Freightliner subsidiary takes aim at vocational, distribution fleets

Less than two months after Ford transferred ownership of the tooling for its HN-80 line, Sterling Trucks Corp., the newest subsidiary of Freightliner Corp., has begun production at its plant in St. Thomas, Ont., Canada. The conventional L-Line, formerly known as the Ford Louisville, is being offered in truck and tractor versions for a broad range of vocational and "urban distribution" applications. The Sterling A-Line tractor, which Ford called the AeroMax, is available in three over-the-road configurations, including the SilverStar premium sleeper version.

Both models will be sold through 156 Sterling dealers in the U.S. and 60 in Canada, all former Ford Heavy Truck dealers. The new company says it plans to add another 80 dealers to that network by the end of the year.

Approximately 130 Sterling dealers will also get a third cabover model purchased from Ford. The Cargo, which will also be sold under the Freightliner name, will be built on the Business Class chassis and offered in Class 6 through 8 truck and tractor versions.

Sterling is being positioned as a builder of "high-tech, high-end, premium Class 7 and 8 vocational trucks," according to James Hebe, president and CEO of Freightliner, who forecasts that the L-Line will account for 80 to 85% of Sterling's initial sales.

The first L-Line model available is the L/LT7500, featuring a 101-in. BBC and short sloping hood. Targeted at urban distribution applications, the truck version is offered with either single or tandem axles with GVW ratings ranging from 21,000 to 66,000 lb.; a tractor configuration is rated 80,000 lb. The standard engine is the midrange Cummins ISC diesel rated at 215 hp., with options including other Cummins and Caterpillar engines with ratings ranging from 175 to 300 hp. The standard transmission is a 5-speed manual; options include10-speed manuals and both mechanically and electronically controlled automatics.

Heavier L/LT8500 and L/LT9500 trucks and tractors will be offered for construction, refuse, tanker, municipal, utility, and other vocational applications.

The A-Line tractor will be offered in 113- and 122-in.-BBC versions with either Flat Top or AeroBullet bolt-on sleepers, or in a daycab configuration. The premium SilverStar will carry an integral 77-in. stand-up sleeper compartment. Power choices include 10- to 14.6-liter diesels from Cummins, Caterpillar, and Detroit Diesel matched with a wide range of direct and overdrive transmissions. Interior and suspension choices are similar to the L-Line.

The Cargo combines the familiar Ford-designed low-forward cab with Freightliner's Business Class chassis. The standard engine is the Cummins ISB electronically controlled diesel with ratings from 175 to 215 hp. In production since January, it can be spec'd with single or tandem drive axles and air or spring suspensions in GVWs ranging from 25,500 to 52,000 lb. Later this year, dual-steer and right-hand drive options will also be added.

Designed for severe on/off highway applications, the new TufTrac tandem-axle suspension offers generous articulation with uniform wheel loading, as well as a smooth on-road ride. Features of the new heavy-duty suspension include parabolic taper-leaf springs, maintenance-free rubber-isolated pivot points, and protected brake chambers. Offered in three capacities (40,000, 46,000, and 52,000 lb.), the proprietary suspension will be available for Sterling, Freightliner, and American LaFrance vocational truck models later this year.

American Isuzu Motors Inc. (AIMI) recently introduced the NQR, a 16,500-lb.-GVW-rated low-cab-forward. The vehicle is designed to be more economical to operate than the 18,000- and 19,500-lb.-GVW FRRs, and thus should appeal to parcel deliverers, auto retrievers, construction companies, and others that prefer to operate vehicles that just make it into Class 5 territory.

Available in four wheelbase lengths -- 109, 132.5, 150, and 176 in. -- and capable of accommodating 12- to 22-ft. bodies, the NQR fills a GVW niche that had been vacant since 1991.

The NQR is built around a 33.5-in. channel ladder-type frame with clean upper flanges to facilitate body mounting. With yield strength of 44,000 psi, section modulus of 7.2 in.3, and RBM of 316,800 lb./ft./in., the frame provides a strong backbone. The truck is made with generous gross axle weight ratings -- 6,830 lb. in the front and 14,550 lb. in the rear. The beefy underpinning and relatively lightweight engine and chassis, explains AIMI, combine to allow the vehicle to offer 10,592 lb. of body/payload capability.

