A Glimpse into a “Super Truck” Future

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How efficient can trucks really get? The answer may lie in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SuperTruck program. In 2010, that agency made available nearly $300 million to truck and engine makers to explore technology that would improve fuel economy and freight efficiency. Daimler Trucks North America received a grant of $40 million, and made a similar investment in a five-year research project that became the Daimler SuperTruck.

It was officially unveiled at the 2015 Mid-America Trucking Show back in March, but it was on a podium. In early May, Daimler brought the truck, two of them actually, to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and invited journalists from around the world to take a closer look at it and even take it for a spin.

The futuristic tractor-trailer features highly styled aerodynamics, an 11-litre engine, an advanced hybrid-electric energy recovery and drive system, waste heat recovery technology and a whole lot more.  The net result was a 115% improvement in freight efficiency over a baseline 2009 model Cascadia, and an impressive 12.2 mpg fuel economy over a 300-mile real-world test course.

Equipment Editor Jim Park got his 30-minute ride in the truck and brings this report on the experience. Because of the highly compressed nature of the test drive, he barely had time to delve into all the truck has to offer. Sometime later this year Today’s Trucking will produce an Ultimate Test Drive series on Daimler’s SuperTruck. Until then, here’s a short tour of some of the technology that may well find itself on the next Freightliner you buy.

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Jim Park was a CDL driver and owner-operator from 1978 until 1998, when he began his second career as a trucking journalist. During that career transition, he hosted an overnight radio show on a Hamilton, Ontario radio station and later went on to anchor the trucking news in SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking channel. Jim is a regular contributor to Today's Trucking and Trucknews.com, and produces Focus On and On the Spot test drive videos.

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