Lightweight tractor components

Lightweight tractor components

To provide fleets the ability to increase fuel efficiency, maximize payload, enhance performance and reduce costs, tractor manufacturers offer a variety of lightweight components.

To provide fleets the ability to increase fuel efficiency, maximize payload, enhance performance and reduce costs, tractor manufacturers offer a variety of lightweight components.peterbilt flexair suspension

Peterbilt, for example, says it can offer customers day cabs as that weigh as little as 14,200 lbs. and sleeper configurations as low as 15,800 lbs. Some of the components that enable these weight savings include composite springs and the proprietary FLEXAir suspension comprised of an aluminum drive beam. In addition, the OEM offers a drivetrain with an aluminum rear axle housing.

Other aluminum components offered on Peterbilt trucks include cabs and bell housing, aluminum crossmembers and the company’s aluminum space saver battery box. Also, a battery disconnect system that preserves power when a truck is idle for an extended period of time allows for only two batteries instead of four.
Freightliner Trucks offers a number of lightweight components, including but not limited to aluminum frame rails, axle carriers and air tanks. In addition, the OEM builds a proprietary horizontal aftertreatment/exhaust system that is lighter in weight than standard designs.

On a vehicle level, Freightliner offers a 113-in. BBC Cascadia model for weight-conscious fleets. In addition, it has smaller, midroof sleepers for carriers looking to cut chassis weight.

International Trucks points out several weight saving specifications available on its vehicles. For instance, a horizontal exhaust can save approximately 70 lbs. compared to a vertical design. Aluminum options, the OEM says, can save weight as well, including 28 lbs. for aluminum air tanks and about 75 lbs. for an aluminum differential. Also, anywhere from 75 to 100 lbs. freightliner cascadiacan be saved by spec’ing an aluminum 5th wheel and the now standard aluminum clutch housing takes 50 lbs. out of the vehicle compared to a steel clutch housing.

Several Hendrickson components available on International models also can save weight, according to the OEM. The HTB LT rear air suspension is ideal for weight sensitive applications such as bulk haulers and flatbed operations. Weighing just 700 lbs., HTB LT saves up to 250 lbs. compared to standard 40,000-lb. capacity designs. Hendrickson Steertek front axles, chosen as the standard axle for select on-highway models, are also lighter in weight while the manufacturer’s Softek front suspension system, which combines the Steertek NXT axle and spring technology, saves up to 85 lbs.

Lightweight option suggestions from Volvo Trucks North America’s Frank Bio, product manager—trucks, are detailed in the chart to the right.

The most popular lightweight options for Mack Pinnacle model highway tractors, notes Jerry Warmkessel, highway products marketing manager, include spec’ing 6 mm frame rails and using a single fuel tank when possible. Other lightweight choices include a molded plastic battery box, an electronically modulating fan drive, nylon air tubing instead of braided hose, and lightweight seats. Aluminum options to consider on the OEM’s tractors include axle housings, hubs, crossmembers, fuel tanks and fuel tank steps, air reservoirs, bell housings and 5th wheels with aluminum top plates.

For Mack Granite model trucks, according to Curtis Dorwart, vocational products marketing manager, the most popular lightweight options include many of the same aluminum components as well as a cab mounted exhaust and a flush front bumper. In addition, lighter weight specs can include omitting a rear crossmember and the use of channel type frame crossmembers.mack

Kenworth offers guidelines to fleets considering spec’ing lightweight components. “Most of the weight-savings options are relatively small, but can quickly add up to significant numbers,” says Erik Johnson, on-highway marketing manager. “Consider spec’ing aluminum or composite materials in place of steel for savings. Aluminum fuel tanks, wheels, axle ends, bell housings, 5th wheels and 5th wheel angles are good examples.

“It’s especially important to work closely with your dealer to properly spec vehicles for the best lightweight configuration while still producing a truck that will get the job done in your specific application,” Johnson adds. “While cost savings will vary depending on the vocation, application and operating conditions, weight savings can improve the lifecycle cost of the vehicle by offering increased payload capability and enhanced fuel economy.”  kenworth


PreSet Hub Assemblies, available for industry standard steer, drive and trailer axles, decrease weight through a design that features aluminum alloy construction, according to the maker. PreSet Hubs are fully field serviceable with conventional tools and readily available parts, and are offered with or without ABS tone rings.

The new Spicer Pro-40 tandem drive axle weighs in at 100 lbs. less than the manufacturer’s DS-404 model without sacrificing performance in applications up to 80,000 lbs. GCW. Designed with improved inter-axle driveline angles, the axles are available with ratios from 3.25 to 3.90 and can be fitted with most popular on-highway tire sizes.

