As the truck industry’s single-largest event, the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS), which takes place each year in Louisville, Ky., is the focal point for new product introductions by truck manufacturers and suppliers. The 2015 show was no exception, with dozens of introduction events on the schedule and even more new products out on the show floor.

Although this year’s show was somewhat light on reveals of brand-new truck models, the new product news was nonetheless impressive, with many announcements focused on improving productivity and efficiency. Here’s a look at the highlights from the show:

Riding on air

Wabco Holdings Inc., Rochester Hills, Mich.,  introduced its next-generation Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) technology, which it has newly branded as OptiRide. The OptiRide technology helps to improve fuel economy and increase vehicle efficiency through intelligent chassis suspension control. It can automatically optimize the trailer-load transfer, including temporarily putting more weight on the drive axle, to improve traction performance.

OptiRide keeps the trailer at a consistent ride height. The system delivers enhanced load protection and more stable vehicle operation, which also helps to increase vehicle and road safety. The technology maximizes traction performance of 6x2 trucks, particularly on low-friction surfaces, while minimizing tire wear. The OptiRide suspension also enables fleets to transition from tractors with a heavy and expensive 6x4 axle configuration to a lighter 6x2 configuration while ensuring traction performance and improving fuel efficiency and payload.

New partnership

Wabco has entered into an agreement with Hendrickson USA LLC , Itasca, Ill., to provide an advanced air disc brake (ADB) system for trailers in North America. As part of the agreement, Wabco will launch its MAXX22TT ADB system for trailer applications. The MAXX22TT contributes to Wabco and Hendrickson’s overall weight reduction of up to 100 pounds on tandem-axle trailers, helping to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and/or enable an increase in payload.

The MAXX22TT single-piston design features approximately 25 percent fewer parts compared with other air disc brake systems available on the market, helping improve reliability and installation efficiency while lowering maintenance costs. In addition, a bidirectional adjuster minimizes the risk of hot running brakes.

Powered for comfort

Kenworth Truck Co., a Kirkland, Wash.-based subsidiary of Paccar Inc., announced advanced electrical system technologies that enhance protection against battery drainage. The system provides a dedicated engine-start module and an inverter for increased performance. Also announced was the availability of a new inverter/charger option for easier battery recharging while parked, as well as automatic battery monitoring and engine startup for the Kenworth Idle Management System.

Kenworth now is offering an ultra-capacitor-based Engine Start Module (ESM) as a factory-installed option for new T680 and T880 tractors. The engine start module provides dedicated power to start the truck, freeing up the truck’s conventional batteries to power the truck’s electronics, lights and accessory devices.

The ESM is designed to start an engine in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of 149 degrees Fahrenheit, even when the battery has low voltage. The ESM also will be available at Kenworth dealers as an aftermarket solution.

Kenworth’s new, enhanced 1,800-watt inverter provides drivers with the convenience of AC power in the sleeper. The inverter is mounted on the rear wall in the sleeper storage compartment, giving clear toolbox access and additional outlets through the toolbox door.

The Kenworth Idle Management System is a battery-based system for air conditioning integrated directly into the T680 tractor’s existing HVAC duct system. It is designed to keep the cab and sleeper comfortable for up to 10 hours. An optional fuel-fired heater provides full engine-off heating capabilities.

Reinforced connections

Kenworth also announced that it will offer heavier front axles for its T370 Class 7 truck model. The 18,000- and 20,000-pound axles are available with the Paccar PX-9 engine rated up to 350 horsepower and 1,150 pound-feet of torque.

The package includes a heavy-duty, cross-brace-reinforced front-frame assembly. Bolted cross members and either 10.75-inch frame rails or 10-and-5/8-inch frame rails with inserts complete the chassis package. Iron hubs, drum brakes and dual-power steering gears, along with a power-steering cooler, also are included in the spec package.

Going natural

Peterbilt Motors Co., a Denton, Texas-based subsidiary of Paccar, introduced two new medium-duty vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG): the Model 337 and the Model 348. Both vehicles now are in production and can be configured as trucks or tractors for short- or regional-haul applications. The new medium-duty models are optimized for these applications with 110-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab measurements . Both Model 337 and 348 are powered by the Cummins Westport ISL-G with 320 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque. The engine complies with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2010, 2013 and California Air Resources Board emissions regulations.   

Keeping cool

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based BorgWarner Inc.’s new DuroSpeed two-speed fan drive specifically is designed to deliver reliable cooling for severe operating applications, such as urban delivery operations. Although on/off models provide superb durability and fuel efficiency for over-the-road applications, the DuroSpeed fan drive significantly reduces fan engagements for greater reliability and less noise.

