The signs were in Japanese at the first Tokyo Motor Show devoted exclusively to commercial vehicles, but the truck technology on center stage at all of the major booths spoke an international language. Displays by the major Japanese truck manufacturers, including Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus, Isuzu Motors, Toyota subsidiary Hino Motors, and Nissan Diesel, all highlighted new diesel engine designs intended to lower emissions, alternative fuel systems for both trucks and buses, and advanced safety technologies that are about to enter the domestic Japanese market.

In their search for wider entry into the Asian market, European-based truck makers DaimlerChrysler AG and Volvo Truck Corp. exhibited similar technologies at the region's premier truck show, as did American and European component manufacturers such as ArvinMeritor, Eaton Corp., Dana Corp., Michelin Tire, and Allison Transmission.

Similar to efforts by U.S. engine manufacturers, Japanese truck makers are concentrating on exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and aftertreatment to meet lower NOx and particulates emission requirements. One significant difference in Japan seems to be high interest in cooling the exhaust gas before introducing it to the air intake. In North America, uncooled EGR seems to be the preference.

As for alternative fuels, the Japanese manufacturers join their North American counterparts in exploring a variety of CNG and LPG applications. However, Mitsubishi and Hino also showed heavy-duty hybrid engines for bus and truck applications that combine diesel with either electric or natural gas power.

Safety technologies on display were also similar to those currently being tested on American highways, with collision warning, adaptive cruise control, vehicle tracking, and wireless communications systems found in most of the major OEM displays.

Already commercially available in Japan, one driver-alertness monitoring system from Mitsubishi Fuso complements the common audible warning alarm with a spray of lavender if it detects a driver beginning to get drowsy. Active headlight aiming systems also seemed close to commercial release for a number of domestic heavy- and medium-duty trucks.

Michelin North America Inc. has two new truck tires on the market - the XDA-HT "high torque" tire for longhaul applications and XDE M/S multi-purpose drive tire. The XDA-HT, designed for 6x4 over-the-road tractors, offers a deep 30/32nds drive tire with a solid shoulder design to give fleets longer tire life and more even tread wear patterns. The XDE M/S offers full-width protector ply to safeguard the working plies against penetration and shock to the tread area, as well as strong sidewall guards to defend against impact, abrasion and other damage from curbs.