Freightliner Trucks is the first heavy-duty truck manufacturer to offer rack and pinion steering, a component that until now has been used only in automobiles and light trucks.
Offering several benefits that result in optimal performance and maneuverability – including a 45-pound weight reduction – rack and pinion steering is available on Freightliner Coronado, Columbia, Century Class S/T and Classic/Classic XL trucks.
Benefits include reduced maintenance, increased driver comfort, less driver fatigue and improved engine access, according to Jonathan Randall, director of product marketing for Freightliner Trucks.
The idea for offering rack and pinion steering on Class 8 trucks originated when Freightliner Trucks engineers were working with Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record-holder Mike Ryan. The Freightliner Century Class S/T driver is one of almost 150 drivers who annually ascend Pikes Peak in a race to the top. Engineers spec'd Ryan's truck with rack and pinion steering due to its light weight, steering precision, and durability – critical elements needed for the Hill Climb.
Once engineers saw how well rack and pinion steering performed on the tough terrain, they determined that all heavy-duty trucks could also benefit from its features. Added Randall, "Rack and pinion's accurate and responsive steering, as well as its light weight, makes it an ideal component for on-highway trucks that need to increase payload and maneuver through traffic."
John Reid, maintenance director at North Carolina-based Caldwell Freight Lines, is running 15 trucks with rack and pinion steering, and he's received consistently positive feedback.
"My drivers love the new steering system. They say that it cuts sharper with better straight-line stability, rides smoother, doesn't cause "bump steering," and overall creates a more direct steering feel," said Reid. "Personally, I like it because it helps even out tire wear, reducing replacement costs."
Reduced tire replacement isn't the only maintenance benefit. Because rack and pinion steering is mounted to the front axle, the system temperature remains cooler, therefore improving the durability of seals and hoses. Plus, by moving the steering gear and universal shaft from the left frame front, engine access is easier than ever.