All That's Trucking

Euro-Style Cabovers in the U.S. and Canada?

October 23, 2013

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PIT doing fuel-economy testing comparing a European Volvo cabover and a North American Volvo conventional.
PIT doing fuel-economy testing comparing a European Volvo cabover and a North American Volvo conventional.

Could we see a re-emergence of Class 8 cabovers in the U.S. and Canada? A couple of Canadian fleets appear to be interested in them for improved freight efficiency, but an exec from the one company that's still making them doesn't think drivers would stand for it.

Once length restrictions were eased in the U.S., cabovers fell out of favor, all but disappearing by the end of the 20th century. The last gasp was Freightliner's Argosy cabover, dropped because its low volume didn't justify the cost of engineering in the EPA '07 diesels, although it's still exported to many other markets.

At the American Trucking Associations' Management Conference and Exhibition this week, I chatted with Yves Provencher, director of FPInnovations’ Performance Innovation Transport group, a not-for-profit engineering and research center for the North American trucking industry. PIT is working with Volvo Trucks and Canadian fleet Transport Robert to compare a Euro Volvo high cabover with a North American Volvo VNL in Canadian operations.

PIT has finished fuel economy testing on the track, results of which should be released in a couple of weeks, and will continue to monitor the two vehicles throughout Robert's 18-month test period.

Some of the challenges Provencher identified that may make the Euro cabover unsuited for this market include heavier weight on the front axle, the possibility that the aerodynamics may not perform as well at the higher speeds run in Canada compared to Europe -- oh, and the fact that these vehicles aren't legal here. Robert got a special permit to try them for 18 months in Canada, and they won't be able to run into the U.S.

Robert isn't the only one interested in cabovers for freight efficiency. HDT Senior Editor Tom Berg wrote about Walmart Canada's super-cube test rig. It consists of a COE tractor (from an Argosy glider kit) with a dromedary box and a 60-foot, 6-inch-long semitrailer, put together for Walmart as a pilot project. Walmart says the rig can carry 30% more cargo than a standard 53-foot trailer.

So with these two initiatives on my mind, when we had a roundtable with Daimler Trucks executives at ATA this week, and Daimler Trucks' new CEO, Wolfgang Bernhard, talked about his desire for some harmonization of NAFTA and Euro emissions and safety standards, I had to ask: Do you think we'll ever see Euro-style cabovers make inroads in the U.S.?

Daimler Trucks North America President and CEO Martin Daum pooh-poohed the idea. "The driver wants it silent and cool; in a cabover, because the driver sits over the engine, the engine is hot, it's loud and vibrates a lot -- and it makes it less accessible fo the service guy. And aerodynamics is much better on the conventional than the cabover."

It'll be interesting to see what the Canadian test results from PIT and Robert show on the fuel economy. But PIT's Provencher had an observation about the comfort issue:

"Drivers say they hate cabovers because they think of the ones they used in the '70s," Provencher told me. "When we were testing these trucks two weeks ago, drivers loved them."

Daum, who earlier in the reporters' roundtable had joked about the fact that his truck sales projections from a year ago turned out to be pretty far off the mark, pointed out good-naturedly that if he happens to be wrong on this issue, that DTNA would be ready, since it's still producing the Argosy for export.


  1. 1. Bo [ October 24, 2013 @ 01:02AM ]

    Martin Daum is a stupid Jackwagon.There are thousands of drivers that want cabovers. And don't give me that crap about aerodynamics.The 372 Peterbilt was one of the most aerodynamic trucks ever built,and it was a cabover.Hey Daimler.Ask the drivers what they want.

  2. 2. Michael Alamorian [ October 24, 2013 @ 03:23AM ]

    COE drivers, First one to get to an accident......................and the last one to leave. With the proliferation of rear end collisions on crowded highways these days, combined with distracted drivers may not be a good idea.

  3. 3. Cliff Downing [ October 24, 2013 @ 04:36AM ]

    Not sure about the Euro versions, but when I did my Freightliner glider truck last year, I would have given the Argossy COE truck that FL used to market here in the U.S., a serious look to be the platform for doing a glider.. Sure, there are some drivers that wouldn't want a COE. There are some that don't want a big long hood either. And the reverse is true, some don't like an aero looking truck. If you base you buying decision on only what the drivers want, you are going to not be an effective fleet owner. Buy the truck YOU need, and then put in realistic creature comforts that you drivers need. Drivers can live with a truck style if they also have the right mix of good comfort features to make their life a little more easy. Some eye candy features that set them apart from the crowd also can make the difference.

