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Sterling Broadens Product Line, Shows SilverStar

In an effort to provide trucks for any conceivable job, Sterling Truck Corporation unveiled its new Acterra line of conventional cab trucks and an upgrade of its SilverStar highway tractor at the Great American Trucking Show. The introduction was September 9, 1999, in Dallas, Texas. Production begins in April 2000.

Acterra is a new family of trucks spanning the weight range from Class 5 through the middle of Class 8. The new trucks mount a new 106-inch BBC cab on a Freightliner Business Class chassis with a set-back front axle. Standard power for Acterra is the MBE900 engine from Mercedes Benz in horsepower ratings from 150 to 280. Optional engines include the ISB and ISC families from Cummins and the Caterpillar 3126B.

"We have said from the beginning that Sterling would be a full-line truck company with medium trucks to complement its strong range of heavy and vocational trucks," Jim Hebe, chairman of Freightliner Corporation, said at the introduction. "Acterra completes the range of Sterling products with a line that was designed and brought to market in just one year."

Large Market Share The combination of Sterling and Freightliner commands almost 40% of the US domestic truck market. Freightliner holds roughly 32% and Sterling had 6% prior to the Acterra introduction. The goal is for Freightliner Corporation to dominate the North American commercial truck market, and which of the two brands leads in sales is inconsequential, Hebe said.

Acterra makes two important contributions to Sterling, Hebe said. The truck expands the product offering from Sterling. And it allows existing Sterling dealers to reach a wider market with a broader product line. With the addition of Acterra, Sterling will encourage its dealers to operate from facilities dedicated exclusively to Sterling trucks. The company wants dealers who are committed to trucks, not cars, he said.

Acterra is designed as a medium-duty workhorse, Hebe said. It marries the same cab used for Sterling's A-Line and L-Line trucks with a sharply sloped fiberglass hood and a set-back front axle. The chassis is the same as that used in Freightliner's Business class medium trucks. Step-in height for the cab is five inches lower than the Sterling L7500.

Doors are sheet-molded fiberglass to reduce weight and resist corrosion. The leading edge of the windows is dropped to provide additional visibility. A low-mounted window in the curbside door offers a view of traffic alongside the truck. Tinted glass is standard.

Mercedes-Benz Power The new trucks come in four models: 5500, 6500, 7500, and 8500. A Mercedes-Benz diesel engine is standard in all four. The MBE900 engine line includes a 4.3 liter four cylinder and a 6.4 liter in-line six. Power ratings range from 150 hp to 280 hp. As options, Acterra offers Cummins ISB engines with power ratings from 175 hp to 275 hp and ISC engines rated from 250 hp to 350 hp. The Caterpillar 3126B with ratings from 175 hp to 300 hp also is available.

A wide range of transmissions is available with 5-, 6-,7-, 9-, or 10-speed manual gearboxes from Eaton Fuller or 4- or 6-speed automatics from Allison.

Hydraulic brakes are standard on the 5500, 6500, and 7500. In weight ratings up to 26,000 pounds, the Acterra does not require a commercial driver license for operation. The 8500 model has air brakes as standard equipment. Hydraulic brake systems are equipped with four-channel ABS from Meritor Wabco.

The 5500 and 6500 are designed as single-axle straight trucks. The 7500 can be configured as a single-axle straight truck or tractor. The 8500 will be available as a truck or tractor with single or tandem drive.

Acterra's custom frames provide a wide range of wheelbases. Frame rails are custom-punched for each truck to avoid weakening the beam with unused holes. Truck bodies mount easily on clean frame flanges.

The range of options for Acterra is striking, Hebe says. It is a flexible chassis that can be customized to do any job. "These are high content trucks," he says. "They actually provide more options than a heavy duty Freightliner road tractor."

SilverStar Refinements In addition to Acterra, Sterling used its Great American Trucking Show press briefing to announce changes to its SilverStar line of heavy road tractors aimed at the owner-operator market. In addition to a new interior trim package known as Stellar and a new proprietary EzyRider driver's seat developed by Freightliner Corporation, Sterling has made the Eaton Fuller automated AutoShift transmission standard. Underlying specifications for the SilverStar remain unchanged.

AutoShift is an electronic system that works with engine electronic controls to eliminate using the shift lever for gear changes. It monitors road and engine speed and shifts gears automatically. The clutch is used only for starting and stopping. In the SilverStar, AutoShift is accompanied by Sterling's SmartShift transmission control system. The control lever for SmartShift is mounted on the steering column, placing it within easy reach of the driver's fingers while both hands remain on the steering wheel. This placement frees up space in the cab and, by removing the center console-mounted shift lever, improves access to the sleeper from the seats.

