Trucks turn to high tech – new technology in trucks

Julie Candler

Trucks Turn To High Tech

Manfredi Motor Transit Co. of Newberry, Ohio, owns 101 Freightliners with antilock braking systems (ABS). Since 1986, when the company first bought electronically controlled brakes for its factors, the trucks have tallied 16 million miles, hauling tankers, some containing hazardous liquids. None of the trucks has been in any accident reportable to the Department of Transportation–any accident resulting in personal injury or more than $4,250 in damages–says the company’s president, Richard J. Manfredi. “And the cost of maintenance has been zero.”

Manfredi says his firm can justify the cost of ABS (listed by the manufacturers at $1,850 for a four-channel system) on the basis of accident reduction. The company’s fleet is 45-percent ABS-equipped, and Manfredi plans to make it 100 percent by the end of 1991.

Technological developments such as ABS are making trucks safer, easier to drive, more comfortable to ride in, and more economical to operate.

A 1989 heavy-duty truck typically gets 8 miles per gallon, while a 5-year-old model gets about 4. Truck maintenance cycles are lengthening, and maintenance costs are falling.

Volvo-GM predicts the point at which a first engine overhaul is required on most trucks will rise to 600,000 miles by 1992 from the current average of 300,000 to 400,000. It should be 1 million miles by 2004, when the firm predicts maintenance costs should drop to 70 percent of what they are today.

These improved trucks are going to cost more because of higger costs of engines and other components. Heavy-duty trucks’ prices began edging up last fall; increases could average up to $2,200 for some trucks.

Analysts expect that in a few years, light trucks will be brought into compliance with most of the federal emission and safety standards now required of passenger cars, including passive seat belts or air bags. This could add $1,000 or more to the prices of light trucks.

Diesel-powered trucks also will cost more. They must meet tough federal rules on sooty particulate exhaust emissions.

“There’s no question that the federal standards for cleaner exhaust emissions will drive up the cost of trucks in 1991, and much more for the tougher standards in 1994,” says Ken Kelley, who writes on trucking for trade publications. According to the periodical Automotive News, some analysts expect truck prices to rise by $2,000 or more in 1991. Kelley predicts a rush of orders in late 1990 to beat the Jan. 1, 1991, effective date for federal emission standards.

Regulation of diesel exhausts is the incentive for some of the new technological advances. This summer, when Mack Trucks Inc., of Allentown, Pa., introduced its new E7 engine for Class 8 vehicles (trucks of 33,001 or more pounds gross vehicle weight, or GVW), the firm announced that the engine could meet 1991 and 1994 emission standards. To do it, the new E7s have been designed for more power output capacity and improved operating efficiency. (They also save weight with a new cooling system that requires fewer gallons of engine coolant and one less wall of cast iron.)

In Anaheim, Calif., recently, Navistar International Transportation Corp. of Chicago demonstrated a prototype of a “smokeless diesel” that the manufacturer claims can meet the toughest 1994 state and federal standards without significant cost increases to consumers, except for the addition of a catalytic converter and other hardware.

Electronics are creating the most radical changes in new trucks. By the year 2000, computers, sensors, and other electronic components will add about $2,000 to the price of the average car built in North America, according to Stuart Frey, Ford Motor Co.’s vice president for technical affairs.

Electronically controlled antilock braking systems, similar to those on Manfredi Motor Transit tractors, soon will be available on most light trucks, and within about three years, they will be a standard feature on many of them.

The ABS helps maintain directional stability by preventing rear breaks from locking under heavy braking on dry pavement or when traction is reduced. The equipment is particularly important when the road is slippery or the vehicle is lightly loaded or running without its trailer.

On four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles, four-wheel antilock brakes also preclude front-brake lockup.

The first antilock braking systems to appear on heavy-duty vehicles were on 1987 models by Freightliner. They’re now becoming available on more medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks. Mack plans to introduce them. Ford, Volvo-GM, Mack, Navistar, Peterbilt, and Kenworth, as well as Freightliner, are cooperating with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a two-year fleet test program.

