising speed to maintain a safe following distance, will become available with the Plus series start of production in Q3 2023.

“Safety was not as much a pull from this market early on,” Aufdemberg told FleetOwner. “Even though safety first entered the long haul and highway market, there was a lot of education that was happening early on in the automotive industry from a safety perspective as well. As you start to see the success grow in the highway market, that starts to hit the news, and people think, 'This is a system that makes sense,' and they are asking for more features that would work for them."

"In the medium-duty space, fleets are starting to say, 'This is really great. We are on smaller roads and in cities, and we need better maneuverability,'" Aufdemberg added. "As you start to implement the pedestrian safety options and sideguard assist safety options, it becomes a really good fit. Customers began to recognize that and start to ask for it in this market as well."

Outfitted with the Detroit Connect Suite of Connectivity Systems, Plus series fleets will receive key information about vehicle performance that empowers better decision-making and reduces downtime. For example:

Within minutes of a fault event, Virtual Technician remote diagnostic service informs fleets of the severity of the fault and when, where,  and how to best fix the issue.

Remote Updates uses over-the-air programming capabilities to make engine parameter and other updates.

Detroit Connect Analytics provide users with on-demand, automated analysis, identifying behaviors and trends and providing actionable insights on fuel consumption and safety performance data.

Safety Event Viewer enables visibility into driver safety performance, notifying fleets of collision mitigation events. It will show the time, date, and location of an event, plus the vehicle speed at the time of the event and the duration of the event. This record-keeping allows Detroit Connect users to monitor and track all critical events and take action to increase the safety of trucks on the road and job site (standard with Detroit Assurance with Active Brake Assist 5).

Powertrain and transmission

The 114SD Plus features the latest in Detroit’s heavy-duty engine lineup, the DD13 Gen 5. It also offers new vocational power ratings as well as enhanced performance, uptime, and reliability. Its rapid torque feature gets payloads moving quickly. Additionally, ThermoCoasting in the DD13 Gen 5 prevents aftertreatment cool down during a driving regen to keep the system at its optimum temperature and significantly reduces the need for parked regens.

Built for vocational performance, durability, and low-speed maneuverability, the Detroit DT12-V transmission is ready for any challenge on the work site. It has Off-Road Mode that features aggressive shifting for sustained momentum and ultimate performance on any terrain; Hill Start Aid to guard against rolling back on steep grades; and Rock-Free Mode to reduce downtime caused by wheel-stuck situations. Paver Mode allows a dump truck to shift from neutral to drive without pressing the brake pedal, ensuring a steady flow to the paving machine.

Depending on truck model, the Plus series lineup will also feature the Cummins B6.7, L9 and X12 diesel engine options as well as L9N and ISX12N natural gas-powered engines. Eaton manual and automated manual transmissions and Allison automatic transmissions are also available in Plus series trucks.

Upfit efficiency

The Plus series was engineered to lead the industry in upfit efficiency with the introduction of the QuickFit Electrical System.

QuickFit features a new multiplexed architecture that makes integrating truck equipment to the vehicle easier than ever. QuickFit delivers access to critical connection points, more power sources, programmable switches, customizable parameters, and interlock features, making upfits more flexible, more reliable, and more durable.

"It was time to make sure that we were on that leading edge of making sure that our truck equipment manufacturers (TEMs) be really efficient when they are upfitting our trucks for bodies," Aufdemberg said. "So, having the QuickFit, having the improved dash layout with more switch capacity and easier to reach switches was a really important part, too." 

The Daimler Truck North America CHEC Tool provides an interface to view and modify electrical configurations and change parameters in minutes, keeping customization fast, seamless and efficient. With the power of QuickFit and CHEC Tool, tasks that were once considered too complex, expensive, or impossible can be accomplished more easily and efficiently.

With the introduction of the Plus series trucks, key electrical components were also relocated to provide improved isolation from external variables and road debris that can cause downtime.

Production of the Plus series will begin Q3 2023 at the DTNA Mount Holly, North Carolina, and Santiago Tianguistenco, Mexico, truck manufacturing plants. 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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