Freightliner to Redesign Trucks in Response to EPA 2010 Rules

By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor

This story appears in the April 9 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Freightliner LLC, North America’s largest manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks, will unveil a new generation of Class 8 on-highway tractors as a response to the next round of federal emissions regulations scheduled for 2010, said Chris Patterson, the company’s chief executive officer.

In a March 23 speech to the Heavy-Duty Manufacturers Association here, Patterson said Freightliner will phase out the current Century, Classic, Columbia and Coronado models by the end of 2009 and that, in 2010, only the next-generation tractors would be available to fleets, owner-operators and other truck buyers.

“This requires a step-change beyond mere evolution. We can’t do this with a tweaking,” he said. “It’s been more than 11 years since our last change in 1995.”

Patterson said the new family of vehicles will be outfitted with DaimlerChrysler’s new heavy-duty engine platform, made by its Detroit Diesel Corp. and Mercedes-Benz Engines units. Freightliner also is a subsidiary of Daimler.

Patterson said Freightliner would have a Class 8 new-product rollout May 2 in Charlotte, N.C., and that production of the new trucks would begin in August in North Carolina.

Freightliner and other original equipment manufacturers of trucks and engines have had to battle wildly fluctuating sales patterns that have been driven by new emissions mandates, and Patterson criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for creating turbulence in the Class 8 market.

 “It’s bad public policy forcing people to buy dirtier, older models when you create a ‘cliff event,’ ” Patterson said, referring to how sales appear to fall over a cliff when the regulation changes.

He said the 2007 engine change caused “a profound increase in the cost of technology,” and a number of engineers have said the 2010 emissions standards will be more difficult to achieve than those effective this year.

Freightliner’s 2010 engines will feature selective catalytic reduction technology, which requires the use of nitrogen-based urea to help reduce levels of NOx and particulate matter in diesel exhaust. “We think SCR is the best pathway for 2010. It’s the optimal approach,” Patterson said.

Following up on a speech to HDMA last year — when Roger Nielsen, Freightliner’s chief operating officer, told Freightliner’s suppliers he would be asking for 10% price cuts — Patterson told the assembled audience to relax because, unlike his top lieutenant, “I won’t be dunning you.”

Earlier, Patterson told Transport Topics that he expected Class 8 sales in North America would total about 220,000. “We believe it

will be a U-shaped year, with sales rapidly falling after the leftover trucks with ’06 engines are built, a very slow second quarter and a rapid pickup in the final half of the year,” he said.

Asked in a March 22 interview about 2007 sales of stockpiled 2006 trucks, Patterson said his forecast was for new truck sales, rather than the number of units built. However, he said he was unsure about a report that dealers had stockpiled about 55,000 trucks last year for sales in 2007.

 “Our dealers did not stockpile a lot of trucks,” he said. “Remember, we had trouble fulfilling all of our orders from fleets for new trucks last year.” He added, “Freightliner did not stockpile any 2006 engines to put them into trucks this year. Again, we needed every engine we could get last year to meet customer orders.”

Patterson predicted the economy will rebound “nicely” in the second half of the year, so fleets will need new trucks not only as replacement vehicles but also for growing freight loads.

“We think that as soon as fleets see that the new engines work well, we’ll see the beginning of a new pre-buy to avoid the 2010 engines that will run strongly in 2008 and 2009,” Patterson said.

Staff Reporter Frederick Kiel contributed to this story.


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