by David Cullen, Contributing editor

In the fuel-conscious and ever-greener world that is trucking, it should be no wonder to read that Class 8 truck builders are offering more alternative-fueled trucks than ever along with a variety of newly put together spec packages that aim to boost diesel mpg.

Truck OEMs are also bringing to market more integrated and optimized powertrains—all engineered specifically to cut down on fuel consumption. What’s more, truck makers are advancing yet further the aerodynamic sculpting of on-highway tractor models to lift their mpg performance.

The biggest news at the top of the GVW scale includes Caterpillar’s introduction of its second work-truck model—the set-forward-axle CT681—as well as Mack’s debut of its new LR Series of LCOE refuse trucks. But that’s not all. There’s word out that Western Star will roll out an “all-new highway truck” model dubbed the 5700 sometime this fall.

No matter why, how or where you run trucks, this special editorial section once again puts the spotlight square on what’s new in new trucks.

[For more pictures of the 2015 models, check out our digital edition.]

Autocar Industries has introduced natural gas power to another model in its lineup of vocational trucks for refuse and other applications—the Class 7-8 Xpert. Described at launch by the manufacturer as a “Baby 8,” the Xpert’s “smaller, more nimble size makes it uniquely ideal for crowded and cramped urban refuse collection,” said the company.

Originally rolled out in 2012 as a diesel-powered truck, the cabover Xpert can now be powered by a Cummins Westport CNG/LNG engine. The Xpert was designed to “fill a void” in the marketplace.

“Waste haulers have long complained of a gap in their urban fleets, as the current conventional cab medium-duty trucks fall short in a number of ways,” stated Autocar. “These trucks are not designed to withstand tough jobs, and the chassis wear out too quickly. They are not engineered to integrate with a refuse body, and they offer less driver comfort and visibility.”

The Xpert addresses those issues by using many of the same “toughest-in-class components” as the heavier Xpeditor ACX. Autocar said the Xpert is “the first and only medium-duty truck with severe-service strength on a smaller wheelbase, beating the turning radius of conventional cabs by an average of 8-18%.”

“Before the Xpert, waste haulers had been forced to make do with cookie-cutter conventional cab trucks, which fall short in the ever-demanding refuse hauling application. The Xpert is designed, tested and specified to withstand the serious refuse hauling that we and our customers know and live every day,” said president Jim Johnston.

However, the Xpert is not limited to refuse-truck applications. For example, Autocar and Elgin Sweeper joint-engineered a fully integrated sweeper-chassis design. Per Brian Giles, Elgin Sweeper products manager, the two companies “shared engineering strategy and CAD data to ensure minimal cab/chassis modification work would be needed.

“All popular chassis options were made available and superior operator ergonomics were optimized on both sides of the factory dual-steer system,” Giles noted.

Caterpillar has rolled out its second vocational model, the set-forward axle CT681. The company said this 6x4 day-cab truck was “designed for customers who prefer a longer-wheelbase truck and for those who must comply with restrictive load limitations on bridges and roads.”

The CT681, which has a 114-in. BBC dimension, is powered by a Cat CT Series vocational truck engine and can be spec’d with the Cat CX31 automatic transmission. Caterpillar pointed out that an optional front-frame extension along with a front-engine PTO “makes it easy to mount attachments such as snow plows, hose reels, winches and hydraulic pumps” while “mixer installation is also simplified, thanks to vertical tie-in plates” mounted behind the cab.

Publicly unveiled back in March, the CT681 has been undergoing field-testing since the third quarter of 2013. According to Caterpillar, this “extensive field-follow program—the equivalent of more than three years of truck use—involves more than a dozen customers across North America.” Applications involved in this testing include snow plow, concrete mixer, water truck, dump and super dump.

“Customers who are hauling heavy loads or working in extreme conditions truly appreciate the CT681’s rugged durability and styling,” pointed out Dave Schmitz, global on-highway truck product manager. “We designed it to work hard and last for years, even in the toughest applications.”
The new model also shares numerous features and components with the existing CT660, the first model in the vocational truck line, including a spacious, ergonomic cab that the manufacturer said is designed to boost driver productivity and safety.

