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May 7, 2007 7:55 AM, EDT

Freightliner Sets New ‘Cascadia’ Truck

Will Replace Century, Columbia Models
By Frederick Kiel, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the May 7 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —  Freightliner Trucks last week introduced a new heavy-duty over-the-road truck called “Cascadia” it said improves fuel efficiency by 3% and is the first Class 8 truck built around the demands of the 2010 federal emission standards.
“Over the next two years, the Cascadia, built on an entirely new platform, will replace our two main over-the-road heavy-duty highway vehicles — the Century and the Columbia — along with all of their versions,” Chris Patterson, Freightliner’s chief executive officer, said at a press conference here.
“DaimlerChrysler and Freightliner will also offer a totally new engine that was designed to meet not only 2007 federally mandated emission standards, but with slight modifications, 2010 engines as well,” Patterson said.
Freightliner executives said several years ago DaimlerChrysler would design a new engine platform it would use in its trucks worldwide. Until that global engine is introduced, the Cascadia’s standard power plant will be Freightliner’s Detroit Diesel Series 60 with two op-tions: the Mercedes MBE 4000 and Caterpillar Inc.’s C15, Patterson said. Freightliner owns engine manufacturer Detroit Diesel Corp., which also markets the Mercedes engine.
Freightliner said the Cascadia will be available by mid-May, with the new engine offered by autumn.
According to Patterson, “The  Cascadia was designed around this engine in order to efficiently meet 2010 emission standards with little modification, and will offer even greater efficiency and reliability.”
The standard transmission is a 10-speed Eaton Fuller, with automatic or automated transmissions as options.
Patterson said Freightliner invested $400 million to design the Cascadia, an effort that included 1 million engineering hours and 2,500 testing hours in Freightliner’s Portland, Ore., wind tunnel.
“The Cascadia will be wider, longer than older Freightliner models,” Christopher Hoffman, the engineer who is Freightliner’s director of product strategy, told Transport Topics.
The truck will be available with rack-and-pinion steering — a Freightliner innovation for Class 8 trucks (2-26, p. 1).
“With rack and pinion, the driver does not have to continually jiggle his steering wheel back and forth to keep on a straight line, but can just sit back and keep the wheel steady” Hoffman said. “If the driver runs over a deep hole in the roadway or hits other unexpected debris, the Cascadia will bump right over but maintain itself in a straight line on its own.”
Hoffman said the new design offers much easier access to the left side of the engine, with the steering shaft no longer running across it. The Pittman arm has also been removed.
“We added dozens of innovations on the body of the truck to increase aerodynamics and raise driver safety,” Hoffman added.
“We eliminated all space between the radiator and the hood of the truck, for example,” Hoffman said. “This allows us to provide a smaller radiator grill that nevertheless brings in much more cooling air than most conventional designs with a 2-inch gap or more between the hood and the chassis. “Since the ’07 engines run much hotter, the Cascadia will keep temperatures much cooler without expending fossil fuel technology.”
Hoffman said the side mirrors have a more oval shape than most trucks and are held rigidly in place. He said both “simple” modifications were “parts of the many new techniques we put in that overall raise fuel efficiency and cut down on repair times.”
The headlights were redesigned for better aerodynamics, Hoffman said, and have bulbs with a life span of 1,800 hours.
The Cascadia’s sleeper version has a 72-inch raised roof, Freightliner said, and was designed to integrate its own anti-idling equipment as an option that will keep the cab cool for at least 10 hours with the engine off,  or provide heat for the cab.
Hoffman said the dashboard was redesigned, placing larger instruments and buttons higher on the dash so the driver can keep eyes on the road. Air brake controls for both the tractor and trailer are placed just to the right of the steering wheel, so drivers no longer have to lean far to the right to engage them.
The new truck has control switches placed on the steering wheel, including one for the radio. “One of the greatest driver safety concerns has been how they have to lean over to adjust the radio or look for new stations,” Hoffman said. “It can be done now just by tapping on buttons on the steering wheel.”
Patterson said the Cascadia will also help fleets address the industry’s driver shortage by offering improved comfort and safety. He said Freightliner would market the new truck to fleets and owner-operators.
“We believe that the Cascadia provides the best alternatives to both of these markets and we will seek to sell these trucks to everyone, from the driver who owns one truck to firms that have thousands,” Patterson said.