“Operators of medium-duty trucks have heavy-duty expectations,” says Kurt Swihart, Kenworth’s marketing manager. “Truck manufacturers are working to make it simpler for customers who want heavy-duty characteristics in traditional medium-duty applications. The challenge in spec’ing a medium-duty truck is to find the right balance between over- and under-spec’ing in order to achieve the performance and reliability required to get the job done on a daily basis.”
Swihart goes on to outline things fleets should know about spec’ing a medium-duty truck: For example, he notes that with today’s technology, engines can produce a range of horsepower and torque ratings for applications that fall in between typical medium-duty and heavy-duty use. “The more engine ratings we can offer, the easier it is to customize and fine-tune power needs,” he says, “but at the same time, be careful not to spec more power than you need because with a bigger engine you’ll start trading off fuel economy and weight.
“A lighter engine and higher-capacity front axle give you the ability to shift more weight to the front end and still have all the advantages of a short bumper-to-back-of-cab measurement,” Swihart continues. “Front axle offerings are designed for fleets that not only want a true medium-duty truck, but also the ability to distribute the weight of payload to the steer axle.”
Also on Swihart’s list are automatic and automated manual transmissions, such as the 10-speed Eaton UltraShift Plus, a two-pedal solution that widens the driver pool and reduces training costs. Automatic transmissions also continue to grow in popularity in the medium-duty segment, he notes. For example, Allison’s FuelSense feature has electronic controls that automatically adapt shift schedules and torque, maximizing efficiency based on load, grade and duty cycle.
Navistar provides spec’ing tips for fleets that field medium-duty trucks, including the need to choose the cab for the job and the duty-cycle, the right chassis configuration, and an engine, transmission and axles because they impact fuel economy and driver productivity. Additional considerations include spec’ing the correct fuel and DEF tanks for the range and route trucks are covering.
Wesley Slavin, Peterbilt’s marketing manager of medium-duty products, notes that medium-duty fleets have a wide range of business and application requirements. “It’s as varied, if not more so than, the heavy-duty market; so, medium-duty product lineups need to be as comprehensive as possible to fully serve all of the different preferences and segments,” he says. “With the diversity of medium-duty models, we’re positioning ourselves to have standard specs that create a foundation for all market segments while all of the models are highly customizable.
“Working with our dealers,” Slavin continues, “medium-duty fleet managers can evaluate their needs and learn if certain components and specs are better suited for their business than others. A great example of this is the engine. In the past, many customers would spec the largest, most powerful engine available, but we can help them understand that a smaller-block engine can often get the job done just as well while reducing weight and improving fuel economy.”
More than price
“Real cost of ownership is an approach to vehicle spec’ing that takes into account more than the sticker price,” says Mary Aufdemberg, director of product marketing at Freightliner Trucks. “It considers how a fleet will use the vehicle, what features are most important to the customer and, ultimately, what will make the vehicle perform better, last longer and spend less time in the shop.
“We ask customers to provide an in-depth overview of their operations, along with any information that would affect the spec’ing of their vehicles, such as body equipment needs,” Aufdemberg continues. “The more we know about our customers and how they use their vehicles, the better we are able to suggest specs and features that will give them maximum value.”
Once the OEM and dealer’s understanding of the fleet is complete, Aufdemberg notes, dealer and corporate sales representatives suggest spec’ing options that support the priorities of the customer. Additional recommendations are made for safety and driver comfort technologies. “Having the right truck body is also essential,” she adds. “By partnering with body manufacturers, we can provide trucks that offer easy upfit for a variety of applications.”
The right dealer
The best tip is to work with the right dealer, advises Glenn Ellis of Hino Trucks marketing. “They can be an invaluable resource throughout the spec’ing process,” he says. “Beyond that, consider the many factors that go into spec’ing a vehicle, such as what the truck will be carrying, its total weight, the operating environment to determine whether a conventional or cabover is most appropriate and other geographic considerations such as whether trucks operating in certain terrain will require different HP and torque ratings. There are also regulatory restrictions.”