February 8, 2018 6:15 PM, EST

Editorial: Taking Flight for Trucking

Truck manufacturers worked wonders for our staff’s air miles rewards programs last week, hosting three concurrent events to showcase three very different variants of commercial trucks.

The biggest air mileage tally came courtesy of Daimler AG, which unveiled its next-generation Sprinter van from Dusseldorf, Germany. The Sprinter — sold in the U.S. under the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner brands — is a mainstay for all manner of commercial applications, and its prevalence on city streets is likely to grow as rising e-commerce continues to lift demand for last-mile deliveries.

Daimler wants to make sure the Sprinter is ready, will offer the truck in a multitude of configurations and has also outfitted the new model with a broad suite of connectivity and safety technologies, along with a planned addition of a gasoline engine as an option to diesel.

Hydrogen-electric fuel cell power propels a prototype truck Kenworth unveiled at its technical center in Mount Vernon, Wash. Kenworth said the truck can haul the same 80,000 pounds as a standard, diesel-powered, Class 8 model, emitting nothing but water vapor. The truck will go into service at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, both of which have included zero-emissions vehicles in their long-term clean-air action plans.

Meanwhile, Daimler Trucks North America’s long-term plans for its factory in Redford, Mich., include expansion to accommodate sister company Detroit with the production of a new medium-duty 8-liter engine, which it unveiled during a press event in West Palm Beach, Fla. The company has spent $375 million to upgrade the facility to produce not only the DD8, as the new engine is called, but also updates to the existing DD5 medium-duty engine. The facility already produces Detroit heavy-duty engines and automated manual transmissions. DTNA began installing the engines in trucks last week.

These introductions landed during the same week it was reported that January Class 8 orders surged to reach the second-highest monthly total ever, buoyed by what analysts said is an environment defined by a strong freight market, corporate tax breaks and a dwindling supply of production slots for new trucks.

With more and more options becoming available, the factories that crank out new trucks could be busy for some time to come.