To improve vehicle control further, manufacturers are developing traction-control systems. They are designed to give traction to one wheel when the other on the same axle is spinning, as occurs, for example, when one wheel is on ice and the other is on dry pavement. I recently drove a vehicle equipped with a traction-control system at a demonstration sponsored by Chrysler’s Jeep Truck Engineering Department. I could feel the wheels begin to grip as the system exerted intermittent brake pressure. The system is designed to operate on acceleration, the way the ABS does on braking.

In July, Freightliner announced its new Traction Plus system. Manufactured by WABCO Automotive Products Group, the $575 system adds only two solenoid control valves and two double-check valves to the existing ABS hardware from the same supplier. It automatically applies braking pressure in stages to a wheel just starting to spin. With it, a driver can move straight ahead from a loading dock even if pavement on one side of the vehicle is icy.

To make truck driving safer and simpler, Mazda revised the part-time 4WD drive system on its compact B2600i pickups by making it possible to shift from

2WD (two-wheel drive) to 4WD merely by pushing a button. The manufacturer added a 2.6-liter engine with three valves for each of its four cylinders. The new fuel-injected engine achieves 121 horsepower at 4,600 revolutions per minute (RPMs). The B2600i also utilizes twin counter-rotating balance shafts that effectively cancel secondary vibrations. The same engine is an option on the B2200, Mazda’s 2WD pickup.

Toyota minimized engine noise and vibration on the 3.0-liter, V-6 engine found in its new 4Runner sport/utility vehicles. Innovative features include a new system for reducing fan noise by using an outer-ring cooling fan.

The GMC Truck Division put electronic features on its first all-new line of mediums in 16 years, introduced for 1990. The new GMC TopKick and Chevrolet Kodiak have electric speedometers with no cables to break or make noise. They offer programmable digital radio adapters to make it easy to adjust the speedometers to tire size and axle ratio. Electronic speedometers are also on other vehicles, including Navistar’s new 2000 and 8000 Series heavy-duty models.

Microprocessor technology is making automatic transmissions more efficient and reliable. Ford recently increased plant capacity for building its electronically controlled four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, which has been in demand for its Super Duty pickup. For 1990, the transmission comes in 4.9-liter and 5.8-liter applications on the full-size F-series pickup. With a stripped chassis, the pickup becomes a Class 3 (10,001 to 14,000 pounds GVW) Super Duty able to do the work of a Class 4 (14,001 to 16,000 pounds GVW).

Last December, Navistar included four- and five speed Allison automatic transmissions on the list of options for some of its new medium-duty trucks. Last January, Hino Diesel Trucks (U.S.A.) Inc., of Orangeburg, N.Y., offered an automatic transmission on a Class 5 (16,001-19,500 pounds GVW).

GM later offered four- and five-speed automatic Allison transmission for some models of the new TopKick/Kodiak. In July, UD Trucks of Dallas included an optional four-speed automatic with its new medium-duty trucks. Saab-Scania of America Inc., of Orange, Conn., has debuted an optional Computer-Aided Gear Shift that can automatically select the proper gear or be overridden by the driver.

Last fall, Navistar offered for its 9300 conventional and 9600/9700 cab-over-engine series a new unit-designed power train. It also announced exclusive software and “Power Demand” cruise control, which allows a driver to use up to 350 horsepower for climbing grades. At other times, the driver has the economy of a 310-horsepower engine.

Power steering also has moved into medium and heavy trucks, including the Kenworth K150 and Peterbilt 227 Mid-Rangers.

For comfort, the cabs of medium- and heavy-duty trucks are acquiring features such as tilt and telescoping steering wheels, which began appearing on light trucks a few years ago. These two features are on the new Mack CH600, WHITEGMC WG, International 9400 conventional tractors, Hino, Mitsubishi Fuso, and other vehicles.

Air-suspension seats and other ride improvements help to make the trip even more pleasant. TopKick/Kodiak claims its special suspension improves system durability as well as ride. Navistar says its new engine-mounting system reduces vibration and decreases in-cab noise up to 50 percent.

Among the light trucks, three dramatically styled attention-getters this fall are new front-wheel-drive minivans: Chevrolet Lumina APV (all-purpose vehicle), Pontiac Trans Sport, and Oldsmobile Silhouette. Their plastic bodies make the most extensive use of composite panels ever. They offer a 3.1-liter V-6 with three-speed automatic. The minivans’ modular, 35-pound seats in the middle and rear rows can be removed to provide more cargo space. There will be a commercial version of the Lumina as well.

