May 1, 2005
After enduring three years of turmoil and slow sales, the prospect of healthy fleet balance sheets and a resulting jump in new-truck orders were the big news at the Kentucky Fairgrounds this year,

Inside among endless exhibit booths or outside around gleaming show trucks, every square foot of this year's Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville fairly shouted that trucking is surefootedly on the rise.

Speaking of feet, foot traffic is as good a measure as any of the success of a trade show and, by extension, the state of the industry it serves.

And this year trucking's big show was packed. Far from resounding with groaning by exhibitors about firing off cannons and not hitting anyone, these exhibit halls echoed with the trudge of happy if sore feet belonging to attendees determined to root out what was new — or about to be new — for trucks and the truckers who love them.

According to show organizer Exhibit Management Associates (EMA), MATS '05 showcased 1,800 exhibitors whose booths covered 1-million sq. ft. of exhibit space and drew in 75,650 visitors from all 50 states and over 40 foreign countries. “We were proud to present the largest Mid-America on record based on the square footage of exhibit space,” noted EMA president Tim Young.

He wasn't the only one smiling by week's end. The fine Kentucky spring weather blessing MATS each day was outshone by the optimism expressed by top executives of truck OEMs and industry suppliers at the show.

But that's not to say anyone was speaking from behind rose-colored glasses. Rather, the optimistic remarks were tempered in nearly every instance by comments acknowledging the challenges still facing trucking and its supplier base.

Indeed, Tom Plimpton, president of Paccar Inc. (parent firm of Kenworth and Peterbilt) said growth in the truck market will depend on how truck OEMs and their suppliers respond to today's demand for more new trucks.

“Growth in the truck [manufacturing] market is obvious,” said Plimpton in his address to the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Assn. at MATS. “But we can position ourselves better for upswings to supply customers [with enough trucks].” He said the Class 8 outlook for '05 is in the range of 270,000-280,000 units [U.S. and Canada].

Plimpton was in line with remarks made by other OEM chiefs at the show that suggested truck makers could build more trucks were there enough of the right OE parts at all the right times in the supply chain.

He said part of the solution rests with suppliers relying not only on “pull-through marketing” to get their products spec'd by fleets but on more “early cooperation” with OEMs to attain product positioning.

According to Plimpton, all suppliers should do as Paccar does and benchmark against their competition, as well as leaders in other industries.

“Investments are required,” he continued, “because the industry is growing. And the prudent OEM invests in their suppliers. It's all about satisfying the customer — and customer demands are growing.”

Plimpton also pointed out that as “Asia recovers and China grows, high commodity prices per ton may be the new reality” for manufacturers. As for diesel fuel prices, he said it is “not a question of if, but when oil prices will rise to $70 or $80 per gallon.” He said high diesel prices don't just hurt truck operators but also “lower overall consumer demand — which hurts everyone.”

Turning to issues affecting truck operators, Plimpton said there will always be a technician shortage, so manufacturers must help to recruit and train techs. As for curbing the driver shortage, Plimpton suggested that “trucking must become a real job of choice; a fulfilling profession,” if all needed drivers' seats are to be filled.

By show week, OEMs seemed to have reached a consensus that a robust economy, coupled with pent-up replacement demand, will make 2005 a banner year for truck sales.

Peterbilt, a division of Paccar, predicted '05 will be another record year in North America for Class 8 and medium-duty truck sales. In '04, total sales of Class 8 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada exceeded 233,000 units — an increase of 42% over 2003. Topping that, this year Peterbilt is forecasting Class 8 sales of between 270,000 and 280,000 units — an increase of about 18%. And the OEM said medium-duty sales are expected to total between 90,000 and 100,000 units.

Kenworth, also a Paccar division, concurred that North American Class 8 sales will end reach the 270,000 to 280,000 level.

Freightliner, a unit of DaimlerChrysler, expects sales in the Class 8 market to increase 19% over 2004 to 280,000 units, with Class 6-7 sales climbing 18% to 190,000 units.

Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA), a subsidiary of AB Volvo, figures truck sales will grow about 15% to 20% over 2004 across all segments, including truckload and LTL carriers, construction fleets, leasing and rental fleets, and owner-operators.


But despite such happy prognoses, wet blankets hover. The driver shortage for one will continue to tamp down truck demand as will lofty fuel prices and uncertainty over how the hours-of-service issue will be resolved.

Although Peterbilt cited fleet expansion as a key factor driving '05 truck sales, Volvo disagrees. “We're seeing replacement demand; not growth,” said Scott Kress, VTNA's senior vp-sales & marketing. “Having said that, though, freight is still strong, financing is widely available, and fuel surcharges are helping manage higher diesel prices. We think 2005 is going to be a very good year for the industry.”

Fuel prices were widely cited as a problem that's here to stay. “The upward trend in fuel prices is forecasted to remain for the rest of 2005,” said Dan Sobic, Peterbilt's general manager. “Though many fleets are recouping that higher fuel expense through fuel surcharges, and shippers are willing to pay those surcharges to get capacity, it's proving much more difficult for the owner-operator” to manage.

“Diesel fuel prices remain a concern,” said Rainer Schmueckle, president & CEO of Freightliner. “Prices have risen to an average of $2.25 per gallon in the U.S. And I am sticking with the forecast I made that we will see $3 a gallon diesel fuel within five years.”

High fuel prices heighten costs for fleets and OEMs alike. However, despite the pressure applied by higher raw material costs — especially steel — and spot component shortages, Schmueckle believes the worst is over.

“Raw material supply and cost issues should ease in the second half of 2005 and component shortages should ease after the first quarter,” he said. “We think we've seen the worst, although the high cost of oil and oil-related products adds some uncertainty.”