  4. 4. Rockie Ebbert [ October 24, 2013 @ 05:24AM ]

    I have been a owner-operator since 1978 when coe was the standard I would not want one, they are harder to work on, harder to get into, but old things have a way of coming back and there are alot of drivers that have not even seen one. Cabovers might become Cool again if you look at most of the newer conventionals they are close to coe with a short nose.

  5. 5. Chris Morris [ October 24, 2013 @ 01:45PM ]

    Q: Why is the Volvo not legal in Canada???.(24V Electrics???).Its engine surpasses all current regs within the EEC which are supposedly more stringent than California's???.As for the Argosy,I had email converse with a daimler rep some time back about bringing the truck to the UK.Told flatly never presumably because it clashes with the Mercedes Actros.Strange that the 2 marques are sold alongside each other in OZ & NZ.Dont forget 1 Canadian fleet runs some old Scania 143's and is reputedly over the moon with them especially in fuel usage so the COE aint dead by a long chalk.

  6. 6. Daniel Kinsman [ October 26, 2013 @ 04:38AM ]

    The COE is far more aerodynamic than the conventional, add to that the fact that the EU models make our trucks look like antiques and you have the makings for a possible return. In North America the COE was not developed past the early 90's, the argosy was a necessity, the FLB was FLD based, but it has never matched what was happening with the MB trucks in Europe. As far as working on them, my brother(20 year ASE certified diesel tech with a wall full of certificates and awards) loves working on the argosy, but his favorite truck to work on is the peterbilt 372 aka "Football helmet". Both trucks raise plenty clear of the drivetrain, not like the old 70's-early 90's cabovers, and the 2014 model argosy(still available as a glider to North America) has the quietest interior and one of the best rides around, it was design with special attention paid to those two attributes. I am looking at purchasing an Argosy glider in the near future, speced appropriately for heavy haul(I haul construction/ag equipment).

  7. 7. Monongahela Misfit [ November 01, 2013 @ 07:08PM ]

    I've several Twitter friends who drive COEs in UK, Greater Europe, and OZ. The COEs that Paccar is selling in those markets look great, and have happy drivers. One friend in the UK just got a new Merc Actros. He Loves it, and judging by his vid tour on YouTube, I and Most US/Can drivers would too. I don't care if they put a Frieghtliner logo on it, as long as everything else about it is as Solid as the Benz. Quality Matters more than ANYTHING!
    As for being first to the Accident, how about just avoiding it? Is that not an option?

  8. 8. Sophie [ November 16, 2013 @ 09:27AM ]

    The FH Cab over is a great model, but when companies start using the smaller versions such as the Volvo FM, or even ones like the DAF CF, then you have problems, the FM and CF models are really only should be used for day work with occasional nights away since they are cramped
    Im a UK Trucker, not for long however, UK and europe can shove these models up their rears, as some companies will exploit these smaller models as full tramper cabs, As a Polish driver said to a colleague " Work like a Pig, Live like a Pig"

    I drive one of these smaller Cabovers, a DAF CF, after 2 weeks, my left knee started to play up, since the space inside is restricted, The only thing that these Volvo's and DAFS have, are they are reliable

    If you love driving with the bed right behind your seat, and I do mean right behind your seat, then go for a Cabover like a Volvo FH, just do not expect the space you have in a Freightliner for example

    And these companies want drivers to love these cab overs, SO THAT THEY CAN CARRY More freight at the drivers expense and living standards

  9. 9. Sonja bonne [ December 06, 2013 @ 08:14AM ]

    Hi. I've been driving cab.over.volvos for.more than ten years now and find they are.more than a conventional unit. No engine noise in any of my cabs. Smooth ride. Better fuel economy than conventional trucks. Easier to reverse two trailers into docks. New Zealand owner operators will tell you otherwise from what is written in your statement. before you write your story next time. The New Volvo FH 700 hp V8 is awesome.
    I'm. Now in.the.USA driving a.conventional truck and it's another Volvo. What a bone shaker. Volvo cab overs safest trucks when it comes to head on crashes. I know as I've. Had one with a conventional truck. The other driver didn't. Make it. I only had bruises from my safety belt and a sore head from air bag. The USA gov is silly not.letting cab overs here.

