Coming soon to a highway near you

Why are transportation costs continuing to rise? Consider the issues plaguing motor carriers — both commercial and private fleets. Freight volumes are climbing while the size of the average shipment falls, fuel costs continue to rise, there are driver shortages and retention issues, while regulatory mandates of all sorts have to be met.

Those regulations aren't just limited to Hours of Service rewrites and security compliance; there are also the requirements for cleaner burning engines and the higher attendant costs of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

Truck and engine manufacturers are very well versed in addressing these issues, and shippers can take some comfort in knowing that new materials are being used to manufacture strong and lighter trucks. Aerodynamic styling is coming into play that cuts down on drag and helps increase fuel mileage. Interior comforts and relocation of instruments to make them easier to find and operate should ease driver work conditions. Makers of motors are fairly well set in design and production of engines that will meet 2007 emissions requirements.

Here's a quick introduction to the latest equipment choices for fleet managers.

Freightliner LLC

The heavy-duty Coronado includes features such as a long hood with a 1,500 square inch radiator, an adjustable tilt/ telescope steering column and advanced HVAC system with eight blower speeds. Both in the day cab, 70-inch Mid-Roof XT SleeperCab or 70-inch Raised Roof SleeperCab, the Driver Message Center provides information on fuel economy, outside temperature and equipment faults. There's room for a 13-inch TV/VCR as well as a pullout desk in Coronado's interior.

Engine availabilities are rated to 625 HP, with the company's AirLiner rear suspension standard. The truck also has a noise abatement package.

The Coronado has been designed to make maintenance easy, with fluid reservoirs and key components readily accessible. When needed, it's not necessary to remove the entire hood to replace fenders — they're bolt-on. Batteries are located between frame rails. www.freightlinertrucks.com

Kenworth Truck Co.

Built primarily for over-the-road applications, the Kenworth T2000 combines advanced composite materials, lightweight components and aeronomic design for better fuel economy and higher carrying capacity. There are two sleeper options: 75-inch and 60-inch Aerodyne models.

Available engine sizes range from 10 to 16-liter, with engines to 600 HP. Front axles are rated from 12,000 to 14, 600 pounds; rear axles from 23,000 pound single to 46,0000 pound tandems.

Designed for team driving, the T2000 has an integrated, wide open cab/sleeper design. The cab is 7 feet wide, with 30 inches between seats for greater driver comfort. www.kenworth.com

Mack Trucks Inc.

The Granite Axle Back is the latest addition to the Class 8 Granite line. Mack set the front axle further back on this model to meet requirements for carrying heavier loads in some states and Canada. Having the axle-back position translates into a shorter overall wheelbase for easier maneuvering where space is tight.

Granite Axle Back is offered in a range of frame thicknesses and cross member options, making it possible to configure it as a straight truck or tractor for a number of applications.

The truck adds a new exterior with flexible fender extensions, halogen headlamps and the Mack "M" grill. Mack offers single source accountability for its engines, transmissions and chassis. www.macktrucks.com

Peterbilt Motors Co.

The Peterbilt Model 386 has been designed to maximize aerodynamic efficiencies. It features a contoured sunvisor, side chassis fairings, sloped hood, integrated headlamps, swept-back fenders and a form-fitted bumper. The bumper is made of Metton, a composite material that stands up to on-highway environments yet is 60% lighter than steel.

Model 386 may be configured as a day cab or as a sleeper. The sleeper system allows for the unit to be detached from the cab. The chassis design permits a lower radiator mounting that improves aerodynamics and increases ground visibility by two feet. The chassis design also allows for a new front axle position that delivers a shorter wheelbase which, when combined with the 50 degree wheel cut, allows for a wall-to-wall turning radius of about 12 inches. www.peterbilt.com

Sterling Trucks

Sterling Truck's A-Line is available in a 113-inch medium conventional cab or 122-inch long conventional cab, as well as two sleeper models. It includes automotive finger-tip cruise control.

The Flat Top Plus sleeper has a wedge shape design to maximize interior space and aerodynamic efficiency, in either a 50- or 68-inch size. The Mid-Roof sleeper adds headroom and storage space to the Flat Top Plus and is available in 58- or 72-inch size.

The A-Line offers a range of performance options, including Jacobs engine brakes, synthetic engine, transmission and axle lubricants, and driver-controlled traction differential. Lightweight options include aluminum cabs, cross members, fuel tank supports and centrifuse brake drums. Comfort options include tilt or tilt-telescopic steering columns. www.sterlingtrucks.com

Volvo Truck Corp.

Standard on the Volvo VT 800 is the manufacturer's D16 engine, offering up to 625 HP and 2250 lb-ft of torque. Applications for the VT 800 include heavy haul flatbed or lowboy, bulk haul, grain body, livestock hauler, tanker, and double-and triple-trailer combinations.

The chromed front grill in front of the radiator and cooling package meets both current and future emissions standards. A long sloping hood is designed to enhance visibility, as is the one-piece windshield.

All controls and instruments are within easy reach and clear sight lines. Doors are double-sealed to shut out dirt, dust, water and noise. Standard is Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology that helps maintain control in slippery conditions and works to prevent rollovers. www.volvo.com

Western Star Trucks

All Western Star models employ new insulation in walls, ceilings and along the alcove near the exhaust cut-out in the sleeper and cab. The insulation provides more sound absorption, cuts down on vehicle weight and has a reflective film covering to improve thermal properties. Model 4900 EX has a set-forward front axle and an extended, conventional hood. Star Light sleepers are available for all of the manufacturer's highway trucks, in a variety of sizes and shapes, ranging from 34- to 76-inches.

The Stratosphere walk-through is available in 68- and 82-inch sizes. All sleepers may be converted to day cab use.

As with all Western Star models, the 4900 EX offers walking beam suspension for a more comfortable ride and easy handling. Also available is a heavyduty air suspension with a non-torque reactive design. www.westernstartrucks.com

An immediate concern for commercial carriers and private fleet owners and managers are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-highway emissions standards that must be met in 2007. While nobody would dispute the need for cleaner air, it comes with a price: the new engines will be less fuel-efficient.

Beginning in mid-2006 as a pilot test program and going nationwide with 2007 model year diesel trucks, the EPA will employ new technology that will provide more accurate, less expensive and more effective measurements.

With its new methodology, the EPA will select a group of typical trucks and attach a portable measuring device to their engines. This device will assess exhaust emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Previously, in order to test diesel emissions, it was necessary to remove an engine from a truck and test it in a laboratory.

This program is a result of cooperative efforts of the EPA, the California Resource Board and diesel engine manufacturers.

This graph indicates permitted onroad engine exhaust amounts of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter, and effective dates — 2007 being the next — for enforcement.


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