We discuss the latest in high-tech safety and diagnostic features in vocational trucks.
Vocational trucks are increasingly sporting high-tech safety features designed to enhance visibility, performance, stability, braking, steering and other operations.
One of the most notable trends in vocational truck safety technology is the growing acceptance of Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) and automatic transmissions. Such transmissions “allow drivers to focus on the road and jobsite instead of shifting,” states Mack Trucks construction product manager Tim Wrinkle.
Mack Trucks has an AMT called mDRIVE HD which has been standard on its Granite vocational truck line since 2016. Mack currently offers a “14-speed mDRIVE HD AMT, which features low-ratio creeper gears that enable unprecedented stability and ultra-low speed maneuverability,” he says.
Volvo has its own AMT solution, I-Shift. Nearly three-quarters of its vocational VHD trucks currently “use some variant of this transmission,” says Andy Hanson, product marketing manager at Volvo Trucks North America.
“The I-Shift reduces stress on the drive by handling the shifting while still offering the efficiency inherent in manual transmissions,” he says. “The Volvo I-Shift is offered as a 12, 13 or 14-speed. The 14-speed transmission has a crawler gear with a ratio of 32:1, allowing the truck to move at less than one kilometer per hour without slipping the clutch. This makes the truck well-suited for slow speed maneuvering or getting massive loads moving.”
This April, Kenworth introduced a new line of medium-duty trucks that includes the T380V and T480V vocational models. The new PACCAR TX-8 automatic transmission — which Kenworth also unveiled at the spring launch — is available for the T380V and T480V.
According to Kenworth: “The robust, yet lightweight 8-speed transmission provides smooth performance and enhances fuel economy. The PACCAR TX-8 serves a wide range of applications from pickup and delivery to utility service and a variety of vocational applications.”
Navistar has made an automatic transmission standard in its HV Series of International vocational trucks and an AMT standard in its HX Series of International vocational trucks.
“We definitely see the demand for two pedal automatic and AMT transmissions increasing over time,” states David Hillman, senior director, Vocational Segment, Navistar.
If AMTs and automatic transmissions make vocational trucks easier to drive, advances in braking systems help slow these vehicles down and avoid accidents.
Mack Granite trucks can be fitted with the next generation of the Bendix Wingman Fusion driver assistance system as an option. The system offers lane departure warnings, Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), and driver facing and forward-facing cameras (to record driver behaviour and road activity, respectively).
Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has introduced Active Brake Assist 5 (ABA 5) on its Western Star 49X vocational trucks. This solution, which is always on, “detects the distances to objects in its path, calculating speed, and determining if a warning or braking action is necessary,” states Len Copeland, product marketing manager, Detroit Products at DTNA.
Other features included in the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems employed by DTMA on the Western Star 49X include tailgate warning, lane departure warning and Side Guard Assist (SGA), which uses radar technology to detect moving objects on the passenger side.
Navistar equips International Trucks with the Diamond Logic electrical system, which offers an array of performance-enhancing, safety, and diagnostic features. Diamond Logic can be used to automatically raise lift axles when reverse gear is selected, states Hillman.
“Diamond Logic can be programmed to turn vehicle camera systems on when the turn signal is engaged or limit vehicle road speed when the dump body is raised, so that the vehicle can still be used to spread material but cannot drive down the road and hit an overpass,” he says.
Kenworth’s TruckTech + Remote Diagnostics system — which provides real-time updates about engine performance to fleet managers and Kenworth dealers and service alerts to drivers — is optional on the 380V and 480V.
Volvo offers Remote Diagnostics, an onboard solution which gives drivers access to Volvo Action Service (VAS), a 24/7 support centre where fault codes are monitored, and repairs are coordinated.
Volvo and Navistar have also enhanced their respective collision mitigation systems.
Volvo Active Driver Assist (VADA) incorporates sensors, cameras, and radar to detect road hazards. Volvo recently added a fifth generation SafetyDirect Processor (SDP5 Full) from Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems into VADA. The SDP5 Full processor features a driver-facing camera and digital video recorder storage and internal battery backup (to prevent data loss in the case of accidents or incidents).
Navistar added electronic stability control to its own collision mitigation system. This stabilizing control helps trucks remain upright during “rollover and vehicle under-and-over-steer situations” as Navistar literature describes it. The stability function also helps prevent loss of control when brakes are applied on slippery roads.
STEERING AND LIGHTING
Steering and lighting systems have also been tweaked to enhance safety. Command Steer, Mack Trucks’ active steering system, is available as an option on axle-back Granite trucks. Command Steer consists of an electric motor which is connected to the hydraulic system and a series of sensors which monitor road and environmental conditions. The system augments power steering and enhances stability in case of strong wind, tire blowouts or banked roads. The system reduces fatigue in drivers, which in turn improves jobsite safety and driver productivity, according to Wrinkle.
Mack Trucks began adding Command Steer, the company’s active steering system, to axle-back trucks in its Granite vocational line earlier this year.
Volvo’s Dynamic Steering (VDS) system for axle-back VHDs, dramatically reduces the effort required to keep the vehicle centred while navigating rough terrain, according to Hanson.
“Its motor is controlled at a rate of 2,000 times per second, so it’s reacting to changing road conditions very quickly. This allows the system to dampen the inputs that the driver receives from the road and reduce the pulling caused by crowned roads or cross winds, leaving the driver less fatigued and more in control of the vehicle. VDS also returns the steering wheel back to centre after completing a turn,” he says.
As for lighting, Volvo’s VHD trucks now come standard with composite LED headlamps. Daytime running lamps change from white to amber when the turn signal is activated — highlighting the vehicle’s intended movements to other drivers. An optional de-icing function automatically turns on and keeps lenses clear when temperatures reach certain lows.
VHD models can also be fitted with a heated windshield which is “far more effective than a defroster in keeping the windshield clear during winter conditions,” states Hanson.
In similar fashion, DTNA offers intelligent LED headlights on the Western Star 49X.
“The dual-stage LED headlight system features an internally printed heat grid and ambient air temperature sensor which can melt three millimeters of ice in less than 10 minutes at 40 degrees below zero. It can also burn through condensation in warm, humid environments,” states Copeland.
Cab ergonomics have also been scrutinized to ensure a safer ride. Navistar has engaged in extensive R&D in this field and created what it feels is a more secure cab environment.
“Both the transmission stalk shifter mounted to the steering column and the relocation of our lift axle controls to the wing panel minimize the need for a driver to turn their head to perform tasks on congested roads or busy job sites,” states Hillman.
When asked about the future of vocational truck safety technology, industry experts point to cameras and connectivity.
“Anyone who has driven a truck knows visibility is always a challenge, so more cameras are coming. We’re seeing increasing requests for back-up cameras or systems that deploy even more,” states Hanson.
“We see connected technology as being a vital part of the emerging safety technology landscape. Being able to harness the information available across chassis and body features and broadcast it to fleet managers in real time will be a game changer,” adds Hillman. Hanson adds that such technology can help “avoid an accident, it increases their uptime and overall productivity. Protecting the drivers and others who share the roads with our trucks should always be top-of-mind.”