According to Kenworth general manager Bob Christensen, suppliers have done an “excellent job” helping the OEM keep up with truck demand. He said where there have been issues with component supplies, they have been “day to day” rather than systemic.

Christensen credited KW's dealers for their efforts to “work with their customers on an ongoing basis to know what their [vehicle] requirements will be so we can provide for them. If dealers can predict accurately,” he added, ‘we should have a good flow [of production] going right into 2007.”

Of course, '07 is a year on everyone's mind. Freightliner's Schmueckle took the opportunity to reassure fleet owners concerned about higher costs for EPA-'07-compliant engines. “I consider the outlook for 2007 to be better than everyone thinks,” he said. “No doubt the engines and technology will be more expensive, but we do not expect customer operations costs to go up more than 2%.

“I've heard the ‘doom and gloom’ forecasts for 2007 and its impact on the industry,” he added, “but I do not think those dismal predictions will come true.”

Given that all OEMs report they are working hard just to meet current new vehicle demand, it's little wonder that new truck models were not the big draw at the show.


Aside from Peterbilt's new aerodynamic Model 386, most OEMs showcased improvements to existing models or detailed a wide array of high-tech components and systems now being offered on their trucks. Chief among these were air disc brakes and electronic stability systems.

Other bright highlights included International's first showing of a Class 8 big bore diesel it is developing with partner MAN and engine updates from Caterpillar, Detroit Diesel and Volvo.

And finally, one more sign of good times being had by all was the announcement during the show that having successfully turned around Freightliner LLC, president & CEO Rainer Schmueckle was being promoted to chief operating officer of the Mercedes Car Group by DaimlerChrysler AG, parent firm of both operations. It was noted that, effective April 15, Chris Patterson, senior vp, service & parts for Freightliner LLC, would succeed Schmueckle at the truck OEM.

PETERBILT: New aero model, interior options

Adding another aerodynamic design to its lineup, Peterbilt Motors unveiled the 2006 Model 386 at the Mid-America Trucking Show. Sporting more “conventional” styling than the company's Model 387, the new premium Class 8 tractor is nonetheless 10% more aerodynamic than the truck it replaces, the Model 385-120, according to Peterbilt.

One major difference from the Model 385 is that the 386 is available with a full range of Unibilt sleepers, allowing original owners to remove sleeper compartments for a second or third life as a day cab in regional or vocational applications. A new chassis design also gives the Model 386 a new front axle position for improved weight loading and a tighter turning radius, as well as accommodating a lower radiator position. Other Model 386 features include multiplexed electronics, and advanced composite bumper and a redesigned headlamp system.

Production is scheduled to begin in July.

The company's entire 2006 lineup of Class 8 conventional trucks and tractors receive an interior redesign with three different trim level options. The platinum level tops the interior options for Peterbilt's 2006 Models 379, 386, 385, 378 and 357 with luxury materials like woodgrain finish and chrome gauge bezels on the dash, overhead lighting and a two-tone color finish throughout the cab. The mid-level prestige interior offers “practical luxury,” according to Peterbilt, and the ProBilt option is specifically designed for vocational applications.

Another significant change for Peterbilt's 2006 Class 8 models will be the availability of ABS-6, the next generation of the Bendix heavy-duty antilock braking system. An advanced version of ABS-6 will be offered later in the year, providing electronic stability control and automatic traction control.

DETROIT DIESEL: Series 60 improves mpg

Software modifications for the Series 60 14-liter heavy-duty diesel will improve fuel economy up to 1.9% in some applications, according to Detroit Diesel Corp. Announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show, the software adjustments to fuel injection and EGR flow are also backward-compatible with previous models, according to DDC president and CEO Carsten Reinhardt.

The company also announced that it is adding unrestricted 300- and 330-hp. ratings for its 7.2-liter MBE 900 diesel and a rear engine power-takeoff option for the heavy-duty MBE 4000.

Reporting on progress in its development of an all-new heavy-duty diesel that will meet emissions requirements in 2007 and beyond, Reinhardt said it is currently testing 230 engines in 100 vehicles and expects to have test engines in customer hands by late summer. The new engine is scheduled to go into production in late 2007. Work is also on schedule to have the Series 60, MBE 900 and MBE 4000 ready to meet the new emissions levels when they take effect in January 2007, he said.

FREIGHTLINER: Interior upgrades, disc brakes lead changes

A new standard instrument cluster and a redesigned interior for the Century Class S/T and Coronado were among the product and service changes announced by Freightliner Trucks at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The company also unveiled new air disc brake options for its heavy- and medium-duty trucks, optional noise abatement packages and a new lease program.

The instrument cluster places 8 to 12 removable gauges on a single-unit circuit board for improved reliability, according to the company. Backlighting is provided with LEDs designed to last the life of the vehicle, and LEDs are also used for all warning lights.

The new cluster also includes a Driver Message Center with LCD display and a 10-key keypad. It can display fuel consumption, incoming messages from wireless communications systems, outside air temperature as well as trip and diagnostic information.

The updated Driver's Lounge option for the Century Class S/T, Columbia and Coronado offers increased work space in a self-contained, fold-away table. The redesign adds legroom under the table and a wall-mounted lamp to illuminate it.

On the performance front, Freightliner is making Bendix/Spicer air-disc brakes optional on all of its Class 8 and Business Class M2 models. The disc option is said to reduce brake fade and improve pedal feel. It will be offered on Freightliner's proprietary front axles carrying 24.5-in. wheels.

A standard noise abatement package for the Business Class M2 medium-duty and vocational models features a decoupled barrier made from lightweight foam to minimize vibrations and noise traveling along the firewall, engine tunnel and floor. A new premium package reduces interior cab noise by another 50%, according to Freightliner.

The Columbia Class 8 model also gets a new optional premium noise reduction package with additional thermal insulation.

