Driving the International LT

NEW CARLISLE, Ind. – International recently offered the first driving opportunities of its new LT-series Class 8 highway tractor, which will supplant the popular ProStar.

Drivers played a big role in the design of the new truck. International sought the opinions of hundreds of professional drivers and evidence of their feedback can be seen throughout the cab. The air horn lanyard has been restored and put back where it belongs in the upper left corner and the air brake releases have been moved further from the driver so they don’t encumber movement into the sleeper.

We drove this International LT 625 at Navistar's New Carlisle, Ind. proving grounds.
We drove this International LT 625 at Navistar’s New Carlisle, Ind. proving grounds.

“The only time you touch those is when the truck is stopped, so there is no reason to occupy the primary real estate on the panel with those releases,” explained Jeff Sass, senior vice-president of sales and marketing with Navistar. “Everything we are doing today is based around the driver.”

The instrument panel is cleaner and better designed. Virtual gauges are shown on a vibrant driver display. Improvements to functionality are found throughout the cab. Ample USB and 12-volt outlets keep drivers connected. A deep ledge along the dash provides useful storage for phones, pens and other small items.

The HVAC system – a source of complaints on the ProStar – has been completely redesigned and its reliability improved.

“We have dramatically improved the efficiency of the HVAC system,” said Joe Werth, vice-president, new product development. “It is 40% more efficient in terms of speed to defrost the window.”

Sightlines have also been improved. The vent window has been eliminated to offer greater visibility out the sides. Werth said the LT boasts 15% better visibility out the passenger side window and a 5% improvement out the left. Forward visibility is better as well thanks to a new, one-piece curved windshield and a redesigned hood.

Better door seals reduce interior noise. I drove an LT 625 with the new Cummins X15 engine rated at 450 hp. Drives were limited to a few laps around Navistar’s three-mile test track but the truck drove nicely, was quiet and comfortable. The shifter and engine brake have been integrated on the right side of the steering column for easy access. The most frequently used buttons and switches have been moved closer to the driver.

A groove along the dash is useful for storing small items and the air brake releases were relocated to the right.
A groove along the dash is useful for storing small items and the air brake releases were relocated to the right.

“The focus was to bring closer to the driver the things that were important to them,” said Werth.

The redesign did not extend to the sleeper, which is a direct carryover from the ProStar. Serviceability, however, was improved thanks to new routing and clipping and easier access to the fuse panel inside the cab.

While the LT was designed with drivers in mind, its owners will be equally happy with the upgrades. International is touting a 7% fuel economy improvement over its most efficient ProStar ES model. This comes from a combination of improved aero, 3%, and powertrain enhancements which count for 4%. Aerodynamic improvements include a reshaped hood and bumper and more slippery mirrors as well as the redesigned windshield.

“We looked at how the bumper was structured, how air flowed under and over the hood area and improved the shape of that to accommodate aerodynamics,” Werth explained.

Engine improvements came in the form of calibration activities and the reduction of parasitic losses. Werth said both Cummins and Navistar N-series engines will deliver the same fuel economy gains over previous models.

The Diamond level interior with black cherry panels in the truck I drove was handsome. But Navistar officials were quick to point out drivers didn’t want a truck that felt like a car, despite the trend towards more automotive-inspired interiors.

A more vibrant driver display is found on the LT. Virtual gauges are displayed there.
A more vibrant driver display is found on the LT. Virtual gauges are displayed there.

“We have introduced features to make this vehicle easier to drive and more capable of supporting a less experienced driver to be able to come in and operate this vehicle effectively,” Werth explained. “It brings in more automotive familiarity, however the robustness of the design allows for operations with gloves, that kind of thing. It’s a balance. The issue of driver retention was probably one of the primary drivers for us in how we brought the design in. You do get some of those automotive features as a result, but where we tried to make the difference was in the robustness of the dials, how the driver interacts with them, – can you grab them with gloves on in the winter? – the size of the toggle switches. Those were all designed to accommodate a truck driver.”

Sass said feedback from fleets emphasized the truck had to be a vehicle drivers were happy with.

“Driver retention equals cost of ownership,” Sass said.

Denny Mooney, chief engineer, added “We have fleets, big fleets, whose CEOs tell us that if drivers don’t want to drive your truck, we’re not buying your truck. These are fleets that have multiple brands and are having a tough time attracting drivers. It sounds simple but if your truck is sitting there and drivers don’t want to drive your truck, they’re not buying your truck.”

To win the hearts of drivers, Navistar realized uptime was critical.

“We are trying to get our truck to be every bit as reliable as any automobile is today,” Mooney said.

The LT series is supported by OnCommand Connection, Navistar’s open architecture remote diagnostics platform. It provides vehicle health reports and advises customers on the most appropriate action when fault codes appear. Navistar is also offering over-the-air engine updates, allowing customers to keep their software updated without taking the truck off the road.