  10. 10. Jeffry Beyer [ January 17, 2014 @ 05:02PM ]

    Martin Daum is just plain wrong. I have 1.5 million miles on my Argosy I purchased new in 2000, with 7.1 mpg for history of vehicle. No more noise or heat than the FLD I used to drive. When I take it into a shop and raise the cab , newer mechanics who have never seen one marvel at the accessibility, you can see and get to the ENTIRE chassis.
    Freightliner has made every mistake possible in the marketing of this truck. in 2001, the 2 nd year of production they didn't even show one at the Mid America Trucking Show, said there was no demand.
    Of course there is no demand if you keep it a secret, and price it 30% higher than conventional models for no reason.
    Not a day doesn't go by when someone walks up to me and says they wish they had a cabover again so they could fit into spaces in truck stops, rest areas and tight customer parking lots.

  11. 11. TomC [ January 22, 2014 @ 03:02PM ]

    Everytime you want to check a fluid level with a conventional, up comes the hood-including having to hand clean the windshield. With a cabover, there are access doors to check the radiator, engine oil, automatic trans, power steering, can change the fuel filters by turning the steering tires, and can change the engine oil without tilting the cab (except the new engines with high mounted filters). When you do tilt the cab, both the engine and transmission are fully exposed for easy access-as compared to a conventional that requires you to crawl under the truck for any transmission work. Give me a cabover everytime-and with new disc brakes-rear ending should just about disappear.

  12. 12. Skip [ August 25, 2014 @ 12:21PM ]

    Talked to a driver last night at a TA in Denton TX that had a cabover that was 14 yrs old, He loves it ! But will have to add a J brake . 6.3 mpg !!

  13. 13. Ron Chandler [ December 08, 2015 @ 09:28AM ]

    I would really like to see the Coe return to North America in fact I'm in the market for a truck and I sure would like a 2016 Argocy.

  14. 14. marko [ January 17, 2016 @ 06:28AM ]

    One thing I have to say about volvo fh16/700: it is no V8, it's D16 I6 engine, and there was no any volvo with a V8 engine in history.

  15. 15. Tony J [ April 07, 2016 @ 07:56PM ]

    Oh, I would love to drive one of the Daimler ( Mercedes) Acrtros trucks here in the US. I drove one in Germany for two years and I loved it. It was like driving a luxurious car
    I also drove a Scania and a Mann TGX

  16. 16. Marco [ April 09, 2016 @ 10:37AM ]

    Back to the original story... Does anyone know what happened to those Volvo's? Are they still around?

  17. 17. Justin [ December 04, 2016 @ 08:49AM ]

    As a driver in Switzerland, I wish we would have both cabovers and conventionals, just for more diversity. I'm an owner operator, and love my Mercedes Actros, but have always wanted to drive a Peterbilt. Here we are allowed to have conventionals but they aren't very popular because of their high costs and expensive parts :( maybe some day.....

  18. 18. Jeff [ January 28, 2017 @ 04:34PM ]

    I would love to see the kenworth k200 big cab overs make it to the US markets.

  19. 19. Michael M [ August 26, 2017 @ 05:08PM ]

    I agree, I wouldn't mind driving one myself.

  20. 20. Dave T [ October 10, 2017 @ 04:05PM ]

    i know this is an old post, and probably noone will read this, but im a big fan of bringing euro trucks to the US.
    after making a wrong turn in new jersey (!), i made a u turn near the maintainance sheds near the newark airport and saw two or three Mercedes-Benz Actros (Actroses?) equipped with what appeared to be snow removal eqipment. couldnt tell if they had plates, but i doubt it.

  21. 21. Ashir [ March 19, 2018 @ 07:41AM ]

    With the coming of e-log there would b more team drivers than singles. Teams wud tend to b more guy / girl. Trucks with more room and home comfort would be preferred.
    With 282 inch wheel base restriction, cabovers are ideals for extending cabins.
    The concern of sitting over a noisy, hot engine is a thing of the past, engines are quieter now and electric motors are anyday now.
    I would love to have a cabover in US / Canada n convert to make a home on wheels. With so many empty nesters its a gr8 idea.


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