More than 5,500 manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and end-users of trucks and truck equipment packed St. Louis' America's Center over a period of three days in late February for the National Truck Equipment Assn.'s (NTEA) first Commercial Truck, Trailer and Technology Expo - T3 2000.

Held in conjunction with the association's 36th Annual Convention, T3 2000 offered equipment displays by 390 exhibitors, as well as truck-chassis seminars and technical and educational sessions.

The show was a truck-equipment buyer's paradise, with everything from adhesives to yokes, plus a huge display of heavy-duty trucks. A sampling of products from the show floor is included in this writeup.

Chassis seminars Ford Trucks announced running changes in its E-Series trucks for model year 2000, including cast drum brakes on the E-150 and 4-wheel ABS disc brakes on the E-250. For 2001 there will be a higher-horsepower 4.6L engine and an improved A/C compressor offering 14% better cooling performance.

In the Super Duty F-250/550 Series, the 7.3L V8 diesel's rating with automatics has been increased to 250 hp. from 235 hp., and the 6.8L V10 is up 11% to 310 hp.

For Super Duty F-650/ 750 models, 1stQ 2000 will see availability of Allison 2000/2400 automatics and a lo-pro package that lowers frame height 5 in. Coming in the 2nd Q will be a front-engine PTO option, a 24,500 lb. GVWR package for the F-650, and additional lower axles ratios for higher highway speeds. In the 4th Q, Ford will introduce 2-speed 17,500 and 21,000 lb. rear axles and a 10,000-lb. front/23,000-lb. rear axle package.

* Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America discussed its new California-only edition FE, a Class 4 truck with a GVWR of 14,050 lb., 145-hp. diesel engine, and automatic transmission. Starting with the 2001 model year, the 4WD Class 3 FG will be available with a 4-speed OD automatic and 145-hp. diesel engine.

* Freightliner reviewed its vehicle lineup and called attention to its Legacy Truck Program, remanufactured trucks featuring such reman'd components as Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines, Eaton Fuller manual transmissions, and Meritor and Dana axles.

In 3rdQ 2000 the 7-speed Eaton Fuller AutoShift AST will join Freightliner' automated transmission offerings, which now include the Aisin A581, Allison 1000/2000/ 2400 series, and the Eaton Fuller AS2.

* General Motors provided details on a heavy-duty pickup to be introduced later this year in standard, 4-door extended, and 4-door crew cab versions. Its 4-wheel disc brakes will be a "first" for a GM heavy-duty pickup.

Powertrain options include the new Duramax 6600 V8 diesel, which GM is currently building in Lorain, Ohio. The 300-hp., 520-lb.-ft.-torque engine, a joint venture of GM and Isuzu, offers a high, flat, wide torque curve. Weighing in at 379 kg, it has a power-to-weight ratio of 0.8, and GM claims it is the quietest diesel for a full-size pickup. And the Vortec 8100 V8, at 340 hp. and 455 lb.-ft. torque, is said to be the biggest, most powerful gasoline engine for such a vehicle.

* Sterling Truck's latest addition to its line of customized vocational trucks is the Acterra medium-duty conventional. Offered in Class 5, 6, 7, and 8 configurations, it shares the same cab as the company's A-line and L-line vehicles, but rides 5 in. closer to the ground. Powertrain options include Mercedes-Benz (standard), Cat, and Cummins engines in ratings from 175 to 300 hp., and Eaton Fuller manual (standard) and Allison automatics.

* Peterbilt's new medium-duty "inner city" Model 270 features a 50 degree wheel cut for maneuverability in tight turns and narrow streets. It comes in four wheelbases up to 236 in., and is standard with a Cummins ISB-225 diesel engine, Eaton clutch, Eaton Fuller 6-speed manual transmission, and Dana/Spicer front and rear axles.

* Dodge Ram 2500/ 3500 pickup and chassis cab models are now available with the new 245-hp. Cummins intercooled turbo diesel on a limited basis. This engine is available only with the 6-speed manual transmission.

A technical session presented by Dana/Spicer offered several down-to earth tips on driveline installation:

* Always have your driveshaft balanced.

* If you install an auxiliary driveshaft in an exposed area, install a safety guard around it.

* Make sure true U-joint operating angles on each end of a driveshaft are equal.

