Trucking industry unveils new advances at Mid-America show

Article December 28, 2000
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Variety seemed to be the name of the game among the products shown at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville this spring.

As has often been the case in recent years, products shown at Mid-America, currently the nation’s largest truck show, filled exhibit space to the edges. The aim was trying to appeal to those drivers who are hard to recruit and hard to retain.

Getting a jump on the show competition was Mack Trucks. So far, 1999 has been a big new model year for the company. A new family of Vision over-the-road tractors was unveiled before the Mid-America show opened, and two days prior to the big event Mack introduced Conquest II, a front discharge ready-mix truck.

“Mack has been able to bring together the leaders in the ready-mix industry to produce an important evolution,” said Paul Vickner, executive vice president sales and marketing, on the front discharge line.

The new concrete units combine a 350-hp Mack E-TECH diesel engine, Mack V-MAC electronic controls, a McNeilus mixer barrel system, Oshkosh front driving axle and a selection of heavy-duty components from such manufacturers as Dana, Meritor, Neway and Hendrickson.

Mack also featured its new Vision models in Louisville.

The Hendrickson vehicle suspension line had five new product announcements beyond its participation in the Mack Conquest II model. By improving a vehicle’s ride, the various sophisticated suspensions rank high as driver pleasers.

For those who need big power, Volvo Trucks of North America introduced the 465-hp VE D12C diesel engine at Mid-America. The torque rating is 1650 lb-ft in the 1100-rpm range, and Volvo said the engine does an outstanding job of transferring information to the truck in which it is installed.

For the second year in a row, Western Star Trucks of Canada told Mid-America spectators that it has reduced weight of its Constellation series of trucks by building them with lightweight components. The company also is joining the swing of truck and component makers of opening factories in the southern U. S. A new Western Star plant goes on line in North Charleston, S.C., in November.

Modifications in Freightliner trucks include availability of a Caterpillar engine in Century Class models, which operate on a mix of liquified natural gas and diesel fuel. The company said technically advanced Mercedes Benz diesel engines rated at 150 to 300 hp are now standard in Freightliner Business Class trucks.

At Sterling, Freightliner’s other truck marketing subsidiary, optional equipment offered has been expanded.

TufTrac vocational suspensions are more widely available, and L7500 as well as L8500 models now come with engines with higher horsepower and torque ratings.

One-stop shopping

Meritor Automotive, the new name for what had been the automotive parts operation of Rockwell International, was billing itself as one of North America’s most complete suppliers of drive-train components for commercial vehicles at this year’s show. Among the company’s three recent acquisitions are: LucasVarity Heavy Vehicle Braking Systems; Euclid Industries, a producer of replacement parts for heavy vehicles; and Volvo heavy truck axle manufacturing operations based in Lindeberg, Sweden.

The two PACCAR truck divisions, Peterbilt and Kenworth, announced plans to expand their offerings with Class 7 models developed by acquired European units Leyland and DAF.

Word has it that class 5 and 6 models will follow. K 37 is the Kenworth name, with the Peterbilt label set to be announced at a future date.

Both lines are ready to improve driver comfort. Pete will offer a luxury driver’s seat developed in cooperation with Isringhausen, while KW has a new luxury interior for T2000 75-in. Aerodyne models.

More on mediums

Medium-duty trucks were in the spotlight more often at this year’s Mid-America show than in the past.

General Motors’ duo of Chevrolet and GMC had a major promotion of its medium-duty models.

The newest model is the WT5500, a low cab forward with a gross-vehicle-weight maximum of 19,500 lb and a 200-hp diesel engine.

Both GM lines also were promoting their 3500 HD models, which are sometimes called heavy one-tons despite a 10,049 payload limit and top engine at 290 hp. New versions of these trucks are coming soon.

Perhaps the biggest news in the medium-duty area at Mid-America was Eaton Corp.’s continued expansion of its automatic transmission business with the introduction of “AutoShift,” an easy shifter transmission for medium duty trucks.

The producer said, “the advanced logic, driver-friendly features, fuel economy and performance of AutoShift now are available in a new, six-speed model for medium-duty applications.”

According to Diane Foppema, market development manager for medium-automated transmissions at Eaton, “the product represents the beginning of a major initiative at Eaton to expand the company’s presence among medium-duty markets throughout the world.”

Like a number of Eaton’s other easy shifter gear boxes, this one combines the convenience of automatic shifting with the durability and efficiency of a manual transmission.

Early entry

There was another press introduction of trucks staged just before the Mid-America show. The Navistar International line unveiled new Severe Service trucks, tailored for such work as construction hauling and a new line of premium conventional models.

The construction trucks, once known as Paystar models, are now called International 5000s. They have a new look, roomier cabs, improved climate control and diesel power of up to 600 hp. Set forward and backward front axles are offered. Other features include all-aluminum cabs and an exclusive Diamond Logic Engine Brake.

The new International Eagle 9000 series premium conventional models offer “a sleek and classic appearance.”

Don DeFosset, president of the International Truck Group, said, “we’ve taken aim on customer objectives, such as driver retention, ease of doing business, low cost of ownership and increased uptime to keep the freight moving.”

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