It's a transition time for Class 6 and 7 trucks as American and imported commercial vehicles move into model-year 2009-10 with only minor changes from the previous two years. original equipment manufacturers put considerable resources into fitting their medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with EPA 2007-legal diesels, and they're now readying the for EPA 2010 engines whose tailpipe emissions must be even cleaner. Most builders will use a fluid-based exhaust aftertreatment method, but at least one will not, causing a controversy that will probably continue as the new year unfolds.

Customers who are buying new trucks are already paying hefty premiums for '07 diesels, and they'll pay more for most 2010 models and their associated apparatus. Body builders and upfitters, who must design and install work equipment on the chassis, have resumed scratching their heads after working around the '07 aftertreatment devices, which take up valuable frame space. But OEMs worked hard to make the devices compact and keep frames clear for body mounting, and say they're doing the same for 2010 equipment.

Meanwhile, an economy that was sluggish even before the early autumn financial crisis has seriously pulled down sales and caused the demise of an entire line of trucks - Sterling. Daimler Trucks North America said it will cease building Sterlings, including Acterra medium-duty and medium-heavy models, by next March, and close the Canadian plant that assembles them (see Hotline, page 18). What sales the Acterras had will thus disperse among the other 10 brands in the Class 6-7 market.

Sour news should not mask the actuality that many truck operators continue to acquire new trucks. Ford Commercial Truck's sales and marketing manager, Len Deluca, used a half-full-glass approach in describing his company's situation to customers at a recent industry meeting. Overall sales are 80 percent of 2007's (even if last year's sales were down from 2006), with this breakdown: E-series vans are selling at 79 percent of last year's levels; F-250 and 350 cab-chassis products are at 92 percent; F-450/550s are at 72 percent; F650 and F-750 are at 54 percent; and the Class 3-4 low-cab-forward LCF at 33 percent.

Those numbers were for sales into late summer of calendar 2008; what's happening since news of the financial crises hit the front pages and air waves might further exacerbate the grim sales situation. Yet history says that this too shall pass and prosperity will resume, and players in the industry must prepare for it. That, OEM representatives told attendees at the National Truck Equipment Association's Product Conference in Dearborn, Mich., is exactly what they're doing.

Most presentations on manufacturers' 2009 and 2010 models listed changes to trim levels, alterations of a few chassis dimensions, and refinement of electronic controls to make certain operations easier. Some described what they're doing to prepare for the EPA 2010 diesels, which go into production in January '10 and will begin appearing in trucks a month or two later. Some OEMs start their model years nearly 12 months prior to the calendar year for which they're named, while others phase in through the spring and summer months. So EPA 2010 diesels will first appear in some OEMs' 2011 models and in others' 2010s.

As expected, most manufacturers' reps said their engines will use selective catalytic reduction to cleanse exhaust. SCR requires sometimes bulky equipment to be fitted to exhaust systems downstream of the current diesel particulate filters. These will be accommodated with little intrusion on frame space behind cabs, they said. SCR is the best solution for fuel economy, reps insisted, because it sprays in a urea fluid that displaces diesel fuel. Fuel economy will be 1 percent to 5 percent better with 2010 diesels than current engines.

Navistar International, however, will not use SCR and instead will employ higher levels of exhaust-gas recirculation to meet the 2010 limits. This will require larger cooling systems, but will avoid the extra exhaust-system apparatus and its added weight and higher cost, as well as the need to fill a separate urea tank. Urea fluid - also called diesel exhaust fluid or DEF - might cost as much as diesel, so SCR's higher fuel economy won't save much if any money, Navistar's reps argued. Cummins will supply heavy-duty diesels for some Internationals, and although Cummins announced that its engines will use SCR, the ones it ships to Navistar won't because a contract between the two companies requires non-SCR diesels.