Spicer Diamond Series aluminum driveshafts use a proprietary technology to join an aluminum tube to Spicer steel u-joints. Available for all SPL 250 u-joint applications, the new aluminum driveshafts, according to the manufacturer, are 40% lighter than a traditional two-piece steel driveshaft. The manufacturer also notes that testing showed the Diamond Series to be as strong, if not stronger, and to exhibit improved noise, vibration and harshness characteristics.

Meritor SteelLite X30 lightweight brake drums, according to the company, are lighter than standard full-cast drums. The drums are available in most popular wheel-end configurations and axle ratings as original equipment and as retrofits for existing vehicles. SteelLite X30 drums feature a one-piece design with no weld seam.

The Meritor Lite hub, the lightest standard ductile iron hub in the industry, according to the manufacturer, is engineered using ductile iron instead of aluminum, providing for improved tensile and yield strength of more than 50%.

The Meritor 14X tandem drive axle, according to the manufacturer, continues to be the lightest axle in its class. The 14X axle features a more robust inter-axle differential (now 20% larger) to accommodate up to 2,050 lb./ft. of torque in certain applications. In addition, an optional DualTrac intermediate track housing is designed to optimize the use of wide-based tires, another weight saving option for fleets. The 14X axle is part of the company’s MPG Series, a combination of components optimized to improve productivity and increase fuel efficiency.

The Holland FWAL aluminum 5th wheel is forged from the same alloy as Alcoa’s aluminum truck wheels. The standard duty 5th wheel, according to the manufacturer, has a maximum vertical load capacity of 55,000 lbs. and a maximum drawbar pull of 150,000 lbs.

Fontaine Fifth Wheel
The Fontaine Ultra LT 5th wheel slider system for on-highway applications, according to the manufacturer, is as light as an aluminum 5th wheel, offering weight savings of up to 100 lbs. or more over other systems. The Ultra LT is offered as a complete system that includes the top plate and one of a variety of mounting configurations, including inboard and outboard slide assemblies and a stationary mount. The Ultra LT 5th wheel has a vertical load capacity of 50,000 lbs. and a drawbar pull rating of 150,000 lbs.

Forged from a single piece of aluminum, lightweight Accuride wheels include the company’s Duplex wide-base wheels and its Accu-Shield wheels designed to maintain a shiny appearance using only mild soap and water. Accuride wheels are available with proprietary styled hand hole designs through many heavy-duty truck OEMs.

Converting 18 size 22.5-in. wheels from steel to Alcoa LvL ONE aluminum wheels saves 648 lbs., the company notes. Alcoa’s 24.5-in. LvL ONE wheels, it adds, are nearly 30 lbs. lighter than typical steel wheels in their class. Alcoa also offers a 14-in. LvL ONE aluminum wide-base wheel. At 62 lbs. each, according to the company, switching from single steel 22.5-in. wheels to Alcoa 14-in. wide base wheels can reduce the weight of an 18-wheel tractor-trailer combination by 1,350 lbs.

Jost International has introduced its new AlumiLightX. The AX100 Aluminum Hybrid Landing Gear Series features an upper leg manufactured from extruded aluminum to save as much as 40 lbs. The new Jost UL500 Landing Gear, with a re-engineered lift nut and other lighter weight materials, reduces weight by at least 27 lbs. compared to similarly rated landing gear, the manufacturer notes.

Lighter weight, more fuel efficient
If you run refrigerated trucks and trailers and you’re looking to save weight and increase fuel efficiency, Thermo King said its innovative new evaporator blower assembly and a micro channel condenser coil improve energy and operational efficiency for single and multi-temperature refrigeration units while lowering fuel costs.

The company, a brand of Ingersoll Rand, offers a variety of mobile applications and is enhancing its Spectrum and SB-30 series units with the Smooth Air Blower, which Thermo King said can increase cooling capacity by up to 4% and lower fuel usage by up to 7%. Also available is a new micro channel coil, which will remove 35 lbs. from the unit weight and reduce the refrigerant charge by 12%.

The Smooth Air Blower enhancement is now standard on Spectrum multi-temperature refrigeration units and SB-30 series single-temperature refrigeration units, including the SB-130, SB-230 and SB-330. These refrigeration solutions can help owners and operators reduce fuel and operating costs and minimize driver involvement with the refrigeration units, Thermo King noted.

The new micro channel condenser coil is now standard on the SB-130, SB-230 and TG solutions. Thermo King added it plans to introduce the SB-330 and Spectrum models featuring the micro channel condenser coil during the first quarter of 2012.

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