August 2006, TruckingInfo.com - Test Drives
Government regulations are one of the major influences in truck design, and for 2007 the regs are almost everything.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's diesel emissions regulations required cutting particulate matter by 90 percent and reducing nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons by 50 percent. As a result, truck and engine builders have spent two years or more in development, engineering and testing that cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Customers will ultimately pay the tab, at the rate of $6,000 to $10,000 more per Class 8 truck. That's on top of price increases or surcharges due to increased costs of steel and other basic materials. Also up on commodities markets are precious metals such as platinum, which are used in exhaust aftertreatmentequipment for '07 diesels.
What customers will get for their money are vehicles that will safely run cleaner than ever – a major social benefit, some believe. But, says a purchasing vice president at one major fleet, they will offer no business benefits. There will be no payback for the investment and no better fuel economy, and sooner or later the engines will require more maintenance. Government authorities may think that the higher costs can be simply passed along to shippers, and the driver and truck shortage in recent years have made that somewhat easier to do. But many shippers won't accept rate increases, say this VP and others.
As a result, many fleets are stocking up on new trucks now and will avoid buying tractors with the '07 diesels as long as possible. Order boards at most Class 8 truck makers are now full through the end of this year, with shortages of some components, like axles and certain engines, constraining production.
Neither the OEMs nor suppliers geared up much to handle the pre-buy, because they knew a fall-off of 30 percent to 40 percent will probably follow and they don't want to go through major cutbacks with personnel layoffs. If there's a repeat of the downturn following October '02, when previous EPA emissions regs began taking effect, it will be well into '07 before orders blossom again.
However, forecasters believe it won't be a prolonged, recession-like downturn. The economy is being affected by higher energy costs and stiffer interest rates, and is expected to soften somewhat by year's end. But it will remain healthy and freight tonnage should stay high. Fleets will have to resume buying sooner rather than later just to handle the business and replace worn-out equipment. And while the price increases are stiff, they are a small part of the total cost of truck operation, one OEM notes. Much larger factors are wages and fuel.
Meanwhile, certain fleets will continue buying trucks almost no matter what. For example, leasing companies must supply equipment to customers on preset schedules, and in most cases these terms will not be interrupted come January. At least one leasing company has begun promoting full-service leasing as an alternative to buying, especially because leasers will have to contend with any maintenance problems and supply replacement vehicles if necessary.
And there is good news regarding the '07 models. According to our experiences with '07 diesels, they drive much like today's, so drivers shouldn't complain and might even like them better. Diesel particulate filters and other aftertreatment equipment will replace mufflers and mount either under cabs or in stacks. Regeneration of the filters, during which soot is burned off, will be automatic, and in many cases drivers won't notice when it's occurring. Periodic shop cleaning of filters will not take long and should be infrequent – only once or twice while in the first owner's hands, predict manufacturers.
Builders are each running millions of miles of lab and on-road testing to ensure the robustness of the engines and their new anti-smog equipment. Test units now in the hands of fleets seem to be performing well, though individual mileages are still low. Most builders say they are training dealer sales and shop people on their '07 products and how to maintain them, and briefing fleet customers on how to prepare for the new equipment.
Much of OEMs' work involved designing larger cooling systems and hardening underhood parts to take greater heat. In some trucks, radiators will be 20 percent to 30 percent larger than current models, and the forward portions of frames were altered to accommodate wider or taller cores. While there's at least one exception, hoods generally did not have to be enlarged, and use of louvers – something not seen since the late 1940s but at least talked about as a possible necessity in '07 – has been avoided. That's because engineers gave particular attention to the flow of air over cylinder blocks and out into the atmosphere via other routes.
Some '07 models have been redesigned with smoother exterior styling and nicer interiors. At least one brand-new model's production startup coincides with introduction of the new engines after the first of the year, and one OEM has revamped and renumbered its entire product line.
Taking note of state and local anti-idling laws around the country, many builders are offering auxiliary power units, or hookups for them, as factory options. They also continue to move toward more vertical integration, especially regarding engine models, which means fewer choices for buyers but, builders insist, decent value nonetheless.