The National Truck Equipment Assn. (NTEA) will have 1,650 member companies by the end of this month, an all-time high, according to Dean Wartenbee, president of Northern Truck Equipment and outgoing association president, who handed over the gavel in St. Louis to new association president John Puckett Jr., president of Fontaine Truck Equipment, Birmingham, Ala.

NTEA executive director Jim Carney reports that 82% of the available exhibit space for T3 2001 at the Baltimore Convention Center, March 1-3, had been sold before T3 2000 was over.

The latest rear-object detection system from Preco employs pulsed time-domain radar to detect 100% of moving as well as static objects in a user-specified (factory-set) range. The PreView Radar System measures distance by how long it takes for the radar signal to "see" an object. In turn, that distance is relayed to an in-cab display unit, which has eight lights to indicate distance to the object. The system's antenna can be customized at the factory to provide coverage of only the areas desired. 358

Block foam insulation, once a custom option from Morgan, is now a standard option on the van body-manufacturer's sheet-and-post dry freight vans. Such vans - somewhere between a dry freight van and a reefer - are designed for delivery of perishables such as baked goods, plants, flowers, or produce. 359

With its purchase of Complete Refrigerated Truck Bodies of Alvaton Ga., Grumman Olson is now providing both lightweight (6-14 ft. long) and heavy-duty (10-28 ft.) insulated van bodies. 363

DEL Liftgates' Narrowlift liftgate for medium-duty trucks is a departure from traditional lifts in which lift capacity and width are directly related. The Narrowlift, available in either side- or back-mounted styles and in capacities from 1,250 to 3,000 lb., is not limited to width and can be tailored to meet any narrow lifting need. 364

Workhorse Custom Chassis introduced the first modifications of the Chevrolet P30 chassis it acquired from General Motors 15 months ago. On the show floor was the Model CP31442 157-in. WB commercial chassis equipped with a 5.7L, 240-hp. gasoline engine and carrying a GVWR of 16,000 lb. 368

Ergonomic design - and a chance to rest a few moments in a deluxe driver's seat - drew people to Force America's display of its CommandAll seat-mounted joystick controls for spreading snow- and ice-control materials. Five models are available, all with remote mountable displays and integrated auxiliary lighting controls. 370

The Bonding Systems Div. of 3M used a "wrecking ball" demonstration to show the capabilities of its new VHB tape, which can replace rivets in panel assembly on trucks and trailers while also helping damp vibration and reduce leaks. 362

In addition to a Model 10 beehive-shaped combination LED light, Truck-Lite was showing a Model 44 4-in.-round LED stop light that uses only 17 red LEDs instead of the previous 42. Fewer LEDs are required because the newer ones are brighter and provide better light distribution. 360

Similar reductions in the number of LEDs required to meet vehicle lighting safety standards were evident in the SuperNova line of lamps offered by Grote Industries. 361

The food-service industry should benefit from Waltco's introduction of the SDL1000, a liftgate for the forward side door of a truck body or trailer. This "off-loading" lift fits snugly into the forward compartment, extending only 10 in. inside the vehicle. Drivers simply swing the liftgate out from ground level and fold the platform down. Unit lifts 450 lb.; lowers 1,000 lb. 365

To ease the task of body installers, American Isuzu has introduced through-the-rail fuel fill on all of its low-cab-forward N-Series trucks. This eliminates the need for adapters that provided space for the earlier over-the-rail fuel-fill line. 369

The BMR Series heavy-duty (3,500 to 6,600 lb. capacity) liftgates from Maxon Lift are now available with stainless-steel columns and aluminum platforms. The company also showed new NHTSA FMVSS-223, -224 compliant underride devices that are optional on all of its wide-arm, heavy-duty Tuk-A-Way liftgates. 366

A crew-cab (5-passenger) truck with an optional "contractor" body was shown by Supreme. The CrewCut truck combines a Supreme body, an Omaha Standard hoist, and a Ford E-350 Super Duty cutaway chassis. It can be fitted with a variety of 11- or 12-ft. long bodies for applications including landscaping, plumbing, heating, electrical, as well as construction. 367

The F/X hydraulic liftgates from Nordic Lift, offered in 3,000- and 4,000-lb. capacities, are said to be the first large-platform, level-riding liftgates with unobstructed forklift and dock access. 371