A new financing package called the 2005 BizLease Program allows qualified buyer to lease up to five Business Class M2 trucks on 48- or 60-month terms with minimal advance cash requirements. Provided by DaimlerChrysler Services Truck Finance, it gives customers the option of purchasing vehicles at the end of the lease or returning them to the dealer.

INTERNATIONAL: Big-bore diesels step out

International Truck and Engine Corp. announced its new family of International brand big-bore diesel engines in Louisville. The 11- to 13-liter engine range will be compliant with 2007 EPA emissions standards, according to the OEM, and is projected to be available on International Class 8 vehicles starting in the fall of 2007.

The new engines will be offered exclusively in International brand regional-haul and long-haul, as well as severe-service trucks. The OEM will continue to offer Cummins and Caterpillar big-bore engines in its Class 8 vehicles.

According to Dee Kapur, president, International Truck Group, the engine launch is the fruit of the previously announced strategic agreement between International and German truck and engine maker MAN Nutfahrzeuge to collaborate on the design, development, sourcing and manufacturing of components and systems for commercial trucks and diesel engines.

Jack Allen, president, International Engine Group, said the new engine is a “true big-bore platform” and will provide a “full step up in size and power” from International's mid-range diesels. Key features will include:

n Performance-driven, direct injection high-pressure common rail electronic fuel system capable of multiple injection events.

  • Durable single overhead cam actuated with 4-valves/cylinder and roller rocker arms.
  • Compacted graphite iron cylinder block for high strength and low weight.
  • Rugged gear-driven air compressor and power steering pump.
  • Rear gear train and pad mounted accessories designed for low noise.

According to Allen, the OEM is also expanding on the Green Diesel Technology platform it has been developing for engines over the last five years. “Green Diesel Technology allows for optimized drivability and life-cycle value, minimized emissions and a new level of driver comfort with very low noise and vibration.”

Allen said the new engine would be designed off a MAN base platform (the 10.5-liter MAN D29), which has been in production in Europe for one year. He noted International would begin field-testing its big-bore diesel in late spring 2006.

GREAT DANE: Lighter and stronger

Great Dane introduced a new insulation for its refrigerated trailers, called ThermoGuard. Rick Mullininx, vp-engineering, described the patent-pending insulation as a lightweight, thermoplastic liner that is puncture-resistant and glass-reinforced. ThermoGuard allows Great Dane to reduce the empty weight of its refrigerated trailer by 200 lb., yet provide a liner with 2.6 times more strength than traditional liners. It can also be “remelted” for quick in-place repairs, said Mullininx.

The key to ThermoGuard is that it does not degrade at the same speed as traditional insulation, according to Great Dane. After two years it is able to maintain its original insulation performance, which means the trailer's cooling unit does not have to work harder or longer to maintain internal temperature.

KENWORTH: Spotlight on interiors

Kenworth Truck Co.'s T600, T800, W900 and C500 Class 8 trucks for model-year 2006 sport all-new interiors that feature multiplexed electronics and luxury-automotive grade cab materials.

With 25 new standard features, over half of which were previously options, 2006 models include an instrumentation system with a new multiplexed design for enhanced reliability, serviceability and functionality. The speedometer and tachometer cluster, for example, has 2-in. gauges with chrome bezels. Also now standard are an outside temperature gauge, engine hour meter, odometer and trip odometer. In addition, LED back-lighting in the face plate and pointers makes it easier to read gauges and see warning lights.

Mike Dozier, Kenworth's new chief engineer, says wiring behind the dash has been greatly simplified, as well as color-coded and numbered for easier servicing. Positive locking connectors help ensure that the durability of critical connections is maintained, he adds. A computer-based diagnostic tool is available for the new instrumentation system.

Styling details for the new models include a new door pad with a “soft and very luxurious feel,” a dash top made of Recticel polyurethane — a material often used in luxury automobiles with a low-gloss finish to reduce sun glare — and wood grain trim on the instrument panel.

Class 8 trucks come in two trim levels for 2006: the classic Kenworth Diamond with its “rich, luxurious look” and the Splendor style, which includes a door map pocket. Both are available in four primary/trim color combinations.

The OEM has also addressed driver comfort: noise levels in the cab have been lowered by 20%; the steering wheel has a new turning stalk with intermittent wiper controls; and the pedals are more ergonomic.

Kenworth announced that it will offer the Bendix ABS-6 Advanced with ESP (Electronic Stability Program) as an option on selected heavy-duty models.


Webasto Product North America introduced BlueCool Truck, a non-idling sleeper berth cooling system. The patent-pending system is based on a cold storage cell that is charged during the day while the truck is in operation. At night, the system runs separately from the vehicle's air conditioner, using a small amount of electricity to circulate coolant and run four quiet fans, according to the company.

The 17,000 Btu cold storage unit can cool a truck's sleeper cab to below 70°F for approximately nine hours — even in 90°F ambient temperatures, Webasto added. Production will begin this summer.

GENERAL TIRE: Trio of Generals

Continental Tire North America (CTNA) introduced three new tires for its General brand at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY: a D660 drive tire, S580 steer tire and ST250 trailer tire.

Designed primarily for longhaul, over-the-road use, the D660 drive tire is built to maximize value, efficiency and performance for its user, explained Clif Armstrong, CTNA's marketing director for commercial vehicle tires group. “The D660 features outstanding qualities, including an extra deep 30/32-in. tread depth and a closed shoulder tread design,” he said. “These features provide long original mileage, even wear and excellent traction in all types of weather conditions. In addition, the General D660's innovative tread pattern and stone ejection system are designed to reduce stone retention and casing penetration allowing for multiple retreads.”

