A VERY PERSONAL TOP 10 LIST
January 14, 2015 Vol. 12 No. 1
Last time out, before the wine flowed on New Year’s Eve in fact, I wrote about five developments on the technology front that most captured my attention in 2014. A couple of them had nothing to do with trucks at present, one was about a fleet’s interesting approach to natural gas, and another will have us waiting for a decade or more.
So I thought maybe I should choose 10 of what I consider to be especially interesting or useful products launched last year, things that are actually here on the ground now or soon will be.
To call this an entirely subjective review of the hardware highlights of 2014 is an understatement, and chances are good that you’ll disagree with some of my choices. Goes without saying that I’d love to hear your own thoughts.
One important note first: in a sense this is a list of 11 new products because I would ordinarily include Eaton’s Procision dual-clutch automated transmission, due on the market soonish. But since I wrote about it in my last newsletter as a 2014 tech highlight, I’ll pass it by here.
OK, I’ll start with the only truck on my list and then move to simple alphabetical order, using the company name.
THE ALL NEW WESTERN STAR 5700XE makes my list partly because it’s so darned good looking, but mostly because it represents a departure from the classic Western Star idea of a tough truck focused mostly on just the work at hand. This one is pretty sophisticated.
Labelled “the newest fuel-efficient on-highway truck in North America,” the 5700XE goes for fuel efficiency with style in its aerodynamically angular look. ‘XE’ stands for extreme efficiency, by the way. It’ll be on the market in a few months.
It has a 126-in. BBC and a set-back front axle, with aerodynamic features such as the hood and roof with chassis and cab fairings to reduce drag. A new sweptback four-piece bumper and an under-bumper valance also contribute, and new halogen headlights are optimized for aerodynamic performance. The “state of the art” visor is specifically engineered to work with the slope in the hood’s rear air ramp to direct air flow over the cab without adding drag. Optional chassis side fairings reduce drag by up to 6% while still providing easy access to batteries and DEF tank.
The 5700XE can be spec’d with the Detroit DD15 engine as well as the DD16 with up to 600 hp and also the DD13 engine for regional hauls and weight-conscious customers.
Another departure: the truck comes standard with an automated transmission, the Detroit DT12.
Buyers can select the new integrated Detroit Powertrain which includes a downsped 400-hp DD15 engine, the DT12 transmission with Intelligent Powertrain Management, and Detroit axles.
The 5700XE is also equipped with the proprietary Detroit Virtual Technician remote diagnostic service.
ALCOA CALLS ITS ULTRA ONE the world’s lightest heavy-duty truck wheel, and it can help trucks shed a lot of pounds for increased payload and fuel efficiency.
Alcoa says the new 40-lb wheel is 47% lighter than steel wheels of the same size, namely 22.5 x 8.25. That means a potential saving up to 1400 lb per rig.
To take five pounds out of its lightest heavy-duty truck wheel, Alcoa’s engineers invented the new, patent-pending MagnaForce alloy. It’s on average 17% stronger than the industry standard, Alcoa’s 6061 alloy, in similar applications, the company says.
ALLISON TRANSMISSION’S FUELSENSE fuel-efficiency package can deliver up to 20% fuel savings, the company says. It automatically manages shift schedules and torque, maximizing transmission efficiency based on load, grade, and duty cycle without sacrificing performance.
Allison says it sports fifth-generation smart controls, acceleration management, and a precision inclinometer, plus ‘EcoCal’ shift technology to keep engine speed at the most efficient level. Dynamic Shift Sensing automatically senses when low-engine speed shifts can be made. And ‘Neutral at Stop’ saves fuel and reduces emissions when the vehicle is stationary.
Freightliner was the first OEM to offer FuelSense in the North American medium-duty market, available in M2 chassis equipped with Allison 2000 and 3000 series transmissions.
THE VDO ELECTRONIC LOG from Continental’s VDO division is an electronic log device (ELD) that’s compatible with mechanical-ignition vehicles and those that pre-date the J1708 and J1939 can bus, as well as trucks with the newer 9- or 6-pin diagnostic ports. Cool.
