Engines, LEDs Lead Advances

Trucks Article December 28, 2000
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Variety is the name of the game among truck products for the
year ahead. When it comes to large components, there has been
lots of action on big diesel engines. At the other end of the
component size range, there are some improvements in the
light-emitting diodes (LEDs) often used as running lights on
trucks and trailers. And there is an ongoing shuffle of those
who make certain chassis and components. No one is guessing when
that swing will come to an end.

Engines

Most of the big
names in the diesel field--Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel
and Mack--have big news on the product scene for 1998. Cummins
Engine Co. made the most recent announcement.

The Signature
600 by Cummins is the producer's latest diesel. The company
calls it "the first electronic dual overhead cam 600-hp diesel
in automotive history." It was also termed "All new from its oil
pan to its overhead cams."

"This is a breakthrough engine
design that incorporates the technology advantages that you
would expect from Cummins," said Roberto Cordaro, executive vice
president and group president of automotive.

"Never before
has a team of specialists been able to fully integrate so many
critical systems in developing a new platform. It has been
designed around and for electronic controls, and the result is a
no-compromise approach to performance, weight, size and
durability."

The 600 not only turns out power at the 600-hp
level but also 600-horse engine braking, the producer said. Its
overhead cams get the credit with one being used to drive the
high-pressure fuel injection system and the other to drive the
valves and the Intebrake integrated braking system, the
manufacturer explained.

Caterpillar set the pace in diesel
development during the early part of 1997 unveiling a 600-hp
version of its 3406E engine with a displacement of 15.8 liters.
The producer turned up the heat in the big power race by
announcing that it has a 700-hp diesel under development.

Detroit Diesel had an announcement, which is sure to be welcomed
by diesel users. Relying on a recently acquired maker of
turbochargers, the company is counting on advances in those
components to help meet upcoming exhaust emission rules while
planning to deliver improved fuel economy from its engines at
the same time.

Mack Trucks has just unveiled the latest
version of its E7 diesel, called the Mack E Tech. The company
said its tests showed the E-Tech delivered a fuel economy
improvement of 2% to 3%. The powerplant has the newest version
of Mack's electronic engine control setup, the V-MAC III system,
as well as an all-new high-tech engine brake.

Light news

Bradley Van Riper, director of research and development at
Truck-Lite Co., Falconer, N.Y., traces growing interest in LEDs
to the fact that they outlast conventional bulbs used in lights
on trucks.

He said bulb failures rank among the top three
most frequent truck/trailer problems. He also said an LED's
strong point is that it is a light source containing a
semi-conductor junction in which visible light is non-thermally
produced.

By avoiding the heat found in conventional
incandescent lights, LEDs last longer, start faster, use less
power and resist shock and vibration. Van Riper said
improvements in the diodes it used in its LED units have enabled
the company to reduce what it charges for the units four times
in the last two years.

Modifications, which enable its LEDs
to resist the wear and tear encountered in truck/trailer use,
have just been added to the Truck-Lite line. In one key change,
the LEDs are being made more resistant to scuffing, scratching
and attack by chemicals.

Meanwhile at Ford

Last month's
Truck Tracks column reviewed the locations in North Carolina and
Canada where Freightliner will be making the heavy trucks
acquired from Ford. However, veteran truck industry observers
are starting to wonder if Ford is really out of the heavy truck
business. To date, the company has said little more than that it
plans to go on selling light-duty models and will add new
medium-duty trucks in 1998.

There is a precedent for
announcing a move out of the heavy-truck business, only to
re-enter it with renamed models. General Motors did that when it
apparently moved out of heavies in 1986 and turned that business
over to a new-found partner, Volvo.

It wasn't long until
straight trucks with Gross Vehicle Weight ratings above 33,000
lb and Gross Combination Weight ratings above 100,000 lb (which
sounded like heavy trucks) appeared in the Chevrolet and GMC
lines.

Except for its original financial investment, GM has
never played a big role in the Volvo-GM partnership. Its names
have been stripped from trucks offered for some time, just like
there are few references to Volvo White models anymore.

A
mixed bag

Dana will purchase Eaton's axle and brake business
as it sells its clutch business to Eaton. There were some hints
that the two firms were reworking the way they serve the truck
market. It was spelled out, however, that both Dana (Spicer) and
Eaton (Fuller) will continue to offer lines of truck
transmissions.

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