Dec. 28, 2000
There's a lot that is new and improved in working trucks for the year ahead. Kenworth, long a leader in designing aerodynamic trucks, has just introduced its most aerodynamic model.
There's a lot that is new and improved in working trucks for the year ahead. Kenworth, long a leader in designing aerodynamic trucks, has just introduced its most aerodynamic model. Chevrolet and GMC have two new families of what they call medium-duty models, and Freightliner has probably launched more new programs in the last 10 months than some of the competition has in a decade.

After reflecting on earlier aerodynamic models from Kenworth, the just introduced T2000 was termed "the most aerodynamic truck we have ever produced" by Wayne Simons, engineering manager for Kenworth's research and development team. A hood with a steeper slope and lower front, a 32-deg slope to the windshield plus new fender and chassis fairings are the leading moves made to reduce wind drag and improve fuel economy. Use of advanced composite materials enables the manufacturer to deliver a bigger, stronger cab on the T2000 while reducing overall weight. Other advances worked into the T2000 are in the areas of safety, service and repair.

Kenworth product developers, According to Paul Middelhoven, Kenworth chief engineer, the company continues to emphasize safety. The fact that the new model's windshield is more than 60% larger than those in earlier models and the hood has a sharper slope were credited with improving driver visibility thus improving safe driving.

Ease of service and repair were high on the "must-do" list of designers. The new model is built with 30% fewer parts than previous Kenworth trucks making this one benefit to service and repair.

Brand new in the General Motors', Chevrolet and GMC truck lines for 1997 are C series models in the conventional, engine-under-hood, configuration, and T series offerings in the cab-over-engine design.

For a number of reasons, General Motors refers to trucks like this-the strongest made by the company-as medium duty models. In practice, they can be rather heavy duty models with Ts having gross vehicle weight ratings as high as 54,600 lb and Cs going as high as 61,000 lb.
Before the changes, T-type trucks were sold under the Forward and Tiltmaster names, while earlier C-type models were called TopKicks and Kodiaks.

Noteworthy on the list of features, of some or all of the new GM models, is a 3% to 6% cut in list prices, wide availability of antilock brakes, daytime running lights and coolant with a 150,000-mile change interval in gas engines and in diesel engines, if an extender is added.

T models have a standard Allison AT545 automatic transmission, which is in step with the move to easy-shifter gear boxes throughout the industry. Gasoline engines range up to 235 hp and can be converted to use propane or natural gas fuel. Diesel power tops out at 275 horses. Dealers handling T models will have to meet special qualification requirements .

As indicated, they have been very busy at Freightliner since the beginning of 1996. The alliance with the Oshkosh factory has already led to a rear-discharge ready-mix truck and other action in the construction and refuse fields. Related efforts to supply school bus and motor home chassis go forward. Meanwhile, headquarters of the recently acquired American LaFrance fire apparatus operation have new life and products from a new home near other Freightliner operations in North Carolina.

At the same time, Freightliner's Century family of new model bread-and-butter trucks are being introduced to customers after a dealer showing at the end of 1995. A low profile Century has just been added. Also recently introduced is a high-roof, extended-cab, business class, light-heavyweight model with extra in-cab space, which will be handy in specialized truck applications. Out to test market reaction is a luxury Century model for use by owner-operators and a pickup truck model with a 19,500-lb gross. This could be related to efforts to sell light business class units that have a Dodge gasoline V-10 as power.

In other moves, Freightliner has begun truck production in Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Israel, and the company continues to expand its computer software programs for dealers and customers.

Eaton's Truck Components Operation is another industry participant that has been busier than usual lately. The Eaton Transmission Division closed out a winter and spring in which it added no less than three new and advanced gear boxes to its product line by unveiling an all new family of fleet 10-speed transmissions that it modestly said was a case of "the best 10 speed ever made being made even better."

The Eaton Fuller FR Series is the name of the new Eaton transmissions. George Denttloff, general manager of the company's transmission division, said development of the series represented the largest capital program in Eaton history, costing $65 million for designing, testing and tooling. Twenty-nine current and pending patents cover proprietary technologies unique to the FR series, Eaton said. The first two models go into production this year with more to follow in 1997.
Advances include a larger, stronger mainshaft with 30% more shock load capacity, involute splines on the output shaft for added impact resistance, and an improved and simplified mainshaft washer system that is more resistant to driver-induced damage.

Earlier in 1996, Eaton added three models to its Super series of transmissions. Top 2 units, in which the shifting is automatic between the top two gears joined the 10, 13 and 18-speed lineups.

Meanwhile, the Eaton-VORAD joint venture, which is developing radar-assisted brake programs for use in the truck field, released results of a 36-month study covering more than 47 million miles of vehicle operation. It involved 473 vehicles operated by five truck fleets independent of the companies supplying the system. The study concluded that the system contributed to a 76% reduction in highway accidents. The accident rate fell from 1.61 accidents per million miles of operation without the systems to 0.38 per million miles with the systems, the report said.

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