The General S580 steer tire features an 18/32-in., six-rib tread design to help provide long original mileage and low rolling resistance in order to boost fuel mileage. According to the company, the optimized footprint ensures even pressure distribution to resist irregular wear and provide long original tread life. The special shoulder protection rib is also intended to resist irregular shoulder wear.

Designed for value and performance, the General ST250 features a 13/32-in. tread depth to help minimize tread squirm and irregular wear. It also features the patented Visual Alignment Indicators on the outside rib of the tread face to alert users to tire tracking problems. Although the ST250 is engineered for use in trailer position, it can also be used in the steer position under specific applications.

MACK: Keep them doggies movin'

The Mack Rawhide is a new mid-rise sleeper model built to turn heads as well as make money for regional haulers. Built on the Advantage chassis, the new premium conventional features extensive use of chrome and stainless steel on the outside. Carrying the Western theme inside, there's generous use of wood grain trim and a classic “button-tuck” for the door panels. In keeping with it's hard working heritage, the new Rawhide interior also features advanced ergonomics and extensive soundproofing.

Mack also chose the Mid-America Trucking Show to introduce a new 70-in. high-rise version of its Vision model. Also built on the Advantage chassis, it offers a full range of driver amenities including double bunks.

HYDRACOOL: Diesel-less reefer

A new trailer refrigeration design cuts almost 1,000 lb. from diesel-powered units, according to its developer, HydraCool Inc. The new system is powered by a hydraulic pump attached to the main truck engine's PTO/REPTO and connected to the trailer by four quick-connect hoses.

The new system also features new cooling technology that is capable of maintaining temperatures as low as -39°F, according to Mark Champion, HydraCool's president and CEO. A “smart” controller records and verifies operating temperatures, which can be downloaded wirelessly to a PC via WiFi.

Production of the new reefer is scheduled to begin in July, and the company expects to product 100 units within six months.

ARVINMERITOR: DuraSlide rollout begins

The first phases of its new DuraSlide trailer air suspension, designed for sliding tandem dry van and refrigerated trailer applications, will be available beginning this month, according to ArvinMeritor Commercial Vehicle Systems.

The new sliding tandem air suspension system evolves from the RideStar RHP11 and includes engineering enhancements to several sub-components, which will be introduced in stages. Implementation will begin with the new upper control arms and Meritor 5000 Series axle. The introduction of the slider later this year will mark the final phase of evolution from the RHP11. At that time, the complete system will be available under the DuraSlide name (previously announced as the RXP Series).

The parallelogram DuraSlide suspension system is a “complete undercarriage solution,” designed to eliminate dock walk, provide a smooth ride and superior roll-stability, plus resistance to curbing damage, according to the company. The slider design is intended to optimize material placement for extra durability, while the new cross-member design is intended to offer pin mechanism protection. Relocation of the pin handle to the front of the suspension also offers easier access

ArvinMeritor also announced that the company has entered into a new alternative-power vehicle development program with Unicell Ltd., a medium-duty body builder with operations in Toronto, Ont., and Buffalo, NY. The new electric drive vehicle, with a GVWR of 16,000 lb., will be equipped with a fully electric drivetrain and will be demonstrated to the public in 2006, according to the company. The electric drivetrain system is expected to provide lower energy costs, zero emissions and significant operating efficiencies. The initial vehicle application is for P&D vehicles.

A marketing agreement with Consolidated Metco Inc. (ConMet) of Portland, OR, was also announced by ArvinMeritor CommercialVehicle Systems. Under the agreement, MeritorLite ductile iron hubs and ConMet PreSet bearing packages will be combined to create new PreSet Hub Assemblies. This exclusive agreement authorizes ArvinMeritor to globally market the PreSet Iron Hub Assemblies for trailer applications. Warranty coverage on the assembly will be 5 yr./500,000 mi.

VNL line gets D16 engine

Volvo Trucks North America announced that its new 16-liter Volvo D16 engine will be available with Volvo VNL line tractors. Orders for this configuration will be accepted beginning in June, with production starting in late August. The D16 will also be available in the premium owner-operator Volvo VT 880. For detailed information on the D16, see “Premium power” (p. 34) in the March 2005 issue of Fleet Owner.

In other Volvo news, the OEM's Enhanced Stability Control (ESC) will become standard on VN and VT trucks in North America beginning this summer. According to Volvo, the stability system provides some protection from truck rollovers and jackknifes using Bendix ABS-6 with ESC. (?)

ESC works by selectively applying the brakes on individual wheel ends, depending on driving conditions, vehicle speed and other inputs from onboard sensors, said Scott Kress, sr. vp-sales & marketing. “This assists the driver to reduce speed, keep the vehicle in proper alignment, and reduce the tendency for the truck and trailer to slide or jackknife,” he noted. The stability function, known as yaw control, offers a safety advantage in over-steer or under-steer situations, as well as and sudden transitions from dry to slippery surfaces.

Another element of the ESC system monitors inputs from sensors and applies all available brakes on a vehicle to rapidly reduce rollover potential while turning, said Kress. Rollover is an especially dangerous accident for truck drivers, contributing to more than half of all truck driver accident fatalities, he added.

“Safety is a core value not only for us but for the trucking industry,” Kress said. “Having stability control and rollover protection as standard for our trucks is just the right thing to do.”

TRUCK-LITE: LEDs go inside the trailer

Two new interior lamp options for trailers use LEDs to provide brighter, whiter light than incandescent and fluorescent lights, according to Truck-Lite Co. Both introduced at the Mid-America Trucking Show, the Model 80 is a direct replacement for most popular interior trailer lamps, and the LED Super Strip-Lite offers a new form factor that can be mounted on almost anywhere inside a van trailer.

The Model 80 LED is particularly well suited to refrigerated trailers because unlike fluorescent lights, LEDs don't flicker in low temperatures, the company says. It is housed in an aluminum housing, weighs 2 lb. and has minimal current draw.