Freightliner's volume models are the Columbia and Century Class S/T highway tractors. Traditionally styled Classic and Classic XL tractors, built on Century Class chassis, remain popular, and the Coronado (shown), which uses the Century cab and chassis, is the premium over-the-road model. The FLD is gone as a highway tractor, but an SD (severe-duty) version remains, supplemented by a Business Class M2V (for vocational) model which includes a Class 8 variant. Freightliner's own 14-liter Detroit Diesel Series 60, with ratings of 455 to 515 horsepower, is standard in most long-hood trucks and tractors, while the 12.8-liter MBE 4000, rated at 350 to 450 horsepower, is standard in most vehicles with medium-length hoods. Its Class 8 engine vendor is Caterpillar, which will supply 335- to 430-horsepower C13 and 435- to 625-horsepower C15 diesels for certain Freightliner models. The Condor heavy-duty low-cabover is no longer offered, going with the American La France factory and product line that Freightliner sold earlier this year.
GMC TopKick and Chevrolet Kodiak midrange conventionals and T-series tiltcabs become Class 8 models when built with heavy-duty axles, suspensions, brakes and other appropriate chassis parts. Later in the '07 model year, the C8500 (shown) will be available with a Meritor 18,000-pound-capacity front axle (2,000 pounds higher than the current heaviest steer axle), primarily for municipal business. A Dana 46,000-pound tandem (versus 45,000 now) on a Hendrickson Haulmaxx mechanical suspension will also be a new option. Standard power for C8500s is the 7.8-liter Isuzu 6H (formerly called the Duramax 7800), rated at 215 to 300 horsepower, with aftertreatment and other changes for '07. Caterpillar's C7, at 207 to 300 horsepower, is a $1,000 option. The 8.1-liter Vortec 8100 V-8 is also available, making GM the only builder to offer gasoline power in Class 8. The '07-spec Isuzu 6H diesel is the only engine available in Chevy and GMC T8500s, which are otherwise unchanged.
The highly promoted ProStar tractor, in Base, Premium, Eagle and Limited trim levels, will enter production in early '07 to replace the long-hood aero 9400 and, in '08, the medium-hood aero 9200. International believes the ProStar (shown) will have the best aerodynamics in the business. Meanwhile, the 8600 tractor gets new monoleaf front springs and a Hendrickson fabricated wide track front axle which, when combined with a lightweight Megabracket for the radiator and front bumper, will save about 90 pounds over current designs. The traditionally styled 9900i will have optional factory-installed chrome packages, two-tone paint, auxiliary power units, a black tuck and roll interior and, for daycabs, an American Eagle interior. The 5000i vocational vehicles now carry the PayStar name, and Cat- and Cummins-powered versions of the 7000 series severe-service trucks get a taller hood to house bigger radiators. Big-bore engines will be Cat's C13 and C15 and Cummins ISM and ISX; Cummins' ISL will be the lightweight engine in certain heavy applications, and International's own DT and HT 570 and DT 466 will go in others. Later in '07, the MaxxForce heavy-duty dieselswill debut, developed with MAN of Germany.
Engineers and designers have completely revamped the aero T600 to where it's been renamed the T660 (shown). The aero T2000 continues with updates for '07. The T800 is now optional with Big Power ratings of Cat's C15. The traditional W900 gets a Pendleton interior. A Clean Power auxiliary power unit using batteries will be available on certain sleeper models. Bendix Spicer air disc brakes on steer and drive axles will be optional on certain truck and tractor models (they were offered on T2000 steer axles only). Extensive underhood changes by Kenworth includes larger cooling packages, revised radiators for most models, and standard silicone hoses and extended-life coolant. KW's heavy diesel offerings include Cummins ISL, ISM and ISX, and Cat C9, C13 and C15. Kenworth's medium-duty T330 will use a new series of Paccar-branded, Cummins-built 6.7- and 8.3-liter diesels; Cat's C7 is being dropped.
As part of preparing for '07, Mack has upgraded its conventional-cab highway and vocational models and all models, including the MR and LE low-cab-forward vocational trucks, will have only Mack diesels. A new Pinnacle, with a roomier cab and redesigned interior, replaces Vision and CH models, while the Granite gets a 4-inch-longer cab with new interior features. Mack Power diesels, like those for sister company Volvo Trucks, were designed by Volvo Powertrain and will be built in Hagerstown, Md. First is an 11-liter MP7, which is now offered without '07 aftertreatment equipment in certain Granites; in January the MP7 gets aftertreated. Later in '07, a 13-liter MP8 will debut. The MP7 has ratings of 325 to 405 horsepower and the MP8 will go from 425 to 485 horsepower. The MP engines will come in Maxidyne, MaxiCruise and Econodyne versions, and be available with a PowerLeash engine brake. Mack says its MPs are more fuel efficient than current ASET engines (which will be gone by year's end), and have unique mechanical parts, electronic controls and operating characteristics to differentiate them from Volvo Trucks' versions. Mack is dropping its long-nose CL with its Cummins 15-liter ISX. It's also dropping Cummins' 8.8-liter ISL, which is currently a lightweight option in one of its Granite Bridge Formula trucks.