The ability to customize the wiring configuration allows it to be used on both old and new trucks and thus allows owners of older vehicles to be ready for the implementation of ELD regulations this year.
It also features a flexible software design that can be updated as HOS and electronic log regulations continue to evolve, ensuring that fleets are always in compliance with the most up-to-date regulations.
RoadLog is also said to be the only electronic logging device on the market with a self-contained, on-board thermal printer that can automatically produce a paper log to help drivers get through inspection stops quickly.
THE DOEPKER LEGACY SUPER-B grain trailer is claimed to be the lightest such aluminum trailer on the market, using what the company calls “innovative, cutting edge technology that gives strength never seen before on an aluminum trailer.”
The one-piece aluminum honeycomb slope, also used in the construction of aircraft, uses a minimal number of rivets and has no horizontal seams or rivets, giving “unmatchable” cleanout and sealing properties. The smooth double-wall aluminum design provides an aerodynamic outer skin complimenting optimal inside cleanout, says Doepker.
The “first to market” open-end dual-aluminum-wall design allows easy cleaning and maintaining of the suspension and slope area from road contaminants.
THE VANTRAAX ULTRAA-K SLIDER system from Hendrickson Trailer Commercial Vehicle Systems is claimed to be the next level of air-slider technology, a “game changer”. From the slider box to Zero Maintenance Damping to its unique pivoting mudflap brackets, it’s said to bring superior ride quality while carrying more cargo per load.
Hendrickson says it’s lighter than any other slider system in the industry by nearly 100 lb. The hot-dip coating process allows Hendrickson to back the slider with a 10-year structural corrosion warranty.
Instead of shock absorbers, it uses Zero Maintenance Damping (ZMD) air springs for suspension damping. With no moving parts, these unique air springs are designed to provide uniform and consistent damping levels over their lifespan.
Since the air spring’s damping capacity does not degrade or diminish over time like a shock absorber, ZMD air springs are claimed to out-perform shocks in ride quality, cargo protection, downtime, and maintenance costs.
THE ELECTRONIC AIR-PROCESSING SYSTEM from Meritor WABCO is called “breakthrough connectivity technology.”
It combines the System Saver 1200 Plus air dryer with electronic fuel-saving software stored in the anti-lock braking system. Integration of these technologies with the new connectivity tool reduces system cost for OEMs and helps fleets improve fuel efficiency. Europe has been using such electronic systems to good effect for some time, but this is new to North America.
This “highly intelligent and cost-effective” air-processing system will improve vehicle efficiency and boost fuel savings by up to 1%, the maker says. The system’s single electronic control unit integrates Meritor WABCO’s proprietary fuel-saving software with braking, air compression, and air-cartridge regeneration.
PNEUMATIC TRAILER LEGS, otherwise called the PTS50 pneumatic trailer support system, come from Prime Transport Solutions, based in Ireland. Introduced to North America about this time last year, it replaces the traditional gear-driven leg assembly, doing away with the hand crank to raise or lower the trailer’s landing gear. That job ordinarily takes 3-4 minutes, and often some hard work, but with the PTS50 it’s done in five seconds. The system works off the same air supply used for brakes and air suspension.
The advantages include significant improvements to driver health and safety. The system can be operated by drivers with slight disabilities and should help an aging truck driver to prolong his working life. All of which might also mean easier employee retention and fewer workers’ compensation claims. There are simply two buttons to raise or lower the landing legs.
On the maintenance front, Prime says there are savings to be had because the PTS50 has just two moving parts, with no gears or lube. Each leg set is designed to last the lifetime of the trailer, and each leg is identical, fitting both nearside and offside. The company also says you won’t see a dropped trailer because the locking pin will not allow the leg to collapse. Nor will there be any damage caused by unsecured crank handles. And if the PTS50’s pneumatic lift cylinder somehow fails, there’s a provision to lift the landing legs manually.
There’s also said to be an aerodynamic advantage. Without the crank handle, trailer skirts can be extended past the landing gear to improve air flow around the trailer.
