With 2010 almost upon us, we have now had the opportunity to touch, feel and drive both technologies to meet the upcoming emissions limits, set for Jan. 1
. In mid-October, a few of the trucking press gathered in Chicago to see the Navistar advanced exhaust gas recirculation (A-EGR) solution that will be used on International trucks to comply with the new limits. And I say limits, because Navistar will pursue a 0.5 g per hp-hr compliance, making up the difference to 0.2 g with which all others will comply by using emissions credits the company has earned over the last years with super-clean engines lower than the '07 limits.

That gives Navistar an added couple of years - or until credits run out - to fine-tune A-EGR.

For the driving exercise, there were three engine/chassis combinations available: International ProStar's with 475-horsepower MaxxForce 13 engines; a construction-chassis WorkStar with the MaxxForce DT at 300 horsepower; and a medium-duty class 6 DuraStar with the sweet little MaxxForce 7 V-8. You'll find driving impressions of these elsewhere in this issue, as Tom Berg and I were able to cover all the options in the relatively short drives of the different trucks.

What was really encouraging about the event was the unbounded enthusiasm of all the Navistar engineers and their deep satisfaction in getting the technology to the point where it is ready for prime time.

Joining us during lunch, marketing supremo Jim Hebe joined the techies to share his enthusiasm and some of his usual perceptive insights. These are always worthwhile, as they are gained from Hebe's relationships with many of the major carrier owners and executives that he knows from his years in the forefront of this industry.

One comment that particularly struck me was an echo of some observations made through the year by American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello: The supply chain is changing, freight is getting more dense and, as Hebe pointed out, truckload carriers are worrying about tare weight. For the first time, dry freight loads are starting to weigh out instead of cube out.

Costello has a slide in his presentation that shows a slowing in the growth of trailer loads over the last decade. This is a result of creating new, less wasteful packaging, an effort to condense commodities such as the move to concentrated detergent that saves P&G thousands of trailerloads a year. And of course, there's the ever-shrinking consumer electronics. I'm sure carriers that serve stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart rue the passing of the monster TV for the flat panel display.

Much was made of the weight advantage of the new Internationals during the driving exercise. The International MaxxForce 13-liter engine, with its compacted graphite iron block, offers significant savings over a 15-liter. And for 2010, the engine in the 122-inch-bumper-to-back-of-cab ProStar sits 2 inches rearward in the same position as the shorter nosed 113-inch-BBC model. This lifts 100 pounds from the front axle and transfers it to the rear. So even with its additional cooling right out there, the front axle carries 600 pounds less than previous models with 15-liter power.

Of course, much was made of the fact that no additional weight - or real estate - on the chassis will be taken up by the aftertreatment systems that other truck OEs will be adding with the competing selective catalytic reduction technology. That's likely around 400 pounds, so the MaxxForce-powered Internationals have the potential to save as much as 1,000 pounds over competitive 15-liter trucks.

Hebe says a major segment of the truckload community is ready to give 13 liters a shot. And to prove that 13-liters can do it as well as 15-liters, International is accelerating the 15-liter development. (That's the Caterpillar C15-derived engine nicknamed the Maxxipillar.) Carriers are anxious to try the 13- and 15-liter MaxxForce engines side by side, says Hebe, to gain confidence in the smaller power unit.

If they can be convinced that the 13-liter will do the job and last, it could be the moment for the smaller engine to step into the limelight.

For sure, Navistar has a lot riding on the wager that now is the time.

From the November 2009 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.