“When I think about uptime, it’s about reliability and durability, making sure the truck never has to come in unless it’s for scheduled maintenance,” Mooney said.

So far, the LT has been well received. Sass said more than 3,000 orders have been received. Navistar is in the process of revitalizing its entire product line. The first of these new models to be unveiled, the LT, is a comprehensive upgrade over the ProStar. Drivers will find it quieter, more ergonomic and comfortable to operate and will enjoy better visibility. Less reaching and straining will be required. The ProStar served International well but drivers won’t be asking for their ProStars back once they’ve driven the new LT.

LT 3


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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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  • International, Paccar and Freightliner have made a great effort in updating their trucks. Making trucks more ergonomically sound, and more ‘fun’ to drive for us slightly older drivers is what we look for. And then of course, there’s the Classic truck purists which they have their own legitimate preferences.

    Now only if Volvo would completely redesign their entry level highway tractors to be a bit roomier… The same design language, languished for so many years, that now that every new Volvo just looks like an outdated truck. Their most popular trucks, have only a tiny bed to sleep on (Pardon if I am wrong, but I am referring to the VN670…) . The dash is at least a good 14 years old outdated, and the instrument cluster still has that orange LCD. The latter screams 1980’s computer screens and depicts no efforts from Volvo to update it.

  • I still like all the new International products, but I hate the new naming system. Everyone knew what a Paystar and Prostar were. And the “Star” has a long standing heritage with the brand.

    Now they have these LT and HX’s followed by numbers. Nobody knows what they are, and the names are totally unexciting.

    I’ll still be calling the LT a Prostar, LOL.

    I do think the old Prostar dash was nicer looking and had a nicer shape to it though.

  • Great. Lanyard is back so driver MUST remove hand to grab airhorn while taking evasive maneuvers!? And vent window is gone for vision improvement? So safety is kinda important when cost to implement is high. Not that lanyard is cheaper. VW can’t get involved fast enough. This product, from a last place class 8 manufacturer, should move their marketshare from 11% to 12%. Wow! What a waste.

  • WRONG! My husband has a new LT and just came out of a 2015 Prostar. He says this is the noisiest damn truck he’s ever had and he might have better visibility but the new mirrors vibrate so bad he can’t tell what’s behind him and the position of the antennas block even more of his mirror vision when driving into the wind. He’s more than ready to take his old truck back.

    • I noticed the same problem with mirror vibration and if you have fender mirrors the side mirror mount blocks the view in the fender mirror. The result is you dont see whats in the lane by your trailer tires.


  • Our company bought several of these 2018 LT around 6 months ago, they got suckered by all this deceiving talk. All the parts are super cheap, everything has broken down and warranty replaced. Only good thing is the seats, the motor, transmission, and the same old prostar roominess. The horn on upper left side as a loop bad idea, the cluttered buttons bad idea, why didn’t they move out the way or different section the dangerous ones like the possy traction, air release, etc. The sleeper is the same still has cheap Velcro covers that fall off. Also the T680 Kenworth we got save way more fuel and more power too, but those have worst seats and messed up compartments bad interior design

  • Overall I would give the truck an 8 out of 10 rating. There are just a couple of items I would like to point out. The curtain separating the cab and sleeper is to heavy for the hooks, or the hooks need to be stronger. Mine keeps popping out of the track, which appears to be stretching. Even though the chrome mirrors are a nice touch, they are distracting when driving in the dark due to glare and reflection. The angle of the hood mirrors with relation to the headlamps are also difficult to use as night due to the glare. Other than that I really like the truck design. It provides ample storage, space and comfort. Runs really well also. Mine is new so still working the bugs out, but all in all nice truck!

  • I have one of the new LT 2018. It’s the first International I have been ashamed to drive. It’s way underpowered in eco mode. Can not climb hills. I would not dare to go across mountains with it . I44 KICKS IT’S BUTT every time. I do not trust the accident avoidance system! The speed camera picks up speed limits on other roads and does not differentiate from speed and road I’d signs. . And less I forget it reads ramp signs as speed signs and trys to shut your speed down. The bunk are is an ergonomic nightmare . Most uncomfortable bunk design yet. I had a 2009 that was 3 times the truck this one is.

  • I am in a 2018 pro star.it has no power the worst mpg I have ever had it does not pull hills I would point the blame on the motor there’s a lot of things they need to change with the inside if you are looking to get one do your self s big favor look at other trucks

  • I do not even consider jobs driving any Internationals with Maxxforce engines, due to the huge problems. It’s made quite clear in my resume. This new model will not change that. Same kind of pig, with different lipstick. A truck that caters to big fleets with a lot of rookie drivers. A gutless econobox designed to pad the bottom line of big fleets. They can keep it.