Aftermarket

Western Star Still Going Strong

November 09, 2009

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Western Star last week staged a dealer meeting in Las Vegas to underscore its new structure as a separate business unit under Daimler Trucks North America. Trucking reporters were invited to drive some of the division's on- and off-highway products
This Western Star on-highway rotary-boom wrecker was featured at an event in Las Vegas.
This Western Star on-highway rotary-boom wrecker was featured at an event in Las Vegas.
and meet the new management.

Heading up Western Star as general manager is Michael Jackson, who has a strong marketing background. He is supported by Ann Demitruk as director of marketing, James Looysen as sales manager and Richard Shearing who is the director of product planning, an engineer responsible for short- and long-term product plans.

On hand for the ride 'n drive were various 4900 tractors, including the limited, commemorative edition model marking the Western Star's birthdate of 1967. The engine in this FA - forward axle - model is a Detroit Diesel DD15 rated 560 horsepower and 1,967 pounds-feet of torque in EPA '07 configuration. Also on hand were a set-forward and set-back daycab 4900 with 2010-compliant DD13 engines.

From the heavy end of the Western Star business was a 6900 off-highway hauler with a mining/quarry body that is popular on haul roads around the world. The spec of the big yellow truck is work-ready and it can be ordered complete with the tipping body. Powered by a 550/1,650 Detroit Series 60 and Allison automatic, the Western Star 6900 provides mines and quarries with a economic alternative to the more complex articulating dump trucks. Also, because of the tire equipment, the Western Star is more fuel efficient and geared to run twice as fast as an artic at a top speed of 43 mph. The economics of operation mean that for any haul over ½ mile, the Western Star 6900 is the leader by far. It is widely sold in export markets like South Africa, Australia and Indonesia.

The final truck, an on-highway rotary-boom wrecker, made this overgrown Tonka Toy a piker, though. At $600,000, it is the star of Ten-West Towing of Bakersfield, Calif. Powered by a 575-horsepower Series 60 14-liter with an 18-speed, it features dual 20,000-pound lift axles and a 55,000-pound tandem. The top-rated wrecker with its 355-inch wheelbase has a tripled frame and tips the scales at 81,000 pounds ready to roll.

On The Road

A short drive was all that was necessary to remind me of the exceptional robustness of the Western Star. It feels tight and rides well, and the double-sealed doors help make the Western Star a very quiet truck. The DD13 and 15 engines also help in this respect as they are common-rail engines with multi-event fuel injection which quieted the diesel knock.

The big dump truck was very much at home out in the back lot behind Las Vegas Freightliner, where we got to enjoy the somewhat jouncy ride of the empty hauler. Weighing 58,000 pounds empty, and with a five-speed Allison RDS transmission, the truck was fairly leisurely getting rolling, but the big surprise was how tightly is turned.

This Western Star maneuverability was seconded by J.R. Cady, who is the vice president of Ten-West Towing, at the wheel of the flagship wrecker of this central-California recovery-specialist fleet. He said that despite the long wheelbase it could turn really tight. But, because it is a "rotator," in most situations it can be brought in to an accident or railway derailment and with the outriggers down, the boom can be positioned to quickly complete a recovery. As a tribute to the spaciousness of the Western Star cab, J.R. managed to fold his 6-foot-10 frame easily into the driver seat. And that's his seat: No one drives this truck but him, he said.

In answers to questions, product planner Richard Shearing said the highly popular LoMax would be back with 2010 power by the middle of the year to satisfy the many requests from owner-operators who like the low-riding but high styling flat-top sleeper tractor.

In terms of product news there was little to bring away from the meeting. But the reaffirmation that Western Star is here and here for the long haul was good news enough.



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