TRUCK TRACKS

Manufacturers pull out all stops

Article December 28, 2000
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There¹s a lot that¹s new in the 1999 model trucks that will be sold in the year ahead. In addition, component suppliers have joined truck producers in making news in recent weeks.

For one thing, International trucks are back. Navistar will be playing up that historic name as it promotes its Eagle 9900 conventionals in the year ahead, hoping for a sales surge.

Fitted with advice from company drivers and owner operators, the 9900 looks like a driver¹s truck and has the predictable, optional big power.

In the spring of this year, the General Motors truck divisions (Chevrolet and GMC) were expressing doubt that they would be able to meet demand through 1998.

Then they added a brand new W series of low cab forward midrange models. By early July, a strike at key plants halted most GM production.

The sale of Ford¹s heavy trucks to Freightliner went through and the truck industry had something novel‹a new manufacturer, Sterling Truck Corp., the Freightliner subsidiary that took over the former Ford heavies.

Meanwhile, Ford moved its medium truck production to Mexico.
Nothing seems to be simple in the global truck business today. Consider the Ford Cargo, a low cabover line which started life in Brazil.

There were Cargo models in both the Freightliner and Sterling lines at one point in 1998 and the Ford subsidiary in Brazil was still turning out the very popular trucks.

On the horizon, a number of the 1999 models are trucks designed to fit in some niche of the total market. A new offering from Kenworth, well known for its over-the-road trucks, is a CityCab model.

Booming sales of big trucks here, have not escaped the notice of the import lines. Mitsubishi Fuso Trucks has been promoting its FG model, ³the only medium-duty cabover truck with four-wheel drive in the United States.²

Collision warning system

A second-generation version of the Eaton-VORAD, Southfield, Mich. radar-based vehicle control system has been unveiled. The EVT 300 is billed as the first radar-based collision warning system with adaptive cruise control.

The producer said that ³with the system, medium and heavy trucks can be ordered to automatically slow down and speed up based on traffic conditions alone.²

Christopher Royan, president of Eaton-VORAD Technologies, said more than 10,000 of the first generation systems have been sold since introduction in 1994.

LED devices

Sales of light-emitting-diode (LED) devices are on the increase and Truck-Lite Co. Inc.¹s, line of the products is being increased, reported Bradley Van Riper, director of research and development.

The Falconer, N.Y.-based firm is a leading supplier of LED devices, best known in the truck industry for their use as truck and trailer running lights. Long life and low current draw are LED features.

A reduction in maintenance costs is a major LED selling point, Van Riper said. While LED units have been developed in a variety of colors, the bright light of a white LED is still a hope for the future.
Van Riper said development work is going forward. He said white LEDs should be available within five years.

Liftgate features

Lightweight and operator safety are two high-priority concerns at liftgate producer Waltco Truck Equipment Co. in Tallmadge, Ohio. The company claims to lead the industry in use of lightweight material, such as aluminum. The aim is the same as that for any other move to reduce deadweight anywhere in a truck‹to increase cargo capacity.
In the safety area, Waltco points with pride to its spring-loaded, foot-activated cart stops. When a load item on wheels threatens to get out of control, the Waltco system is said to get it under control almost automatically.

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