Manufacturers are adding new features to make their light trucks safer, more comfortable, and more stylish. Following are descriptions of their new offerings for trucks in classes 1 (up to 6,000 pounds GVW), 2 (to 10,000 pounds), and 3 (to 14,000 pounds):

Chevrolet. Chevrolet also added two more versions of its new C/K full-size pickup. The C/K1500 Work Truck “WT” is a no-frills workhorse. With special identification, it’s available in a 4×2 with a maximum payload of 1,711 pounds and a 4×4 with a payload of up to 1,331 pounds. The second, a 454 SS, is a high-performance C1500 intended primarily for personal use. The 1990 version of the Chevrolet Astro minivan has full-time all-wheel drive and four-wheel antilock brakes. An extended model Astro will add 10 inches of lengths and nearly 19 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Chrysler. Chrysler’s new Town and Country, a luxury version of its successful Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan, will have antilock brakes.

Dodge. Dodge highlights for 1990 include extended-cab models in the Dakota midsized and Ram full-sized pickups. A heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission was made available for Dodge Ram pickup trucks, Ramchargers, Ram vans, and wagons. Dodge also added a DAkota convertible.

Ford. Ford equipped its Aerostar van with antilock brakes and a new heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission. In November, Aerostar will be available with a beautifully handling, electronically controlled, full-time four-wheel drive.

Hino. A light-duty truck that can handle heavy jobs arrived this year at Hino dealerships. It’s the FA 14, a class 3 rated at 13,500 GVW, with heavy-duty frame and brakes, and a five-speed transmission to go with its 125-horsepower turbocharged diesel engine.

Isuzu. American Isuzu Motors of Whittier, Calif., has a new Amigo sport-utility vehicle for 1990. It’s a derivative of the new pickup Isuzu introduced last year. With a soft or a hard top, it will seat two or four people and use a 2.3-liter or 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine.

Mazda. Mazda Motors of America, of Irvine, Calif., adds a shift-on-the-move, four-wheel-drive version of its new MPV van, which drives and rides like a passenger car. Mazda is anticipating eventual introduction of a commercial version of the 4WD model with a 3-liter, V-6 engine. For 1990, a five-speed manual transmission will be available. With a towing package, the 4WD van can pull up to 4,000 pounds.

Mitsubishi Fuso. Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America of Bridgeport, N.J., has added its first diesel-powered, cab-forward, four-wheeled-drive Class 3 truck, the FG 434. At 11,600 pounds GVW, the truck can handle challenging conditions, on or off the road, on snow, sand, or steep grades.

Nissan. A new Axxess multipurpose vehicle (MPV) achieves its purpose: to offer the utility of a van in a smaller package with the performance and comfort of a good-riding sedan. From Nissan Motor Corp. in U.S.A., Carson, Calif., it’s the only MPV with sliding doors on both sides. With seats for up to six passengers removed, it can haul up to 800 pounds of cargo. Its many options include a choice of front or full-time all-wheel drive. Power is from a 12-valve, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Nissan adds a four-door model of its Pathfinder sport-utility vehicle this fall.

Oldsmobile. The Silhouette, the first Olds truck in a generation or more, comes with optional leather seats and an electronic level control on its optional FE3 touring susupension.

Toyota. This past spring. Toyota unveiled an aerodynamically styled 4Runner, a 4WD, four-door version of the pickup introduced last fall. It’s also available in a 2WD vehicle, and there is a two-door 4Runner available only in 4WD. Toyota’s 4WDemand system lets the driver engage 4WD at speeds up to 50 mph.

Some new medium- and heavy-duty trucks are on the market for 1990. Others have new features or new looks. Here are descriptions of what’s new in trucks in classes 4 (14,001 to 16,000 pounds GVW), 5 (to 19,500), 6 (to 26,000), 7 (to 33,000), and 8 (over 33,000 pounds).

Ford. Among the medium- and heavy-duty trucks, Ford last fall unveiled a low-profile medium, its 1990 F-600 gasoline model. Ford later plans to introduce the popular low-profile feature on trucks with higher GVWs and diesel engines.

