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The right solutions: Manufacturers providing medium-duty trucks designed for fleet customers’ applications

Growth in the medium-duty truck segment continues to lead fleets to look for new vehicle capabilities and options that can be used in specific and dedicated applications. Across the board, truck manufacturers are responding to those needs with a range of vehicles.

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Growth in the medium-duty truck segment continues to lead fleets to look for new vehicle capabilities and options that can be used in specific and dedicated applications. Across the board, truck manufacturers are responding to those needs with a range of vehicles.

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“Fleets and drivers are demanding more from medium-duty trucks,” says Kelly Gedert, director of product marketing at Freightliner Trucks and Detroit Components. “As a result, we’re focusing on new developments and options for powertrains and interiors targeting improved fuel economy, maintenance, safety and ergonomics, with the goal of lowering customers’ cost of ownership.”

There are changes in how fleets use medium-duty trucks, notes Brian Tabel, executive director of marketing at Isuzu Commercial Truck of America. “One is that many fleets are using a lower GVW model to reduce accusation costs, meaning that in some cases so they don’t need to have drivers with a CDL. The other change is to shorter routes where the truck returns to the office or depot during the day.”

Chad Semler, Navistar’s director of product marketing, says that the recent launch of the International CV Series was a response to a void in the market. “We found that there were fleets looking for a vehicle that was larger than a Class 5 model, but they weren’t quite ready to move entirely into a Class 6,” he says.

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“There has also been a strong push to improve driver comfort,” Semler adds. “You hear a lot about the driver shortage in over-the road operations, but medium-duty fleets have a similar problem. For that reason, we strived to create a vehicle that is comfortable overall and helps reduce fatigue.”

Tim Wrinkle, construction product manager at Mack Trucks, points out that the OEM’s Granite MHD Class 7 models are equipped with a new, more ergonomic environment designed with input from drivers. “That led to a number of features to improve comfort, including a driver-centric dash layout and a flat-bottom steering wheel that helps improve ingress and egress,” he explains. “We also recently added a new horsepower rating, an under-frame exhaust system, and a shorter wheelbase 4×2 configuration and a tractor to expand the range of applications that the medium-duty MHD covers.”

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The latest generation of Ford medium-duty trucks are being built with direct input from fleets, relates Kevin Koester, Ford’s medium-duty truck and Super Duty fleet marketing manager. “We’re also working to improve total cost of ownership,” he says. “In addition, as the trend continues toward using non-CDL trucks to open up driver pools, not every driver has the same level of experience, so technologies that help them accomplish their job are becoming more important to fleets.”

Connected vehicles

With the rise of e-commerce, more regional applications are surfacing and requiring medium-duty trucks, notes Dominik Beckman, director of marketing and dealer development at Hino Trucks U.S.A. “There is also demand for downsizing engines for those vehicles and a focus on providing comprehensive, connected vehicle packages in the medium-duty marketplace,” he says.

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“Technologies that include telematics and remote diagnostics in medium-duty trucks are now available to aid fleets in operating more safely and efficiently,” Beckman continues. “The possibilities for improving the efficiency of medium-duty trucks are nearly endless. For example, by monitoring fuel consumption, PTO usage, hard acceleration or braking events, fault codes, maintenance intervals and Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports, fleets can target improvements and reduce downtime.”

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Looking ahead, Isuzu’s Brian Tabel says that the company is testing an electric vehicle model with fleets in five different market segments to understand how customers can use those trucks to meet their needs.

Elsewhere in the market, in 2018, Daimler Trucks North America revealed a fully-electric Freightliner eM2 medium-duty model for local distribution operations and last mile delivery services. A small test fleet is now in the hands of customers, Freightliner’s Kelly Gedert notes, so DTNA can find out more about how they can use emissions-free medium-duty trucks, and to further develop electric drive systems.

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Overall, across the industry, medium-duty truck manufacturers are developing and adapting models to meet the needs of fleet customers and to provide the right solutions for their applications and businesses. “We see our customers as partners, and together we look holistically at their business and their operations,” Gedert says. “That way we can determine the best way to provide the most efficient and productive medium-duty trucks possible.”

For more on this topic, see Making upfitting easier.

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