Freightliner launches Class 8 to replace Columbia and Century

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Freightliner has introduced a new Class 8 truck it says will deliver improved fuel mileage, driver comfort and ergonomics. The Cascadia will eventually replace the Columbia and Century Class vehicles.

The truck was designed with the 2010 emissions standards in mind and brought to market early to provide fleets with a way to begin recouping the increased costs associated with the latest rounds of emissions standards. Freightliner officials said the Cascadia offers a 3% improvement in fuel economy over previous models and they told Motortruck Fleet Executive that the new model will offer much improved aerodynamics.

“Our customers are faced with the consequences of ever-tightening emissions standards, higher fuel prices, rapidly escalating wages and benefits, and a dire shortage of maintenance technicians,” said Chris Patterson, president and CEO of Freightliner. He said the company opted to forge ahead with its latest offering even in the face of a downturn in the truck market, because customers demanded a way to recover some of the costs associated with the latest generation of heavy duty vehicles.

Freightliner engineers performed 2,500 hours of wind tunnel testing at their own full-scale wind tunnel in Portland and refined components to improve airflow. The Cascadia is the first Freightliner truck designed and engineered in the company’s wind tunnel.

“Our wind tunnel was constructed expressly for this kind of new model development,” Patterson said. “Apparently tiny tweaks in the design made possible by our unlimited use of our own facility can save owners hundreds of dollars in fuel consumption over the life of their truck.”

The Cascadia has been designed to easily accommodate DaimlerChrysler’s new global engine – a Detroit Diesel heavy-duty engine family which will debut later this year. The engine family will be used in DaimlerChrysler Truck Group vehicles around the world once launched in Freightliner trucks.

Another enhancement boasted by the new model is its lightweight construction that allows for increased payload. The cab is constructed of aluminum and the hood, bumper and quarter fenders have been re-engineered to save weight.

The truck has also been designed to minimize downtime. Improved diagnostics, an HVAC system that requires fewer repairs and breakaway side extenders help keep the truck out of the shop, Freightliner officials announced. Other features that aim to increase uptime include a roped-in windshield that is easy to replace, extended headlamp bulbs as well as an easy to access engine.

The company is confident the Cascadia will be a hit with drivers thanks to its productivity-enhancing features including improved ergonomics and additional lighting and storage.

“Recruiting drivers is challenging, so many of our customers wanted to add more style and comfort features to their fleets without breaking the bank,” said Patterson. “The Cascadia offers these amenities without compromise.”

Freightliner’s rack and pinion steering will be available on the Cascadia, improving handling and maneuverability.

“Our customers have given us such positive feedback on rack and pinion steering’s functional and safety benefits that we decided to make it an option on the Cascadia,” Patterson said.

Michael Delaney, senior vice-president of marketing for Freightliner, said more than a million hours of work went into development of the Cascadia. It cost the company more than $400 million to design the new truck.

Delaney said extensive interviews were conducted with fleet and owner/operator customers and through these interviews the company found “expectations had changed.”

“The industry was getting tough, life on the road harder and pending emissions standards were going to make it harder still,” Delaney said. “We started out with a long wish list and the more we looked at it, the more we realized everything had to change.”

Freightliner found both fleets and owner/operators wanted the same things from a truck.

“In the past, we’ve always thought of these market segments – fleets and owner/ operators – as separate,” Delaney explained. “But in many ways, their buying patterns have merged. As with individual owners, fleets today are very concerned about comfort.”

The truck was built around five main customer concerns: Fuel mileage; ease of maintenance; noise; driver comfort; and ergonomics/fit.

“The Cascadia has faced the most rigorous tests and has emerged as originally envisioned: as the ultimate business solution that meets the industry’s demands with maximum reliability, driveability and comfort,” Delaney said.

The Cascadia is already in pre-production and became available to order in mid-May. Full-scale production of the Cascadia will commence in August, the company announced.

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