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Fitting cab and chassis designs to the needs of vocational trucks

OEM designs and resources are making upfitting easier than ever for vocational truck operators.

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Focusing cab and chassis designs on the needs of vocational truck operations, manufacturers are providing features that make upfitting bodies and equipment simpler. At the same time, they are working with fleets, suppliers and upfitters to determine their needs and provide valuable support.

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At Peterbilt, notes Tony Sablar, vocational marketing manager, chassis layouts are customized to exact specifications. “Using accurate wheelbase and axle load information, for example, maximizes the efficient operation of the truck and optimizes body installation,” he says. “Chassis and vehicle layout drawings are available to the body integrator prior to the truck being built. Providing them the opportunity to make changes leads to a more efficient integration.”

Sablar also points out that Peterbilt has focused on enabling a simple, customizable integration of chassis-to-body electrical controls to provide customers with the functionality they require. Included in the design are integrations via hardwired connections or J1939 communications systems, depending on body manufacturer requirements, as well as dash switches for cab and remote PTO controls.

Making things simpler

Bruce Vasbinder, director of product marketing for severe service at International, relates that many of the OEM’s design features are aimed at making things simpler. “To start, we offer 4×2, 4×4, 6×4, 6×6 and 8×6 chassis configurations to allow the vehicle to handle any job and satisfy most customer needs with existing designs,” he says. “We also offer a significant amount of chassis configuration options in regards to positioning components in certain areas. For instance, there are various locations for the battery boxes, air tanks, DEF tanks and fuel water separators.”

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With that approach, Vasbinder notes, International can factory install those components where the customer and body builder need them without them needing to be modified. That practice, he adds, eliminates failures associated with relocating, remounting or rerouting of electrical or fluid carrying systems.

“This is vital for body integrators, end-users and the overall optimization of the vehicle,” Vasbinder says. “If you have a custom body type and you need a certain area under the body to be clear, we can adjust components to fit that need. For example, a mixer might need to have chutes or a water tank in a specific location. We also offer a clean cab to axle/cab to tandem option if the customer needs to have an open frame ladder to accommodate chassis components.”

The Kenworth T880 vocational model has a stamped aluminum cab with panels that are connected by Henrob self-penetrating fasteners. The result, according to the manufacturer, is an extremely durable cab with enhanced resistance to noise, vibration and corrosion. In addition, the OEM points out that the model’s hood is made of Metton, a lightweight, durable composite material with excellent impact resistance. 

Improving durability

To meet the needs of vocational operations, relates Peterbilt’s Sablar, the OEM’s cab and chassis designs are aimed at improved durability. For example, lighter weight aluminum cab construction maximizes payload and it is corrosion-resistant for the long life span of most vocational vehicles. Additionally, the company’s Model 567 features a hood constructed of Metton for higher impact resistance.

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International, notes Bruce Vasbinder, offers standard, extended and crew cab variations and a multitude of chassis configurations. “We have several options for suspensions,” he says, “and for corrosion sensitive operations we offer stainless steel and aluminum components.

“In addition to the dozens of chassis alternatives available, our dealers have access to many more configurations and can offer suggestions by application to configure a chassis for just about anything,” Vasbinder says. “We also have a dealer hotline, which provides a direct connection to one of our application engineers.

“A key part of our relationship with body builders is our Diamond Partner Program,” Vasbinder continues. “The program connects International dealers with Truck Equipment Manufacturers (TEMs) to streamline installation efforts. With the program, we schedule an application engineer to work with the dealer and TEM to customize their chassis. We assist in training the TEM to utilize our electrical architecture. Also, at chassis optimization meetings we work with the customer regarding custom frame piercing which enables bolting on body components when they get the cab and chassis without needing to frame drill.”

Several resources

At Kenworth, fleets, body manufacturers and upfitters can take advantage of several resources. Included is the recently updated Kenworth Heavy Duty Body Builder Manual, which covers dimensions, PTO mounting and programming, exhaust and aftertreatment systems, frame layouts and modifications, body mounting and electrical systems.

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Kenworth has also expanded its online Body Builder Academy Video Library for T880 models. The new additions focus on remote PTO features and functionality, remote throttles and hardwired PTO controls, and remote presets and interlocks.

The Body Builder Academy also offers other videos focused on connectivity with Kenworth chassis systems, PTO functions, integration of electronics between body and truck, and optimization of the driver interface for body functions through switches and dash messaging. The videos are available online and on the Kenworth Essentials App, which can be downloaded to smartphones and tablets so they can be accessed by body builders.

“Peterbilt has numerous resources available, including online reference materials, videos, experienced dealership teams and a vocational sales engineering department, all to aid in developing the best chassis spec for body integration and the final intended operation of the truck,” says Tony Sablar. “In all cases, taking advantage of those resources, and having early discussions in the truck spec’ing process, will prove to be most valuable for vocational fleets.”

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