Executives of the Finnish-owned firm showed the deluxe version of the Ottawa-model tractor to customers and reporters earlier this week at their headquarters and plant in Ottawa, Kans. Like other commercial truck builders, Kalmar is enjoying a revival of orders as the economy recovers, they said.
Features of the Special Edition include a chrome-trimmed steering wheel, polished stainless steel mirrors, LED marker and tail lamps, and decals showing a stars-and-stripes banner and a bald eagle. Polished aluminum wheels can be added to that package. Some customers see the deluxe model as a way to reward top drivers and to enhance corporate image, said Dave Wood, director, terminal tractors. Terminal tractors move shuttle trailers and container chassis around terminals, seaports and intermodal facilities. They are an American innovation that is now used around the world, according to Kalmar executives. They have one-man cabs, short wheelbases, stout frames, high-capacity rear axles, and midrange powertrains. A typical life cycle is 10 to 12 years, but many are kept well beyond that. Durability, reliability and driver safety and convenience are prime requirements.
Ottawa Truck Corp., as the company was called, turned out its first "yard goat" in 1958. It took 41 years to build the first 25,000 units but only 12 more years to make another 25,000, said Jeff McCullough, dealer administration manager. A peak year was 2005, when employees turned out 3,800 units. It anticipates producing 1,800 this year.
Almost three out of four Kalmar-brand tractors go to "distributor" customers, including for-hire and private fleets, Wood said. The single largest customer is a rental firm which provides yard tractors and drivers to a variety of shippers and carriers. Ottawa, the original brand, now is a model name applied to single-rear-axle 4x2 tractors. Kalmar makes 4x4 and other versions overseas. The company was founded as Ottawa Steel Products in 1943 and over the years was sold to a series of American and overseas investors and companies. It became Kalmar, after a city in Sweden, under Swedish ownership, and was also owned by Sisu and now Cargotec, both of Finland.
Kalmar's factory, parts distribution, customer and dealer support activities are all in Ottawa, a small city southwest of Kansas City. The original plant where agricultural implements were made now houses the firm's engineering and development efforts.
At one time the company offered a wide choice of engines, but is now standard with the Cummins ISB, rated at 173 horsepower or less for off-highway use and 175 or more for street-legal versions. The principal difference is exhaust emissions equipment. Current off-highway engines follow the Environmental Protection agency's Tier 3 and 4 standards, while those used on public streets have EPA 2010-compliant equipment including particulate filters and selective catalytic reduction.
Kalmar also offers natural gas power, using the Cummins Westport ISL-G engine. A diesel-hydraulic parallel hybrid tractor is now available, and a parallel diesel-electric version is being tested, executives said.
Also under test is a diesel-hydraulic series hybrid. In final development is a gasoline-powered tractor using Ford's 6.8-liter V-10. Port operators in California asked for the gasoline engine as a way to meet tighter exhaust emissions limits, Wood said.