The Super Strip-Lite places LED every four inches. along an aluminum channel. Offered in 2- and 4-ft. lengths, the strips can be mounted flat on body walls or roofs and can be linked together for long continuous runs. A corner-mount strip is also offered. Current draw is only 0.7 amps for a 2-ft. strip and 1.4 amps for a 4-ft. strip.

FMCSA: Buckle up

DOT Secretary Norman Mineta and FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg headlined a driver-focused event to kick off a renewed effort to increase seat-belt use.

“You're literally moving the economy,” Mineta said. “The trucking industry moved $6-trillion worth of goods last year from factories and farms to warehouses, stores, and doorsteps. But drivers never know what unexpected dangers might be around the corner as they perform their vital job. That's why we want them to be ready and buckle up.”

Mineta noted that while 80% of the American motoring public use their seat belts, less than half of commercial truck drivers do. And he used some rather grim statistics to illustrate the consequences: Of 620 truck drivers killed in 2003, half weren't wearing seat belts; of 171 ejected from their truck cabs, more than 80% weren't buckled up.

“Far too many truck drivers take it on faith that the size and weight of their rigs will protect them and that if they're a really good driver, they don't need to wear a seat belt,” he added. “But driving unbuckled is like playing Russian roulette…you never know when the loaded chamber will come around.”

Sandberg noted that other safety efforts are also being initiated to better protect commercial truck drivers, most notably several pilot programs to enforce better behavior on the part of passenger-car drivers.

“We're working on a pilot program [in Washington State] where we're putting state troopers in the truck cab to watch for car drivers that cut truckers off and thus reduce the safe following distance truck drivers need to maintain,” she said — to a huge round of applause from the truck drivers in the audience. “The troopers in the truck then call ahead to other officers who pull those car drivers over and issue citations.”

WESTERN STAR: LowMax gets lower

Western Star Trucks announced several updates to its product line at the Mid-America Trucking Show, including the following:

  • All models will be built with new insulation in the cab and sleeper beginning later in the year. Benefits include greater sound absorption and lighter weight.

  • 6900 XD Twin-Steer is now available with all-wheel drive, for applications requiring additional traction and power. Larger and more powerful, the AWD Twin-Steer has a dual circuit steering system and front suspension with improved mobility.

  • 109-in. BBC 4900 SA has been restyled to resemble the 123-in. BBC 4900 SA. Changes include stainless steel side intakes, improved visibility and increased aerodynamics.

The OEM also introduced a new ultra-low version of its LowMax chassis package:

  • Front suspensions drops 2.5 in. more than standard LowMax.

  • The rear suspension rides at 6 in. rather than 8 in.

  • Horizontal exhaust option.

  • Day cab configuration available for 4900 FA and 4900 EX.


MacLance Vehicle Systems' (MVS) Sta-Tite frame-fastening system is designed to maintain a tighter fit, yet is still easy to remove without special tools. Terry Mennen, vp of the MVS Commercial Vehicle Group, says a special lock thread bolt, coupled with a proprietary self-tensioning nut, provides a clamping force comparable to or better than those associated with traditional swage and break-off systems.

“Tests have shown that Sta-Tite provides exceptional vibration resistance and consistent torque tension control, making it ideal for common use on frame fastener applications and highly stressed joints,” says Mennen.

MVS designed the fastening system in response to customer demand for products that can be dis-assembled and re-assembled using conventional tools. “We found that fleets and independent maintenance facilities frequently resorted to torching off frame fasteners applied with ‘swage-type’ factory equipment,” he explains. “The specialized removal tools and tool maintenance requirements for those systems are quite costly, and generally out of reach of fleets and independent repair shops.”

MICHELIN: Wide line gets wider

Michelin had added a new drive tire to its X One wide single line with the introduction of the X One XDA-HT Plus. The new X One features a revised tread design that offers longer tread life while reducing road noise and stone retention, according to the company‥

Replacing the current X One XDA-HT, the new Plus model increases tread depth by 2/32-in. and tread width by 16 mm. It also offers better wet traction compared to the previous wide single tire drive model with optimized tread block distribution and wider groove bottoms, Michelin says.

Like all X One tires, the XDA-HT Plus is designed to replace a dual tire combination with a single wide tire, greatly reducing weight and offering significant fuel-economy improvements. All five X One tread designs feature Michelin's Co-Ex dual compound technology for optimizing retreadability and the company's patented Infincoil technology to help eliminate casing growth.

In other Michelin news, the company is re-releasing its XDN 2 as an “all season” drive tire. The XDN 2 maintains long tread life with tread-locking Matrix siping that allows the tread blocks to function independently when needed for traction, yet locks them together for better over-the-road wear resistance.

ROTARY LIFT: Pit lifts get options

Heavy-duty pit lifts can be turned into multi-use tools with new accessories from Rotary Lift. Designed for Rotary's suspended, floor running and rail mounted lifts, a new bridge accessory allows fleets with long pits to lift two vehicles at the same time. Other new accessories allow the lifts to be used for removing transmissions, fuel tanks, clutches and other components.


Caterpillar announced that its existing ACERT technology will serve as “the foundation” to comply with the 2007 EPA emission regulations for diesel engines.

Greg Gauger, director, on-highway power systems, says that Cat will use existing ACERT technology, which includes series turbochargers, variable valve control, a high-pressure multiple injection fuel system, Cat electronic control systems and an oxidation catalyst. All '07 Cat ACERT engines will use an enhanced combustion process called Clean Gas Induction (CGI); a closed crankcase ventilation system; and a diesel particulate filter system with active regeneration.

Midrange engine compliance will also be accomplished via ACERT technology. These engines, Gauger noted, will feature a high-pressure injection system along with closed crankcase ventilation and a variable turbine geometry turbocharger.

