The Class 8 truck market is sizzling hot and shows no sign of cooling off. “Class 8 net orders are at historically high levels,” says analyst Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for research firm FTR.
FTR is pegging Class 8 production to come in at 315,000 units this year and then rise to 350,000 units next year. According to Ake, the forecasts are based on continued strong freight growth generating “robust demand” for trucks through the third quarter of 2019.
ACT Research is so far holding its Class 8 production forecast for 2019 to 335,000, citing some softening in freight numbers and uncertainty over trade policy and tariffs, but still projects it will be the best since 2006.
Daimler Trucks North America President and CEO Roger Nielsen is even more upbeat. He says sales of Class 8 trucks in North America could climb above 440,000 this year. The market is “a lot stronger than we ever expected it to be. Over 330,000 vehicles were delivered through the end of September… 330,000 is a good year in itself, and we’ve still got three months to go.”
Peter Voorhoeve, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America, contends that if manufacturing constraints could be removed so that OEMs could build every truck on order within the calendar year, the NAFTA market could surpass 500,000 units. “All the truck manufacturers in North America cannot [now] build more than we are now,” he says. “But if you look at the order boards, we could exceed 500,000… It shows the market is very strong.”
Along with groaningly full order boards, Class 8 truck builders are flush with new product rollouts in 2018 and are talking up further innovations they aim to bring to market. For one thing, listen for the slow but steady drumbeat of approaching electric trucks to pick up as the New Year marches in.
For another, expect more and more advanced active safety systems, connectivity-related features and solutions, and fuel-efficiency packages to arrive. And when it comes to attracting the drivers needed to move all that freight that’s driving up Class 8 orders, look to see even more attention being paid to making big rigs perform as safely and comfortably as possible for drivers who are no longer willing to settle for life on the road in a “fleet truck.”
“Vehicles with distinctive looks, driver amenities, and comfort, like our Anthem model, are a hot item to help with driver recruitment and retention,” says Roy Horton, Mack’s director of product strategy. He adds that “as diesel creeps up in cost, there is increasing interest in fuel-efficient technologies and packages. Safety features are another trend, occurring across all segments as customers look to help improve driver safety and productivity. Direct support through communication is a key element that customers are starting to expect more and more,” such as telematics offerings and over-the-air programming.
“Customers are showing a great interest in battery electric vehicles, as the potential benefits they offer are extremely attractive for many applications,” he continues. Horton adds that to meet increasing interest in urban delivery, Mack “spent a lot of work designing and building exceptional visibility and tight handling into our Anthem day cab model, making it a great choice for customers operating in cities.”
“Safety, connectivity, and electrification are hot trends among heavy-duty fleets,” concurs Kary Schaefer, general manager of Freightliner and Detroit product marketing and strategy. “We recently hosted the first gathering of the Freightliner Electric Vehicle Customer Council. Thirty of the top fleets in the country came together at Daimler Trucks North America headquarters in Portland, Oregon, to discuss and co-create the future of e-mobility and test drive our electric trucks.”
On the other hand, Jim Nachtman, director of heavy-duty marketing for International Trucks, says that, “Battery-electric Class 8 trucks garner significant conversation and interest in learning more, but the total cost of ownership remains lower for a diesel-powered tractor.”
Nachtman does see a lot of interest in safety — “it’s paramount in this industry” — with heavy-duty customers embracing collision-mitigation systems. He also says that fuel economy remains a top concern, with customers “investing in more fuel-efficient components than ever before.”
Nachtman adds that as more distribution centers are being built nationwide, “some fleets are increasing the percentage of day cabs in their applications. For example, we’re seeing strong interest in our RH Series, a tractor well-suited for final mile applications.”
A number of enhancements have been made to the Cascadia, Freightliner’s flagship highway tractor. These include making the Detroit Assurance 4.0 radar-based collision mitigation system and the Meritor EX+ L air disc brakes standard, as well as a new battery-powered HVAC system available as a factory-installed option.
This system provides up to 10 hours of cooling or 34 hours of heating to the cab when parked, “allowing drivers to maintain a comfortable temperature overnight in their cab without idling the engine.”
On Detroit-powered Cascadias, Detroit Connect Remote Updates are now available, as are two new connectivity services – Detroit Connect Direct and a wireless in-cab device connection. The OEM says that with Remote Updates, fleets can make over-the-air engine parameter changes on one or more trucks and download Detroit Diesel Electronic Control without having to physically touch the vehicle. Detroit Connect Direct provides fleets with direct access to “critical information such as vehicle location, fault codes and diagnostics, fuel performance, safety data and driver behavior.”
Freightliner has also rolled out a new vocational model, the low-entry cab-over-engine EconicSD refuse truck. The OEM says the cab and chassis are designed and manufactured in Woerth, Germany, and more than 125 modifications were made to optimize the truck for North American operations. The EconicSD is powered by the Detroit DD8, with a rating of 350 hp and 1050 lb-ft torque, features Detroit Connect Virtual Technician remote diagnostics and the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems.
