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The Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs first came to market in 2007 for the 2008 model-year. Dodge will refine the truck for 2009, available in early fall. Offering more power, towing capability, fuel economy, and upfit friendlieness than its rivals, the Dodge Ram 3500 Chassis Cab captured 30 percent of the Class 3 retail market in just one year and the Class 4-5 trucks are equally in demand. Innovative features include a diesel remote start, increased braking capability, automatic voltage monitoring and idle control systems, and a limited slip differential for better traction.

Feature-Rich Lineup Offered

Starting at $34,050 for the 4500 and $36,050 for the 5500, both versions are available in ST, SLT, and the luxury Laramie trim levels in 4x2 and 4x4 versions, and in Regular and Quad cabs.

Quad Cab models seat six passengers and are equipped with four standard doors and 60/40 folding rear seats. Seat cushions fold to create a storage area from floor to ceiling, and an optional floor section under the back seat folds open to form a flat-load floor with additional storage in each foot well. Regular Cab models provide storage behind the seat.

The Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cab lineup of 4x2, 4x4, dual-rear-wheel, Regular and Quad Cab models are Job-Rated and offer six wheelbases — four on the Regular Cab and two on the Quad Cab. An important feature for upfitters is the cab-to-axle dimension. Dodge offers four: 60, 84, 108, and 120 inches. A new wide-track front axle delivers superior turning radius, according to Dodge.

Improved Fuel Economy

At 52 gallons, the Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs have the largest standard fuel tank capacity in Class 4-5 trucks. Trailer tow capacity has also been increased for 2009.

"We’ve taken the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) up to 26,000 lbs. on the 5500 series," said Brad Pugh, Dodge product planning manager. "Across the board on all chassis cabs, from Class 3-5, we’re going to have diesel remote start for the first time. Up in the cold weather states, this allows users to warm up their trucks and helps with power take-off (PTO)-enabled equipment."

Dodge’s PTO prep group includes special wiring harnesses and controls allowing the user to adjust idle speed and RPM to run PTO equipment. A 55-percent increase in gallons per minute provides more power and capability for pumps, lifts, and hydraulic use.

According to Pugh, Dodge received third-party validation from the Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC) for providing better fuel economy than other leading OEM trucks. Ram Chassis Cabs provide $6,000-$9,000 more in fuel savings per 100,000 miles driven over other OEM models, said Pugh.

Fuel economy optimization depends on the upfit and configuration. For instance, with a large cube box, wind resistance increases, and fuel economy is worse than that of a flatbed, which encounters little, if any, wind resistance.

"The biggest reason for our fuel efficiency starts with our Cummins engine, which can achieve up to 20.2 mpg while gas models average a best-in-class 15.2 mpg. In addition, the 3.92 axle ratio is now standard for diesel models, ensuring superior fuel economy. We’ve also tried to maximize rolling efficiency of tires and match transmission gearing to be as fuel efficient as possible at highway speeds," said Pugh.

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From 0 to 30 in One Year

The bulk of Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cab customers are in the construction business, and the manufacturer has made inroads into the towing and recovery business.

For example, Pugh cited the 2008 Florida Tow Show. "This year we had more than 25 trucks in the show, one of the most prominent shows in the country, which put us on par with the heavy hitters,"

Prior to the 2007-MY chassis cabs, Dodge hadn’t produced a chassis cab in a few years. "Within one year, we’ve taken 30 percent of the retail market for Class 3 chassis cabs," said Pugh. "As for the Ram 4500 and 5500 trucks that came out for the 2008 model-year, we’re seeing equal demand there. "

Brake System Enhanced

For fleets, cost of ownership is a priority, and fuel economy and maintenance are critical factors. Dodge upped the capability and stopping power of its chassis cab models while increasing brake change intervals, amounting to savings of several thousands of dollars per truck. Dodge also improved the truck’s friction material and rotor and caliper sizing.

"Our goal for designing braking systems for the Ram 4500 and 5500 trucks was to put as large as a brake setup in the wheel as we could," said Pugh. "We have larger front brakes that last twice as long as our competitors. Larger and thicker rotors (360 mm front, 358 mm rear) and calipers (upsized 7 percent to include large twin 60 mm pistons) and 14-percent thicker brake pads help to improve stopping power. The new brakes reduce brake drag, which results in a fuel economy improvement of 0.5 mpg. The trucks also feature a four-wheel anti-lock brake system and 19.5-inch wheels."