Freightliner Extends Century Class, Adds Safety/Technology Emphasis In a move aimed at meeting clearly defined market needs, Freightliner split its Century Class product platform into two closely related models. The new Century Class S/T packs as many new safety and technological innovations as possible into a single package. The new Columbia series represents the latest thinking in traditional highway tractor design. The two new vehicle designations replace the current Century Class. Both new models were introduced at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas on September 9, 1999.

The Century Class S/T, with S for safety and T for technology, sits at the top of the Freightliner model line. It is available as a medium length, 112-inch BBC, or a longnose conventional tractor with a 120-inch cab. The S/T series contains eight different cab and sleep configurations, including flat and raised roof models.

Changes that mark the new S/T start with a cab designed to meet the European EC R-29 and Swedish crash standards. Innovations branch out from there starting with a new Freightliner proprietary EzyRider seat that is taller and wider than the previous standard seat at Freightliner. Directly in front is a standard driver's side airbag. Instrumentation includes an outside air temperature sensor to alert drivers to freezing temperature and accompanying icy road conditions. Other personal safety items include a cab entry system with grab handles that have rubber inserts for slip resistance, and a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit as standard equipment.

AutoShift Transmission Standard Most immediately noticeable in the new S/T is the absence of a traditional transmission shift lever. Freightliner has made Eaton's new AutoShift automated 10-speed transmission the S/T standard and has mated it to Freightliner's SmartShift transmission control console. SmartShift is mounted on the steering column within fingertip reach of the driver's hands while still on the steering wheel.

The AutoShift transmission requires an engine compression brake and a self-adjusting clutch. To meet these needs, Freightliner equips the S/T with Eaton's Solo XL self-adjusting clutch. The Cummins C-Brake is standard equipment for Cummins-powered tractors as is a Jake Brake for those powered by Caterpillar or Detroit Diesel engines.

The new tractors offer the new generation EVT-300 collision avoidance system from Eaton Vorad. Electronic braking also is available.

Message Center Display Freightliner's driver message center is standard on all S/T tractors. This display, located directly in front of the driver, provides vehicle status information such as fuel usage, engine operation, and on-board diagnostics. It allows a driver to check mileage for a complete trip or by segment, monitor fuel economy, and record vehicle vital signs such as oil pressure, coolant temperature, and other operating factors. The message center connects to satellite communications systems to provide instant notification of incoming messages.

Century Class S/T tractors also contain a data logging unit to record vehicle operating conditions, including throttle position and brake applications. The system records all data for one minute prior to fault recognition and one minute following. This information can be extracted with Freightliner's ServiceLink computer software. Standard data logging is a response to calls for recorders on heavy trucks much like those used on aircraft. Mandated recorders are a question of "when," no longer one of "if," says Jim Hebe, Freightliner's chairman.

The driver message center and the data logging unit are part of a fully integrated electronics package that unites the control systems of the engine, transmission, ABS brakes, communications systems, and other electronic packages. In total, Century Class S/T tractors have 10 on-board computers as part of their standard equipment.

The new tractors provide for external electronics as well. Before long, Century Class S/T tractors will be wired for AC electrical power, cable television, telephone, and internet access. This will allow drivers to operate television, microwave ovens, and other appliances when connected to standard 110 vac current at truckstops.

Columbia Offers Traditional Truck The Columbia is the other side of the Century Class coin. It represents the traditional truck for the 21st Century, Freightliner says. It is a Class 8 highway tractor with a 120-inch BBC conventional cab on a set-back-front-axle chassis.

The Columbia utilizes the same aluminum cab as the Century Class S/T. It has a sloped, aerodynamic hood with a one-piece grille. The bumper has a metal center section and replaceable plastic end caps. Headlamps on the Columbia are the same design as those used on the Mercedes-Benz M-class sports utility vehicles.

Fleets can order the Columbia with cloth or vinyl interior in a choice of four colors. The new Freightliner EzyRider seat is standard equipment. Ride is enhanced by a new front suspension with a leaf-and-a-half spring and tuned shock absorbers combined with air suspension for the drive axles and air suspension cab mounts. Maintenance-free rubber bushings are standard.

The Columbia offers a wide assortment of components from Eaton or Meritor. Engines from Detroit Diesel, Caterpillar, or Cummins with horsepower ratings up to 600 are available. The standard radiator is 1,000 square inches, and the front end can accommodate up to 1,350 square inches of radiator for high hp engines.

Columbia is available in seven cab and sleeper configurations plus a day cab. Production of the Columbia begins in March 2000. The Century Class S/T is a current model production tractor.