PTS50 is currently available through Aurora Parts *(In North America)
THE EZEDGE MODULAR TRAILER SKIRT from Transtex Composite says its new three-panel skirt offers “the same durability and competitive price as its single-panel product,” but it’s much easier to store and install.The company says “a driver with an assistant can install the modular system in 40 minutes.” No special tools are required and an installation video and panel positioning guide accurate installation. An OEM can install the system in as few as 15 minutes.
Carriers should expect to save up to 7.3% in fuel costs, says Transtex. At that rate, the average user will find the skirts pay for themselves in under a year.
THE VORTEX UNLIMITED BRAKE DRUM means cooler running brakes, says Webb Wheel Aftermarket. Its Vortex Unlimited brake drum features patent-pending CRT vents (Cool Running Technology) that increase air flow. They produce 15% cooler operating temperatures for better braking performance and add 25% to brake drum life, the company says.
External cooling ribs conduct heat away from brakes and the CRT vents mean superior heat-transfer efficiency. The drums also include patent-pending wear indicators that further reduce costs by taking the guesswork out of repairs, saving labor time and money, and maximizing brake drum life, Webb says.
The drums are available for most popular axle applications.
AND ON TO THE SHOWS AND CONFERENCES…
The Technology & Maintenance Council’s Annual Meeting and Transportation Technology Exhibition, themed ‘Fueling the Future,’ will be held February 16-19 next year at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn. There will be, I’m told, discussions about fuel economy standards, alternate fuels, asset utilization, and tire deployment strategies, among others. ‘Early Bird’ registration on or before January 23 is US$595 for TMC members, and US$695 for non-members. After that date, registration goes up by $100. First-time fleet attendees can register for a special rate of US$395 before January 23. See http://tmc.trucking.org. Or register here.
FPInnovations’ Performance Innovation Transport (PIT) group will hold its second annual conference on February 25-26 at the Toronto Congress Centre. Switching to two days from one, it promises a full slate of sessions that bring suppliers and fleets together in the search for efficiency. Call 514 782-4520, toll-free at 855-472-1159. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or see pit.fpinnovations.ca
Next up is the Green Truck Summit at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on March 3-4. All alternative fuels are on the conference agenda, which features insights on green technology and new developments in that arena. Especially useful: an ‘immersion’ session on upcoming greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency regulations.
It runs just before, and overlaps a bit, the Work Truck Show at the same venue, March 4-6. Contact the National Truck Equipment Association at 800-441-6832 or see www.ntea.com/index.aspx
Those who like crowds will be heading to the big Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, sporting 1,000-plus exhibitors at the Kentucky Expo Center March 26-28. Call 502.899.3892 for information or visit http://www.truckingshow.com. You can register here.
ExpoCam 2015, Canada’s National Truck Show, runs April 16, 17, and 18. It’s our own show, ‘us’ being Newcom Business Media, alternating year by year between Montreal and Toronto. This year ExpoCam takes place at Place Bonaventure in the lively heart of downtown Montreal, with 5000 parking spaces, two nearby subway stations, and the VIA Rail train station making it easy to get to. See http://www.expocam.ca/index.cfm for more info.
The 2015 Alternative Clean Transportation Expo, otherwise known as ACT Expo, is heading for its fifth annual event May 4-7 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, TX. ACT Expo has partnered with multiple leading industry associations to develop the four-day program, including the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), the North American Council on Trucking Efficiency (NACFE), NGV Global, BSR Future of Fuels, and many others. Early bird registration offers fleet registration at US$295 and general registration at US$650. See www.actexpo.com. See the agenda here.
THIS NEWSLETTER IS PUBLISHED every two weeks. For the most part it’s a heads-up notice about what’s going on with trucking technology. I also write here about interesting products that may not have had the ‘air play’ they deserved within the last few months, and maybe about issues that warrant attention in my occasionally humble opinion.
I should remind you that I don’t endorse any of the products I write about in this e-newsletter, nor do I have the resources to test them except on rare occasions. What you’re getting is reasonably well educated opinion based on more than 35 years in trucking.
If you have comments of whatever sort about The Lockwood Report, or maybe you’ve tried a gizmo I should know about, please contact me at email@example.com