The Return of the Truck that Never Went Away
January 13, 2014
Out of sight, out of mind. DTNA never stopped offering the Argosy as a glider, but few knew it was available.
Cabover fans rejoice! The Freightliner Argosy is alive and well, and available through most DTNA dealers in North America – as a glider kit.
While many were glad to see them go, cab-over-engine chassis designs still appeal to a small but loyal sector of the industry. Many will be surprised to learn that the Argosy COE never completely disappeared. According to Don White, manager for Cab and Glider Sales for Daimler Trucks North America, the fully assembled truck was taken out of production due to low market demand in 2006, but it has remained on the books in the NAFTA countries as a glider kit ever since.
"The numbers have been extremely low," White says. "There has been very little demand for it, so there was never any reason for us to publish or promote its availability. Then along came Walmart and some others that saw a fit for the truck in a particular niche. That suggested to us that there is still a place for the cabover in the industry, but probably not in full production quantities."
With that, White said the company recently decided to publish the availability of the glider option to the dealer network to see if that would stimulate interest in the truck. It worked.
"We have seen an increase in quotations, but not yet a big increase in orders," he says. "We are now seeing a lot more interest in this alternative."
In early January, Kevin Bigliazzi, sales manager at Freightliner of Hartford in East Hartford, Conn., ran an ad in Truck Paper for an 2015 Argosy glider. The phone started ringing almost immediately and it hasn't really stopped.
"The ad was a bit of a trial ballon," Bigliazzi says. "We decided to advertise one since we were told they were available, and lo and behold we started getting calls on it right away. Many said they were shocked to see it advertised. They didn't know they were available."
White says now that the cat is out of the bag, the company is hearing from a lot more people who say they are really interested in an Argosy.
"Nobody was really asking the question before, because they figured it just wasn't available," White told Truckinginfo.com. "Now that we are actively pursuing the market, I think things will heat up for the Argosy. I think it's an opportunity for DTNA to help some of these people get into a truck they say they need for some special business application."
According to White, DTNA is targeting a few large carriers that use bigger trailers for one reason or another and that can take advantage of the truck with regard to length or weight restrictions. He said they have had inquiries from a few West Coast hay haulers and some different niche market operators who can need the lower weight and shorter overall length.
An Argosy glider sparked a bit of a buzz in late 2011 when Walmart Canada unveiled what it calls the Supercube truck, pulled by an Argosy glider tractor. The trailer is 60 feet, 6 inches long with a deep 62-inch kingpin setting, and boasts a cubic capacity of 5,100 cubic feet – 30% more cube than a standard 53-foot trailer at 3,900 cubic feet.
Walmart's Supercube truck squeezes 5,500 cu-ft of cargo capacity into a 75-ft, 6-in. envelope.
The key to making the truck work in Canada was the Argosy glider tractor. It's a day-cab, but it totes a drom box capable of carrying four pallets in its additional 521 cubic feet of cargo space. The overall length of the thing is 75 feet 6 inches bumper-to-bumper.
Truckinginfo ran a story on the Supercube truck back in November 2011.
While White declined to speak to Walmart's plans for the Argosy or the Supercube concept, he did say that the retail giant has "made some further inquiries into this program."
The company continues to build Argosy tractors for export, though they are now mostly right-hand drive models offered for sale in Australia, New Zealand and other countries. Left-hand drive models were sold for a while in South America, but they have been discontinued as well. Click here to see the Argosy website from New Zealand.
Subject to Restrictions
Because it's a glider kit, there are certain restrictions prospective Argosy owner must keep in mind. It is sold without an engine or transmission and rear-axle assembly. The customer is required to take a so-called "donor truck" out of service and use the major components to complete the glider. Under EPA guidelines, the final assembly can use engines the same age or newer than the donor truck but not older.
In the case of the Argosy, because it was never engineered to accommodate engines and emissions systems beyond EPA 2004 levels, the newest engine customers can use are of that vintage. DTNA also offers remanufactured Detroit Diesel Series 60 and Cummins ISX engines to power the glider kit.
And of course, the completed glider needs to meet NHTSA/FMVSS/CMVSS and all state, as well as Canadian and Provincial regulations -- as well as EPA guidelines -- for where the truck will operate.
White says the main attraction with any glider is the price.
"Depending on the model and the trim package and what major components the customer orders through DTNA, the acquisition cost can be up to 40% less than a new truck," he says. "If it's done properly, some customers may be eligible for an additional Federal Excise Tax savings of 12%."
All the details are available on DTNA's glider kit website.
Even with the restrictions, Bigliazzi says the ad he ran in early January has probably already sold one Argosy glider.
"I had a call from a customer with whom we were just starting to work up a spec on a Western Star glider," he said. "When he saw they ad for the Argosy, he called and told me to stop work on the Western Star and get going on the Argosy instead.
"The Argosy is more expensive than a Columbia or a Coronado glider, and that's probably just a demand thing," Bigliazzi notes. "The last figure I heard from DTNA was that they sold less than 400 of the trucks last year. That's really not a big number. I think the number would be higher if people knew they were available."
Well, they are available, and dealers like Freightliner of Hartford are ready to put an Argosy together for you. And you thought the COE was history ...
More blog posts about cabovers:
All That's Trucking blog: Euro-Style Cabovers in the U.S. and Canada?
Trailer Talk blog: Super-cube rig for Walmart Canada might raise some issues
All That's Trucking blog: Classic KW Cabover Labor of Love for California Port Trucker