Sterling Introduces New Chassis Platform for Heavy-Duty Trucks

by Ingrid Phaneuf

ST. THOMAS, Ont. – The Oct. 8 event to celebrate the production of Sterling’s 100,000th truck at its St. Thomas, Ont. assembly plant wasn’t all fun and games.

Sterling and Freightliner officials (Freightliner owns Sterling) were also on hand to introduce a new chassis platform for heavy-duty trucks.

The new chassis was designed to accommodate the new engines built to meet 2004 emissions standards. It includes a stronger but light frame (according to officials); a new air cab suspension (built with proprietary parts (that means parts manufactured by a DaimlerChrysler-owned company); a new cooling system; new fuel tank offerings and additional front and rear suspension options.

The new “HX” chassis is intended to extend Sterling’s reputation for durability and value, say officials, while increasing customization capabilities.

“We are pleased to offer such a comprehensive package of enhancements to our heavy-duty customers,” said John Merrifield, senior vice president, sales and marketing.

“The HX chassis represents Sterling’s commitment to providing customers with the highest quality products that exceed industry standards for applications.”

Frames stronger, lighter

Frame choices include new section heights from 10 to 11 inches, plus an all-new 13-inch frame, which is over two inches taller than any current frame offering. The HX frame also improved strength ratings; with optional RBMs up to five million inch-pounds when an insert is added, say officials.

Also available is an “OptiLock Chassis Grid System” a frame hole layout option that provides up to five rows of potential chassis hole locations spaced approximately two inches apart, centre-to-centre.

All chassis component mounting holes (cross members, mounting brackets, etc.) comply with the grid pattern and allow for the chassis component mounting options necessary for customization. Sterling can also pre-punch body and equipment mounting holes in the grid area for customers.

Air cab suspension

Also available is “Comfort Ride” – an all-new air cab mount system. Officials say the new suspension will provide customers with improved ride comfort and motion control, with improved service life and lower operation costs.

Improved cooling systems

Cab positioning has been adjusted to accommodate the larger cooling systems. New radiator options include: a 1,000-inch crossflow radiator with or without in-tank coolers; a 1,2000-inch crossflow radiator; and a 1,400-inch version.

(The coolant and washer bottles shave also been moved away from each other and back to the sides, which will come as some relief to drivers who have kicked themselves after getting the two containers mixed up.

The washer fluid bottle is close to the turbos, which means it won’t freeze in the winter either. Officials say the plastic it’s enclosed in won’t melt either.)

The chassis also includes an accessory drive system with a scroll air conditioning compressor from Visteon as the standard offering on A and L-Line trucks. The compressor will be available exclusively in Sterling trucks for the next year.

The scroll type compressor (formerly used in luxury cars but toughened up for truck use) has few moving parts (basically two spirals inside each other instead of pistons) and almost no wear points, which should make for greater durability.

The compressor is backed by a two-year warranty.

New fuel tanks

Cylindrical fuel tanks will now come standard on the A and L-Line trucks in both 23 and (optional) 25-inch diameters.

The new tanks supposedly reduce the overall chassis weight, and supposedly provide greater consistency in step height and positioning, according to officials.

Additional options for front and rear suspension

New offerings in front and rear suspensions for highway and vocational include: (front) taper-leaf springs rated to 20,0000 lbs., multi-leaf designs up to 23,000 lbs.; and so-called maintenance-free suspension designs with ratings up to 14,600 lbs.

New for the A-Line are the 12,000-lb. rated optional lightweight composite springs made from fibreglass. Officials say fibreglass is more durable and the springs make for a 77 lb. saving.

The Sterling Airliner suspension family also now includes a front air suspension.

New in rear suspension on the HX chassis are Hendrickson offerings, including Primaax, a suspension system for heavy-duty vocational applications, and the new Haulmaxx walking beam rear suspension system. Also available is the TufTrac two-stage suspension, which reportedly provides an improved unladen ride quality.

Steering box

Also new for the HX is the addition of the THP60 high-pressure steering box from TRW. The box is more compact, allowing greater wheel cut angles.

The HX chassis design is slated to be phased in to Sterling heavy-duty conventional trucks starting this November. For details visit

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