The lower frame height creates more hauling space than conventional trucks and makes low profiles easy to load and unload manually. “These trucks are especially attractive as one-way-delivery rental units and recycling trucks,” says James D. Whyte, manager of Ford’s Kentucky truck plant.

General Motors. The new lineup at GM includes the Chevrolet Kodiak 50, 60, and 70 series and the GMC TopKick 5000, 6000, and 7000, classes 5, 6, and 7. When a tandem axle is added to the class 7, it becomes a class 8. Identical except for nameplates, the vehicles are conventional models covering a full spectrum of medium-duty applications. They are available as a truck or tractor and in single- or tandem-axle models. Their gross vehicle weight ratings range from 16,850 to 53,220 pounds. Nine different wheelbase models range from 132 to 261 inches. The trcuks are offered with a 6- or 7-liter gas engine or a GM-exclusive 6.6-liter turbocharged Caterpiller 3116 diesel. GM plans a low-profile version during the 1990 model year.

Isuzu. A nich not previously covered is now filled by a new 18,000-pound GVW Class 5 truck from Isuzu Truck of America Inc., of South El Monte, Calif. Isuzu’s NRR model is a stripped chassis that can handle body and payload capacities of up to 11,000 pounds and accommodate body lengths of 12 to 22 feet. Isuzu, the nation’s leading importer of commercial trucks, says the NRR is designed for construction, beverage, furniture, food and baking, nursery, and other products.

Iveco. Iveco Trucks of North America, of Blue Bell, Pa., showed off a new line of its class 3 through 6 (10,001 pounds GVW through 26,000 pounds GVW) EuroTurbo diesel trucks in 1989. They have front disc brakes, cabs that one-handedly tilt 52 desgrees, increased horsepower and torque, new suspension springs, simplified electrical systems, and improved transmissions and differentials.

Mack. Mack Trucks worked from the ground up in developing the frame, chassis, and cab for its new CH600 series of conventional tractors. They represent five years and $60 million in computer-aided design and development, both in Mackhs advanced test and engineering center and in real-world testing. The series is offered in both axle-back and axle-forward configurations, with 42-inch and 60-inch integral sleepers.

The cab of two-sided galvanized steel, double-wall construction is quieter, yet it is lightweight and more spacious. Its sophisticated suspension system provides a comfortable ride. The integral sleeper, with stand-up room, rides in unison with the cab on an air-suspended subframe for improved riding comfort. The sleeper can be removed if iths not needed.

The CH600’s improved wheel cut allows a 26-foot curb-to-curb turning radius. It’s powered by the Mack E6 diesel engine or the new six-cylinder E7. Based on Mack’s well-received E6, the E7 is redesigned to generate higher horsepower and meet new emission standard starting in January 1991. It offers horsepower ratings from 250 to 400 and Maxidyne high torque rise or conventional torque rise engines.

Mack also introduced a new RB600 line of conventional trucks with set-back front axles for construction and severe-service use. They have greater payload efficiency because of increased front-axle weight transfer.

Mitsubishi Fuso. Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, of Bridgeport, N.J., has debuted a high-end Class 7 FM 557, with 32,600 pounds GVW. The tilt-cab, cab-over-engine model is powered by a Mitsubishi 220-horseower six-cylinder turbocharged diesel. The truck is designed for heavy uses such as hauling loads through hilly country. MFTA also expanded power train offerings for 1990 to make its FE and FH series more useful for different types of businesses.

Navistar. Navistar replaced its entire S-series line of medium, medium-heavy, and heavy-duty trucks with completely new models, 26 altogether. Though Navistar called the S series “perhaps the largest-selling truck model in recent industry history,” the company brought out the new models to stay “state of the art.” The extensive changes include 2,400 new parts, new electrical systems, interior trim, and frame rails. Most of the new models have aerodynamically styles sloping hoods and feature simplified design with fewer parts.

New 4000-series straight trucks start with a 4600 and a 4600-LP (Lo-Profile). The LP version has a lower frame height and a deck that can be lowered to 24 inches from the ground. Navistar says it’s the lowest in the industry. The 4000 series ranges up to a 4900 LP with a maximum GVW of 39,000 pounds and gross combination weight rating of 60,000 pounds for for severe service.

