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The biggest heavy-duty truck equipment stories of the year

Jason Morgan is the content director of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 15 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

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Art by Tammy House

I’m going to do something surprising. This list will not feature any electric truck headlines, despite the topic owning 2021 headlines. It’s not that I’m turning a blind eye to it. My counterpart in content crime, Mr. Sickels, named decarbonization as the Fleet Equipment’s Truck Equipment Trend of the Year last week. It’s more than deserving and you should go check that story out if you missed it. The reality is that electric trucks are exciting, but they’re also 1% of the overall market (maybe). So, this post features the biggest headlines that impacted your business this year.

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Here we go.

Next-gen truck launches

Both Peterbilt and Kenworth came out swinging in 2021 with the launch of their next-gen Model 579 and T680, respectively.

Peterbilt’s next-gen Model 579 touted a new design that offered up to 7% fuel economy gain on a like-for-like spec basis compared to the previous Model 579 iteration. Inside the truck, a 15-in. digital display features a customizable user interface (UI). Speaking of visuals, Peterbilt was also the first time we saw a Digital Vision System (Stoneridge’s cameras built right into the Model 579 mirrors) offered from an OEM factory floor.

For Kenworth’s part, the next-gen T680 aerodynamic design that boasts a 6% fuel efficiency increase over the previous T680 iteration. Also noteworthy is the Kenworth ADAS features, a system that combines lane keeping assist with advanced adaptive cruise functionality. Another stand-out external feature is the optional fully LED headlamps, a first for the Kenworth T680.

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We had the chance to kick the tires on both and bring you the equipment details.

On the Western Star front, 2020’s 49X launch heralded the advent of its X-Series, though we didn’t know that at the time. This year’s introduction of the Western Star 47X made it clear. The 47X is aimed squarely at the larger construction market–offering fits and features for applications like mixers, cranes and dumps, along with configurations that can meet demanding and varied bridge laws.

OEMs, rev your diesel engines

Early in the year, Daimler Trucks and Cummins announced a blockbuster partnership that will see Cummins investing in the further development of medium-duty engine systems for Daimler Trucks and Buses and the global production and deliver said engines by Cummins for Daimler Trucks and Buses beginning in the second half of the decade. The announcement speaks to Cummins continued commitment to squeeze out even more fuel efficiency and Daimler Trucks’ focus to deliver a zero-emissions rolling product lineup by 2039. (Editor’s note: Yes, this one snuck in from medium-duty, but in my defense, while MD-focused, it has potential to have a heavy-duty impact. Click here to read what Jennifer Rumsey, Cummins president and chief operating officer, had to say about partnership.)

A long-time proponent of diesel engine turbocharging, Volvo Trucks North America made the technology standard on its Volvo VNL models sporting a Volvo D13TC engine. The OEM noted that the D13TC engine delivers improved fuel efficiency of up to 11% compared to 2015 Volvo truck models. You can read more details here:

Navistar also made news with updates to its International A26 engine platform. The engine now boasts an additional 4% fuel economy benefit, achieved through engine design and system updates, compared with the A26 engine at launch, according to Navistar. Built from the MAN D26 engine crankcase, this latest version of the International A26 produces up to 515 horsepower and 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque. Full details below:

Driving sustainability

Okay, okay, I know I said at the top that I wasn’t going to talk about electrification, but hear me out on this one. Decarbonization goes beyond fully electric trucks. It can be as simple as making equipment choices that help you be more fuel efficient–be it turning over more trucks than you original planned to boost your overall fleet efficiency (thus burning less fuel) or, as Mack Trucks noted at ATA’s MCE this year, spec’ing the right (albeit electric) APU to keep your drivers comfortable and start moving toward greater sustainability. How does it work exactly? Why glad you asked, check out this story:

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