8 Things to Expect on Tomorrow’s Trucks
Fleet demands, changing freight patterns and government regulations are driving changes in vehicle design and specs.
December 2013, TruckingInfo.com - Cover Story
For instance, right now we’re seeing a move from 15 liters to 13 liters for Class 8 on-highway trucks. Jeffress wonders if engine designers eventually may work the same magic with 11-liter engines.
The same is true for the lower classes of trucks.
“Look at the horsepower and torque we’re getting out of a four-cylinder engine that’s delivering 200 horsepower and 285 or 300 pounds-feet of torque to do a job in a Class 5 vehicle,” says Todd Bloom, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America.
Freightliner’s Revolution concept truck also took on the design of the inside of the truck.
In medium-duty, many fleets are moving to smaller-class vehicles. Isuzu’s Tabel says people “are reevaluating how their trucks are driven. Something they would always use a Class 6 or 7 for, now they’re coming down to a Class 5. They’ve always bought big, heavy-duty trucks so they ensure they’ve got everything covered. Now they’re looking at how they can put more fuel-efficient trucks on different routes.”
Bloom describes this as a “trend to use the right vehicle for the right job.”
“Instead of getting more truck than you need so you’ll never be overloaded, it makes more sense to get that loaded 90% every day,” he says. “If you need more for the busy season, you can go out and rent what you need.”
3. Better durability and maintenance
By 2025, TMC fleet members say, we’ll see trucks that are more reliable.
• Oil change intervals may continue to increase, with TMC’s survey predicting oil change intervals of more than 60,000 miles.
• More fleets will go to air disc brakes, which take less maintenance than traditional drum brakes, with half saying it would be over 75%.
• TMC members predict 80% or greater usage of tire pressure monitoring and inflation systems, and a likely addition of tread depth sensors, to help tires last longer and save fuel.
• We will continue to see improvements in the electrical and battery area. Ultracapacitors are on the horizon, says TMC, and a switch to 24 volts is probable. We’re already on the way to all-LED lighting.
Computer technology, from electronic driver vehicle inspections to telematics, may play the largest role in improved vehicle uptime. Truck makers are now offering telematics systems that communicate between the truck, the dealer/OE and the back office about any problems happening on the vehicle.
“I think in the future, the truck will be able to understand, based on its duty cycle, when the usable life of the components on board is and when they need to be serviced,” predicts T.J. Reed, director of product strategy for Freightliner Trucks, and will communicate that to the maintenance manager.
Mike McQuade, chief technology officer for Zonar, predicts more telematics built into the truck. He foresees a day when the OE can analyze the data from each truck and tweak the programming over the air to make it operate more efficiently.
“We’re going to see aftermarket telematics be one thing, and factory-installed telematics be some level above that,” McQuade says. “Like supersizing your order or buying a loaded car, you’re going to get another level of connectivity, knowledge and value.”
4. Alternative fuels
“Beyond the next couple of years, we’re seeing a groundswell for alternative fuels, especially natural gas,” says Ryder’s Perry. “More investment is being made in engine platforms to expand that portfolio, and that competition drives further advancements on the technology standpoint and also drives cost out of the offering.”
Don’t count out other alternative fuels, such as advanced biofuels made from algae and other non-food stocks. Volvo and Mack believe DME, or dimethyl ether, is the fuel of the future. Hybrid, electric, propane, natural-gas-to-liquid, all will likely play a role in powering future trucks.
For medium-duty, TMC’s survey respondents felt it was likely that we would see gasoline-powered Class 6-7 trucks. Truck makers backed this up.
Isuzu’s Tabel says the traditional rule of thumb was that only trucks with 25,000 miles annually or less were a good candidate for gasoline. “Today we’re seeing customers that have 25,000, 30,000, even 35,000 miles a year and they can still make sense of gas, because they don’t have the added costs of diesel emissions requirements, DPF filter cleanings or DEF fluid,” he says.
5. Changes in the cab
Expect more integration of in-cab technology into the OE dashboard. Both Freightliner and Peterbilt have showed concept trucks featuring a removable tablet in the dash that can display virtual gauges, navigation and instantaneous feedback on fuel economy and unsafe driving. The tablet can be removed when the truck is not in motion to perform electronic vehicle inspections or for the driver to use to connect with family members or other personal use.
Daimler recently took a step in that direction with its Detroit Connect tablet. It pops into a cradle rather than being built into the dash as those concept trucks, but it performs many of the same functions, offering telematics, diagnostics, navigation, hours of service and more.
Sleepers may get smaller as more fleets move to regional haul or hub and spoke type operations.
Freightliner’s Revolution concept truck totally re-envisioned the cab interior for these types of operations. It’s somewhat like an extended cab, with a sleeper berth that folds up. The passenger door or passenger seat have been left out in order to create a driver work area.
Driver productivity and satisfaction drove many of the interior features of the Revolution, including small things like mood lighting and an integrated coffeemaker.
OEs have been paying a lot of attention to driver comfort and convenience in their latest trucks. The focus on ergonomics may continue as fleets face a worsening driver shortage. We could see more adoption of driver comfort options such as the Bose Ride system, a seat that uses “intelligent motion” technology to improve driver comfort and reduce fatigue.