The big truck news from Hino is the rollout of its XL Series of Class 7 to 8 trucks, which the company said marks the next step in expanding its North American presence.
The Class 8 XL8 model is powered by Hino’s A09 8.9L inline 6-cylinder diesel engine and will be offered in both straight truck and tractor configurations. GVWRs range up to 60,000 pounds and GCWRs up to 66,000 pounds. Engine performance will top out at 360 hp and 1,150 lbs.-ft. of torque. Tandem axle and fifth wheel configurations will be offered for a variety of vocational applications.
The XL Series features new active safety solutions with electronic stability control (standard on tractor models) and collision mitigation systems, payload management suspension options, and a “body builder-friendly design” to improve serviceability.
Hino says it also had the driver in mind, focusing on styling, ergonomics, and amenities. The cab features a wide entry for easier access to what the company calls an “automotive-grade finished interior.” The XL Series also provides an air-ride cab and driver’s seat, hands-free Bluetooth audio/calling, steering wheel controls, LED headlights, cruise control, and air conditioning as standard equipment on all 2020 model year trucks. Customers will receive access to benefits such as HinoWatch 24/7 roadside assistance, HinoCare maintenance programs, and the company’s fully integrated connected vehicle solution, Hino Insight.
International Trucks is now offering a special MPG Package on its International LT Series highway tractors, which the OEM says can provide customers with greater fuel efficiency and upfront savings through the cost-effective bundling of a range of aerodynamic, fuel-saving features.
According to Michael Cancelliere, Navistar’s president, Truck and Parts, the highest-efficiency spec in the new package includes proprietary and supplier-provided enhancements, such as an aerodynamic chassis package, predictive cruise control, air dam, and bumper seal, as well as a roof fairing and extenders, chassis skirts, and energy-efficient wheel covers.
He says this spec delivers up to an 8% improvement in fuel efficiency over the International LT Series with just the roof fairing and extenders, air dam, and bumper seal. “Spec’ing for fuel efficiency can be a complex process,” Cancelliere notes. “The LT MPG Package simplifies that process while reducing customer total cost of ownership.” The package is available on day cab, 56-inch hi-rise and 73-inch hi-rise/sky-rise cab models of the International LT.
The Allison TC10 automatic transmission will be available with the Cummins X15 engine on International LT Series trucks, and the Allison 3000 Highway Series automatic will be available with the International A26 engine on its RH Series of Class 8 regional-haul tractors. The OEM points out that, unlike automated manual transmissions, both the Allison TC10 and Allison 3000 automatics use a torque converter “to enable smoother and more efficient acceleration.” Both transmissions are engineered specifically for Class 8 tractor applications. International says the units were designed to maximize powertrain efficiency while achieving and maintaining highway cruising speeds to save time and money.
Kenworth just unveiled a fresh take on the classic long-nose conventional, the W990. According to Mike Dozier, Kenworth general manager, the new model, which debuted in late September, “represents the pride, image, and freedom of trucking, and captures the spirit of what trucking is all about.”
Available in day cab, 40-inch flat top, and 52-inch and 76-inch mid-roof sleeper versions, standard power for the W990 is the proprietary Paccar MX-13 engine, rated up to 510 hp and 1,850 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 12-speed Paccar automated transmission and Paccar 40,000-pound tandem rear axles. KW says the new long-nose boasts its “proven and popular” 2.1-meter cab platform, also used for the T680 and T880. The W990 cab features special comfort and style options, including Limited Edition cab and sleeper interior, and the W990 Driver’s Studio package of premium options. The W900L remains available as well.
Kenworth also announced various top-drawer features for its T680 on-highway flagship are now standard. These include the OEM’s proprietary Predictive Cruise Control, which uses topographical GPS data inputs to aid cruising speed efficiency; Bendix ADB22X front and rear air disc brakes (ADB22X front discs have been standard for several years), and the Bendix Wingman Fusion advanced driver assistance safety system. The T680 also now comes standard with the disc-brake-compatible KW AG400L tandem rear suspension (rated at 40,000 pounds) and the Jost JSK37USB fifth wheel, which the OEM notes “offers a simple and safe design with only four moving parts.”
Mack Trucks has introduced its MP8HE 13L engine and HE+ fuel-efficiency package for its on-highway Anthem. Anthem trucks spec’d with the new engine and package will gain up to a 9.5% boost in fuel efficiency, it says. The MP8HE engine leverages Mack Energy Recovery Technology, which captures waste energy from the engine’s exhaust and converts it to mechanical energy that is delivered back to the engine crankshaft as additional torque.
