Truck sales, natural gas vehicles on the rise


Despite a slowed economy and sluggish freight activity, Class 8 retail sales for this year will be up from 2011 to approximately 185,000 units, said Mark Lampert, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), in a meeting with a select truck journalists earlier this week.

Further, he predicted Class 6 and 7 retail sales would remain steady at around 85,000 for 2012.

One element helping to drive sales is that “the average age of vehicles in operation is the oldest on record,” he noted.


Natural gas

Lampert says interest in natural gas-powered vehicles - both CNG and LNG - is growing across all vehicle classes for a number of reasons. Chief among them: less cost for natural gas; less volatility than diesel; natural gas is a domestic fuel; simple aftertreatment requiring no DPF and no regens; no SCR is required; natural gas engines produce less noise and emissions; and the fueling infrastructure for natural gas is improving.

He pointed out that DTNA’s Freightliner brand is the only OEM producing natural gas vehicles will full factory installation and warranty. Freightliner will offer its 2013 model with a 12-liter natural gas engine, and is developing 15- and 7-liter natural gas engines platforms for Model Year 2015 vehicles.

Freightliner has produced some 15,000 natural gas vehicles with the Cummins Westport 8.9-liter ISL G heavy duty natural gas engine, mostly for port tractors, food delivery and regional haul tractors and utility trucks.

Lampert anticipates that legislation to provide tax credits to spur transition to using natural gas fuel in heavy trucking fleets will be included in the Natural Gas Act after the election. Still unknown is the secondary market for used natural gas-powered trucks.


Detroit transmission

Included in the meeting was an update on Diesel Corporation’s Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission. Detroit is an affiliate of DTNA.

Part of the Detroit complete powertrain offering, the DT12 combines the operational ease of an automatic with the efficiency of a manual transmission, resulting in enhanced fuel economy, vehicle performance and safety, Brad Williamson, manager, engine and component marketing, DTNA, told the group of journalists.

A two-pedal system, the DT12 is available in the Freightliner Cascadia. The 12-speed, direct- or over-drive transmission “combines a traditional manual gearbox with high-speed, computer-controlled shift and clutch actuators that automatically and seamlessly select the right shift pattern and perfect clutch engagement for fuel economy and engine power,” he said.

“The DT12 has a creep mode that simulates a torque converter to improve low speed maneuverability for parking, docking, heavy traffic and other low speed situations.”

The transmission comes standard with a 5-year/750,000 mile warranty and a 2-year/200,000 miles warranty on the clutch. It is equipped with Virtual Technician, DTNA’s factory installed on-board diagnostics system.


Vocational markets

Beginning in the summer of 2010, Freightliner conducted a cross country tour to let the industry know it would begin focusing on vocational trucks, explained Richard Saward, general manager, vocational sales, Freightliner. This effort was to fill the product void that came about when the company ceased its Sterling line of work trucks.

Last year, Freightliner launched three new vocational trucks: the set-forward 114SD in May, 114SD set-back axle for snow plow applications in October and the 108SD severe duty model in December.

While continuing to develop additional products, the company has organized a Customer Responsiveness Team, Saward said. The objective is to improve Freightliner’s competitiveness in the vocational market through effective processing and decision making on minor product requests.


New website

Freightliner will shortly officially launch its new Team Rum Smart website,, designed specifically to provide information and resources to help owner operators better manage their business.

The company has joined forces with ATBS, the largest owner operator business services provider in the United States, to provide timely information from a team of experts on a regular basis to help independent contractors make more money and add value to their businesses, said David Hames, general marketing and strategy, DTNA.

The website is built on four core values:

- Truck Smart - How to reduce operating costs, maximize uptime and improve record keeping.

- Fuel Smart - How to optimize fuel consumption and improve efficiency.  

- Business Smart - How to improve the business side of trucking.

- Health Smart - How to maintain a healthy lifestyle, on and off the road.