The NQR is powered by a newly developed 4-cyl. 4HE1-TC turbocharged diesel that generates 175 gross hp. at 2,700 rpm; it develops 347 lb.-ft. of gross torque at 2,000. The engine is said to be highly durable. According to AIMI, testing showed that the engine's roller rocker arm assemblies, alloyed cast-iron liners, nitride piston rings, and durable crankcase will enable it to outlive most medium-duty 6-cyl. engines.

In comparison to the earlier NRR, which rode on 17.5-in. tires and wheels, the NQR rides on bigger 19.5 tires and wheels. However, low-profile 225/70R19.5s give the Class 5 additional load carrying capability, enhance its handling, and offer the potential for longer tire life.

The NQR comes with a choice of two transmissions: a newly developed 4-speed O/D Aisin 450-43LE automatic with lockup torque converter, and a 6-speed manual O/D. Both boxes have PTO provisions.

Expanding options for its Fleet Advisor logistics management system, Eaton Corp.'s Trucking Information Services Div. (TISD) has introduced satellite communications hardware and two-way satellite data communications services for the U.S. and Canada.

Marketed under the name FleetCom, the satellite service will be carried over new packet-switched data systems operated by NORCOM Networks in the U.S. and TMI in Canada. Like the circuit-switched satellite systems used by many fleets, the packet data service provides complete communications coverage, but offers higher data transmission speeds and lower cost, according to Eaton.

TISD also resells land-based packet data service from RAM Mobile Data under the FleetCom name.

Hardware for the new satellite system will be available with and without an integrated GPS receiver for vehicle tracking. Both models of Eaton's new Satellite Communications Module (SCM) will allow fleets to remotely exchange large amounts of data with the Fleet Advisor on-board computer, doing away with cable connections, driver data cards, and other hardware data collection systems.

Although circuit-switched satellite service also handles data, it takes the lower cost and higher speed of satellite packet data to make wireless transmission of driver logs, fuel tax records, customer information, and other high-volume data practical, according to a TISD spokesperson.

The SCM transceiver and FleetCom satellite service use the common X.25 communications protocol, making it easier to integrate with existing information management systems, according to Eaton.

The first customer for the new Eaton satellite service is the private fleet operation for Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, which is currently using the Fleet Advisor OBC with a driver data card.

Consolidated Metco has a new option for trailer operators -- a PreSet wheel end with inner and outer bearing cones that are packed with Mobilith SHC 220 grease. This alternative comes on the heels of the oil bath and semi-fluid lubed PreSet wheel ends that the company introduced two years ago.

The PreSet wheel end, which is available through trailer OEMs and dealers, has a lightweight cast-aluminum alloy hub, Timken bearings with special tolerances, a precision-machined bearing spacer, and an optional stamped-steel ABS tone ring. An Eaton Outrunner seal protects cavity integrity.

According to Mark Wagner, ConMet product manager for hubs, PreSets are available in hub-piloted or ball seat mounts. Non-vented to the atmosphere, they contain factory pre-adjusted bearings. Wagner stresses that there is a major distinction between PreSets and unitized hub/bearing assemblies. "PreSets are field-serviceable; if unitized hubs are damaged, they must be replaced as assemblies," he says. At 500,000-mi. brake-service intervals, the ConMet products can be taken apart for inspection and re-lubing, as well as for installation of new seals.

Jeff Barr, vp-sales, says that the greased PreSet wheel end will help operators further decrease trailer life-cycle costs, since the grease virtually eliminates the chance of lube leakage past the seal and onto the brakes.

The greased PreSet package saves approximately 40 lb./axle in tare weight and is covered by a 500,000-mi./5-yr. warranty.

Webasto Thermosystems Inc. says its new Thermo Cooler auxiliary climate-control system is a "first" for trucking. The frame rail-mounted unit consists of a fuel-fired heater and a cool-storage reservoir.

The Thermo Cooler is designed to be plumbed into a truck's existing coolant lines with no need to break into refrigerant lines. The initial model can produce heat output of 17,200 Btu/hr. and cooling of 15,000 Btu.

For heating, fuel is drawn directly from the truck's fuel tank to the diesel-fired heater, which heats coolant flowing through it to about 160 deg F. The heated coolant then flows to the rear heat exchanger. Air blown over the heat exchanger is carried through existing ducts to heat the cab and sleeper areas.

Cooling starts with driving the truck with the air conditioner on, which chills air through the rear evaporator. This air is blown through the heat exchanger to chill circulating coolant. The coolant is then pumped through the cool-storage unit, where coldness is retained by freezing a special medium contained within 500 small vacuum tubes.