In severe-duty applications, on/off fan drives continually are engaging and disengaging. When disengaged, engine temperatures quickly rise, causing the clutch to repeatedly engage. The pneumatically actuated DuroSpeed two-speed fan drive is designed with a higher disengaged fan speed to prevent engine temperatures from rising too quickly. Because the fan drive engages and disengages less often, clutch life increases, noise decreases, dust buildup in the radiator is minimized, and more horsepower is available, allowing the vehicle to achieve higher work output.

Rolling out tires

General Tire, a brand of Continental Tire US, Fort Mill, S.C., launched three new highway truck tires: the HS, the HD and the HT.

The General HS tire is a new long-haul steer tire featuring an enhanced tread design, fuel-efficient compounding, and an upgraded casing platform. The five-rib tread pattern, which includes a straight groove bottom design, promotes even wear and high removal mileage.

The General HD tire is another new long-haul drive tire that  features a deep 32/32nd closed shoulder tread design that offers high mileage and optimal fuel economy while also delivering excellent traction in demanding applications.  The tread block geometry promotes stiffness in the footprint, which reduces excess block movement, leading to lower rolling resistance and improved fuel economy. The groove-bottom ejection system reduces stone retention and casing penetration leading to higher retreadability.

The General HT tire is a long-haul trailer tire that delivers optimal removal mileage and flexibility through an improved tread pattern.  The improved scuff rib protects the sidewalls from curbing and cutting, reducing damage to the tire and increasing retreadability. Additionally, this new tire has a stone-repellent tread pattern with patented groove technology that leads to minimum stone retention, thereby extending casing life.

Exceeding goals

Portland, Ore.-based Daimler Trucks North America LLC’s (DTNA) SuperTruck program has achieved 115 percent freight efficiency improvement, surpassing the Department of Energy (DOE) program’s goal of 50 percent.

To validate the ambitious targets set by the DOE, DTNA engineers conducted a series of tests. To measure freight efficiency, DTNA ran vehicle testing on highway routes in Oregon and Texas, one city route in Portland, Ore., and anti-idle testing in both a cold chamber and a hot chamber. These tests resulted in a combined 115 percent freight efficiency improvement compared with a 2009 baseline truck. Testing also was conducted at the DTNA Detroit engineering facility to demonstrate engine efficiency by achieving
50.2 percent engine brake thermal efficiency.

The final SuperTruck demonstrator ran a five-day, 312-mile round trip route on Texas Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Dallas at a weight of 65,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating and a speed of 65 miles per hour, where it achieved an average result of 12.2 miles per gallon.

Several commercially viable technologies developed in conjunction with the SuperTruck program have been introduced in DTNA production vehicles, including a 6x2 axle configuration, the aerodynamic components found on the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, and the integrated Detroit Powertrain.

Strategies such as downspeeding with a custom engine rating and using the predictive capabilities of Intelligent Powertrain Management (IPM) components such as pre-loaded 3-D digital maps to control shifting and eCoast events also increased efficiency and economy. 

One key initiative was exploring how the tractor and trailer should be designed and optimized as a single system, not separate units. DTNA engineers also examined the impact and opportunities for efficiency gains with tire partners. Features such as energy-efficient, wide-based, low-rolling resistance single tires and highly engineered aerodynamic surfaces on the trailer also maximized efficiency.

During the development of the SuperTruck, DTNA engineers investigated how high-risk, high-reward technologies used in other industries could be applied to Class 8 vehicles. Electrified power steering and air systems, waste heat recovery and trailer solar panels were some of the items assessed.

Hit the highway

Western Star Truck Sales Inc., a Portland, Ore.-based subsidiary of DTNA, exhibited its all-new 5700XE Class 8 highway tractor featuring all-new aerodynamic innovations, a powerful and efficient powertrain, and a premium style. The truck features a four-piece aerodynamic bumper, new hood and projector beam headlights, a drag-neutral visor, as well as integrated LED turn signal and marker lights.

The 5700XE can be spec’d with Detroit DD13, DD15 or DD16 engines with power ranging from 350 to 600 horsepower and up to 2,050 pound-feet of torque. For maximum efficiency, the 5700XE can be spec’d with the integrated Detroit Powertrain that features the new “downspeed” DD15 engine rated at 400 horsepower and 1,750 pound-feet of torque, a direct drive Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission with IPM, and matched Detroit front and rear axles.

