And the Envelope Please

ATD's Commercial Truck of the Year judging is no walk in the park.

February 2013, - WebXclusive

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

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Medium-duty Truck of the Year candidates.
Medium-duty Truck of the Year candidates.

Ford F-650

Notable on this F-650 was the 6.8-liter V-10 gasoline engine and the Ford 6R410 6-speed double-overdrive transmission. The V-10 replaces a heavier, noisier and vastly more expensive diesel engine. This one came equipped with gaseous fuel prep package for conversion to compressed natural gas or propane.

As vocational trucks go, it was very well appointed. Drivers would kill to spend 10 hours a day in a cab like this one. The ride was a little stiffer than I expected, but the gasoline engine made it very quiet. The pickup-like driving position was a bit of a departure from the typical utility truck driver ergonomics, but I could get used to it pretty quickly. It was equipped with a tailgate dump, making it a good candidate for landscapers or paving contractors.   

Hino 195h

I was expecting a traditionally small-ish cab from Hino, but the company boasts that the 195h features enough for a fellow with a 6-foot-six frame and size 13 shoe. It's true. And the visibility has been improved as well, with a thinner and more steeply raked A-pillar.

The other little surprise was the hybrid diesel-electric powertrain. It's a 6th-generation drivetrain, with all those previous generations' worth of kinks worked out. This one works flawlessly. It uses regenerative braking to recapture wasted energy, and it launches with the electric motor, saving even more energy at startup. The transition between electric and diesel is seamless, and the driver has a gauge to tell what mode the truck is in. It's so quiet you can hardly tell the difference.   

Isuzu Reach

The hallmarks of a good curbside van are not necessarily driver comfort and quiet ride, but safe entry and egress, as well as easy access to the cargo body. The Reach fits those bills admirably. The body was built by Utilimaster Corporation and mounted on an Isuzu NPR ECO-Max chassis. It's powered by an Isuzu 4JJ1-TC 3-liter turbocharged engine producing 150 horsepower. It's mated to an Aisin medium-duty 6-speed automatic transmission with double overdrive.

Access to the engine is easy from the hood or inside the cab and the daily check points are in easy reach for the driver. There are numerous safety features as well, including highly visible tread-grip entry steps, integrated yellow cab-entry handles and optional back-up camera with 7-inch LCD color monitor.

Kenworth K370

Who needs or wants a hood in a urban workspace? While a COE configuration is ideal in a tight environment, the traditional arguments against this body style disappear in the K370. It's as roomy as any conventional, and a darned sight easier to parallel park. With a 55-degree wheel cut, it feels like you're driving it sideways. What's more, the truck's European heritage ensures it's built for comfort and driver retention. Kenworth left no stone unturned in refining this truck for North American service. Our traditional fondness for conventional bodies melts away with the attractiveness and functionality of the COE body. This truck had Paccar's PX-6 6.7-liter 220-horsepower engine with 520 pounds-feet of torque mated to an Allison 2500 HS transmission.

Peterbilt 337

The Extended Cab feature of the Pete 337 dissolves concerns about cramped working conditions. The raised roof adds 6 inches of head room and the back wall is pushed out 10 full inches. Wider, rounder and taller drivers will be much more comfortable in a 337 than ever before. Any driver will appreciate the added belly room, and the ability to recline the seat to a comfortable napping angle of 23 degrees for those quieter moments.

Peterbilt has added 4 cubic feet of storage space along the back wall, beneath an enlarged rear window. The visibility to the rear is excellent and a nice feature for roll-on tow applications or in a P&D tractor setup. 

Judging a contest like this is a no-win for the judges. Each truck is special in its own way, and it's darned tough to compare a curb-side van to a COE delivery chassis. But each has some feature that we as judges though was special enough to warrant special notice.

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