In addition, the Thermo Cooler runs "overflow heat" from the rear heat exchanger to the engine, keeping it warm enough for a safe start. The engine then returns the coolant to the heater and the cycle repeats itself.

When cool air is needed for sleeping, the driver activates a sleeper-mounted control panel. Chilled coolant is circulated back to the heat exchanger and chilled air is sent through existing heating ducts to cool the bunk area.

"With the Thermo Cooler," said Greg Koziel, director of sales and marketing, Truck Products Group, "drivers can maintain a comfortable cab interior throughout a sleep period, regardless of the exterior temperature, using an economical all-in-one heating and cooling system."

The Thermo Cooler, which will be built at Webasto's new 30,000-sq.-ft. facility in Lapeer, Mich., will be introduced to select OE dealers later in the year.

Franz Neumeyer, general manager and vp, says Webasto will also offer such accessories as programmable timers and diagnostic systems.

Carrier Transicold debuts reefer for 53-ft. trailers

In response to the growth in thin-walled 53-ft. trailers in motor carrier refrigeration operations, Carrier Transicold last month introduced a new refrigeration unit. Dubbed the Ultima 53, the unit features a combination of deep-frozen, frozen, and perishable capacity; improved fuel economy; rapid pulldown; tight temperature control; and higher reliability.

"Before developing Ultima 53, we worked closely with 53-ft. trailer users to ascertain their refrigeration requirements and trailer usage patterns," said Guy Colglazier, director of marketing and dealer development. "Based on their input, we sought to match the unit's performance to their needs."

The unit is based on Carrier Transicold's Ultra trailer platform but achieves 15% more airflow, thanks to a larger condenser with 20% more surface area, a 300-rpm increase in compressor speed, and a fan that is located further away from the condenser.

A redesigned grill that features a 30% increase in air inlet and a new, eight-blade condenser fan also aid cooling. Carrier says the increased airflow moving across a larger condenser improves heat transfer, increases capacity, and improves high-ambient performance.

Running on 404a refrigerant, the Ultima 53 delivers 3,000 cfm of air flow and 25,000 Btu of capacity at a -20 deg F set point and 100 deg F ambient. The unit operates in ambient conditions up to 135 degrees F.

Other benefits include: * Fuel economy. A thicker evaporator pod with more insulation is said to reduce unit heat leakage by up to 60%, thus lowering fuel consumption by up to 33% over competitive offerings.

* Improved reliability. For the first time, Carrier deviated from its zero-protrusion evaporator design, extending the evaporator by four inches. That, along with a thicker pod design, offers increased structural strength. Also, the fan clutch has been repositioned on the fan shaft to reduce clutch load.

* Fast pulldown. Testing in customer fleets has demonstrated that Ultima 53 reached set point faster than other systems, saving both time and operating costs.

* Temperature control. The new unit achieves its deep-frozen capacity without compromising temperature control in the frozen and perishable ranges. That's because the unit features Carrier's UltraFresh 2 capacity control system as a standard feature. Tests confirmed that 53-ft. trailer temperatures held within 2 deg of set point, and supply air temperatures varied to within only 2 deg .

The Ultima 53 is available with RoadCare Extended Major Component Coverage for up to eight years of 16,000 operating hours.

Stemco is offering a new wheel-end system for trailer axles. According to the manufacturer, the Platinum Performance system is designed for long life and is available both for OE specification and aftermarket retrofitting.

The package is built around Stemco's new Guardian High Performance wheel seal. The company says this seal will last four times longer than other long-life seals on the market.

The seal is combined with a Pro-Torq advanced axle spindle nut and a Sentinel maintenance-free hub cap "to create a fully comprehensive solution to wheel-end performance problems," says Stemco.

The Platinum Performance system carries a three-year limited warranty. The terms are applicable to both new-equipment installations and field retrofits, as long as all three products are installed at the same time.

The Power Fleet 967 is Kumho Tire's latest steer position tire, designed for regional and longhaul applications.

Casing durability and treadwear have been improved through a mold cavity shape configured to produce low inflation/deflection stresses, according to Kumho. In addition, decoupling groove geometry minimizes uneven shoulder wear. Shoulder and rib groove width is proportioned so that a uniform wear rate is maintained. Better ride and easier tire mounting have been addressed through improved molded bead spacing.

The Power Fleet 967 is offered in the following sizes: 11R22.5, 11R24.5, 295/75R22.5, and 285/75R24.5.