The setback-axle CT660 continues to be offered as either a truck or tractor. It is available with a 116- or 122-in. BBC length and can be powered by a Cat CT11, CT13 or CT15 engine. The CT660 is offered with the Cat CX31 automatic as well as with various Eaton manual and automated transmissions.

Freightliner Trucks has revealed that the new integrated Detroit powertrain, featuring the Detroit DD15 engine, Detroit DT12 transmission, and Detroit axles, will be available on its flagship model, the Cascadia Evolution, starting in January.

In addition, the truck maker has announced a wealth of new options for the Cascadia and Cascadia Evolution tractors. The OEM said each was “developed to enhance driver performance and safety and further contribute to the comfort and productivity” of the two on-highway models.

A new 12.5K-rated leaf spring suspension is designed to complement the Detroit front-axle offering and provide a smoother ride with less weight than a 13.3K suspension.

Day-cab roof fairings for the Cascadia have been redesigned to optimize aerodynamics, resulting in up to a 3.7% increase in fuel economy, stated the OEM.

Cab temperature is controlled by the ParkSmart HVAC system while the optimized idle system automatically starts the engine if both the main and auxiliary battery packs are depleted. In addition, optimized idle monitors battery voltage and oil temperature and will start the engine when necessary.
Also available is the new Bendix AD-9SI air dryer. Freightliner said this unit is more than 40% lighter with an additional 25% increase in capacity compared to the current AD-IP dryer. The AD-9SI also has a spin-on cartridge for faster replacement.

Other new Cascadia/Cascadia Evolution options include a yellow B-pillar grab handle option that is more visible for cab entry; flush-mounted LED lights; back-of-cab flush-mounted LED lights that draw less amperage and have a longer life than incandescent lamps; and a bulb-out detection system that automatically performs a check to determine if exterior lamps are functioning.

Freightliner also announced that the natural gas-fueled version of its Cascadia tractor is now available with a 48-in. sleeper cab and optional factory-installed LNG fuel tanks. The Meritor Wabco OnGuard collision safety system is also available on Cascadia natural gas-powered tractors spec’d with a manual transmission.

internationalNavistar International has announced no new models or major changes to its Class 8 truck lineup for the year ahead. Earlier this year, the OEM’s International ProStar highway tractor with Cummins ISX15 power was named the American Truck Dealers’ Class 8 “Truck of the Year.” Looking ahead, the OEM has advised that it is engaged in a joint program with truckload carrier Swift Transportation to pilot-test a specification it has designed to maximize the fuel efficiency of the ProStar. The pilot spec pairs the ProStar with the Cummins ISX15 diesel engine and the Eaton Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated manual transmission.

The truck builder stated that it expects the test results will “deliver industry-leading fuel-economy results,” especially given that Navistar’s internal testing showed the spec provides an 8% improvement in fuel economy compared to a 2011 model-year ProStar, which the OEM noted “also led the industry in fuel economy.”

“Our testing shows this truck configuration provides outstanding fuel economy performance, and we are confident Swift Transportation will experience the same benefits we have observed,” pointed out Bill Kozek, Navistar’s president of North American Truck and Parts.

In other news, Navistar has enhanced its OnCommand Connection remote-diagnostics system, which offers fleets real-time fault codes, vehicle locations, nearby dealer locations, and fault code action plans within an online portal. The OEM is currently partnered with telematics-service providers such as Omnitracs, PeopleNet, Teletrac, Geotab, XRS, CyntrX, Vnomics, and Pedigree Technologies.

The OnCommand Connection enhancements come via the integration of diagnostic-service tools offered by Mitchell 1, Noregon Systems and Nexiq Technologies. The OEM said that the integration of Mitchell 1’s along with in-bay service tools from Nexiq and Noregon can help increase vehicle uptime and provide increased fleet management efficiency for International truck customers.

