TOOELE, Utah -- One man’s trash is another’s treasure, particularly if that other man is in the business of hauling trash away to landfill sites and recycling depots.
Or, for that matter, in the business of selling and servicing refuse trucks. With that in mind, Navistar International has barged into the refuse truck market with the impending launch of its new low cab forward LoadStar. Constructed of stainless steel, the LoadStar has been designed to better withstand the highly corrosive and punishing refuse truck environment and it also boasts a number of driver-friendly features that will make it popular with operators.
More importantly, however, Navistar has recently acquired refuse body manufacturer E-Z Pack with an eye to completely changing the way refuse trucks are sold and serviced. Currently, waste collection companies tend to buy trucks and bodies separately, and then must have any problems attended to by either the truck or body dealer.
This arrangement often results in finger pointing, a shirking of responsibility and for the operator, increased downtime and frustration. Through its acquisition of E-Z Pack, announced earlier this year and to be consummated in February, International will now be able to sell a fully integrated refuse truck with body and then provide one-stop parts and service shopping for customers. E-Z Pack wins too, thanks to instant access to International’s expansive dealer network.
Jim Rogers, vice-president of sales and marketing with E-Z Pack, said the partnership will revolutionize the refuse truck industry.
“From this day forward, we’re changing the business model in North America,” Rogers said. “We’re going to integrate the body and the chassis together, provide one-stop shopping for our customers and they’ll have service like they’ve never seen before.”
Previously, Rogers said, the relationship between body builder and truck manufacturer was practically non-existent.
“The only time we’d talk to each other is when we get into a finger pointing exercise and the poor customer is sitting in the middle saying ‘I just want my truck to run’,” Rogers admitted.
There are other benefits to the new marriage as well. Installation of the E-Z Pack body onto an International LoadStar chassis will be simplified thanks to International’s Diamond Logic electrical system. The truck and body will each have a wiring harness designed to plug into each other, providing a plug-and-play solution that Rogers said could slash in half the typical mounting time of 60-80 hours.
Navistar’s highly regarded Diamond Logic wiring system will also allow the chassis and body to communicate more effectively, providing benefits such as the ability to notify operators when a light is out on the body via a message displayed inside the cab. The partnership is also great news for International dealers. Refuse trucks typically cost $20,000-$25,000 per year to maintain, providing a new revenue stream for dealers.
E-Z Pack, based in Lexington, Ky., currently owns about 7% of the refuse truck body market and manufactures a variety of rear, side and front loaders. When the acquisition is concluded, the body will still be offered on other truck makes while Navistar will offer alternative bodies as well on its LoadStar.
Driving the LoadStar
As for the LoadStar, it is sure to earn plenty of attention among refuse truck owners and operators, which tend to be a 63-37% split between private collection companies and municipalities, respectively.
I recently had the opportunity to drive a Mack TerraPro, Autocar ACX-64 and Peterbilt 320 as well as the new LoadStar on a makeshift course at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City. The LoadStar was a dual drive configuration (left hand, right hand and right stand-up drive configurations will also be offered), and was fitted with a 40-yard E-Z Pack front loader.
At this point, there’s little I can say about the performance of the LoadStar, since the truck I drove was a prototype and as such, still had some wrinkles that will be ironed out before production commences. The fan was constantly on, giving no real sense of interior noise and the steering was stiff, again a byproduct of its prototype status.
What I can attest to, however, is its operator-friendly interior and ease of entry and egress. The 16-inch offset step height allowed me to climb easily into the cab through a large door with a 90-degree-plus opening. Well-positioned grab handles made climbing in and out a piece of cake, which will be a luxury for single operators when applicable. In contrast, climbing in and out of the Pete 320 took some athleticism that not all trash truck operators possess. The Mack and Autocar fell somewhere in between.
Once inside the cab, I immediately appreciated the large, flat floor area, which is unencumbered by steering wheel or floor-mounted pedals.
The view from the cab is phenomenal, thanks to a 3,000 sq.-in. windshield, the largest in the class. The Mack TerraPro provides slightly better forward visibility, but overall, the LoadStar offers an impressive field of vision. It also boasts a tight 40-degree wheel cut, so operators can safely navigate a cul de sac without having to put the truck into reverse. Nothing good can come from reversing a trash truck in a residential neighbourhood.
LED lighting, which lasts 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, is standard inside and out of the cab.
It was a warm day in Utah when I drove the LoadStar, so I appreciated that the air-conditioning was highly effective, thanks to the truck’s industry-leading 14 vents.
The LoadStar is the only trash truck to offer tilt and telescopic steering and it boasts a spacious, 92-inch wide cab. Power locks and windows are available - not to spoil drivers, but to provide a flat door panel and reduce the likelihood of operators’ coveralls getting caught as they climb in and out of the cab.
The cab itself may be the LoadStar’s strongest attribute; it’s made of 4100 stainless steel.
“The biggest thing about stainless steel is that it’s almost immune to perforation,” said Steve Gilligan, vice-president, vocational marketing with Navistar. “If you scratch it, it’s not going to continue to perforate like some of the other materials.”
Stainless steel is 40% stronger than galvanized steel and 62% stronger than aluminum, Gilligan claimed. Owners will need to be mindful that it requires a self-etching primer when paint repairs are necessary.
Interestingly, when the LoadStar is first launched in July 2013, the only power option will be the Cummins ISL G natural gas engine. Diesel offerings will follow four to six months later. Gilligan said Navistar’s transition to selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology within its own engine line threatened to delay the rollout of the LoadStar, and since up to 50% of the refuse truck market will soon be powered by natural gas, the company opted to introduce its NG version first.
Currently, one in four refuse trucks are powered by compressed natural gas, E-Z Pack’s Rogers noted, and that’s expected to climb to 33% next year and 50% by 2015.
“We originally planned to launch with the MaxxForce 9, 10 and 11,” Gilligan explained. “We changed our engine strategy and moved into the SCR realm and we didn’t want to delay this program. Our customers started telling us they’re looking at natural gas harder every year. We didn’t want to slow down the launch of this truck.”
The low cabover engine (LCOE) refuse truck market is relatively small, with just 30,000 such trucks sold in North America over the past five years. The segment leader is Mack, followed by Autocar and then Peterbilt. With its partnership with E-Z Pack and rugged, driver-oriented design, International hopes its LoadStar will be one of the front-runners in this segment in the years ahead. The truck itself is very well designed and the benefits of complete integration between the chassis and body are difficult to ignore. Add to that the comfort most International dealers have with bidding on municipal tenders and it’s easier to understand why the company is so enthusiastic about jumping into a relatively small market segment.