The Anthem, which was rolled out in 2017, boasts an all-new exterior design and optimized aerodynamics. “Customers continue to place a heavy emphasis on improving fuel efficiency, particularly now, as we see fuel prices steadily climbing,” says Jonathan Randall, senior vice president, North American sales and marketing. “Combining our advanced yet reliable Energy Recovery Technology with additional aerodynamic features, we’re able to achieve significant fuel savings without compromising performance.” The MP8HE is offered only with Mack’s mDrive automated manual transmission. Fully integrated with the engine, the transmission contributes to overall efficiency by constantly monitoring speed, grade, and load to identify ideal shift points and help ensure the truck is always in the right gear, says Mack. It also enables the lower, downsped cruise rpm to take advantage of the extra torque provided by the Energy Recovery Technology system. The HE+ package adds Mack’s Predictive Cruise, an intelligent system that memorizes a route when cruise control is on.
The newest version of Peterbilt’s flagship on-highway Model 579 is the UltraLoft, an 80-inch integrated “high-loft” sleeper tractor designed with an eye to giving both driver teams and solo truckers extra space and amenities as well as greater fuel efficiency, according to the OEM.
Peterbilt says the “driver experience” was key to designing the UltraLoft, which is why it provides the largest upper and lower bunk mattresses and “best-in-class headroom” in both bunks. With the sleeper built on the wider 2.1-meter cab platform of the Model 579, the bunks are 85 inches long on the lower and 82 on the upper, with the lower bunk 42 inches wide and the upper bunk 36 inches wide. Single-bunk configurations provide 70 cubic feet of storage, with 64 in the double bunk. A split upper bunk design allows for another 14 cubic feet of storage. A large wardrobe offers 42 inch-long hanging space for long shirts and jackets. Storage areas above the cabinets on both the driver and passenger side are large enough to store two CPAP machines for treating sleep apnea.
A new HVAC system increases air flow to both upper and lower bunks and a fold-away ladder makes it easy to climb to the upper bunk. What’s more, there’s enough height between the upper and lower bunk that a driver can sit upright in the lower bunk without hitting his or her head. The UltraLoft also “provides an estimated 2% aerodynamic improvement to push the limits of efficiency even further while maintaining the styling and bold look of the Model 579,” according to Peterbilt.
Peterbilt also announced updated offerings for the 2019 Paccar engines. It will offer the MX-13 with two new ratings; a multi-torque 455-hp with a torque rating of 1,650-1,850 lb.-ft. and a 405-hp with 1,650 lb.-ft. of torque.
Volvo’s new VNX Series was designed specifically for heavy-haul applications, such as logging, heavy equipment transport, and long combination vehicles. The OEM says the VNX Series marks its latest step in revitalizing its North American product range, complementing the VNR Series for regional haul and VNL series for long-haul operations, which were both rolled out in mid-2017.
Standard powertrain package is a Volvo D13 engine, which produces 500 hp and 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque, and is paired with the 13- or 14-speed Volvo I-Shift with Crawler Gears automated manual transmission.
The VNX is available with up to 605 hp and 2,050 lb.-ft. of torque, provided by the Cummins X15 Performance Series engine paired with an Eaton UltraShift Plus or manual transmission. The new truck is available in three cab configurations. The VNX 300 daycab is designed for local heavy-haul applications, while the VNX 400 flat-roof regional sleeper is for occasional overnight trips. The VNX 740 boasts a 70-inch sleeper and all of Volvo’s latest interior enhancements, designed for heavy hauls over long distances. Approved GCW ratings run from 125,000 to 160,000 pounds, but ratings of up to 225,000 pounds are available with application approval and appropriate components. Front axle ratings range from 16,000 to 20,000 pounds with parabolic springs. Available rear axles range from 46,000 to 55,000 pounds, and the premium rear heavy-haul suspension ranges up to 52,000 pounds. Optional steer axles, lift axles, tridem drive axles, and longer fifth-wheel slides help meet a diverse range of weight distribution requirements, notes Volvo.
Western Star has announced no significant changes to its lineup of Class 8 on-highway and severe-duty trucks, but execs recently hinted that some announcements were in the works to address severe, heavy-duty applications.
Meanwhile, the on-highway and vocational models remain the aerodynamic 5700, which is available with XE efficiency package; the 4900, offered in set-back axle, set-forward axle, extended hood, twin-steer, and extreme duty configurations; the 4800, a straight truck model available in set-back and set-forward axle configurations as well as a twin-steer variation; and the 4700, a Class 7 truck that can be spec’d as a “Baby 8” for weight-sensitive applications.
The standard integrated powertrain for the 5700XE consists of the Detroit DD15 14.8L engine, rated 400 hp at 1750 lb-ft (downsped), mated to the Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission and Detroit tandem (6x4) or single drive (6x2) axle. The GHG14 version of the DD15 boasts a next-generation Amplified Common Rail Fuel System that Western Star says delivers up to 36,000 psi injection pressure for finer atomization of the fuel and a more complete burn. The 5700XE is offered optionally with the DD13 and DD16 engines and with choice of Eaton Fuller 9-, 10-, 13-, 15-, and 18-speed manual transmissions. The 6900 is Western Star’s severe-duty truck. It can be configured as an on-highway or off-highway hauler.