Clean Idling Mandates Met

To meet California’s new clean-idling mandate, Dodge had two options: calibrate the truck to shut down after five minutes of idling or incorporate a more stringent idle emissions regulation, which is what Dodge chose to do.

"Customers want to idle their trucks and it’s not fair to make them shut down after five minutes, as our competitors’ trucks do," said Pugh. "The extra calibration we put in is also available as an option for anyone in the U.S. "

Two Available Powertrains

On the Ram 4500 and 5500 series, Dodge offers the 6.7L Cummins diesel in a six-speed manual or an automatic, available with remote start.

The Cummins diesel engine features a limited warranty of five years or 100,000 miles.

The Ram 3500 Chassis Cab is available with a HEMI next-generation 5.7L V-8 engine with variable valve technology that also delivers better fuel performance. Peak torque has increased 8 percent to 404 ft.-lbs., and peak power has increased 15 percent to 380 horsepower. At 2,000 RPM, torque has improved 6 percent to 350 ft.-lbs.

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A Variety of Options

New premium fleet options include daytime running lights, power eight-way driver seat, power equipment group, security alarm, UConnect hands-free communication system with Bluetooth technology, and MyGIG multimedia infotainment system with satellite radio, voice-activated capability, touch-screen, and real-time traffic and navigation. Also available are speed control, security alarm, heavy-duty engine cooling system, and a fleet delete option that removes supplemental side-curtain airbags, interior trim, and sunscreen glass.

Out of the factory, every Dodge chassis cab is B-5 (biodiesel) capable. The manufacturer also offers a B-20-capable aftermarket kit through Mopar.

Designed for Fleets

Launched in 1999 and offering no-cost enrollment, Dodge BusinessLink is a full-service commercial program of select Dodge dealers who know and understand the vehicle needs of small businesses, fleet managers, and other commercial vehicle customers.

BusinessLink dealers offer business assistance including dedicated commercial account managers and sales teams, dealer inventories representing a higher mix of work-truck and other commercial vehicles, next-bay service and technicians, extended hours to minimize downtime, and free loaner vehicles. BusinessLink also includes Dodge’s "On The Job" program, which offers discounts on upfits and direct cash incentives and savings on almost all Dodge commercial vehicles.

Supporting the Mission

American Water, based in Voorhees, N.J., recently became a Dodge fleet, purchasing its first Ram 4500 and 5500 trucks in 2007. American Water runs about 10 4500 and 5500 trucks and 5,000 total vehicles, according to Robert Allen, fleet manager.

"We like the truck; it’s a nice, clean body to upfit, it certainly has the power we want, and it has the Cummins diesel option, which we have in our 5500 trucks. The Cummins costs more, but given fuel prices, it’s been a good deal because diesel fuel efficiency is about 20-percent better," said Allen. "This truck supports our mission."

Allen expects an average lifecycle of 60-72 months with the chassis cabs. Drivers love the trucks for their height and road visibility, he added.

Dodge Chassis Cabs Offer New Ambulance Prep Package

Dodge now offers an ambulance prep package for its Ram 3500, 4500, and 5500 Chassis Cab models.

"We’ve done a lot of research with ambulance upfitters, did some on-site visits, and identified all the major needs to make it easier for our customers to convert our trucks into ambulances," said Brad Pugh, Dodge product planning manager.

Package features include taps and hoses for an HVAC system, which allows users to install an auxiliary cooling unit on the truck. The limited slip differential distributes power where needed for better traction on wet pavement, sand, and gravel. Air conditioning will become a standard feature, said Pugh.

"The best part about this package is the automatic voltage monitoring and idle-up control system, which watches the battery voltage," said Pugh. "Picture yourself at an accident scene. Lights are blazing, doors are open, and paramedics are scrambling around, drawing a lot of energy from the battery. To prevent the battery from draining to a point where it won’t restart, our system watches the battery voltage, and if it dips below a set threshold, it will automatically kick up the truck’s idle to help recharge the battery and ensure users can always drive away."

This feature is also available as a stand-alone option. The Laramie trim level, which includes leather, bucket, and heated seats, is available as an option on the ambulance prep package.

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