FT. WORTH, Texas. Peterbilt Motors Co. announced new automated transmission options for several of its natural gas vehicles as part of a wide-ranging event in Ft. Worth, Texas on Wednesday. The OEM’s Commitment to Class Customer Event featured a number of customers, suppliers and Peterbilt product experts speaking on the industry, Peterbilt products, and natural gas.

Robert Woodall, director of sales & marketing, kicked off the meeting with an overview of both the general business climate and Peterbilt’s position in the marketplace. Several speakers followed, touting the advantages of various Peterbilt models.

On the transmission front, Peterbilt is now offering the Eaton UltraShift Plus automated transmission on natural gas models, including the new on-highway Model 579 and vocational Model 567. Available in 13-speed MHP or 10-speed LAS variations, the UltraShift Plus will be available on truck models with the Cummins Westport ISX12 G natural gas engine. The engine features up to 400 hp. and 1,450 lbs.-ft. of torque.

The Model 384 and Model 365 will also be available with the transmission.

The transmission features intelligent shift selection software that optimizes performance and efficiency. Tailored shift logic also enhances braking performance.

Woodall said that steady economic growth is contributing to strong truck sales and as a result, Peterbilt will be boosting production rates at its North American facilities, including in Denton, Texas. He also noted that tonnage remains strong and customers are starting to relay that they are now turning down loads.

“I was with a [large fleet] customer the other day who said they are turning down 700 loads a day,” he told the audience.

As a result, Woodall said, Peterbilt is projecting 230,000 to 240,000 retail truck sales this year in a “pretty strong truck market,” with orders projected to come in between 260,000 and 270,000. He also projected a 10% improvement in medium-duty truck sales as well.

On the engine side, Woodall said that about 40% of all Peterbilt models sold today feature a Paccar engine and the dedicated engine plant in Columbus is turning out 100 engines per day with that expected to grow to 125 this summer. Since its launch, 262,000 Paccar MX-13 engines have been manufactured. An 11L version will be unveiled next year.

Woodall noted that on today’s truck models, with advanced electronics, low-rolling resistant tires, transmissions and more, “there is an opportunity for fuel economy improvement. We’re doing more today to gain fuel economy than ever before.”

Jim Zito, vocational sales director, noted that the company’s Model 567 vocation truck, currently available only in set-back configuration, will be adding a set-forward model next year with BBC lengths of 115 and 121 in. The Cummins Westport ISX 12 G 12L natural gas engine will be available on the 567 in the third quarter.