Beverage truck news continues to show a mixed bag for 2014 as many truck manufacturers are still in a “holding pattern” due to economic uncertainty. However, in the midst of what could be identified as a stagnant market for product updates, there are a few bright spots.
The most notable of the positive news relates to the introduction of three all-new van offerings in the light-duty segment. Vans have long been limited to merchandising tasks or servicing coolers and dispensers, mainly due to dimensional limitations. Although these new vans won’t be able to take on a full seven- to eight-stop route, they’re all built to be pallet friendly.
The all-new 2014 Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster join the Mercedes Sprinter and Nissan NV in the full-size, stand-up-friendly cargo van segment, while a completely redesigned 2014 Ford Transit Connect continues to be the sole player in the space between mini and full-sized cargo vans.
The cargo-friendly configuration of these three new vans is by no means new, as all carry DNA from similar configurations that have been popular in Europe and Asia for a decade or more. Where traditional North American cargo vans were adapted from passenger-centric “wagon” models, most of the offshore van designs were built for cargo and only adapted for passenger use as an afterthought.
Aside from the trio of new vans, much of the other news is focused on enhancing existing models with additional capabilities, capacity and performance. Even with an iffy economy, truck engineers still need to keep busy, so these welcome refinements get the attention that would otherwise be scarce when multiple new models are being rolled out.
Work-ready pickup trucks also are in the news, mainly due to stronger demand for their consumer-market brethren. Ford will roll out its new F-Series Super Duty line of 2015 models soon, and Toyota just completed a major redesign of its Tundra full-size pickup.
Here are the highlights for 2014:
2014 Chevrolet Express & GMC Savana Van Cutaway
The 2014 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cutaway vans feature a new 9,900-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) with a 159-inch wheelbase, along with higher GVWRs on 3500 models up to 10,100 pounds. The 4500 models have a maximum GVWR of 14,200 pounds. The cutaway vans are available with three wheelbase lengths, single or dual rear wheels, and three engine choices — including the Duramax 6.6-liter turbo-diesel.
The Duramax turbo-diesel V8 engine is rated at 260 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque. It employs a large-capacity selective catalytic reduction (SCR) emission system that uses urea-based Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). The DEF is housed in a 5.83-gallon tank and needs to be replenished approximately every 5,000 miles. Electrically heated lines feed the DEF to the emission system to ensure adequate delivery in cold weather, according to the company.
A fuel-operated heater is available for vans equipped with the Duramax 6.6-liter engine to quickly provide heat to the vehicle interior in cold weather. This seamlessly integrated system is designed into the Express chassis, saving customers the time and labor of upfitting an aftermarket system. The electronically controlled, fuel-operated heater operates automatically, turning on and off within parameters that include outside air temperature, fuel level, coolant temperature and engine use.
A 4.8-liter gas V8 engine is standard on 3500 models, generating 285 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque; while a 6.0-liter gas V8 engine rated at 342 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque is standard on 4500 models. The 6.0-liter engine also is offered in a special version with hardened valve seats for the available propane-powered 4500 models.
Cutaway models are built on a strong, ladder-type full-frame architecture. Varying frame sections support the 139-, 159- and 177-inch wheelbase lengths. Soft-mount body-mount “donuts” and bolts, which attach upfit bodies to the chassis, are available on all models. All cutaway models feature an independent short-long arm (SLA) front suspension, power steering, and four-wheel disc brakes with four-wheel antilock braking.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado & GMC Sierra 3500HD Chassis Cab
The 3500HD chassis cabs for 2014 are available as regular cab models with 137.5- and 162-inch wheelbase lengths or crew cab models built on a 171.5-inch wheelbase. The cab-to-axle length is 60 inches for the regular cab (with a 137.5-inch wheelbase) and crew cab models, and 84 inches for the regular cab (with a 162-inch wheelbase) configuration.
Capabilities of the 3500 HD models include a maximum GVWR rating of 13,200 pounds, with payload ratings ranging from 6,443 pounds to 7,499 pounds. A 6.0-liter gas V8 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models. A Duramax 6.6-liter turbo-diesel engine is available, paired with the Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission.
2015 Ford Super Duty Pickup
Ford recently introduced the 2015 F-Series Super Duty lineup featuring a second-generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel engine. A key innovation on the 6.7-liter Power Stroke is its “reverse-flow” layout. This design places the exhaust inside the engine’s V-shape, while the air intake is positioned on the outside of the V.
Positioning the turbo inside the engine’s valley helps isolate the engine’s hottest temperatures, improving performance and efficiency while also reducing noise, vibration and harshness, according to the company. Shorter airflow from the exhaust system to the turbocharger also improves throttle response. The Power Stroke also features improved engine exhaust braking, which can be manually controlled by a push-button switch on the dashboard. Extra braking power helps reduce wear and tear on wheel brakes and requires less manual brake application from the driver, especially on downhill grades.