Meanwhile, Caterpillar will begin its withdrawal from the North American truck engine market in January when it drops its midrange C7. All its heavy-duty diesels will be gone a year later. One of the customers for the C7, General Motors, is dropping it from its medium-duty lineup in December, leaving only the Isuzu 6H (GM is also dropping the Vortec 8100 gasoline V-8 from its C6500, C7500 and C8500 in December). The other C7 customer, Ford, will drop the engine in January, leaving it with only the Cummins ISB for its F-650 and F-750.

In other manufacturer developments:

Hybrid Class 7 tractors are being introduced in the next few months by International, Kenworth and Peterbilt. Like current Class 6 and 7 straight trucks (including hybrids from Freightliner), the tractors will use Cummins ISB diesels (called PX-6 by Paccar, the parent of KW and Pete) and Eaton Corp.'s electric-drive system which is the only one now in production. And Hino says it will bring in a Japan-built Class 3 hybrid in 2011 or so. Hybrids are still a minor part of all medium-duty business, but may grow as prices come down through greater volume and as government incentives become better known.

Recent drops in oil and fuel prices will undermine the business case for hybrids, but fuel prices are expected to climb again when economies improve around the world and demand for oil increases.

Ford has quietly returned to the Class 8 market with heavier single rear axles in its F-750, yielding gross vehicle weight ratings of up to 37,000 pounds. It gave up building vehicles over 33,000 pounds for 10 years when it sold its HN80 heavies to Freightliner (which is where the now-doomed Sterling heavies came from). That prohibition has expired, and Ford executives are considering tandem rears, too. But they'd need a more powerful engine than the Cummins ISB, which will be the only one in the F-650/750 after January, when Cat drops the C7. Cummins' ISC would work, if Ford wants it.

General Motors is moving ahead with its medium-duty truck business after its proposed acquisition by Navistar fell through. The building of GM's C series conventionals and T series low-cab-forward models in Flint, Mich., and distribution to GM commercial truck dealers had continued during the talks, and product planners have resumed upgrading and refining the vehicles. GM's affiliation with Isuzu Commercial Truck of America also continues, and Isuzu reps hinted that they might be seeking closer ties, with or without features of a now-expired joint venture between the two companies.

Daimler Trucks North America has taken over Mitsubishi Fuso's sales, parts and service activities in the U.S. Daimler AG of Germany had acquired a major stake in Fuso of Japan, and decided to move most administrative functions to the Redford, Mich., headquarters of Sterling-Western Star. Although Sterling will soon disappear, those offices will continue functioning for the time being. Parts and service people remain in the old offices in Orange Township, N.J.

Hino Motor Sales has brought back one of the low-cab-forward models it dropped several years ago when it began building conventionals in North America. Though the conventionals have been very successful, many of Hino's customers resented the loss of the durable and reliable LCFs. Hino has reintroduced a Class 4 model 155 in Canada, and two Class 3 models will appear in the U.S. in a year or two, according to a rep at the NTEA show.

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Ford

Ford has quietly returned to Class 8 with higher-rated rear axles in its F-750 allowing GVW ratings of up to 37,000 pounds; tandem rears are being considered. F-650 and F-750 continue into ’09 with two-door Regular and four-door Super or Crew cabs, taken from the high-volume SuperDuty models. Engines are the standard Cummins 6.7-liter ISB with 200 to 325 horsepower and optional Caterpillar 7.2-liter C7 with 190 to 300 horsepower. But Cat is withdrawing the C7 in January, leaving only the Cummins ISB in Class 6 and 7 Fords for the time being. Eaton manual and Allison automatic transmissions are used. “Full power” Meritor Quadraulic brakes are standard, with full air brakes optional on some models. Ford offers 13 wheelbases and cab-axle dimensions with Regular and Super Cabs and 12 with the Crew Cab.