The 7000 series includes a single-rear-axle tractor for short-haul operations, the 7100 4×2, and a new 7100 6×4 straight truck for on-highway applications requiring maximum maneuverability.

In the heavy-duty category, Navistar revealed 11 new S-series conventional cab line haul tractors and 2000-series straight trucks for severe-service applications. The 8000-series tractors are intended for short and medium hauls.

To its 9000 series of heavy-duty premium highway vehicles, Navistar adds the International 9400. It’s a 1990 low-profile conventional tractor with a sloped hood and a set-back front axle. It’s designed for operators of private fleets, common and contract carriers, and owner operators.

Navistar says wind-tunnel tests show significant improvement in fuel economy. The 50-inch setback of the front axle gives it a greatly improved turning radius. It features a light, all-aluminum cab, a range of ower options up to a 444 horsepower engine, and a new suspension for improved ride.

Nissan Diesel America Inc. of North America. The new cab-over-engine UD1800 and UD2300 from UD TRUCKS, of Irving, Texas, feature low loading height and high gross vehicle weights for the recycling market. Their turning radius can be as short as 17 feet. The UD 1800 is a class 5 with a GVW of 17,640 pounds and a six-cylinder diesel engine. The UD2300 is a class 6 with a GVW of 22,500 pounds and a six-cylinder turbocharged diesel rated at 180 horsepower.

PACCAR. PACCAR Sales North America Inc., of Bellevue, Wash., added two more models to its Knworth and Peterbilt Mid-Ranger series this summer. They are the tilt-cab Kenworth K150 and Peterbilt 227, to serve the high end of the Class 7 market. the weigh in at 33,000 pounds, one pound under the class 8 category that makes buyers liable for federal excise taxes. They are ideal for beverage distribution, refuse and recycling pick-up, ad fuel-oil deliveries.

Produced by Volkswagen of Brazil, the vehicles feature a Cummins C-series engine rated at 210 horspeower. With 605 foot-pounds of torque, the engine helps a medium-duty truck handle jobs that once required Class 8 vehicles.

Paccar says the engine turns at up to 800 fewer rpms than some equivalent engines at the same road speed, making it more durable.

Saab-Scania of America Inc. A traveling caravan of 15 Scania trucks this summer showed off the recently introduced 113-series trucks and tractors. They are the products of the Swedish firm that is the world’s fourth-largest heavy-truck manufacturer. The new 113s emphasize driver comfort and a dash with enhanced ergonomics.

Volvo-GM. A new workhorse WHITEGMC was introduced by Volvo-GM Heavy Truck Corp., of Greensboro, N.C. The Class 8 WG tractor/truck was designed to be competitively priced and fit the needs of comanies that do short-distance hauling and various other heavy-duty work.

Another new entry from WHITEGMC is a high cab-over-tractor with a nonsleeper cab that is 63 inches from bumper to back of cab. That’s 10 inches longer than the truck maker’s current nonsleeper. The new cab is roomier and more comfortable and has a better ride. Power comes from a standard Cummins F-315 88 Big Cam IV engine.

Western Start. Boasting that their Class 8 trucks are custom-built to meet exact demands of a job, Western Star of Toronto recently announced a new 5900 model. It’s a sloped, aerodynamic version of the long-nose conventional 4900 model. It is intended for highway use, though it can handle logging, on/off highway, and oil-field jobs as well.

The truck maker also announced a 4800X and 4900X; their hoods slope steeply enough to improve visibility by 15 percent for maneuvering at construction sites.

Choosing from such an array of trucks and options can be an overwhelming task. Automotive News says there now are 77 lines of trucks in the Class 2 through 6 categories alone. This array of products didn’t exist four or five years ago.

In reviewing the new technology, Gary Hollis of the Los Angeles office of Arrow Truck Sales says the important thing to remember when you obtain a truck is to choose the vehicle with the innovations that are right for your needs. He says that during his years selling used trucks he has found that “many people want more than they need.”

And with the prices of trucks going up, if you get more truck than you need, you probably will have to pay a lot more for it.

COPYRIGHT 1989 U.S. Chamber of Commerce

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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