“OnCommand Connection is designed to help our customers more efficiently manage their fleets by allowing them enhanced visibility into the health of their vehicles—regardless of make, model or telematics provider,” said Brian Mulshine, Navistar’s director of parts and service technology. “The addition of Nexiq Technologies, Noregon Systems and Mitchell 1 expands the capabilities of this system so we can provide our customers one-stop access to the entire repair ecosystem.”

Navistar noted that Nexiq Technologies and Noregon Systems both offer in-bay diagnostics service tools that integrate scanned data from vehicles into the OnCommand Connection portal, “allowing fleet managers to view the health of their entire fleet through a single portal.”

The OEM also pointed out that the addition of allows customers to access their repair manuals and other maintenance documents from a direct link within the OnCommand Connection portal. With a single login, fleet managers get a complete information resource.

kwKenworth Truck is expanding the offerings for its T680 linehaul tractors. For starters, the OEM has engineered a special fuel economy package for this model. KW said its T680 Advantage package provides a 1% fuel economy gain, thanks to its aerodynamic enhancements alone.

The Advantage factory-installed aerodynamic treatments include longer side extenders for the T680 76-in. sleeper; lower cab fairing extenders; front air dam; aerodynamic mud flaps; rear fairing without steps coupled with an air deflector; exhaust cut-out covers; optional wheel covers for drive tires; a weight-saving 6x2 axle configuration; and wide-base tires.

The T680 package also boasts an optimized powertrain combining Paccar’s MX-13 engine integrated with an Eaton Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated transmission that KW said delivers another 2% in fuel savings.

In addition, new software programming and the “lubrication strategy” for the latest version of the MX-13 provides another 1% fuel economy gain, said KW. On top of that, the OEM expects the incorporation of more efficient drive axles, which were slated to be added to the package in May, to provide yet another 1% gain. All told, according to KW, the elements of the Advantage package add up to a 5% fuel savings.

Also new for the T680 is optional natural gas power. Both the T680 day cab and 52-in. mid-roof sleeper will be available with a factory-installed Cummins Westport ISX12 G natural gas engine rated up to 400 hp. and 1,450 lbs.-ft. of torque. Optionally available with the natural gas engine will be the Eaton UltraShift Plus automated transmission.

The OEM said that when the UltraShift Plus is spec’d with the natural gas engine, the resulting powertrain package provides such features as intelligent shift-selection software for performance and efficiency improvements; better launch and shift decisions through grade sensing, weight computation and driver throttle commands; hill start aid to help prevent rollbacks when engaged and simplify operations for inexperienced drivers; and tailored shift logic for efficient operation and enhanced braking performance.

The natural gas-fueled T680, with either CNG or LNG, will be available “later this year.”

Kenworth is also offering a new lightweight configuration of its T680 52-in. mid-roof sleeper for LTL/regional applications. The scale weight of this T680 variant version is “close to 15,000 lbs.,” per the OEM.

Key weight-reducing components of the configuration are its 12.9L Paccar MX-13 engine, Eaton Fuller Advantage transmission, KW AG380 suspension, MX optimized hood (119-in. BBC), 6x2 drive axle, rear wide-base single tires, aluminum rear wheels, air disc brakes, and aluminum fifth wheel.

The Eaton Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated transmission is now an available option on T680 models spec’d for long-haul or regional applications. A factory-installed, battery-powered idle management system is also optional on the 76-in. sleeper variation of the T680.

Mack Trucks this year is heavily emphasizing that its over-the-road Pinnacle model, which is offered in axle-forward and axle-back configurations as well as in a 6x2 version, now features a “wide range of high-performing proprietary engines” along with the Mack mDrive automated manual

transmission. According to the OEM, Mack engines are GHG 2014-certified and offer up to a 2.4% increase in fuel efficiency while the mDrive improves drivability and boosts fuel efficiency by up to 5% over a manual transmission.