Freightliner

Business Class M2-106 conventional is available in two-door Day and Extended Cabs and a four-door Crew Cab, and in truck or tractor configurations. A V-for-vocational variant has a front frame extension to accommodate a front-drive PTO, hydraulic pump, snow plow or stabilizers. An M2e hybrid uses the Eaton electric-drive system with a 240-horsepower Cummins ISB. Standard in most M2-106s is the Mercedes-Benz 926 diesel, while the Cummins ISB and ISC are optional. A new Wired Rite option includes a switch panel in the dash or over the windshield for running auxiliary lights or other electric accessories via the truck’s multiplexed wiring system; the plug-in body builder’s module has been moved from outside the cab to inside for protection against the elements. A Sears C2 seat with contoured metal pans for greater comfort than tube supports is optional on most M2s. A $5,000 incentive is available on the M2e hybrid through Dec. 15. 

General Motors

Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC TopKick C6500 and C7500 series conventionals (and the C8500 Baby 8) come in Regular and Crew Cab styles and, starting in December, will use only the Isuzu 6H diesel because the Cat C7 is being dropped. Also gone in December is the 8.1-liter Vortec 8100 V-8, the last gasoline engine available in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The 6H will have an automatic idle-shutdown to comply with anti-idling laws in California and seven other states, but this feature will be included on engines for all 50 states. The shutdown cannot be turned off but can be adjusted to work after five to 15 minutes. As before, Kodiaks and TopKicks are available with Eaton manual and Allison automatic transmissions, and with a variety of axles, wheelbases and other chassis equipment. GM also continues to build medium- and medium/heavy-duty T series LCFs using Isuzu cabs with domestic chassis components.

International

Navistar International’s DuraStar mediums, including the 4400-series Class 7 tractor shown, were extensively redesigned late last year to take EPA-’07 diesels. As before, they come with a wide variety of transmissions, axles and other chassis equipment, and use Diamond Logic multiplexed electrical systems. The Class 7 4400 uses the 7.6-liter MaxxForce DT (formerly the DT466), and for an upcoming hybrid tractor is fitted with Eaton’s electric-drive system. The 9.2-liter MaxxForce 9 (formerly the DT 570) is an option. The 4400 also is built as a Baby 8 with tandem rears. The 4300, as a regular or low-profile 4x2 or a new 4x4 with hydraulic or air brakes, uses the 7.6-liter MaxxForce DT and the 6.4-liter MaxxForce 7 V-8 (a redesigned VT-360). All engines are now approved for B20 (20 percent biodiesel blend) fuel. Inter­national’s 2010 diesels will use higher levels of EGR to meet tighter exhaust-emissions limits, and will lose 1 percent to 2 percent in fuel economy. But they’ll cost less to buy than trucks whose engines use SCR, so “total cost of ownership” will be less, International insists. 

Isuzu

Iuzu’s FTR, FVR and FXR tiltcabs correspond to the Chevrolet and GMC T6500, T7500 and T8500, with GVW ratings from 19,501 to 56,000 pounds. All are built by General Motors in Flint, Mich., using cabs and engines from Japan and many drivetrain and chassis components from North America. The vehicles are all outfitted the same. The only engine is the Isuzu 6HK1-TC (called the 6H by GM) with 215, 230, 260 and 300 horsepower, all with 1,450 pounds-feet. Horizontal and vertical exhaust systems are offered, and transmission choices include Eaton 6-, 9- or 10-speed manuals or 6-speed Allison automatics. Many wheelbases are available and cab-to-axle combinations are available. Isuzu wants to expand sales of all its LCFs, which already dominate this field, and is going after more business from vocational users such as landscapers, oil delivery and towing.

