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Three trends noticed at Mid-America

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity in the trucking industry. In March, I attended the Work Truck Show, Technology & Maintenance Council meetings and the Mid-America Trucking Show. The mood at each of these events was...


The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity in the trucking industry. In March, I attended the Work Truck Show, Technology & Maintenance Council meetings and the Mid-America Trucking Show. The mood at each of these events was universally upbeat, with OEMs talking about increased demand for new equipment, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since record-setting 2006.

When I attend truck shows, I’m always drawn to the equipment. While there were no new model introductions this year, I did notice several equipment-related trends we could be hearing more about in the future.

The 6x2s are coming…but when?: We’ve been hearing a lot over the past year about the advantages of 6×2 axle configurations, where power is supplied to only one drive axle, providing about 400 lbs of weight savings or fuel economy improvements of 2-3%. But in Canada, several provinces still do not allow the technology. I sat down with Joe ElBehairy, v.p., engineering and quality with Meritor for an exclusive interview and he told me Meritor and other companies have been actively lobbying all the provinces to allow 6x2s. Ontario and Quebec, it turns out, have dug in their heels and provided the most resistance. The concern they have, it seems, is that in situations where the non-driven axle is liftable, that drivers could lift that axle while under load and potentially cause road damage. This is new news, by the way, from within the past couple weeks.

The dangers of downspeeding: The other trend we’ve been hearing a lot about is engine downspeeding – running at lower rpms with faster rear axle ratios to improve fuel economy. The idea is that for every 100 rpm slower the engine runs at 65 mph, fuel savings of 1.5% can be achieved. However, engine downspeeding also increases torque loads on the axles and driveshaft, meaning truck buyers should spec’ axles and driveshafts designed to handle the extra torque.

Speaking at a press conference at Mid-America, Steve Slesinksi, director product planning at Dana, noted that moving from a 3.55 to a 2.26 rear axle ratio increases the torque load on the driveshaft and axle by 57%. Even going from a 2.64 to a 2.26 ratio increases torque by 14%.

Meritor’s Joe ElBehairy told me in our interview, fleets need to be mindful of this when spec’ing new vehicles. “In order to have acceptable level of startability, the engine torque and drivetrain torque increases,” he said. “It’s really critical to make sure that as (rear axle ratios) get faster, you’re not overloading the rest of the system.”

The shift towards automation: It’s no secret that more fleets are buying trucks with automated transmissions, but for the first time at MATS I saw some hard numbers that attest to this trend. Eaton announced during its press conference that presently, 20% of the North American Class 8 truck build features automated transmissions. The company expects that to expand to 30% within three to five years. Also announced at the show, in just one year of production, Daimler has taken orders for 17,000 of its DT12 automated manual transmissions. Yes, automation is here to stay.


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