He said the Cat diesel particulate filter would use a wall-flow filter technology. Regeneration is necessary to activate a process of oxidation that eliminates the soot that collects along the inlet walls of the filter.

To aid the regeneration process, Gauger stated, the exhaust gas is heated by auxiliary means. Regeneration only takes place when needed, which optimizes fuel economy. Engines producing 500 hp. or less will require one diesel particulate filter; engines with 550 or more hp. will require dual filters. The filter system will also provide sound attenuation and will be serviced by Caterpillar dealers and authorized truck dealers.

Gauger pointed out the “primary process for achieving additional NOx reduction includes the elements of ACERT technology with CGI, which draws clean inert gas from downstream of the particulate filter and then puts this clean gas into the intake air system.” He explained that a key advantage of CGI is the intake charge is soot-free. According to Gauger, this “clean gas” does not induce the engine wear that cooled-EGR produces.

“We expect our heavy-duty engines with ACERT technology for 2007 will maintain the same fuel economy as today's engines, and our mid-range products will improve by approximately 4%,” Gauger stated.

Cat also said it's developing a line of fully automatic, planetary transmissions designed for on-highway vocational trucks. The transmissions will be available next year.

The two new automatics are based on transmissions originally developed for Cat articulated equipment. The 6-speed CX31 transmission will be compatible with Caterpillar C11, C13 and C15 engines, while the 8-speed “super heavy-duty” CX35 transmission will match up with higher-horsepower C15 ratings for vocational trucks, according to vp Chris Schena. Warranty and extended service coverage for the transmission will be matched to the engine.

HALDEX: Electronics and discs widen braking products

A new air disc brake, roll-over controls, an integrated air management system, a simpler ABS design and an electronic wear sensor were among the new products introduced by Haldex Commercial Vehicle Systems at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Offering the performance and control advantages of disc brake design, the new ModulX air disc brakes feature a lightweight, compact design that lowers maintenance costs and service requirements, according to Haldex. A module design offers maximum interchangeability of parts between different configurations. The ModulX is currently available in 19.5- and 22.5-in. sizes, and a 17.5-in. size will be added later this year for medium-duty applications.

The Haldex EB+ TRS roll stability system helps prevent trailer rollover by monitoring lateral acceleration, air suspension pressure and wheel speed, automatically applying trailer brakes if it senses the vehicle is nearing rollover threshold. Features include PLC for data communications, electronic odometer readings, and expandable architecture for future upgrades.

The Haldex ModulAIR is an integrated module platform that treats, controls and distributes vehicle air. The basic ModulAIR is a mechanical air dryer that can accept a wide variety of add-on modules, including an electronic control unit and sensors for managing air flow for brakes, suspension controls and auxiliary engine functions.

The PLC Select 2M ABS electronic control unit simplifies installation and reduces service costs with fewer components and connections than other 4-sensor/2-modulator ABS controllers, according to Haldex. Performance features include electronic odometer capability, PLC multiplex data communications, and an expanded memory capacity.

Designed for S-cam drum brakes, a new electronic lining wear sensor for the Haldex S-ABA will be released later this year.

CARRIER TRANSICOLD: Reefer controls simplified for drivers

The new generation of the Advance microprocessor control or Carrier Transicold refrigeration units offers 30 preset commodity profiles that let drivers easily match reefer settings to cargo requirements. The upgraded control unit is also supported by new software for managing and monitoring the company's systems.

The Advance control lets drivers choose from a scrolling list of 30 preset operating profiles, which are preprogrammed using Carrier Transicold's IntelliSet application and transferred to reefer units via data cards or a serial port connection from an PC. The preprogrammed parameters, which are saved under simple commodity names, match specific requirements to temperature, airflow, operating cycles, defrost intervals and other variables.

ReeferManager combines Carrier's earlier DataManager and ServiceManager programs in a single desktop application. It lets fleets configure reefer units and well as monitor and analyze their performance. It also helps fleets document system performance to comply with hazard analysis and critical control points criteria.

DOMETIC: Cool and powerful idling solution

Dometic Corp., working with Temco Metal Products Co., developed an integrated auxiliary HVAC and power generation system. Idle Solutions will provide heating and air conditioning, as well as power for onboard electrical appliances without running the truck's engine.

The system combines a Dometic 14,000 Btu AC system and 2,500W heating unit with a 7.8 kW Temco generator. The condensing unit mounts outside the truck and the cooling/heating unit can be installed under a bunk or seat. The aux-power unit is driven by a 15.8-hp. Perkins diesel that uses an average of 0.3 gal./hr. A turnkey system, according to Dometic, it ships with all components needed to complete an installation.

ANCRA: SilverCap

Ancra International introduced a new ratchet-cap winch to make securing flatbed trailer tie-downs much safer and faster process for truck drivers. The SilverCap eliminates the need to insert, remove, and then reinsert the winch bar in order to tighten the straps securing a load to a flatbed trailer. Much like a socket wrench, the winch bar can remain engaged in the ratchet cap of the winch as the cap “freely floats,” allowing for continued cranking in one direction, says Ralph Abato, national sales manager for Ancra's cargo division.

The SilverCap winch is powder-coated to improve durability and longevity, and carries a 6,000-lb. working load limit rating.

CASTROL: Tection goes mass market

Formerly available only to fleets and other bulk users, the 15W-40 heavy-duty diesel engine oil Castrol Tection Extra is now being distributed through retail and truckstop outlets to owner/operators and other users, according to BP Lubricants USA Inc. A premium diesel oil, it meets the CI-4 Plus specifications required for the newest heavy-duty engines, and has passed both the Mack T-11 soot handling test and Kurt Orbahn shear stability test.

