Volvo debuts new sleeper, host of support services Volvo Trucks North America has introduced the latest addition to its VN Series, the Volvo 660, designed for team operators.

The new model comes as Volvo Trucks is showing increased market muscle. Since the start of 1998, Volvo Trucks has risen to fourth place from sixth among the major nameplates in North America, growing its share of the Class 8 market from 10% to 12.1%.

The success of the Volvo VN Series will be responsible for an estimated 11% increase in sales beyond the company's earlier projections. When the final retail sales figures are compiled at year-end, Volvo Trucks expects the VN Series to comprise 75% of its sales, or approximately 22,000 units.

The Volvo 660's interior space includes a 61-in.-deep sleeper area and a 98-in. stand-up height. The raised roof offers maximum space for two large bunks -- a 36 x 79-in. lower bunk and 30 x 75-in. upper bunk.

Storage and cabinet units are accessible from either the bunks or the seats. The standard, three-compartment overhead cabinet, full-length wardrobe, and locking drawers are designed for storing large quantities of personal items. Strategically placed shelves and compartments offer room for the special comforts of the road like an optional 1.6-cu.-ft. refrigerator/freezer, and an entertainment center with TV, VCR, and six-speaker sound system.

The Volvo 660's sleeper area features separate temperature and fan controls, as well as its own lighting system and power supply. A large front skylight and two side windows provide natural lighting in the daytime. Standard windshield and sleeper curtains, as well as window shades, provide privacy during off-hours.

The Volvo 660 is standard with a Volvo VE D12-345 diesel engine, 345 hp. @1,800 rpm and 1,350 lb.-ft. @1,100 rpm; Eaton Fuller (RT-13709H) 9-speed transmission; Spicer Life driveline; and Spicer 15.5-in. Easy Pedal clutch. The front axle is Meritor FF966, rear axle Meritor RT40-145, and wheelbases are available from 203 to 243 in.

The 660 reaffirms Volvo's commitment to safety with its standard driver's-side airbag. It also features a welded high-strength-steel cab and four emergency exits -- two kick-out windows and two front doors. In addition, the Volvo 660 is standard with Kevlar-reinforced dash panels, three-point safety belts, deformable steering wheel, and energy-absorbing steering column. A smoke detector is optional.

The 660 and, more importantly, Volvo's commitment to innovation, are part of the five new realities of the marketplace, says Marc Gustafson, president and CEO. In addition to innovation, these new realities include:

*.Reliability. Due to its firm commitment to quality, Volvo Trucks has continued implementing quality improvements at the plant. As a result, daily production rates for the VN Series increased by 110% from late 1997 through the third quarter of this year, and the quality of the finished product was enhanced.

*.Customer interface. Volvo Trucks is creating innovative sales programs that feature options packages that are tailored to the application.

Volvo Action Service, a comprehensive customer support center, takes the worry out of roadside breakdowns. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the support center will do whatever it takes to get the load delivered, including renting equipment, forwarding a load, or sending medical assistance.

*.Revolutionize distribution. Volvo utilizes the latest communications technology to link its dealers to a system-wide information network. Volvo Trucks has also taken steps to ensure that its dealers can satisfy the range of customers' equipment needs from lease and rental opportunities to used vehicle sales.

With the purchase of an ownership stake in Arrow Truck Sales, Kansas City, Mo., Volvo Trucks is providing its dealers with another distribution channel to sell used equipment.

*.Credible brand promise. Because customers increasingly are buying new products to gain an edge in business, the days of decisions driven by emotion are fading. To establish the Volvo Trucks brand, Volvo delivered its message through an unprecedented television commercial during the 1998 Super Bowl broadcast. Next year will find the company back in the big game with a new commercial.

Latest Sierra boasts new look and technical innovations

According to the manufacturer, the new 1999 GMC Sierra full-size pickup truck was designed with commercial applications in mind.

"The new Sierra has been rethought and redesigned from the wheels up with a focus on the customer," says Sierra brand manager Jim Kornas. "By listening to our customers," he continues, "we created a truck with more towing and hauling power, more body strength, more passenger and cargo space, and more driver amenities than ever before."

The all-new Sierra is available in 1500 and 2500 Series models with GVW ratings up to 8,600 lb. GMC will also continue to offer its "current generation" (equivalent to the '98 model) Sierra in 2500 and 3500 Series models with maximum GVW ratings of 8,600 lb. as well as 3500 HD units with 15,000-lb. GVWR.

According to Kornas, the new Sierra features a "prominent, powerful" front-end design with a black grille and classic ruby-red GMC logo. He says the hood, fenders, bumper, fascia, and headlamps are all unique and "portray the honest truck styling customers want."