Bering Rolls Out LD Series Bering Truck Corporation introduced its new LD Series of Class 3/Class 4 trucks and announced that initial delivery of the new small truck is already sold out to Bering dealers. The announcement came on September 9, 1999, at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

The LD Series is a group of light duty commercial trucks using US domestic components integrated into a cab and chassis from Hyundai in Korea. William R Anderson Jr, Bering's president and CEO, says the LD is the only Class 3-4 truck in the market with an extended low COE cab and a US-manufactured power train. The truck is powered by a Detroit Diesel 638 engine and provides an Allison AT-542 automatic transmission as standard equipment. Standard finish on the cab and chassis is DuPont Imron 5000.

The LD Series is designed to provide a driver-friendly commercial vehicle for urban work environments. Standard features on the no-option truck include air-conditioning, power windows, a central locking system, power steering with a tilting and telescoping steering column, heated mirrors, fog lamps, and an AM/FM stereo cassette player. Vehicles provide seating for three with a center seat that folds down to become a console.

Introduction of the LD Series is timed to catch an anticipated wave of small delivery truck purchases that will follow the boom in internet commerce such as home food delivery. "We're seeing that every time there is an internet on-line purchase, it is followed by a delivery truck transaction," Anderson said.

The LD Series is assembled in Bering's new 215,000-sq-ft plant in Front Royal, Virginia. Early production is based on components imported from Korea. As full production of up to 20,000 trucks per year is reached, Bering will fabricate cabs and chassis in Front Royal.

Cat Completes Model Lineup Completing its model line redesignation, Caterpillar announced the C15 and C16 heavy truck engines. The announcement came on the first day of the Great American Trucking Show, September 9, 1999, in Dallas, Texas.

The two models complete the top end of Cat's high horsepower truck engine offerings. The C15 is available with hp ratings from 355 up to 550. The C16 offers 575 or 600 hp with 1,850 lb ft torque for the 575 version and 2,050 lb ft for the 600 hp engine.

Cat spokesmen took great care to stress that these are not new engines in the sense that they use new hardware. However, they are said to be new in that every component of the engines has been changed since the original introduction of the 3406E, which is the base design for both engines.

The C15 is an update of the 14.6 liter 3406E introduced in 1994. The C16 is a redesignation of the 15.8 liter version 3406E developed in 1998 to reach 600 hp. The C16 is basically the same engine as the C15 with a slightly increased bore and stroke to raise the displacement. Since the 600 hp rating for the 3406E was released, Cat has sold 2,600 of the big engines.

"These are the next steps in the evolution of high horsepower truck engines from Caterpillar," says David Semlow, truck engine division marketing manager.

Truck fleets have been moving rapidly toward engines in the horsepower range served by the C15 and C16. Five years ago, the average fleet purchased engines that delivered from 355 hp up to 425 hp. Today, the industry average is 475 hp, John Campbell, Cat's director of truck engine product, said. Although fleets will continue to purchase high horsepower, Cat does not anticipate the need for more than 600 hp in the foreseeable future. The use of higher horsepower engines is limited by available drivetrain components, he said.

Compared to their predecessors, the two new engines offer higher capacity electronics, reduced weight, increased fuel economy, and greater reliability. The brain of the C15 and C16 is Cat's new ADEM 2000 (advanced diesel engine management) electronic control system. It is three times faster than its predecessor and has eight times more memory. In addition, installation is simpler, because ADEM 2000 is air-cooled unlike ADEM II which was fuel-cooled.

The C15 and C16 are lighter than the engines they replace. At 2,695 lb, the engines are 10% lighter than previous Cats. The crankshaft has forged pockets in nonstress areas and is 20% lighter than earlier models. The cylinder block is lighter because it contains less material than the 3406E block. Additional weight reduction is achieved with sculptured bearing caps that have material removed from nonload-bearing areas.

The engines should be more reliable as a result of improved seal technology. The C15 and C16 use dry press-in-place seals that have four retention points and two sealing points.

Cat has reduced engine noise with a new valve train design and redesigned oil pan mounting and a new cam cover. The oil pan uses a rubber mount to damp out noise. Cam covers are a laminated composite material.

Engines are designed to run one million miles prior to overhaul. Recent experience with Cat's C12 suggests that this is a certainty more than simply a likelihood, Campbell said.

A big benefit to chassis builders and truck operators is that the new engines fit into the same installation envelope as the 3406E. No changes are needed in manufacturing procedures, so a smooth change will ensue as Cat discontinues the 3406E and replaces it with the C15 and C16 for tractors delivered in January 2000 and beyond.

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