The Eaton-Cummins SmartAdvantage powertrain has been well received in the US, but limited to 80,000-lb GCW as it is, it may be more of a niche specification here in Canada. But those applications that consistently haul lighter-weight payloads do exist here, and the SmartAdvantage is a highly efficient option for them. Kriska is among the first Canadian fleets to take delivery of International ProStar trucks powered by the SmartAdvantage powertrain.

kriska at dock

The company deployed five such vehicles earlier this year on a run that generally hauls payloads of 30,000 lbs, keeping the gross vehicle weight well below the 80,000-lb threshold. When he spec’d the trucks, fleet maintenance manager Marcel Boisvenue told International and Cummins he wanted a 10-mpg truck. Several months in, they’re averaging 9.42 mpg (Imperial). Not bad. But what really impresses Marcel is the consistency – every time he plugs into them, the SmartAdvantage trucks are all within 0.1 mpg of each other.

Evaluating the SmartAdvantage is a tricky proposition. This powertrain doesn’t have to be spectacular, it just has to be efficient. The fuel economy data Cummins and Kriska shared with me would attest to its efficiency. But can it achieve this excellent fuel mileage without compromising performance? My short answer to this is yes, it can.

The truck drove well, albeit lightly loaded (I had 16,000 lbs of empty glass racks in the trailer). It rolled down Hwy. 401 at 100 km/h at 1,260 rpm as a result of downspeeding. The transmission held 10th gear the entire drive, including the return trip with 36,000 lbs of glass in the trailer. This wasn’t a challenging route, I’ll concede, but the truck wasn’t spec’d to haul heavy payloads over Rocky Mountain passes. You wouldn’t do that with the SmartAdvantage; it wouldn’t be smart and there’d be no advantage.

One key ingredient to the SmartAdvantage recipe is vehicle acceleration management (VAM), a default setting on the SmartAdvantage ISX15. It forces more gradual acceleration from a stop by limiting the power available to the driver. Essentially, it makes a lightly loaded truck feel like it weighs about 70,000 lbs, mitigating the fuel economy carnage a lead-footed driver can incur by treating every green light like it’s a green flag.

I found VAM to be a touch aggressive. I felt it caused us to miss a couple advanced greens we otherwise could’ve made, and wondered if any fuel we saved went up the stack while we sat there waiting for the traffic lights to cycle through.

But the concept behind VAM is sound and Cummins feels there is a 1-2% fuel savings to be had by forcing drivers to accelerate more smoothly.

The truck drove really well. The transmission make quick, precise shifts, the ISX15 produced more than enough torque and power and the increased integration between the two was obvious.

I really enjoy driving the ProStar. My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is with the design of the hood-mounted mirrors.

kriska hood mirrors

I found them to be a touch large and I don’t love the tripod-style mount. Sure they provide great visibility down the side of the truck but they also obstruct what’s ahead and they can’t be good for aero. I prefer the style of hood-mounted mirrors you’ll find on Volvo and Freightliner trucks. They look good, work well and feature a more streamlined design.

I want to thank everyone at Cummins and Kriska who made this drive possible. This truck runs 20 hours a day so I wanted to insert myself into its daily operation as seamlessly as possible. That’s why we didn’t stray from its regular route and really, it would’ve been pointless to do so, as the truck was spec’d for this specific lane and to haul these types of loads.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED BUT INTERESTING RANDOM FACT: Notice the striping on the hood of the Kriska truck pictured. That style of striping denotes it’s a company truck. If the truck is sold to an owner/operator, those stripes are removed. And that is how you recognize a Kriska company unit at a glance.

Look for a full report on this drive on Trucknews.com later this week. Maybe even later today, if I’m really productive.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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