Designed for control

Detroit Diesel Corp., a Detroit-based subsidiary of DTNA, has started production of the components that make up the new integrated Detroit Powertrain that features the Detroit DD15 engine with a new downspeed rating, a Detroit DT12 automated manual direct-drive transmission and IPM, and Detroit front and rear axles.

The downspeed DD15 engine shifts the usable torque range to lower engine speeds to reduce friction losses, enhancing fuel consumption and improving reliability while also allowing vehicles to be geared for lower engine speeds. The new six-blade cooling fan design also draws less power, so the engine doesn’t burn as much fuel. The proprietary Detroit Virtual Technician On Board Diagnostic System also is part of the integrated powertrain solution. The DD15 features the 1-Box emissions package, meeting On-Board Diagnostics 13 and 2014 carbon dioxide standards.

The DT12 automated manual transmission with IPM uses pre-loaded terrain maps and GPS to know the route ahead and automatically adjust transmission and engine function for a smooth and efficient ride. Mixed-idle operation allows for a 560-rotations-per-minute creep mode operation to improve low-speed maneuverability and 500 rotations per minute for reduced fuel consumption during eCoast events.

Detroit now offers a 6x2 axle configuration with a 2.28 ratio that specifically is designed to work with the downspeed engine rating, making it the fastest ratio available in Freightliner and Western Star trucks. The 6x2 Detroit axle configuration incorporates a non-driven tag axle on the tandem, reducing total weight by almost 400 pounds, while a new
2.41 ratio in its 6x4 axle configuration also is available for applications requiring additional traction.

Efficiency and flexibility 

Volvo Group North America, Greensboro, N.C., introduced Adaptive Loading, a new 6x2 liftable forward axle that automatically adjusts to load weight changes, offering 4x2 operation under certain conditions. The key benefits of Adaptive Loading include greater fuel efficiency, improved traction, lower maintenance costs and increased driver productivity. Adaptive Loading is ideal for bulk haul operations where the truck goes out loaded and returns empty or for diminishing-load applications.

To further enhance fuel-efficiency gains, customers selecting Adaptive Loading can choose one of Volvo’s eXceptional Efficiency (XE) powertrain packages, including XE Adaptive Gearing and XE Economy. XE powertrain packages improve fuel efficiency by lowering engine speeds at a given vehicle speed, commonly known as downspeeding.

Like other 6x2 offerings, Adaptive Loading improves fuel efficiency compared with traditional 6x4 configurations. The non-drive axle helps distribute load weight without the internal gearing of a drive axle, lowering weight and reducing internal friction. The reduced weight is more than 300 pounds compared with a 6x4 and enables a greater payload.

The liftable forward axle and Volvo’s Electronically Controlled Suspension (ECS) technology offer additional fuel efficiency benefits. Adaptive Loading and Volvo’s current 6x2 option both use ECS to dynamically transfer weight between the two axles. In Adaptive Loading, ECS, which is based on pre-programmed weight thresholds, automatically lifts the axle in empty or light-load situations to create a 4x2 configuration, which reduces rolling resistance from tires as well as reduced wear and longer life. 

Adaptive Loading also can improve productivity for drivers. By operating the ECS in manual mode on a parked truck, drivers can raise the tractor’s suspension system up to 2 inches above normal ride height, which can speed trailer drop-and-hook operations, making lifting the trailer’s landing gear easier and safer. This enables drivers to spend more time on the road and less time at shipper and receiver facilities.

Volvo’s technology alleviates any concerns about traction in a 6x2 operation versus a 6x4. ECS preserves traction under lighter loads by transferring more weight to the drive axle. In adverse weather or other special situations, drivers can achieve enhanced traction through special ECS settings and traction support integrated into the chassis. Enhanced traction supports the truck during high-slip situations  better than 6x4 without inter-axle differential lock.

Eaton Enhances Automated Transmission Fuel Efficiency

Eaton Corp. plc, Dublin, introduced new electronic capabilities for its Fuller Advantage Series and UltraShift Plus automated transmissions that allow for disengagement of a truck’s driveline while on slight downhill grades to drop engine speeds to idle. The Neutral Coast Mode improves fuel consumption by up to 1 percent and ensures safe operation regardless of driving conditions.

 Neutral Coast Mode allows the transmission to disengage the driveline by pulling out of gear on downhill grades where little or no engine power is required, when the vehicle is in cruise control, and when the transmission is in Drive mode. The vehicle’s display will simultaneously flash a gear number that represents the gear that the transmission will select when it is necessary to engage.