Peterbilt says it offers “the widest range of purpose-built electric trucks available to order...

Peterbilt says it offers “the widest range of purpose-built electric trucks available to order right now,” including the battery-electric Model 579EV.

Photo: Peterbilt Motors

Coming off another pandemic-disrupted year, HDT queried major Class 8 truck builders on the key trends shaping the heavy-duty market, from the ongoing pandemic-forced kinks in the supply chain slowing vehicle production to the continuing rollout of electric-drive power and their take on the nearing future of autonomous trucks.

Freight analysis firm FTR stated this fall that while it forecasts “very strong” freight growth for this year and on into next, both truck and trailer OEMs are mired in “the worst supply chain shortage[s] since WWII.” Most in demand are semiconductors (“chips”) and some 20 to 40 other critical parts.

Given rising domestic freight demand, FTR’s equipment outlook sees pent-up truck demand continuing into 2022 — and possibly into 2023. Indeed, the firm projects 360,000 Class 8 factory shipments in 2023.

“We are managing this global supply chain issue the best we can,” says Diane Hames, Navistar’s vice president of marketing. “It’s a dynamic situation, and Navistar is taking extreme measures to manage the situation and remains focused on maximizing production so we can deliver more units to our customers.”

David Galbraith, Mack Trucks’ vice president of global brand and marketing, says the OEM’s Lehigh Valley Operations is “working hard to meet customer requirements in the face of significant supply chain constraints affecting automotive and truck manufacturers globally. We’re continuing to do everything we can to minimize the impact on our customers and maintain the flexibility to adjust production as needed.”

Jacob White, Peterbilt’s director of product marketing, says the OEM, “like most everyone in almost every industry, is navigating through the shortages as best as possible. Our team has put together a good plan and we continue to deliver Peterbilt trucks to our customers as quickly as possible.”

GHG2 and Fuel Efficiency

The GHG2 greenhouse emissions/fuel-economy standards from the Environmental Protection agency and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration kicked in for the 2021 model year, with more stringent standards taking place through the 2027 model year.

“Thanks to strong engineering teams at Peterbilt, we have been ahead of the curve on Phase 2 GHG/MPG regulations,” says White. “Our latest products are the most fuel-efficient we have ever built, due in large part to the integrated Paccar powertrain as well as the advanced aerodynamics of our … new Model 579.”

At Mack, Galbraith says, the company has announced “several technologies, software enhancements and tools for our clean diesel products to support our customers’ goal of improved fuel efficiency.” These include the MP8HE+ Powertrain Package for highway applications and the Anthem; availability of a FlowBelow Tractor AeroKit system on Anthem highway models; extended chassis fairings for the Anthem, and updates to Mack Over the Air remote programming.

Navistar’s Hames says recent updates to the International A26 13L engine for meeting 2021 GHG rules “highlight Navistar’s commitment to continued fuel-efficiency improvements driven by federal regulations.” The company says the A26 allows fleets to achieve 10% improved fuel economy compared to when the engine was launched.


Nearly every truck maker now has a Class 8 battery-electric truck available to order, plus consultants and other support systems to help customers with adoption.

Volvo started production on the VNR Electric in the second quarter. “We offer support programs to field staff and our customers when it comes to identifying if electromobility is right for their operations and applications,” says a Volvo Trucks North America spokesperson. “We’re informed about the latest state and federal incentive programs that might be in the customer’s operating area. We’re just getting started with putting trucks in fleets, so we’re closely monitoring the performance of these vehicles in service and following up closely with the customers running them.”

Daimler Trucks North America points out it already has battery-electric products in customer hands, with the Freightliner battery-electric trucks being run by its Innovation and Customer Experience fleets already seeing 1 million miles of cumulative real-world use.

Volvo’s VNR Electric entered production this year; the local distribution truck shown here is...

Volvo’s VNR Electric entered production this year; the local distribution truck shown here is charging up at a fleet facility.

Photo:  Volvo

“With the battery-electric Freightliner eCascadias and [medium-duty] eM2s in the hands of almost 50 customers, we have experience with electric trucks performing real work in real fleets,” says a spokesperson. The company notes that with order boards open for the eCascadia and eM2, it’s already seeing strong demand for electric trucks. There are already 700 on order, and production is scheduled to begin in late 2022. 

Mack’s battery-electric Class 8 offering is focusing on vocational, with the LR refuse model scheduled to start full serial production this quarter. “Our industrial footprint is ready, as we’ve made major investments in our Lehigh Valley Operations and in our Hagerstown powertrain facilities to prepare for commercial launch,” says Galbraith.

Other applications that are well-suited to battery-electric trucks are pickup and delivery, regional haul, and drayage applications, says a Kenworth spokesperson, and that’s what its T680E is designed for. It provides 536 hp continuous power and up to 670 hp peak power and 1,623 lb.-ft. of torque as well as a top speed of 70 mph. It has an estimated operating range of 150 miles, depending on application, and can be fully charged in approximately three hours.

Peterbilt says it offers the widest range of purpose-built EV trucks available to order right now, according to White, with the Model 579EV for short haul, regional haul, and drayage in Class 8, plus medium-duty and refuse models.