2014 Ford Transit Connect Van
Redesigned from the ground up, the 2014 Ford Transit Connect cargo van is said to drive and park like a car, haul more payload than a pickup, and deliver fuel efficiency of more than 30 mpg on the highway, according to the company. The Transit Connect is offered in two wheelbase lengths, in XL and XLT series trim levels, and with up to a 1,600-pound payload and more than 130 cubic feet of cargo space. For the first time, the Transit Connect also is approved to tow up to 2,000 pounds when properly equipped.
The Transit Connect offers a choice between two four-cylinder engines: a standard 2.5-liter and an optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost estimated to deliver more than 30 mpg on the highway. The 2.5-liter engine also can be specified with a compressed natural gas/liquid propane gas (CNG/LPG) preparation package. Both engines come mated to an efficient six-speed automatic transmission.
2014 Ford Transit Van
Originally announced last year, the all-new 2014 Ford Transit will be available in late 2013. The Transit will be available in three body lengths, two wheelbase lengths, and three roof heights as well as built-in van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway configurations. The Transit is said to achieve an average of 25 percent better fuel economy and haul at least 300 pounds more than Ford’s current E-Series van.
Engine options for the Transit include a standard 3.7-liter V6, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and an all-new 3.2-liter Power Stroke I5 diesel. Ford will offer the 3.7-liter V6 engine with a CNG/LPG prep kit. The 3.7-liter V6 engine also is designed for E85 flex fuel capability.
The high-roof Transit model features 81.5 inches of interior cargo height, while the medium-roof model can accommodate up to 72 inches of cargo height, and the low-roof model has almost 56 inches of cargo height. The rear cargo doors can open up to 270 degrees for easy loading and unloading.
Cargo volume ranges from approximately 250 to almost 500 cubic feet as a “jumbo” configuration — nearly 80 percent more space than the largest current E-Series van — and more than twice the volume of today’s standard E-Series. This means that one “jumbo” Transit can haul the volume of two current models in a fuel-efficient manner.
In addition to the van config-urations, Transit chassis cab and cutaway models will be available in three wheelbase lengths — 138-, 156- or 178-inch — with GVWRs from 9,000 pounds to 10,360 pounds.
Designed with regional haul and less-than-truckload applications in mind, the Freightliner Cascadia and Cascadia Evolution 113 day-cab now are available with a completely proprietary “Detroit” powertrain. Detroit’s automated manual transmission, the DT12, will be available with Cascadia Evolution 113 day cabs in combination with the Detroit DD13 engine.
Available with multiple cab configurations supporting a wide range of bodies and chassis-mounted equipment, Freightliner’s M2 106 and M2 112 offer flexibility, efficiency and maneuverability. They perform well in tight spots, with wheel cuts up to 55 degrees, set-back front axles, and swept-back bumpers. A 2,500-square-inch windshield, aerodynamic sloped hood, and low-profile dashboard provide excellent driver visibility. Designed for driver comfort and productivity, the M2 106 and M2 112 feature a cab with a low step-in height, a large door opening with strategically placed interior and exterior grab handles, as well as flexible seating options with a number of storage compartments.
The 2014 Isuzu NPR, NQR and NRR models are low-cab forward (cabover) trucks, available with a three-person standard cab. NPR and NQR models also are available with a seven-passenger crew cab.
The 2014 NPR Gas model offers a GVWR of 12,000 pounds, with a wheelbase length between 109 and 176 inches. It is powered by a 6.0-liter Vortex V8 engine, producing 297 horsepower and 372 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 6L90 Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission with double overdrive. The NPR-HD Gas model ups the GVWR to 14,500 pounds. The Vortec engine is available with a CNG/LPG alternative fuel capable option.
The 2014 NPR-HD Diesel model offers a GVWR of 14,500 pounds, with wheelbase lengths ranging from 109 to 176 inches. It is powered by a 5.2-liter Isuzu diesel engine, producing 215 horsepower and 452 pound-feet of torque, mated to an Aisin A465 six-speed automatic transmission with double overdrive featuring a lockup torque convertor and power takeoff (PTO) opening.
The 2014 NQR model offers a GVWR of 17,950 pounds, with a wheelbase length between 109 and 200 inches. It is powered by a 5.2-liter Isuzu diesel engine, producing 215 horsepower and 452 pound-feet of torque, mated to an Aisin A465 six-speed automatic transmission with double overdrive featuring a lockup torque convertor and PTO opening. Stepping up to the NRR model increases the GVWR to 19,500 pounds and the maximum wheelbase length to 212 inches.
