THE SHRINKING ATLANTIC

Rolf Lockwood

September 13, 2006 Vol. 2, No. 19

Medium-duty trucks have been top of mind lately, largely because we just prepared a roundup of 2007-model trucks for the October issue of Today’s Trucking. It’s not the sexiest sector of the truck-making world, but there really are some awfully good products in there. Not exciting in the way a
chromed-up long-nose conventional might be, of course, but full of purpose and ability. And increasingly, kind of fun to drive.

Highlighted in the first of this issue’s product looks, the coming Peterbilt 220 cabover and its stablemate, the Kenworth K360, are both based on the European DAF LF. I say ‘coming’, though I mean slowly. About a year from
now at best, but it may well be worth the wait. Introduced in 2001, it won the ‘Truck of the Year’ award the following year as voted on by European journalists. DAF, of course, is owned by Paccar, parent company to both Peterbilt and Kenworth.

The specs remain to be seen, though the Dutch LF is available in a pretty broad array of lengths and capacities and configurations with models covering GVW ratings from 6 to 18 tonnes in straight-truck form. We won’t see it here, I’d guess, but there’s a single-axle tractor offered in Europe as well. Our friends across the pond also get a sleeper version of the cab, which is very unlikely to make the trip over the ocean. Air disc brakes are standard equipment, I’m glad to say, and I presume we’ll see them on the North Americanized versions. Hope so. Another useful option in Europe – and maybe here? — is electronically controlled air suspension out back.

Since their introduction, all LF models have had but two engine choices, both branded ‘Paccar’ but in fact made by Cummins – a 3.9-liter four and a 5.9-liter six. You can bet the bigger of those two will be the main engine powering the 220 and the 364, maybe the only one.

In 2007, all Kenworth and Peterbilt mid-range trucks for sale over here will also be Paccar-powered. Again, we’re talking about the Cummins ISB and ISC diesels available in this year’s crop, but with new colors and a new brand name. Does this version of the ‘house brand’ idea constitute a new trend? Cummins hopes so, I should think.

Ironically, by the time 2010 rolls around, maybe earlier, we’ll very likely see a Dutch engine making its way west. DAF’s own MX 12.9-liter engine is touted to be coming to heavy-duty Petes and KWs in North America. With present power up to 560 hp, it would fit many roles over here. I like a couple of smallish aspects of this engine especially — the inlet manifold is integrated in the cylinder head and the oil filter, oil thermostat and oil cooler have been combined in a single module. Neat.

There’s a lot of trans-Atlantic truck-making activity these days, as you well know, and I’ll have some more of it to report on next time out. In a few days time I’ll be boarding a plane for the overnight haul to Hanover, Germany for the huge IAA commercial vehicles show. Unlike some other journalists, I won’t be taking a folding bike to get around the place – it really is that big – but I can promise you my feet will be sore. On the plus side, I should have a lot to write about for the next edition of Product Watch.

One last note: you may remember that I wrote about an interesting small product called the Battery Brain a few weeks ago. From an outfit called Smart Energy that’s headed by former Navistar Canada chief Pete Mateja, it’s a device that constantly monitors electrical discharge of the starter battery for nearly all kinds of vehicles. Should it detect that the battery is losing sufficient charge to start the vehicle’s engine, it automatically disconnects the battery to preserve its starting power.

In any event, Pete called me the other day to say that he’d reached a distribution agreement with his old alma mater, so International dealers are now carrying the Battery Brain across Canada. Just thought you should know.

This newsletter is published every two weeks. It’s a heads-up notice about what you can see at www.todaystrucking.com where you’ll find in-detail coverage of nearly everything that’s new. Plus interesting products
that may not have had the ‘air play’ they deserved within the last few months. Subscribe today!

If you have comments of whatever sort, please contact me at
rlockwood@newcom.ca.

Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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