BP is marking the move to mass distribution with a 40-week cross-country tour of a specially designed 53-ft. trailer. Describing the mobile demonstration center as “a goodwill station for drivers,” the company kicked off the tour at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The trailer not only explains the benefits of proper engine lubrication, but also offers drivers tips on how to protect their business and health with a blood pressure testing station and suggestions on simplifying finances.

STEMCO: Bat RF ready to fly

Originally introduced at TMC in March, Stemco reviewed its new Bat RF line of products that use RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to communicate vehicle condition data.

Several distinct products enable fleets to track how many miles a given vehicle has traveled; identify equipment in need of maintenance; and gauge the condition of components. Products can function together or independently, Stemco noted.

For details, see Fleet Owner, April 2005, p. 47.

BENDIX: OEMs give ABS-6 thumbs-up

The big news from Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems at the Mid- America Trucking Show is that the company's ABS-6 for trucks will debut on multiple models with five OEMs during 2005: International, Kenworth, Mack, Peterbilt and Volvo. “In addition, the first applications of Bendix ESP vehicle stability system, the full-scale roll and yaw electronic stability program, will be in production later this year,” according to Bendix.

International began offering the ABS-6 Advanced with RSP (Roll Stability Program) last month on 9200i and 9400i premium conventional tractors. By next year, International customers will be able to choose Bendix standard or premium ABS-6 configurations. Kenworth is offering the ABS-6 Advanced with ESP as an option on selected heavy-duty truck models, while ABS-6 with and without ESP will be added as a new option for select Peterbilt Class 8 vehicles this year.

Bendix also unveiled a number of improvements to its line of brake products:

  • Trailer Remote Diagnostic Unit (TRDU). A new diagnostic tool for TABS-6, Bendix' trailer antilock braking system. To further streamline troubleshooting and repairs, it provides immediate system status, displaying ABS fault information using colored LED lights.

  • Trailer roll stability program (TRSP). Designed to mitigate rollovers through advanced sensing and automatic application of the trailer brakes.

  • PuraGuard QC. An upgraded oil coalescing filter that protects a truck or trailer's air system by removing excessive oil contamination from the supply air to the brakes.


Sloan Transportation Products introduced several new products and a new partnership at the Mid-America Truck Show this year. Through an agreement with USA Harness, the company will become an exclusive distributor for OE-quality wire harnesses for the heavy duty aftermarket, selling the USA +Plus premium line under Sloan's new MAXXDuty line of severe-duty products.

The leading product in this new line is the MAXXDuty coiled electrical 7-Way sealed plug and receptacle, which meets SAE J560 requirements and has the industry's first plug-face gasket, ensuring a positive seal to the socket. It also features over-molded terminals to help seal the plug against corrosion, as well as integrated drip edge.

The MAXXDuty line includes patented electrical wire harnesses developed in connection with USA Harness. The harnesses use both a secondary pin-lock and an integral O-ring style sealing protection that's molded into the connector.

CAT ELECTRONICS: Ready for the road

A four-year, $4.8-million government-private industry partnership to find ways of improving fuel economy for conventional Class 8 trucks is now resulting in commercial-grade products. First out of the starting block is Cat Electronics' MorElectric truck, which offers the potential to improve fuel economy by 8%.

By equipping it with a diesel-powered auxiliary power unit, separate HVAC system and onboard generator, the MorElectric truck improves on-road fuel economy by 2%, with another 6% gain from reduced idling. For the average longhaul trucker, this could mean fuel savings of 1,260 gallons of diesel annually. “Studies indicate the average U.S. longhaul truck idles its engine an average of 1,800 hours per year simply to provide the driver with a comfortable cab during required rest periods,” says David Orr, commercial manager for Cat Electronics. “At an average fuel consumption of 0.9 gal./hr, that translates into more than a billion dollars of diesel fuel consumed each year simply for idling.”

HITECH FUEL: Acing the additives

Shewsbury, MA-based distributor HiTech Fuel Inc. is now offering the American Clean Energy Systems line of “ACES” fuel and oil products: a diesel fuel catalyst (ACES II); engine oil catalyst (ACES III); and an unleaded gasoline catalyst (ACES IV) for diesel fleets, boats, trains, heavy equipment and cars.

According to HiTech, ACES II, which is not a petroleum distillate by-product, actually changes the diesel physically by adding an oxygen agitator activator to help the fuel burn more efficiently, increase horsepower and improve fuel economy by up to 10%, depending on the application. The fuel catalyst also helps reduce NOx emissions by as much as 20% and overall emissions by 66%, while eliminating any biological matter that may exist in poorer quality diesel fuels.

Highway Hero

Diana, TX-based truck driver Rick Dent was named the 22nd “Goodyear North American Highway Hero” for rescuing a man and his two children from a car that was sinking in a water-filled ditch.

The driver of the car, Bob Strictland, landed in the ditch when he swerved to avoid hitting a deer along U.S. 84 near Jena, LA, on July 14, 2004. Dent, a driver for Groendyke Transport who is 6-ft. tall and weighs 300-lb., jumped into the 40-ft. wide snake-infested ditch to get to the car.

“This huge man pulled the door open about three inches, but it was stuck,” said Strictland. “Suddenly my daughter screamed again, and he grabs the door and pulls it off like it is made of cardboard.”

Strictland's children were helped to solid ground, and Dent later returned for Strictland, whose foot was lodged under the dash. Dent dove and freed Strictland's foot and then swam him to safety. “The car sank before he got me to the bank,” Strictland said. “I have a new respect for truck drivers.”

Goodyear awarded Dent a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a specially designed size 17 Goodyear Highway Hero ring.


The ChassisCare SureShot adds automation to Bijur Lubrication Corp.'s line of centralized lubrication systems for trailers. Permanently installed on a trailer chassis, the system is shipped as a complete kit and can be set up for single-, tandem- and triple-axle configurations.