Kenworth’s K270 and K370 medium-duty cabovers now offer the option of a second 45-gallon fuel tank, providing greater range and longer operating time between refueling. The second 45-gallon rectangular fuel tank utilizes approximately 28 inches of frame space, with clearance between the battery box and the fuel tank at nearly 5.5 inches, and the distance from the back of the cab to the back of the fuel tank is just more than 100 inches on the passenger-side frame rail. The second 45-gallon tank for the K270 and K370 is available on trucks with specs of 19.5-inch tires and wheelbase lengths from 166 to 238 inches, or with 22.5-inch tires and wheelbase lengths between 170 and 242 inches.
A key advantage the cabovers have compared with conventional cab medium-duty trucks is a 55-degree wheel cut, which enables a tighter turning radius and greater maneuverability in crowded urban environments.
The bumper-to-back-of-cab (BBC) distance of only 63.4 inches on the Kenworth cabovers — compared with a 106-inch BBC on medium-duty conventionals — also provides plenty of room for a large van body. This enables the K270 and K370 to haul more payload with a shorter overall length. This is especially important as overall length is beginning to be regulated in some major urban areas, according to the company. In addition, the Kenworth cabovers offer a large windshield for enhanced visibility and room to carry a three-person crew with a driver air-suspended seat and a two-person bench seat.
Both the K270 and K370 are powered by a 6.7-liter Paccar PX-7 engine with a standard 220 horse-power rating and 520 pound-feet of torque. Optional ratings range up to 250 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque. Both models are available with Allison five-speed transmissions.
Navistar (International) ProStar Tractor
Earlier this year, Navistar began shipping its first International ProStar trucks powered by the company’s proprietary SCR-based MaxxForce 13 engine. The company had previously tried to meet emission regulations with exhaust gas recirculation-based emission control systems but shifted to the SCR technology beginning in late 2012.
Navistar introduced its first SCR-based commercial trucks for U.S. and Canadian markets in December 2012 with the launch of ProStar powered by the Cummins ISX 15-liter engine. The remaining lineup of International heavy-duty truck models are being switched to SCR-based engine technology in a phased launch based on volume and customer demand.
2014 Ram ProMaster Van
The 2014 ProMaster is Ram Commercial’s latest addition to its commercial vehicle lineup. The ProMaster is based on the Fiat Ducato, which has been in production for more than 30 years. The Fiat Ducato now is in its third generation with more than 4.5 million units sold worldwide.
Although conceived and developed in Italy, the ProMaster spent considerable time on this side of the Atlantic undergoing extensive, extreme-duty testing to prepare for the North American market.
Engineering the new ProMaster for North America required a number of changes for new capabilities, powertrains, environments, duty cycles and customers.
The 2014 ProMaster offers 14 possible configurations featuring three GVWRs, three wheelbase lengths, and low and high roof heights built on cargo van, window van, chassis cab and chassis cab cutaway configurations. The body-integral construction and multiple configurations allow the ProMaster to be up-fitted for a wide range of tasks, according to the company.
The ProMaster’s front-wheel-drive system and unibody frame architecture make it possible to carry up to 5,145 pounds with a maximum towing capacity of up to 5,100 pounds. The ProMaster’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR) reaches up to 12,500 pounds.
The ProMaster features a standard sliding cargo door on the passenger side with an optional sliding cargo door on the driver’s side. The sliding door openings are based on roof height — 49 by 60 inches for the low-roof model and 49 by 70 inches for high-roof models. In the rear, an available two-position rear clamshell door swings open as wide as 260 degrees, folding almost flat to the side of the van. All three door openings enable forklift pallet loading and unloading.
The ProMaster’s powertrain lineup includes a standard V6 gas engine and an optional I4 EcoDiesel engine. The engines are paired, respectively, with a six-speed 62TE automatic transmission and an electronically controlled six-speed M40 automated manual transmission. A trailer/tow mode comes standard with both transmissions.
The standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine is rated at 280 horsepower with 260 pound-feet of torque. The 3.0-liter inline four-cylinder EcoDiesel engine generates 174 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
The 62TE automatic transmission has been upgraded to accommodate the ProMaster’s payload capacity. A 3.86 final-drive ratio enables climbing grades easily with a full load. A lower overall top gear ratio delivers a more economical highway operation.
The M40 gearbox delivers the efficiency of a manual transmission with the functionality of an automatic transmission. At its core, it is a manual transmission, but gear shifts and clutch functions are accomplished with an electro-hydraulic actuation system. However, the driver can opt for manual shift-lever inputs when desired.
2014 Toyota Tundra Pickup
The redesigned 2014 Toyota Tundra half-ton full-size pickup truck is offered in three cab styles — two-door Regular Cab, four-door Double Cab, and four-door CrewMax, all available in 4x2 and 4x4 models. Tundra Regular Cab and Double Cab models are offered with 78.7-inch standard-bed or 97.6-inch long-bed configurations, while the CrewMax comes with a 66.7-inch bed. All beds are 22.2 inches deep.
