First product from ZF Meritor joint venture a lightweight, fully automated gearbox

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 3, 1999) — The first product from the newly formed ZF Meritor transmission joint venture has been launched: a lightweight, fully automated, two-pedal heavy-duty transmission for class-8 trucks.

The new Freedom Line transmissions are so-named because they have an automated clutch which frees the driver from using a clutch pedal. They use this and other technologies developed by ZF in Germany.

The automated mechanical single-plate clutch is actuated by an air cylinder and controlled electronically. Behind this is a twin-countershaft transmission of either 12 or 16 speeds, according to the torque rating of the transmission. An electronic control unit on the transmission is linked to the electronic engine via the SAE J-1939 link to allow electro-pneumatic gear selection.

With an aluminum clutch housing, the transmission weighs in at 550 pounds, more than 100 pounds lighter than competitive automated transmissions.

The models on display at yesterday’s launch at the American Trucking Associations annual convention featured a joystick shifter mounted to the driving seat. Production examples, which will be available in the fall of 2000, will have the Meritor seat-mounted shifter currently featured on the SureShift transmission. It is anticipated that any transmissions offered by Freightliner will have a version of its steering column shift control.

No pricing has been set, though there will be a 15-20% premium over the Meritor SureShift. Some cost savings will be realized by the truck manufacturer in eliminating the clutch pedal and actuation mechanism. Customer payback is expected from savings in less driveline damage, as much as a 5% improvement in fuel economy, lower accident rates and lower driver turnover. Further savings could come from lower driver training costs and a more widely available labor pool from which to draw new drivers.

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