"One thing customers will surely notice this year is sticker shock," says Todd Bloom, vice president of marketing for Cerritos, CA-based Isuzu Commercial Truck of America. According to Bloom, truck customers are likely to see price increases on new model trucks of anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000, depending upon the size of the vehicle they choose and what engine they option. "That's the unfortunate cost of meeting 2007 emission standards."
However, this year truck manufacturers are striving to soften the blow by offering customers features that provide improvements in overall performance-more horsepower, more torque and better fuel economy, as well as design features created to make drivers' lives easier.
"The perception of the new engines and their performance and mileage is generally positive," says Gary Petty, president and CEO of The National Private Truck Council (NPTC), Alexandria, VA. According to Petty, the trend among the manufacturers-to maximize miles per gallon through truck improvements-fits in with his members' goal to curb their fuel consumption.
"For us, the big incremental opportunity lies in our expanded line of aerodynamic models," notes Kevin Gustainis, director of sales for Denton, TX-based Peterbilt Motors Co. Gustainis points to the company's medium duty 387 day cab and 384 models as examples of trucks that have been designed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency in a wide variety of food delivery applications.
Meanwhile Portland, OR-based Freightliner Trucks has been using its own wind tunnel to upgrade the aerodynamic design of its business class M2 and heavier class Cascadia trucks, in order to decrease wind drag on the tractor as much as possible. "Through better aerodynamics, we've actually achieved a three percent fuel efficiency increase," explains Christoff Hoffman, director, product strategy for Freightliner. Using 2008 anticipated fuel costs, the company estimates this efficiency could save its truck customers somewhere in the neighborhood of $950 to $2,750 a year per truck.
Look for the trucks to become lighter.
"Weight is also a factor in the Freightliner line, so that our customers can get the best possible payloads," says Hoffman. "This is why we are using aluminum in our M2 cabs, in order to obtain a lighter weight."
Bloomfield Hills, MI-based Hino Trucks is also lightening up its trucks to provide weight savings. "We're going standard with aluminum fuel tanks on all our models, which will provide substantial weight savings," explains Glenn Ellis, national manager sales and marketing administration.
Engines Of Change
The combination of higher equipment costs and fuel costs has led manufacturers to create engines that promise greater fuel economy. Peterbilt's Gustainis calls this a "significant turn for the industry" and says manufacturers are now going into mid-block 13 liter engines that weigh less and provide better fuel economy than previous engines.
Warrenville, IL-based Navistar International has created two Maxxforce mid-range diesel engines, the Maxxforce 7 and Maxxforce DT. The MaxxForce 7 engine will power Navistar's class 5-7 International DuraStar series medium-duty trucks and offers ratings of 200-230 horsepower. The MaxxForce DT will power class 6-8 DuraStar and WorkStar trucks with 210-300 horsepower. The company says users can expect up to a 9 percent savings in fuel economy thanks to these new engine designs.
"Everyone in the industry was saying that fuel efficiency was going to go down with the debut of diesel particulate filters," says Mark Johnson, marketing communications manager for medium duty at Navistar. "We made a conscious effort to make these new engines more efficient."
He points to improved software in the engine control modules as the key factor in helping to improve and optimize fuel burn in the Maxxforce engines.
Freightliner, with sister company Detroit Diesel, is launching its own engine-the Detroit Diesel DD15, which it will deploy across its complete line of trucks. Look for the DD15 to provide a four to five percent increase in overall fuel efficiency.