A 4.0-liter Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) V6 engine producing 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque is standard on Tundra Regular and Double Cab models, paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.
An available 4.6-liter DOHC i-Force V8 engine offers 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, with an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway for 4x2 models, and 14 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway for 4x4 models, according to the company.
The top engine choice for the Tundra is the 5.7-liter DOHC i-Force V8, which generates 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The 5.7-liter engine is offered in both gasoline and “Flex Fuel” variants. Fuel efficiency on 4x2 models is 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, while the 4x4 achieves 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, according to the company.
Both V8 engines come standard with a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. All Tundra engines feature an aluminum cylinder block and DOHC heads, along with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) for a broad torque curve and optimized efficiency.
Volvo Natural Gas Powered Day-Cab Tractors
Volvo currently offers VNM and VNL day-cab tractors powered by spark-ignited natural gas engines. VNL day-cabs equipped with Volvo’s proprietary D13-LNG compression ignition natural gas engine will be available in 2014.
Earlier this year, Volvo announced that it would commercialize DiMethyl Ether (DME)-powered vehicles in 2015 as part of its comprehensive “Blue Power” alternative fuels strategy for North America.
DME mirrors the exceptional performance qualities and energy efficiency of diesel and burns clean without producing any soot, so no diesel particulate filter is necessary. It is non-toxic and non-carcinogenic and can be made from natural gas or a variety of sustainable feedstocks, such as biogas from food and animal waste, landfills and grass clippings, according to the company.
When produced from biomass or biogas, DME can provide up to a
95 percent carbon dioxide reduction compared with diesel. DME has been used around the world for decades as a cooking fuel and as an aerosol propellant in cosmetics and other household products, it adds.
The D13-LNG and D13-DME engines will be based on the Volvo D13 diesel engine, and the Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission will be standard on both models.
The Western Star 4700 tractor is available in set-forward and set-back day-cab tractor configurations, incorporating a high-visibility hood as well as a wide variety of fifth-wheel and wheelbase selections. The 4700 also features a 110-inch BBC, providing excellent maneuverability in tight spaces.
A broad range of available powertrain options range from the Cummins ISL engine to the Detroit DD13, with power ratings from 260 to 470 horsepower. Combined with several transmission offerings including the Allison automatic, Eaton manual and Eaton UltraShift Plus, the 4700 tractor can be specified perfectly for more efficient distribution operations. When specified with weight-saving components, the lightweight 4700 tractor also delivers improved fuel savings.
Ford helps businesses design with custom graphics tool
As beverage distributors continue to expand their offerings with niche products like craft beers and gourmet sodas, the need for custom fleet graphics grows as well. Although the beverage mega-brands have entire departments dedicated to designing vehicle graphics, distributors are usually on their own when it comes to promoting niche brands.
A few years ago, when Ford debuted the previous generation Transit Connect cargo van in North America, gaining visibility for the unique compact van configuration and for the businesses using the vans was an important consideration. At that time, Ford launched its Commercial Graphics Tool to help serve both needs.
Although operators of the original Transit Connect were among the first to take advantage of customizing their vehicles using this graphics service, Ford now offers the service throughout its fleet of commercial vehicles so that owners of the F-Series Super Duty, E-Series, the new Transit Connect, and the upcoming Transit van can market their businesses.
Improvements to the Ford Commercial Graphics tool have made the process of creating, ordering and purchasing vehicle wraps simpler than ever. The tool’s cleaner interface, ability to better customize images visually, and streamlined ordering process provides businesses with more control than ever to develop their brand images.
“The site accommodates a variety of designs and budgets — from businesses that operate a single vehicle to larger fleets,” said Kevin Koswick, Ford’s North American fleet director, in a statement. “Graphics are a tremendous way to make a first impression, and the retooling of this site helps customers make a better design more easily.”
For even more choices and inspiration, customers now have the ability to tap into more than 5 million images from the library of Getty Images, a world leader in stock photos. Customers also can upload their own pictures. Additionally, a new service through 3M allows customers to work with on-staff designers to develop themes for their vehicles, helping businesses enhance their brands.
“It’s a true advantage to have design experts take customers through the design process of their vehicle wrap,” Koswick said in a statement. “The business still has control over the design of its graphics, but our team can help them refine their brand image.”
All production is done in-house, and installation is handled by the customer’s certified Ford dealer or a specially trained installation company obtained through the dealer. Designs are covered with a clear over-laminate to add durability to the product and lessen the effects of ultraviolet light on the material. Graphics are designed to last between three and five years.
The site also allows customers to share their designs through social media sites including Facebook, giving businesses the opportunity to become even more interactive with their communities and receive early feedback on designs. To learn more, visit fordcommercialgraphics.com.