March 31, 2014 1:45 AM, EDT

Freightliner Shows Nat-Gas Sleeper at MATS; Western Star Includes New Safety Features

By Neil Abt, Managing Editor

This story appears in the March 31 print edition of Transport Topics.

Freightliner Trucks displayed its Cascadia natural-gas powered tractor with a 48-inch sleeper at the Mid-America Trucking Show, providing longhaul truckers interested in the alternative fuel a new option.

The tractor, which Freightliner said is in full production, was shown at Daimler Trucks North America’s exhibit area at the March 27-29 event in Louisville, Ky. Also featured were new safety and telematics offerings for its Western Star line.

“Having the 48-inch sleeper cab as an option on the Cascadia natural-gas tractor provides a smart option for fleet customers who want an alternative fuel solution without compromising comfort, performance and the ability to haul longer distances,” Mary Aufdemberg, director of product marketing for Freightliner, said in a statement provided to Transport Topics prior to MATS.

Portland, Ore.-based Freightliner, the largest U.S. truck maker, originally announced plans to offer the sleeper last summer.

The Cascadia natural-gas tractor features the Cummins Westport ISX12 G natural-gas engine and a range of natural-gas tank configurations.

The company said it has sold more than 3,000 natural gas-powered trucks since 2008. It also offers the M2 112 line, as well as the 114SD NG severe-duty truck.

Meanwhile, Western Star announced that Meritor Wabco’s electronic stability control is available on all 4900 models. The system adds directional capability control to the existing roll stability control technology.

“This expansion of Meritor Wabco stability control systems for Western Star is part of our ongoing commitment to making commercial vehicles safer for drivers, passengers and others on the road,” said Ann Demitruk, Western Star director of marketing.

Western Star also said that DTNA’s Detroit Virtual Technician will be standard on 4700, 4800 and 4900 models equipped with new Detroit engines.

The onboard diagnostic system relays vehicle data to a Detroit customer service center to provide a rapid diagnosis and a service recommendation. The system, developed with Zonar Systems, is in use in more than 70,000 trucks, DTNA said.

In the exhibit hall, DTNA was providing attendees the chance to experience how its Detroit Connect products, such as its recently an­nounced onboard computer tablet, work in tandem with Virtual Technician to reduce downtime.

Western Star also announced the availability of a larger 23-gallon diesel exhaust fluid tank for its 4700 model with the Detroit DD13 engine and the Eaton UltraShift Plus automated transmission for the 4800.

“The Eaton UltraShift Plus gives our customers more transmission options to best meet the unique needs of any job, while at the same time providing better performance and less driver fatigue,” Demitruk said.

Meanwhile, Freightliner also announced several new options for its diesel-powered Cascadia and Cascadia Evolution, such as the combination of the ParkSmart HVAC system with Optimized Idle.

The integration can automatically start an engine if the main and auxiliary battery packs are depleted. Cab temperature is controlled by the HVAC system, and the Optimized Idle system will monitor the battery voltage and oil temperature and start the engine when necessary.

New day-cab roof fairings for the Cascadia, as well as lighting and door accessories for the Cascadia and Evolution, were among Freightliner’s other offerings at MATS.

“Every business has different priorities, and we provide optimized solutions that help our customers achieve their goals,” Aufdemberg said.

DTNA also announced the expansion of its Finish First technician training program for Freightliner and Western Star vehicles in partnership with Universal Technical Institute.

The company said it will launch the expansion of the 12-week program at UTI’s new facility in Lisle, Ill., on July 28, with the same curriculum as the current site in Avondale, Ariz.