Extensive changes for the '07 engines have caused Peterbilt to restyle most of its Class 8 models and give them new designations. The aerodynamically styled medium-hood 384 and 387 daycabs join the existing long-hood 386 to complete the company's aero truck lineup. The traditionally styled long-nose 389 with smoother exterior styling (shown) replaces the current 379, and the medium-nose 388 replaces the 378 tractor. The vocational 365 and 367 replace the current 357 and the 378 truck. And a Model 340 joins the 335 as Peterbilt's "heavy 7" offering. Shorter 36-, 48- and 63-inch sleepers will get premium interiors and amenities (e.g., refrigerators and upscale trim) now found in larger boxes. This will allow customers to downsize sleepers to offset price penalties of the '07 models, while still pleasing drivers. Long-nose Class 8 vehicles will use the 15-liter Cummins ISX, from 385 to 565 horsepower, and Cat's C15, from 435 to 625 horsepower, while medium-nose will have the 11-liter Cummins ISM, from 280 to 450 horsepower, and Cat's C13, from 335 to 430 horsepower. Cummins ISL and Cat C9 diesels will continue as lightweight options. As with Kenworth, Peterbilt's medium- and medium-heavy models will use a new series of Paccar-branded Cummins-built 6.7- and 8.3-liter diesels; Cat's C7 is being dropped.
All Sterlings get revised pedal designs and all pedals are suspended. A-Line cabs are standard with air-bag rear supports and air conditioning. The midrange and Baby 8 Acterra is now available with an extended cab, with rear seats or bunks and cargo access doors, and the four-door crew cab Acterra can be ordered with power windows and locks, and respirator-mount seats (for firefighters). As part of the Freightliner family, Sterling will use 14-liter Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines as standard in its A- and L-Line 9500 models (L model is shown). Depending on the BBC-configuration, the 12.8-liter MBE4000 and Caterpillar C13 and C15 diesel engines will be available as options. Power ratings will be the same as with Freightliner trucks. L- and Acterra models designated 8500 will be standard with 7.2-liter MBE 900 diesels rated from 190 to 330 horsepower; Cummins' 8.3-liter ISC with up to 315 horsepower will be optional.
The VN series continues with the VNM (medium-length hood) and VNL (long-hood), as do the high-hood VT800 daycab and VT880 sleeper. Volvo will also have mid-roof sleepers designated VT830 and VN730 (shown); both sleeper compartments are 77 inches long but 2 feet shorter in height to save weight and better match trailer and load heights for tractors pulling tankers and flatbeds. Volvo Powertrain has prepared new engines that will replace the D12 starting in January '07. They will be similar to Mack's MP series and will be built in Hagerstown, Md. The new D11, Volvo's lightweight engine with 325 to 405 horsepower, will be standard in the VNM and VNL models. The D13, with 335 horsepower to 485 horsepower, will go in the VNM and VNL, and the VHD vocational truck. The current D16, with 450 horsepower to 600 horsepower and updated to meet the '07 emissions regs, will be available in the VNL and VT 800 and VT 880. Cummins' ISX will be available in VNL and VT series.
Western Star's Stratosphere sleeper family for the 4900 series now includes 40- and 54-inch sizes as well as an 82-inch Ultra High model, joining existing 68- and 82-inch Stratosphere sleepers; all feature enough headroom for no-stoop standing in the cab and while walking into the sleepers. As part of the Sterling organization (and therefore the Freightliner family), Western Star will use the Detroit Diesel Series 60 in its 4900 FA and SA models, with the MBE 4000 and Cat C13 and C15 engines as options. The 4900EX will be standard with the S60 and available with the C15. The 6900XD will have the Series 60 engine as standard and the Cat C15 as an option. Western Stars have enough room in the radiator area of their hoods to accommodate larger cooling packages for '07, so their frames didn't have to be modified to accept them.