However, the new truck won't get by on good looks alone. The Sierra can be powered by a choice of three GMC Vortec V8 gas engines.

The 4.8-liter Vortec 4800 generates 255 hp. @ 5,200 rpm and produces 285 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Coupling the 4800 V8 with automatic transmission and 4.10 rear axle allows a GCWR up to 13,000 lb.

The 5.3-liter Vortec 5300 yields 270 hp. @ 5,000 rpm and 315 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm. The 5300 has the same bore dimension as the 4800, but its 92.0-mm stroke provides more torque.

The 60-liter Vortec 6000 produces 300 hp. @ 4,800 rpm and 355 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm. It is intended for heavier-duty applications.

According to Kornas, the Sierra offers a powerful trailer-pulling package. An optional tow/haul feature on available automatic transmissions delays upshifts when the vehicle is heavily loaded or pulling a trailer. For example, at part throttle, the first gear shift will be at 22 mph in tow/haul mode instead of at 10 mph in regular operation. Pressing a button on the end of the shift lever activates tow/haul mode.

Depending on engine choice, transmission offerings are either standard or optional. Transmission includes a New Venture gear 5-speed manual and a GM Powertrain 4-speed electronic automatic.

Available only on the Sierra are composite headlamps that incorporate parking lamps and turn signals into a single, wraparound unit. The headlamps deliver more usable light and a broader light pattern than those used on the previous Sierra design.

The truck also boasts four-wheel disc brakes with bigger rotors and pads 40% larger than those on the closest competitive vehicle. The braking system features electronic "dynamic brake proportioning" for more balanced engagement to reduce front-brake wear.

In keeping with the Sierra's commercial theme, 1500 Series models have six-bolt, 16-in. steel wheels and 2500 Series units have eight-bolt, 16-in. wheels.

Redesigned cargo boxes for both Wideside and Sportside body styles offer more volume. Both the long and short box versions of the Wideside have 1.1 cu. ft. of added volume, and the Sportside box is 7.2-cu.-ft. bigger.

The Sierra's extended cab model features the largest rear-side access door in its vehicle segment. The rear seat of the extended cab has an 18-degree rear setback angle and an extended lower seat cushion.

The new pickup, which has a 144-in. wheelbase, also boasts a three-piece modular frame that helps provide a 64% improvement in cab strength and a 22% gain in front-end sheet metal rigidity over the previous Sierra.

A specialized line of diesel-fired air and coolant heaters has been developed by Webasto Thermosystems Inc. for the beverage industry. CargoSystems are self-contained and can be used with a variety of body types or configurations.

Air heaters in the line offer capacities ranging from 7,000 to 31,000 Btu. Coolant versions offer outputs ranging from 17,000 to 104,000 Btu. They can be used for radiant floor heating, which can be augmented by an optional high-mount heat exchanger and blower fan.

Both types of heaters are compact and self-contained, and will run for hours on a gallon of diesel fuel, according to the company.

Designed for Cummins' heavy-duty diesel engine models, the ICON idle control system automatically stops and starts an engine to maintain preset oil-temperature and battery-charge levels. That means unattended trucks can be warmed up and ready to go even in the coldest weather without constant idling or human intervention, according to the company.

A second version of the system includes an in-bunk "thermostat" control that can be used to maintain sleeper bunk temperatures by automatically idling the engine to run heater or A/C systems as needed. The "Cab Comfort" option also gradually ramps down engine rpms before shutdown to avoid disturbing sleeping drivers.

ICON will be available in early 1999 as a factory-installed option on Cummins electronically controlled diesels, including the ISM, ISX, Signature, and N14 Plus engines. Retrofit kits will also be offered for N14 Plus and M11 Plus engines.

Hendrickson Trailer Suspension Systems now offers a READY-TO-ROLL (RTR) option on its INTRAAX and VANTRAAX products that makes axles ready for automatic tire inflation systems.

If a customer orders an inflation-system-ready axle with a Hendrickson wheel-end hub, the axle is fitted with a PSI (Pressure Systems International) hubcap, plug and stator assembly, and nut and retainer assembly. When the hub is not ordered from Hendrickson, the axle is prepared with an air-supply line and fitting only.

An automatic tire inflation system connects all the trailer tires to the existing trailer air supply. The axles act as conduits, providing air through a rotary union assembly at the spindle end that distributes air to the tires when they need it.