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Kenworth

T370 Hybrid tractor is Kenworth’s latest medium-duty conventional-cab model, joining Class 6 T270 and Class 7 T370 hybrid and diesel-only trucks (and a Class 5 T170 truck). Like other hybrids, the new tractor uses a Cummins-made 6.7-liter Paccar PX 6 engine and Eaton’s electric-drive system. In other models, Kenworth uses the PX 6 with up to 300 hp and the larger 8.3-liter PX 8 with up to 330 hp. Last year the midrange T series got new hoods made of composite materials with an assist device for easy opening, new grill designs, and projector-beam headlamps. For ’09 the T270 and T370 will add the AG210L, a two-bag, 21,000-pound rear suspension; and the AG400L, a 4-bag 40,000-pound tandem rear suspension. Also in the lineup are the Class 6 K260 and Class 7 K360, Americanized versions of DAF low-cab-forward trucks from Europe, with PX 6 engines.

Nissan UD

Nissan Diesel America fields four truck models in Class 6 and 7: UD2000, UD 2300, UD2600 and UD3300. UD is the brand (it originally meant Uniflow Diesel) and the numbers indicate gross vehicle weight ratings in pounds (times 10). All were updated for the last model year with fresh aerodynamic styling for their cabs that saves fuel and cuts wind noise, while interiors are comfortably appointed. The EPA ’07-legal diesel for all these models is the MD230 inline-6 with 230 horsepower. Power steering pump and air compressor (in air-braked models) are gear driven. All come standard with a Nissan 6-speed manual transmission, while 5-speed Allison 5-speed automatics are optional. 

Peterbilt

Class 6 Model 330 (shown) and Class 7 Model 335 are Peterbilt’s main entries in the midrange market. There’s also a “heavy 7” 340, which is primarily a vocational truck, and a Class 5 Model 325. All use Cummins-built Paccar PX-6 and PX-8 diesels with Eaton manual and Allison automatic transmissions. Late this year there’ll be a 335 hybrid tractor, using Eaton’s electric-drive system, like that in the 330 and 335 hybrid straight trucks. Horsepower in the PX-6 diesel will be higher in the tractor but, as in the trucks, the modest 6.7-liter engine size suffices because torque is augmented by that from the electric motor at startup. Peterbilt’s model 210 and 220 are DAF-sourced Class 6 and 7 low-cab-forward trucks also sold by sister company Kenworth; they also use the PX-6 engine with a ZF manual or Allison automatic.

Hino

Assembled in West Virginia from imported and domestic components, Hino conventionals have sold briskly since replacing imported LCFs several years ago, but sales have fallen since the economic slowdown. Four Class 6 and 7 models are offered: the 258, 268, 308 and 338, with the first two numbers suggesting approximate GVW ratings in thousands of pounds and the 8 indicating a 7.6-liter, 220-horsepower, in-line six-cylinder diesel used in all models. The 258 has a low-profile chassis and the others have a normal stance. The 338 is now available in a down-rated 25,900-pound-GVW version that doesn’t require a driver to have a CDL. The 338 and 268 can be had with Eaton’s 6-speed UltraShift automated mechanical gearbox; generally, Eaton manuals and Allison automatics are available throughout the midrange line. An Extended Cab version has a 30-inch composite extension installed by Fontaine that can fitted with a full-width bench seat or a fold-down bunk. By popular demand, a Class 4 LCF is again available in Canada, and Class 3 LCFs will come to the U.S. in a year or two.

Fuso

Fuso’s LCFs last year got redesigned cabs with upgraded interiors and lower-profile frames, and these continue. The cab on the Class 6 and 7 models is said to be 4 percent more aerodynamic with a van body and 25 percent better with a flatbed. Models include the Class 7 FM330 with a 7.5-liter 243-horsepower Fuso 6M60 diesel with exhaust brake, full air brakes, and Allison automatic or Mitsubishi 6-speed overdrive manual transmissions. A Class 6 FK260, rated at 26,000 pounds with air brakes, and FK200, at 19,850 pounds with hydraulic brakes, use the same engine with Allison 2200 and 1000 automatics. Sterling-Western Star executives in Michigan have taken over many administrative functions since Daimler AG bought into Fuso, but some parts and service people remain in New Jersey.

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