Baby 8 trucks (Class 8 chassis with midrange engines) have long been useful conveyances of moderate loads
This 10-wheeler has axles and suspensions strong enough to gross 66,000 pounds, but for that, some states would limit weight on the tandem and require a lift axle or two, which will soon be available.
This 10-wheeler has axles and suspensions strong enough to gross 66,000 pounds, but for that, some states would limit weight on the tandem and require a lift axle or two, which will soon be available.
. In the past decade, such trucks have been continuously reintroduced as engine models have changed to meet exhaust emissions regulations. This Peterbilt is among several makes and models now using what's becoming a ubiquitous power plant, the Cummins ISL9.

Peterbilt's Model 382 is an aerodynamically styled model that looks a lot like the builder's medium-duty conventionals. It debuted about the time EPA 2010-spec diesels were adopted, but as a local and regional road tractor. Last fall, Peterbilt announced the 382 also can be built as a vocational model to handle jobs such as concrete delivery. A Pete customer needing more weight capacity would still use a Model 365, 367 or even a 388 or 389 with vocational components. But this 10-wheel 382 with its 66,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating is ideal for lighter work.

Cummins' 8.9-liter ISL is based on the ISC8.3 but has rugged innards to handle heavy-duty stresses. It easily fits under the 382's hood, and it's the only engine available in this model, except for the natural-gas-burning ISL-G just added. The diesel ISL is a gutsy and willing mill that makes nice sounds as it's working, though with the drum empty during our evaluation, it didn't have to work hard.

I drove this Pete near Dodge Center, Minn., home of Con-Tech Manufacturing, maker of mixer bodies and associated apparatus. It built and mounted the rear-discharge body on the chassis, and the truck is labeled for the company (though it's owned by Allstate, Peterbilt's Winona, Minn., store). Con-Tech is run by Grant McNeilus, grandson of Garwin McNeilus, who founded the McNeilus Co., a major manufacturer of mixer and refuse bodies. Garwin sold McNeilus to Oshkosh several years ago.

Tom Wentworth, sales manager at Allstate Peterbilt's main store in St. Louis Park, near the Twin Cities, met me at the plant to show me the truck. Although the 382 is a sort of compact Class 8 model, this one's hefty chassis components caused the cab to sit high, making for a healthy climb during entry. However, there were three well-placed steps and enough handrails to ease that chore.

Inside, things were businesslike but pleasant, with gray plastic panels covering most surfaces. A smooth-faced curvy dash, what people in the truck business call "automotive," sported smallish gauges, nice-sized rocker switches and rotary switches for headlamps and heater and air conditioning controls. It was all nicely laid out and easy to use.

The windshield glass was in two pieces. This sensible design limits damage and makes replacement easier when the inevitable stone smashes into one side or the other. The view through it and over the sloped hood was expansive, even if the front still sat high. That's partly due to the 20,000-pound front axle and suspension. There was also nice-sized glass in the doors and the cab's rear wall, and the rear corners had small curved glass windows that complete a 360-degree view of the world.

The Con-Tech plant was at the junction of two dusty gravel roads, so I shot my photos before driving the truck so it appears nice and clean. It was cold and windy, with snow in the forecast, and clouds kept obscuring the sun.

Wentworth and I jumped into the warm, draft-free cab and left the premises with him in the shotgun seat and me double-clutching and rowing the gearshift lever. The truck's clutch pedal came straight out of the floor, a feature Petes have had as long as I can remember. Sometimes this makes for a good left-leg workout, but on this truck, the pedal was easy to operate.

Even better, it had an Eaton Fuller 8LL transmission that shifted so smoothly I purposely slowed down and sped up just so I could go through the gears. I float-shifted a few times just to see if it could be done easily, and it could. This was the nicest-shifting Pete that I can remember driving. Who needs an automatic when there's something as fun to drive as this?

We meandered over county and state roads, and I began admiring the truck's quick and nimble behavior. The steering was precise and had a nice feel, and I was able to make some respectably tight turns, even with the big 425-series front tires that limit wheel cut. I backed around corners a couple of times, one of them into a country driveway. I can imagine that truck would be fairly easy to maneuver on city streets and jobsites.

Time was tight, and I had other business in the area, so I returned the truck to its home, and Wentworth and I said goodbye. Every so often, I'll conclude one of these experiences with regret because the truck's not only well-suited to its purpose but also fun to drive, and I'd have liked to keep it much longer. This was one of those trucks, and I'll bet the guy assigned to this Pete will be happy to work in it.


Truck: 2012 Peterbilt 382 conventional, vocational straight truck, BBC 110 in., GVW rating 66,000 lbs.
Engine: Cummins ISL9, 8.9 liters (544 cu. in.), 380 hp @ 2,100 rpm, 1,300 lbs-ft. @ 1,400 rpm, with rear-engine power take-off
Clutch: 15.5-in. Eaton Easy Pedal Advantage
Transmission: 11-speed Eaton Fuller RTO14909ALL
Front axle: 20,000-lb Dana Spicer D2000F on 20,000-lb. taperleafs
Rear axles: 46,000-lb Dana Spicer D46-170 with 4.78 ratio, on 46,000-lb. Chalmers 854 walking beam
Wheelbase: 224 in.
Brakes: Bendix S-cam drums, 16.5x6-in. front, 16.5x7-in. rear
Tires & wheels: Front - 425/65R22.5 Bridgestone M844F on Alcoa aluminum discs; rear - 11R22.5 G182 Bridgestone G182 on Accuride steel discs
Fuel tank: 26-in. diameter 50-gal. aluminum
Body: Con-Tech 10.5 yard Extreme Duty Paving Mixer

From the March 2012 issue of HDT