The OEM also pointed out that a new version of its Mack Pedigree powertrain (which combines a proprietary Mack engine, transmission and axles), dubbed the Mack Super Econodyne, “seamlessly integrates a Mack MP8-445SE engine, mDrive transmission, and proprietary axles to increase fuel efficiency by up to 3% compared to similarly spec’d vehicles. What’s more, a drag-reducing roof, chassis and side fairings are also available as options.

According to Stephen Roy, president of Mack Trucks North America sales & marketing, the OEM is also focused on “products and services developed specifically for each customer’s unique needs.” He said its GuardDog Connect telematics-based solution is a case in point, noting that the system quickly diagnoses potential issues, proactively schedules repairs, and confirms that the required parts are in stock and ready to install—all while a truck is still on the job. “We are also partnering with other companies, such as Telogis and PeopleNet, to provide additional productivity tools,” Roy said.
Due out from Mack in 2015 is the LR Series of low-entry cabover refuse trucks. These will be initially available in three-axle 6x4 configurations and powered either by diesel or natural gas. The OEM said that it “captured customer input during the design and engineering phases of the new LR and utilized the feedback to highlight the characteristics core to a refuse truck—outstanding driver comfort, efficient operation, and exceptional visibility and safety.”

All LRs will come spec’d with a Mack MP7 11L diesel engine with horsepower ratings from 325 to 345 and torque ratings from 1,200 to 1,280 lbs.-ft. The Cummins Westport ISL G natural gas engine will be offered optionally. All LR models will be equipped with an Allison RDS 5-speed or 6-speed automatic transmission. The trucks will be available with left-hand drive, right-hand drive, dual-drive, and left-hand drive/right-hand stand-up drive configurations.

Mack said the LR Series cab’s “enhanced driver environment” will include tilt and telescopic steering, power windows and door locks, memory mirrors, in-dash air-conditioning, standard in-cab LED lighting, and an instrument cluster with color LCD display.

petePeterbilt Motors’ two newest Class 8 offerings, both of which will enter production this year, are natural gas-fueled versions of its aerodynamic flagship Model 579 and its vocational Model 567.

The OEM said both will be offered with the Cummins Westport ISX12 G engine and will boast “the industry’s most advanced and innovative compressed natural gas system. Both vehicles will comply with all EPA 2013 and CARB emissions regulations. Engine ratings will run from 320 hp. at 1,150 lbs.-ft. to 400 hp. at 1,450 lbs.-ft.

Pete has also introduced two new packages to help maximize fuel economy on the Model 579. The OEM said its EPIQ package can increase fuel efficiency by up to 10% via improved performance of key components and an optimized spec that utilizes the most fuel-efficient options available. The EPIQ package includes the Eaton SmarTire tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), the Paccar MX-13 engine, Eaton Fuller Advantage UltraShift Plus automated transmission, aerodynamic fairings and enhancements, low-rolling-resistance tires, and optimized drivetrain software. In addition, the APEX drivetrain option for EPIQ pairs the MX-13 engine with the Eaton Fuller Advantage and features optimized shift calibration, weight savings, and proprietary control logic between the two components.

Pete is also offering Bendix SmarTire as a separate option on the Model 579 as well as on the Model 567. The TPMS system monitors the pressure and temperature of each tire on the vehicle in real time and will warn the operator of potential problems.

The vocational Model 567 has also gained several new enhancements, including expanded PTO functionality when paired with the MX-13 engine. New features include the capability to activate external notification of impending diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration; remote throttle while in PTO mode; and the ability to have DPF regeneration take place during PTO operation.

Pete also said it has added more functionality to its Driver Information Center. The new module, which is available for Models 579, 567 and 587 powered by MX-13 engines, monitors numerous vehicle systems and driving habits to provide operator feedback through a scoring system that rewards practices to reduce fuel use and minimize brake wear.

