MATS Reporter's notebook

By Jami Jones
senior editor


What a difference a year makes. It’s almost a given that original equipment manufacturers, component suppliers, aftermarket suppliers – well, just about everyone – uses the Mid-America Trucking Show as the grand stage to unveil their latest and greatest offerings.

The press corps has faced somewhat of a shortage in recent years – but not in 2010.

Could it be a sign of the times? Are things really picking up? Will the trucking industry turn the corner in 2010?

Company execs with many of the OEM and component suppliers shared their thoughts and predictions for economic recovery in the equipment and product side of the industry – which is reliant on truckers actually making good money again.

At the Freightliner – Daimler Trucks North America – press conference, Andreas Renschler began his comments to the media by talking about the weather. Renschler, head of Daimler trucks and buses, said he felt like 2009 was one major blizzard.

“By now, with the fog lifting, we can finally get a clearer view of the state of our industry.”

That sentiment was echoed by the majority of OEMs holding press conferences at Mid-America. It was not a day filled with doom and gloom economic forecasts, but a day filled with cautious optimism that better days are at least on the horizon.

With all that said, there were some new models introduced to the industry.

After a one-year hiatus from MATS, Paccar siblings Peterbilt and Kenworth both rolled out new models.

For Peterbilt it was the SmartWay-certified aerodynamic Model 587. It comes equipped with standard front Bendix air brakes, improved visibility, forward lighting and maneuverability.

Kenworth rolled out its T700, an aero-styled road tractor that is the heir to the now-venerable T2000 and the much older “Anteater” (the 660) which started the aero revolution. The SmartWay-certified truck integrates the hood, bumper, fenders, headlamps, fairings, windshield and roof in a precise, clean manner for the resulting fuel-efficient and stylish shape.

The Paccar companies also unveiled the 2010 Paccar MX engine. The engine – made from graphite-iron alloy that will mean a lighter yet stronger engine – uses selective catalytic reduction technology and provides up to 1,750 lbs.-ft. of torque and horsepower ranging from 380 to 485 hp.

Navistar rolled out the ProStar Plus. With improved aerodynamics and a nearly 1,300-pound weight reduction, the newest ProStar also boasts a number of driver-friendly interior improvements. The ProStar Plus will be powered by the MaxxForce engines, the industry’s only engine gas recirculation (EGR) platform engine.

If you’re not in the market for a new truck, but you’re looking for a way to keep your current truck on the road longer, Navistar announced a new program designed to do just that.

Dubbed ReStar, the program is designed for late-model Class 5-8 commercial trucks. As part of the program, mechanics analyze, recommend and replace key mechanical and aesthetic components based on the application, age and history of each truck.

Don’t own an International? No worries. The ReStar program is available for most makes and models of commercial trucks – International brand trucks or those built by other OEMs.

Alternative-fuel trucks were also more plentiful. While not best suited for the long-haul market – largely because of a lack of fueling locations across the country – LNG-powered trucks were unveiled by both Paccar’s Peterbilt and Kenworth.

New drivetrain components were also a hot topic in press conferences. The mDrive AMT (automated manual transmission) has 12 forward and four reverse speeds and is available in direct-drive or overdrive. It can put out 1,920 lbs.-ft. of torque, while weighing a lean 615 pounds.

The Mack folks highlighted numerous features, but they seemed especially proud of the MackCellerator and Grade Gripper – their downshifting and hill-start assist functions respectively.

The press pool also saw the introduction of the Meritor 14X drive axle. It offers a wide range of ratios – everything from a 2.47:1 all the way to a 7.17:1. The 14X can pump out up to 2,050 lbs.-ft. of torque. It is also the “signature member” of ArvinMeritor’s MPG Series – a line of products optimized for higher productivity, improved costs over the life of the components, and increased fuel mileage.

There was also good news on the disc braking front. Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake has continued to tweak the Bendix ADB22X air disc brakes over the past year in an effort to make it possible for truckers spec’ing equipment to choose lower cost options in disc brakes.

Changes include a new rotor that uses a less expensive metal composition and a new double diaphragm spring brake (which lowers the initial expense).

It was also the year for trucks to go even a little more high tech. All of the OEMs with press conferences – Kenworth, Peterbilt, Navistar, Daimler and Mack – announced their individual incarnations of high-tech truck monitoring systems that offer an array of other bells and whistles.

The systems offer everything from truck navigation, vehicle data, satellite and terrestrial radio, hands-free phone capabilities all the way up to Internet access. For truck-specific offerings and options, be sure to get the long list of options from your OEM dealer when you’re spec’ing your new truck.

Cab comfort was also a hot topic of conversation during the press conferences.

Webasto expanded its BlueCool Thermal Storage APU product family to include BlueCool Hybrid, which adds flexibility to use shore power to run the bunk cooler while providing power to hotel loads, without an inverter.

The system does not require any additional batteries to be installed, and even without shore power is able to provide up to 10 hours of cooling. The system can be paired up with Webasto Air Top 2000 ST heater for a complete auxiliary climate control system.

ThermoKing introduced the latest generation of the TriPac auxiliary power unit – in an all-electric platform.

It is battery-powered and no longer engine-operated, which the company says reduces both fuel and maintenance costs. The batteries are designed to power the unit up to 10 hours. And if one goes bad, you replace only it, not the entire bank of four. LL



Managing Editor Sandi Soendker
and State Legislative Editor Keith Goble contributed to this report.