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Slow and steadier

New features improve UltraShift Plus handling in low-speed scenarios


MARSHALL, Mich. — Two new features are available for the Eaton UltraShift Plus transmission, which improve its low-speed maneuvering characteristics. And you don’t need to buy a new transmission to get them.

Blended pedal and urge to move are available as software updates through Eaton’s ServiceRanger 4 service tool. The upgrades themselves are free of charge, but fleets that don’t have their own ServiceRanger 4 tools may have to pay a labour charge for the updates.

Loaded to nearly 145,000 lbs, I backed this truck up a 15% grade using the new urge to move feature.

Loaded to nearly 125,000 lbs, I backed this truck up a 15% grade using the new urge to move feature.

Blended pedal gives the driver the ability to use the accelerator as though it were a clutch, to control clutch engagement at engine idle and precisely position the truck. Urge to move allows the truck to creep forward (or backwards, in reverse) when the brake pedal is released, much like a passenger car.

“Both urge to move and blended pedal allow for controlled motion, controlled discharge of payloads, and more controlled operation when launching the vehicle,” said Evan Vijithakumara, product strategy manager for Eaton. “Blended pedal delivers a level of fine control that, until now, has been exclusive to manual transmissions. The end result blends three-pedal operating performance at low speeds with all the benefits of our latest driver-friendly two-pedal automated technologies.”

Both were demonstrated by Eaton this week at a press event at the company’s sprawling Marshall, Mich. proving grounds. And there could be no better place to demonstrate the functionality of both new offerings.

I drove a Western Star 4900SB with the 18-speed UltraShift Plus MXP loaded to nearly 125,000 lbs and stopped halfway up an 8% grade to test the urge to move feature. When I released the brake pedal, the truck crept up the hill at a slow, steady 1 mph or so. More impressively, I stopped it halfway down a 15% grade and put the truck in reverse and it backed up the hill, easy peasy. The controlled descent is ideal for logging and other heavy-haul applications where hilly terrain is unavoidable.

Blended pedal gives drivers the ability to manipulate the clutch - ideal for mixer applications.

Blended pedal gives drivers the ability to manipulate the clutch – ideal for mixer applications.

But urge to move is equally beneficial in more mainstream linehaul applications. When mired in stop-and-go traffic, the driver can give his leg a rest and let the truck creep forward on its own, adjusting speed up and down by toggling the plus/minus button on the shifter. The driver can work through all the transmission’s lower gears in this manner and then, when traffic begins to move, launch using the accelerator from any of the lower gears.

This feature also assists with coupling, providing controlled, low-speed backing when reversing into the kingpin.

Both urge to move and blended pedal really shine in mixer applications. I drove a Kenworth T880 mixer with the UltraShift Plus VMS, equipped with both new features. Blended pedal gives back to the driver some of the ability to manipulate the clutch that automation took away. Feathering the accelerator allows the driver to more precisely position the truck, while at idle, so it doesn’t, in mixer applications, affect the rotation speed of the drum.

I experimented with both blended pedal and urge to move on an off-road track that featured a 20% grade while loaded to 45,000 lbs. When you’re pouring cement and being guided into position by someone outside the vehicle using hand signals, the added control is welcome. Control is the key word – both features give the driver better control of the vehicle in low-speed situations.

The nice thing about both new features is that, since they come in the form of software updates through the ServiceRanger 4 tool, they can be immediately deployed on existing UltraShift Plus transmissions. Or not deployed. Or deployed and then removed if they’re not to a driver’s liking. Some fleets are making vehicle-specific decisions based on driver preference or application, so it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.

Vijithakumara revealed more than 1,000 updates have already been installed in the few weeks since it’s been available, making it one of the most quickly-embraced product roll-outs the company has seen.


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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