“We have a team of people helping customers through the complete EV journey, from finding and applying for grants, to setting up the necessary infrastructure to ensuring your EV fleet is ready to tackle all the necessary requirements of the job,” White says.

Similarly, Navistar’s Next eMobility Solutions group “guides customers through the entire, complex zero-emissions ecosystem, providing electrified solutions for the entire lifespan of a vehicle,” Hames says. “The team approaches each customer with a holistic ecosystem – the 5 Cs – to assist customers in seamlessly integrating electric vehicles into their fleets: consulting, charging, constructing [trucks], connecting, and conserving [with end-of-life battery solutions.”

Navistar’s current electric offering is the medium-duty eMV, but it’s working on Class 8 as well, Hames says. No doubt new parent company Traton’s e-mobility R&D in Europe will play a part in that development work.

Fuel-Cell Electric

While not generally commercially available yet, fuel-cell-electric trucks are being developed to address longer-haul freight decarbonization.

Daimler Trucks, for instance, is pursuing a global dual-track strategy, developing both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, according to a DTNA spokesperson. This will “serve a broad portfolio of customer use cases, and vehicle range and utilization considerations.” In the next few years, the OEM intends to supplement its portfolio with series-produced H2-fuel cell electric vehicles.

Navistar is working with General Motors and OneH2 on a complete solution for customer implementation of a zero-emission long-haul system using hydrogen fuel cell technology, which will initially be piloted by J.B. Hunt. “FCEV may be preferred over BEV power in applications requiring a higher density of energy, fast refueling and additional range,” Hames notes.

Kenworth’s T680 Next Generation features a suite of advanced driver assistance systems and now...

Kenworth’s T680 Next Generation features a suite of advanced driver assistance systems and now includes optional lane-keeping assist and torque-assisted steering.

Photo: Kenworth

Kenworth this year delivered 10 zero-emission T680 fuel cell electric trucks powered by hydrogen for real-world drayage service at the Port of Los Angeles and surrounding area, part of the $82.5 million Shore-to-Store project led by the Port of Los Angeles. Like Navistar, it has partners, in this case Toyota, which has said it will start assembling integrated dual fuel cell modules destined for use in heavy-duty trucks starting in 2023.

Mack’s parent firm, the Volvo Group, announced in April that it’s invested in developing fuel cell technology through Cellcentric, working with Daimler. “A focus of the joint venture is to enable us to offer our customers the best vehicle options, depending on application and geographic region,” notes Mack’s Galbraith.

In August, Hino Trucks revealed its first prototype of a Class 8 Hino XL8 powered by a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric drivetrain. “We are looking forward to validating the performance, reliability and efficiency of our hydrogen fuel cell electric system in the XL Series chassis,” says Glenn Ellis, senior vice president of customer experience.

Safety Advances

As insurance costs and plaintiffs’ verdicts continue to be a major issue for fleets, safety technology offered on trucks is becoming more sophisticated and more highly adopted.

For example, says Peterbilt’s White, “collision mitigation systems have been standard on the Model 579 for years. Recently, we have seen increased adoption in our vocational products. In fact, every Peterbilt model can be equipped with advanced safety systems.”

Speaking of vocational, drivers of the new Western Star X Series from Daimler Truck can now benefit from a full suite of safety systems, just like the Freightliner Cascadia. Daimler’s Detroit this year added what it called “industry-first” capabilities to its suite of safety systems, including active speed intervention and lane assist with automatic braking.

Kenworth’s T680 Next Generation offers a suite of advanced driver assistance systems and introduces lane-keeping assist and torque-assisted steering as options for the first time in the Kenworth lineup. “Lane-keeping assist uses camera input to identify when the truck is departing the lane and provides a ‘nudge’ to help keep it centered in the lane,” explains a Kenworth spokesperson. Torque-assisted steering provides additional torque to the steering column, reducing driver fatigue.

The Mack Command Steer active-steering system, available on Anthem and Granite models, reduces...

The Mack Command Steer active-steering system, available on Anthem and Granite models, reduces driver effort by up to 85%, Mack says.

Photo: Mack

“ADAS [advanced driver assistance system] technologies offer several new highlights,” says a VTNA spokesperson. “Driver-facing camera systems, enabled by AI plus machine vision, combat distracted driving, while torque-assisted steering technologies are the foundation for lane-keeping assistance. All these technologies, combined with collision mitigation systems, assist the driver with making safer decisions while driving.”

Autonomous Ahead

Daimler Truck is working with two autonomous technology partners, Waymo Via and Torc Robotics, for multiple routes to commercialization. “By developing a scalable and safe L4 [The next-to-highest level of driving automation defined by SAE] chassis with redundant systems for seamless integration of autonomous driving systems, Daimler Truck has the capability to tailor the Level 4 truck chassis to the autonomous driving specifications of technology partners,” explained a DTNA spokesperson.

“With the U.S. being the most relevant market for autonomous applications right now,” DTNA is developing a customized Level-4-autonomous Freightliner Cascadia truck chassis for Waymo Via based on their requirements, with the first prototypes delivered this year.