The display shows a driver his performance scores in categories such as braking and coasting, as well as a total performance scoring percentage. If the system detects driving habits that are detrimental to fuel economy (such as erratic acceleration) or actions that reduce component life (such as excessive hard braking), it is designed to provide coaching tips with suggested corrective actions. Drivers view this information on the 5-in. color LCD display screen located within the driver instrumentation cluster.

The 72- and 80-in. Platinum sleepers offered for Model 579 and Model 567 tractors are now available with an ambient lighting package. It includes all LED bulbs for longer life and reduced power consumption.

volvoVolvo Trucks has developed what it calls the Optimized Series specifically to boost fuel efficiency and payload capacity for regional-haul carriers. The series includes eight models “equipped with proven fuel- and weight-saving specifications to deliver a greater value of ownership for regional tanker, bulk haul, refrigerated, dry van or flatbed applications.” As part of the Optimized Series, the OEM is also offering a mid-roof design for its VNM 430 and VNL 430 sleepers.

The Optimized Series is offered with VNM 200 and VNL 300 day cabs; VNM 430 and VNL 430 flat-top sleepers; VNM 430 and VNL 430 mid-roof sleepers; and VNM 630 and VNL 630 mid-roof sleepers.

Optimized day cabs, 430 sleepers and the VNM 630 model feature a Volvo D11 engine rated at 405 hp. and 1,550 lbs.-ft. of torque and the Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission. The optimized Volvo VNL 630 model is spec’d with a Volvo D13 engine rated at 425 hp. and 1,750 lbs.-ft. of torque. All Optimized Series models have an aluminum fifth wheel, Michelin wide-base single tires, aluminum wheels, 6x2 tandem rear-axle configuration with rear-tag axle, and a Volvo Optimized air suspension rated up to 38,000 lbs.

Volvo also said its XE integrated-powertrain packages can produce up to an additional 3% in fuel savings. The packages for Volvo D13, D16 and D11 engines result in them only turning 1,150 rpm at 65 mph, according to the OEM. In addition to faster rear axles, the XE packages include clutched air compressors and low-friction internal components to reduce parasitic losses as well as a new fuel-injector design.

According to Goran Nyberg, president of North American sales & marketing, the XE packages for the 13L and 16L engines account for over 20% of its truck orders. He added that he expects the 11L XE package to be especially popular with regional haulers as Volvo estimates the added 3% improvement in fuel efficiency could translate into a cost savings of as much as $2,000 a year.

Volvo noted that while it is currently offering day cab and sleeper models powered by spark-ignited natural gas engines (ISL G for VNM models and ISX12 G for VNL models), the OEM “plans to begin taking orders for trucks equipped with the Volvo D13-LNG compression-ignition engine in late 2014.”
Also on the alternative fuel front, Volvo advised that it currently has four trucks powered by DME being field-tested by a fleet in California with another set of five units undergoing internal testing.

As for diesel, Volvo has reported that its trucks powered by engines certified to 2014 GHG standards are providing up to a 3% improvement in fuel economy compared to the company’s 2013 engines. What’s more, that increase is 1% higher than had been originally indicated by testing.

Western Star has advised that it “plans to unveil an all-new highway tractor in the fall,” which will be badged as a 5700. The OEM noted that the new integrated Detroit powertrain, consisting of the Detroit DD15 engine, Detroit DT12 transmission and Detroit axles, will be available on the 5700 in 2015.

The Western Star 4700 set-back and set-forward truck and tractor models can now be spec’d with a frame rail-mounted vertical exhaust stack. The configuration is available in combination with the OEM’s aerodynamic roof and side fairing options. Western Star also has a cab-mounted vertical exhaust and a horizontal tail pipe option.

The Allison 4700 Rugged Duty Series (RDS) automatic transmission is now available as an option for the Western Star 4700 model equipped with either a Detroit DD13 or Cummins ISL engine. The transmission is designed for rugged off-road and vocational applications such as construction, dump and oil field operations. Western Star noted that the 4700 can now be equipped with several Allison automatics as well, such as the 3000, 4000, and 4500 RDS models, along with other engine options, including the Cummins ISC.