Like Bijur's manual ChassisCare line, the new automated system includes a 0.5- to 4-liter reservoir, a grease lubricator, a distributor block with four to 12 outlets, distribution tubing prefilled with chassis grease, and various fittings. The new system also adds an electronic controller and a 12 or 24V motor.

ROADRANGER: Watching the back

Roadranger introduced the Eaton VORAD BackSpotter rear object detection system, which warns drivers if they are approaching an object behind their vehicle while in reverse. The BackSpotter uses radar-based technology to detect objects under poor visibility conditions such as in rain or snow, under sun glare or at night — when mirror and camera systems fall short, Eaton stated.

The BackSpotter detects stationary and moving objects in an area up to 15-ft. wide by 15-ft. long behind a vehicle. When the device detects an object in the coverage area, its display unit illuminates the proper range indicator and sounds an audible alert to give the driver warning. As the object gets closer, the next range indicator is illuminated. BackSpotter also sounds audible tones that coincide with one of the five range indicators. The buzzer tone rate increases as the vehicle continues to approach the object.

Roadranger also revealed the new Dana Spicer 590 drive axle series for vocational vehicles. According to Dana, the helical reduction axles “represent a natural extension” of the 190 series inroduced last year. The axles are designed to meet and exceed requirements for vehicles involved in such applications as construction, heavy hauling, mining, logging, oil field and refuse.

The new 590 series axles are available as single- or tandem-drive units with drivetrain ratings up to 2,450 lb.-ft. of torque and 700 hp., and GCWRs of over 260,000 lb.

SKF: So long, CR

As part of a global move to a single brand name, SKF says that it will begin phasing out the Chicago Rawhide and CR brand name in June. In its place, the blue and red SKF logo will be used on new packaging, printed materials and signage.

Products, employees and facility locations will remain unchanged, the company announced during the Mid America Trucking Show.

The company also announced that it will join forces with Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Haldex and Dayton Parts to create a Technician of the Year Award program. Fleet managers can nominate technicians before Nov. 1 by visiting

Chosen by a panel of independent judges, the winning technician will receive a VIP trip to NASCAR's first race of 2006 and serve as an honorary pit crew member for a Richard Childress Racing Nextel Cup team.

THERMO KING: APU rolled out

Thermo King debuted the TriPac auxiliary heating/cooling temperature management system. An auxiliary power unit (APU), TriPac provides engine preheating, battery charging, climate control and power in truck cabs while eliminating unnecessary idling.

The APU boasts a microprocessor controller that allows the driver to easily set cab cooling and heating for maximum comfort and perform truck engine preheating for easy starts in cold weather. Other features include truck battery charging with automatic voltage sensing, 120V power for on-board appliances and noise-dampening construction for quiet operation.

KARMAK: Shop & inventory management software

The Director Series from Karmak Inc. tracks inventory use, simplifies parts ordering, and helps manage shop services. Developed for fleets and service shops, the service and parts system is Windows-based and interfaces with Quick Books and Quick Books Pro financial software.

The ServiceDirector portion allows managers to analyze the efficiency of individual repair jobs by generating and tracking repair orders, costs, ate, repair status and employee hours. It supports bar code scanning for automated data entry by technicians and allows scanned parts to be attached to repair orders quickly.

PartDirector lets fleets quickly find, maintain and track part and warranty information. It support cross-referencing, can analyze parts usage and turn cycles, and reconciles the general ledger with actual inventory. It also supports online ordering from multiple suppliers and bar coding.

WEBB WHEEL: $24-million investment

Webb Wheel Products announced that it is nearing completion on its $24-million trailer hub and drum manufacturing facility, located in Tell City, IN, just north of Louisville. Kent Finkbinder, president of the trailer division, said the plant was designed from the ground up to create more savings across the entire component manufacturing process.

“We're located right across the street from the foundry that supplies our raw materials,” he pointed out. “That shorter supply chain gives us a more consistent supply of material and makes us a more strategic partner for the foundry. The customer ultimately gets that benefit as well.”

Webb also brought in robotic production systems from as far away as Italy to create a faster manufacturing process for hubs and drums, while providing a consistent level of quality. “It gives us higher throughput with a modest workforce — we'll have 80 people on three shifts by the end of the second quarter — while allowing us to produce more precision parts,” Finkbinder explained.

Webb also chose to add cost to its manufacturing process and product design up-front in order to lower back-end overhead. “For example, we powder-coat all our hubs. It's more costly, but it gives our hubs longer corrosion resistance — about 500 salt-bath hours as opposed to liquid spray paint, which can barely maintain resistance for 100 hours,” said David Link, vp-manufacturing. “We also 100% balance all of our hubs and pre-grind them for ABS. That cuts in half the amount of part numbers a vendor needs to worry about.”

TENNECO AUTOMOTIVE: Tenneco says thermal management key'07 challenge

According to Thomas Spinks, business unit manager for Tenneco Automotive's commercial vehicle division, the most critical issue facing makers of exhaust aftertreatment systems is managing the heat produced by 2007 low-emission diesel engines.

“Heat rejection is going to ratchet up again in '07 so thermal management is going to be a major factor in developing aftertreatment products,” Spinks said at a press conference at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

“That heat is also going to have an impact on durability because EPA requires that '07 engines and related exhaust components must last at least 435,000 miles.”

And because performance will also be affected in developing its aftertreatment solutions, Tenneco must find a way to minimize the impact on fuel economy, as well as the amount of torque generated by the engine.

“It comes down to packaging in,” Spinks explained. “We've never had to put these kids of exhaust [aftertreatment] systems on trucks before, nor have they had to handle so much heat. So not only is there the issue of what do we put where on the truck, we also have to look at how it adds up in terms of cost.”

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