For 1999, Mack Trucks has restyled its Mid-Liner Series medium-duty cabovers. A smoother front grille, simplified headlamp adjustment, rounded-corner air deflectors, and a new front-of-cab grab handle are chief among the changes. Inside, the MS, along with its conventional cousin the CS, features new seat fabrics, patterns, and colors, as well as new door trip panel fabric, dash padding, additional storage, and a standard radio prep package.

East Manufacturing Corp. recently introduced a 39-ft. frameless, square-bottom aluminum dump trailer that weighs only 9,700 lb. The new trailer combines the weight advantage of a round-bottom dump with strength, greater payload capacity, and hauling versatility of a square-body design.

A low center of gravity also means more stable dumping and additional legal payload, while special contact point flanges on the floor crossmembers provide extra support and position welds away from high stress areas.

Greater load-bearing strength and less bowing are achieved through sidewalls with a full-length boxed top rail that interlocks with the side sheet and posts.

A wide floor surface makes the trailer suitable for hauling bulk commodities as well as palletized loads. For two-way operation, the unit can be fitted with a side swing gate.

Other features include air-ride suspension, aluminum disc wheels, and an extended-life lighting system.

After extensive field tests and some design modifications based on those tests, Webasto Thermosystems Inc. says it has begun production of its ThermoCooler auxiliary climate control system for sleeper cabs. The ThermoCooler can now provide drivers with up to 26,000 Btu of heat per hour or 15,000 Btu of cooling without idling the truck's engine.

Heat for the sleeper is provided by a diesel-fired auxiliary unit, which also warms engine coolant for easier starting in cold weather. When the truck is running, the unit uses the vehicle's primary air conditioning system and a heat exchanger to chill sealed containers filled with a special solution that freezes at 49 degrees F. The solution melts when the driver shuts down the tractor, providing chilled air through existing A/C ducts in the sleeper. A panel mounted in the sleeper controls both heating and cooling functions.

The ThermoCooler weighs approximately 200 lb. and mounts on the exterior frame rail behind the cab. It can be retrofitted in about eight hours, according to Webasto.

Beginning in the first quarter of 1999, ThermoCooler models will be available for the Freightliner Century Class, Volvo VN Series, and Kenworth T600, T800, and W900 trucks. Installation will be offered through select OEM dealers and independent heavy-truck specialists.

Engine, axle link

Meritor Automotive and Cummins Engine Co. have reached an agreement to team Meritor's 40,000-lb. and 46,000-lb. tandem drive axles with the Cummins Signature 600 series engines that use Smart Torque technology (STX).

Through the use of electronic engine controls, the new STX technology provides increased engine performance while allowing the use of a lighter axle. The optimized torque management axle/engine combination is currently available only with Meritor and Cummins components.

"We are thrilled to be the first in the industry to offer truck operators the advantage of spec'ing a lighter, more cost-effective axle with a high torque engine of up to 2,050 lb.-ft.," says Kurt Burmeister, director of marketing for Meritor's Worldwide Axle business. "The unique Smart Torque technology prohibits excessively high torque from reaching the drivetrain in start-up gears or retard mode."

Meritor and Cummins jointly developed the use of STX technology with Meritor axles to ensure compatibility between the axles and Cummins Signature engines. With this new advancement, Meritor's RT-40-140 series tandem axle -- designated RT-40-149 -- is now approved in vehicles with gross combination weights (GCW) up to 80,000 lb. when equipped with the Cummins high horsepower engine. For vehicles with GCWs over 80,000 lb., Meritor has approved its RT-40-160 and RT-46-164/16H series tandem axles -- designated RT-40-169 and RT-46-169/16H. Meritor offers its RT-140 and RT-160 series tandem axles with the Cummins Signature 600 STX engine that provides 2,050 lb.-ft. of torque.

"With the new electronic engine controls, truck operators can choose a smaller axle that costs less and weighs less," says Burmeister. "Drivers can operate these engines at peak levels with no loss of performance, while minimizing any potential damage to the axles."

Accuride Corp. has introduced a powder topcoated-style steel wheel that combines the look of aluminum with the strength of steel. The new offering also adds a tough, durable finish that can help reduce refurbishing requirements.

Today's fleets "are both image- and cost-conscious and our new styled steel wheels provide the best of both worlds," says Larry Taylor, vp-marketing and international sales for Accuride. "You get the look of aluminum wheels at a much lower initial cost, plus lower operating costs, compared to standard steel wheels."

With the new coating, the traditional steel wheel receives a zinc phosphate pretreatment and an electrodeposited primer coat before the sparkle metallic powder topcoat is applied. This combination of layers creates a smooth finish that resists chips and corrosion.

The powder topcoated wheels are available in 22.5- and 24.5-in. diameters in the hub-piloted mounting configuration.