DTNA also says it will fully integrate the Freightliner Cascadia with Torc’s autonomous driving system. The OEM notes that it’s currently testing Level 4 trucks on public roads in Virginia, New Mexico, and Texas.

Daimler Truck and Torc Robotics are testing an SAE Level 4-autonomous Freightliner Cascadia on...

Daimler Truck and Torc Robotics are testing an SAE Level 4-autonomous Freightliner Cascadia on public roads in Virginia, New Mexico, and Texas.

Photo: Daimler

Last year, Navistar and TuSimple announced a partnership to co-develop autonomous International LT Series trucks, which will be manufactured by Navistar and operated using TuSimple’s automated vehicle technologies, Hames points out. “The goal of the partnership is to introduce SAE Level 4 automated heavy-duty trucks to market in the 2024/2025 timeframe to provide customers a safe, reliable and cost-effective solution that is fully integrated with their fleets.”

And Paccar this year announced a new partnership with Aurora Innovation to develop autonomous truck technology, while Volvo unveiled a prototype Volvo VNL long-haul model integrated with Aurora Driver technology.

Connected Vehicles

Connected vehicles are making it easier for fleets to manage their trucks’ health and efficiency, with remote diagnostics, over-the-air programming, and more.

“Remote Diagnostics was introduced by Volvo in 2012 has been benefitting customers ever since,” says a VTNA spokesperson. “Remote Diagnostics is managed by Volvo Action Services, a team of customer-service analysts that continuously monitor the truck for potential problems and then will notify the customer with different levels of alerts.” VAS coordinates servicing with a dealership, based on geographic proximity, the service schedule, and parts availability.

Navistar’s Hames notes that “all International LT Series come equipped with OnCommand Connection telematics and a free two-year subscription to our Advanced Remote Diagnostics solution. OnCommand Connection keeps vehicles moving through powerful features such as interactive mapping, engineer-designed action plans, and access to fleet health information through the International portal or customized reporting to a preferred email inbox.”

This year, Hino Edge was introduced as the truck maker’s third-generation connected vehicle solution. Hino Edge is described as “synergizing the digital connection between the fleet customer, dealer network, telematics service providers, and the Hino Ultimate Support Center.”

Along with the fleet management web portal, the solution includes a mobile hub app, dubbed Hino Ultimate. Dominik Beckman, director of marketing, dealer operations, and connected vehicle, notes that Hino Edge aids customers by enabling “unmatched operational efficiencies.” He adds that the Hino Ultimate app puts “real-time actionable information in the palm of your hand.”

DTNA introduced Virtual Vehicle, which it said will make it easier for fleets to manage their telematics, vehicle data, and apps with a factory-installed open telematics platform.

Driver Environment

Last but most certainly not least — and arguably the most pressing issue trucking faces — the driver shortage calls for doing everything possible to improve the driver’s environment and the experience behind the wheel. And truck makers have focused on that task.

While Navistar’s International LT Series isn’t new this year, it’s a good example of this advancing trend. “Every detail inside the International LT Series cab has been carefully designed, measured and clinic-tested to optimally benefit the driver,” Hames says. These include “more intuitive controls, enhanced visibility, a quieter cab, critical information at the driver’s fingertips, and dozens of other smart features that help keep a driver comfortable and in control over the long haul.”

There has been a focus on that in the new trucks unveiled in the past year. Jim Walenczak, Kenworth’s assistant general manager for sales and marketing, says of the T680 Next Gen, “We built this truck around them and for them. [It] provides drivers with the convenient SmartWheel, new customizable 15-inch Digital Display, excellent forward lighting down the road, additional advanced driver assistance systems, and, of course, a premium and extremely comfortable cab and sleeper.”

At sister Paccar company Peterbilt, White says, “the driver is at the center of every Peterbilt truck, and that is what leads the design philosophy of the new Model 579. Peterbilt engineers and designers set out to deliver the most comfortable, spacious and quiet cab possible. A great example is the class-leading storage volume and bunk size in the UltraLoft sleeper.”

A first prototype of a Class 8 Hino XLS powered by a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric...

A first prototype of a Class 8 Hino XLS powered by a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric drivetrain was revealed in August.

Photo: Hino

Vocational trucks are offering more comfort for drivers, as well. For instance, the new Western Star X-series cabs are more spacious, with vocationally tuned cab isolators designed for optimal cab stability.

The Mack Command Steer active-steering system has entered production in Granite axle-back models, says Mack’s Galbraith. “Available for Granite and Anthem models, the highly advanced active steering reduces driver effort by up to 85%, greatly alleviating strain on the driver’s body and creating a safer and more comfortable work environment.” The system enables the truck to monitor road conditions and applies torque as needed when events such as high winds and tire blowouts happen. “In normal conditions, it smooths steering feedback when encountering road disturbances, such as surface irregularities or potholes.”

Offering a dealer’s perspective, Oscar Horton, president and CEO of Sun State International Trucks, contends that addressing the driver environment remains critical as “driver shortages remain widespread. There has recently been some improvement in driver availability in short-haul applications, but long-haul driver shortages remain worse than before the pandemic.”

This article first appeared in the December 2021 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.

Originally posted on Trucking Info

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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