Left holding a dual-steer street sweeper chassis design following the closure of a customer about 2 ½ years ago, Gary Jones and his team debated what to do.
“When the company went under, we said ‘what are we going to do?’” Jones told Fleet Owner. “So I said, ‘why not just build a truck? The more we got into it, the more we kind of liked it.”
So Jones, who has more than 30 years of experience designing chassis and manufacturing processes, and his small team decided they could use that street sweeper chassis, rework it and launch their own truck business.
“I cut my teeth at a small company [Skillcraft Industries] helping design the first ADA-compliant bus chassis in the early 1980s,” he said. “We’re not rookies at this. We’ve started up about four or five chassis plants.”
The group worked to modify the chassis to fit its dreams of creating a line of Class 4-7 cabover trucks that customers can “customize” and this past January, that dream took a step closer to reality. Rainier Truck & Chassis LLC, based in Yakima, WA, was born with plans to make the models available for purchase in October, Jones said.
Jones believes the market for custom Class 4-7 trucks is easily 500 to 1,000 vehicles a year and he hopes Rainer will be producing at least 250 of those fairly quickly.
“There are folks coming to us who are not satisfied with the [cookie-cutter] options” available on Class 4-7 vehicles, he said. “I don’t think [the other OEMs] will go to the degree of customization we will. There is a need for custom COE trucks and that’s where we will focus.”
Jones, who has experience working with Safari Motorhomes and Tiffin Motorhomes, said that one concern was building a quality truck. The models will not be imported vehicles – they will be built in Yakima, he noted - and to ensure quality, Rainer has reached agreement with Cummins for engines, Allison Transmission for transmissions, and Dana for axles, among others.
One of the advantages of the vehicles will be their commonality. Jones said the cabs are the same across the line, as are the rails and many other parts. Components that affect the weight ratings are among the few parts that will vary. A 12V electrical system is standard. From there, customers will be able to spec their own features, such as wide single rear wheels or extra holes in the frames to allow wheelbases to change.
“We know the market and the guys we are after and we wanted to get bullet-proof trucks out there,” Jones said, adding that the basic premise of the business is to cut out the middleman and offer modifications direct from the factory.
The company will offer a 36-month warranty on the base vehicles with 48 months on the cab, 60 months on the frame and crossmembers, and a 2-year towing and roadside assistance program that covers all towing charges. Service will be provided direct from the factory and dealers. Warranties on the engines and transmission will be covered by Cummins and Allison, respectively.
“We have very good relationships [with suppliers],” Jones said. “[The key to success is] reputation and you can’t screw that up. Commitment matters and if you say you are going to do something, you have to follow through on that.”
Jones said there are several dealers who are very interested in offering the trucks.
Among the models that will be available are the Class 4 RT 1600, which has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 16,000 lbs.; the Class 5 RT 1950 offers GVW of 19,500 lbs.; the Class 6 RT 2600 has GVW of 26,000 lbs.; and the Class 7 RT 3300 has GVW of 33,000 lbs.
The Class 4 and 5 vehicles feature wheelbases ranging from 117 in. to 233 in. and overall length of 226 in. to 394 in. and height of 108.6 in. Cab-to-axle length ranges from 84 in. to 180 in. They come with 19.5 in. tires and are powered by a Cummins ISB 6.7L turbo charged engine producing 200 hp. and 520 lbs.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm. They also have an Allison 2500 RDS six-speed automatic transmission.
The Class 6 RT 2600 and Class 7 have wheelbases from 153 in. to 293 in., overall length of 278 in. to 466 in. and height of 113 in. with cab-to-axle lengths of 120 in. to 240 in. It also comes standard with the Cummins ISB 6.7L engine with the same 200 hp. and 520 lbs.-ft. of torque and Allison 2500 transmission.
All the vehicles come with a host of features and options, including more powerful diesel engine ratings, gasoline engines and alternative fuel options.
The trucks are designed for vertical or horizontal exhaust configuration, single or dual steer and can be used in such applications as urban delivery, towing, refrigerated vans, landscaping, street sweepers, refuse, and on highway duty cycles.
Available engines will include the Cummins ISB 6.7L turbo diesel, the PSI 8.8L or 6.0L gasoline engines. Allison six-speed transmissions standard with power take off provision and equipped with the Generation V control module for smooth operation and feature load-based shift scheduling (LBSS) are also part of the package. A trio of Dana axles are available.
Vertical or horizontal exhaust configurations are available as are alternative compressed natural gas/LPG powertrains.