Truck manufacturers upgrading offerings to minimize stress, maximize comfort
Suppliers respond to fleet managers priority on driver comfort, improved ergonomics
There’s been a massive focus on improving not just the quantity of what’s delivered, but the quality of life for those delivering it. And that makes a great deal of sense considering that you’re going to want your drivers to stick around as long as possible — a bigger and bigger challenge these days considering all of the outside opportunities that are wooing them away.
Fleet managers, therefore, have been placing a priority on driver comfort and improved ergonomics, and suppliers have been responding with all sorts of enhancements to make the ride go as smoothly as possible. The following are the latest advancements in that realm:
The folks at Ram say they’re offering the quietest cab yet with several noise and vibration reduction-related features. An active noise cancellation system and acoustic glass reduce ambient sounds by nearly 10 decibels. Its new HVAC system features 30 percent more air flow at lower noise levels, including larger front defroster vents for better performance. And, speaking of HVAC, new in-duct electric heating elements on the diesel models help speed cabin warm-up on colder days.
Additionally, the system features larger controls and larger panel ducts that are designed to work better with gloved hands. New rear center console ducts and more directed footwell airflow are designed to improve comfort throughout the cab.
The trucks’ interiors have been redesigned as well, with new, authentic, premium materials, colors and textures, including hand-wrapped leather instrument panels. What’s more, the company improves on overall ride quality with new suspension tuning that includes frequency response damping (FRD) shocks, progressive springs and re-engineered bushings.
The console includes a wider docking area with a wireless charging option that is able to hold a small tablet or smartphone. There also is a three-position sliding cup holder tray that can be stowed under the center armrest to reveal a deep storage tub designed to hold a 15-inch laptop. The center console also features five USB ports — three up front and two in the back. Four of those ports are paired with type-C ports for faster communication and charging.
The FUSO Fe gas model cabovers feature a noise-insulated cab that helps keep road noise from reaching the cab interior, as well as a low entry step that enables easier in and out. The heavy-duty driver’s seat offers adjustable lumbar support and the shifter has been moved off the floor so drivers have more legroom and easier access.
Meanwhile, instrument clusters have been revised for better visibility and an LED cabin light comes in handy during dawn or dusk operations. The cabs also feature FUSO’s trademark red seat belts that serve as a visible reminder to buckle up.
Air conditioning now is standard on several of Isuzu’s 2020 model Class 5 trucks, including the NPR-HD, the NPR-XD, the NQR and the NRR. This year, Isuzu also started offering new audio options on all N-Series and F-Series vehicles. Among those is an upgrade to the Alpine iLX-207 system, featuring a 7-inch VGA touchscreen display and hands-free Bluetooth capability. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and, with an additional tuner, SiriusXM satellite radio.
For pick-up applications, Ford’s Super Duty trucks feature a number of interior upgrades. Colors have been updated to Ebony and Highland Tan to offer a refined, modern feel while a number of limited features are available to add a touch of authenticity and added comfort to the ride — including genuine leather, the company says.
Additionally, decorative stitching accents and the leather-wrapped instrument panel topper and a soft headliner in Miko suede is designed to give the cab a more expansive feel.
Several years ago, Kenworth directed its engineers to design a new generation of trucks that would build on previous models’ successes, in terms of comfort, style, productivity and aerodynamics.
For Kenworth T680 and T880 models, the engineering team developed a number of enhancements, including larger interiors, more logical dash and switch layouts, improved visibility and information centers with instant feedback to improve the driver experience. Other improvements included firewall-mounted hanging pedals instead of floor-mounted pedals and an air-assisted hydraulic clutch that requires only half the pressure of a traditional clutch, reducing the amount of leg movement required.
Kenworth’s GT700 series driver seats have advanced height/weight independent suspension systems, giving drivers an optimal ride regardless of their preferred height setting or their weight. An adjustable shock allows them to fine-tune the dampening levels to their preference of firm or soft. The adjustment features are designed to fit a wider range of different sized drivers, from 5- to 6-foot-tall males or females. The core suspension is based upon an advanced seat platform and is more durable and greatly restricts lateral movement. BI