LAS VEGAS — Daimler Trucks North America has introduced a low cab-forward refuse model for its Freightliner brand that the company said will complete its vocational lineup.
The company launched the Freightliner Econic SD on April 24 at the WasteExpo show here, bringing to North America a dedicated refuse model that already is on sale in Europe, Australia and Asia as the Mercedes-Benz Econic. More than 125 modifications were needed to prepare the Freightliner variant for North America, most of them tied to regulatory and legal requirements, said Claus Roth, Mercedes-Benz European general manager for marketing and sales for body builders.
Richard Saward, Freightliner general manager for vocational and government sales, told reporters during an April 23 press preview that the company realized it needed a low cab-forward model to compete in the refuse market. It currently offers the conventional-cab M2 106 and 114 SD for refuse applications.
“You simply can’t be taken seriously in the waste collection space without a chassis for front-end loader buyers,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to have a low [cabover] to serve this market, and it’s got to be able to accommodate front-end loader bodies.”
During development, Freightliner worked with refuse body-makers Heil Environmental and McNeilus Truck & Manufacturing to help tailor the Econic SD to the North American market. Saward noted, however, that when the truck reaches the market, it will accommodate bodies from various manufacturers.
Daimler Trucks North America
The truck will be powered at launch solely by the Detroit DD8 diesel engine, rated at 350 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque, matched to an Allison 3000-series transmission. While Saward wouldn’t rule out other engine options in the future, he noted that currently more than 50% of the trucks in the refuse market are powered by diesels.
Saward said Freightliner currently has about a 28.6% share of the overall vocational market in Classes 6-8, and the Econic SD will enable it to compete in a market that moves about 2,400 units annually. He said the company’s current overall vocational market share both “humbles us, and inspires us to do more to serve these central parts of our economy.”
Econic SD interior (Daimler Trucks North America)
The cab and chassis will be manufactured at Daimler’s Woerth, Germany, factory and shipped to the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation manufacturing facility in Gaffney, S.C., for final assembly.
The Econic SD will come standard with the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems, which includes active brake assist and adaptive cruise control. Optional safety features include side guard assist and a built-in camera system with 360-degree views displayed on a flat-screen dash monitor.
The inclusion of such a wide variety of safety technologies is a reaction to the marketplace, said Kelly Gedert, director of product marketing for Freightliner and Detroit Components, in a meeting with reporters after the truck’s introduction at the show.
“All of our customers here in the North American market are seeing the need for safety,” she said. “They were really excited.”
She also noted that Heil and McNeilus provided input on how to package the technologies on the truck. “The two [companies] that we partnered with saw it all — they witnessed it [and] actually got to test the safety systems. They helped us figure out what to make standard versus optional.”
Detroit’s Virtual Technician remote diagnostics system also will be available in the truck.
Freightliner will begin taking orders for the Econic SD in June, and production will start in October. The first trucks are slated to begin deliveries in April 2019.
The original Mercedes-Benz Econic was launched in Europe in 1996, and received a complete update in 2013. That updated model is now coming to North America.
Gedert noted that the global scale of parent company Daimler — which is based in Germany — gave Freightliner the opportunity to leverage an existing product for North America.
“This is a really small niche market — there’s not a whole lot of volume to go after — so you almost have to have the leverage from the [research and development] perspective that we have with Daimler to bring a product like this to market,” she said. “We have tailored different items for the North American market without having to build an entirely new platform.”
She added that while some products start out elsewhere and come to North America — beyond the Econic SD, there was also the company’s medium-duty DD8 engine — other products, like its heavy-duty engines, launched in the NAFTA region.
“It depends on what segment you’re looking at,” she said, adding, “What we have is the ability to leverage the engineering resources — the dollars — that go into R&D. I think we are going to start leveraging that more and more.”