The new Ford F-600 chassis cab was introduced at the 2019 Work Truck Show. The F-600, along with other heavy duty and chassis cab models, follow the trend of offering capabilities above their vehicle class.
 - Photo by Rosy Reyes. 

The new Ford F-600 chassis cab was introduced at the 2019 Work Truck Show. The F-600, along with other heavy duty and chassis cab models, follow the trend of offering capabilities above their vehicle class.

Photo by Rosy Reyes. 

When you were a kid, do you remember the one-upmanship in the neighborhood about who had the coolest, fastest bicycle? You thought you had the coolest bike, until the following year your neighbor got a cooler one, and then you topped that a year later.

In the work truck world, you could call this “spec topping.” It’s on full display each year at NTEA’s Work Truck Show, the industry’s annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis to check out the latest and greatest trucks, accessories, upfits, and services.

The 2019 Work Truck Show seemed to have a greater level of spec topping than in years past. Luckily, fleets reap the benefits.

Here are six trend lines picked up from this year’s show.  

1. No more under spec’ing: eye-popping performance in smaller packages.

Just when you think we couldn’t wring improved performance out of the traditional internal combustion engine, it happens. This year, OEMs touted benchmark-pushing specs in heavy duties and chassis cabs.

The new Ford F-600 chassis cab gives fleet customers Class 6 capability (GVWR of 22,000 lbs.) in a Class 5 package. Revealed at Ford’s press conference, the cab of the F-600 cab featured a step-in, ride height, and footprint that that felt more like a Super Duty, belying its medium-duty qualifications.

Att its media breakfast, General Motors shared that 90% of its customers tow. The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD can tow up to 35,500 lbs. (with the 3500 HD diesel) — a whopping 52% improvement over the previous generation. GM put engineering brainpower into a larger cooling fan, updated suspension, and heavier axles. The 6.6L Duramax turbo-diesel V-8 is now mated to an all-new 10-speed Allison transmission.

Not to be outdone, the Ram HD 3500 Tradesman (dually, regular cab) uses a Cummins diesel to achieve an eye-popping 1,000 lbs.-ft. of torque and the ability to tow up to 35,100 lbs. Ram’s HD lineup got a 10% to 15% towing boost across the board in the last model cycle.

2. Heavy duty pickups get style.

Along with specs to get the job done, truck OEMs are providing more personalization and style for medium duties along with amenities found on light-duty pickups’ premium configurations.

GM is now offering five unique trim levels for its HD trucks. Each trim has unique design cues, topping out with the High Country model, featuring a two-tone metallic trim.

The Ram Chassis Cab is now available in four trim levels. The highest trim, Limited, delivers the driver into a new level of chassis cab luxury.

Actually a light-duty (but the biggest truck Nissan offers), the Nissan Titan and Titan XD can now be ordered with upscale Rocky Ridge packages as a ship-thru from the factory. Nissan also unveiled in Indianapolis the Ultimate Work Titan XD Midnight Edition, which will go to work for Habitat for Humanity.

Yes, you could pull up to the valet at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in any of these models.

3. Gas engines proliferate — and bring beefier specs.

In urban environments and areas of the country that aren’t attaining Environmental Protection Agency air quality levels, diesel is a dirty word. Luckily for truck owners, new gas engines provide similar performance to the diesel engines a few truck generations ago.

These new gas engines get closer to diesel parity when mated to new transmissions that have a greater number of shift points combined with fine-tuned engine calibrations and direct injection. Of course, gas engines traditionally enjoy lower maintenance costs.

GM’s 2020 HD trucks can be spec’d with an all-new 6.6L V-8 gas engine. In the 2500HD, the gas engine gets a 22% torque boost over the previous gas engine.

At Ford, the new F-600 chassis cab, along with the other 2020 Super Duty models in the lineup, will be available with Ford’s new, mammoth 7.3L gas V-8.

Ford is going wide with the new gas engine: Along with the Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs, the 7.3L V-8 will be available in the F-650 and F-750, E-Series and, F-53/F-59 stripped chassis. Ford began offering a gas powertrain in the F-650 and F-750 trucks in 2015, a first in the segment and still the only OEM offering a gas engine in Class 6 and 7.

A first for Class 5, Mitsubishi Fuso announced the FE180 cabover with GM’s 6.0L V-8 gas engine. Not to be outdone, Isuzu will offer gas engines in its Class 5 NQR and NRR models next year.

The team from XL Hybrids launched the first plug-in electric hybrid system for the Ford Super Duty F-250 pickup. While third-party hybrid systems are available now, full truck electrification in wide deployment is still a few years down the road. - Photo by Chris Brown. 

The team from XL Hybrids launched the first plug-in electric hybrid system for the Ford Super Duty F-250 pickup. While third-party hybrid systems are available now, full truck electrification in wide deployment is still a few years down the road.

Photo by Chris Brown. 

4. Service first, sell second.

Trucks are built better and last longer. That realization was shared at GM’s media breakfast by Keith McCluskey of McCluskey Chevrolet in Cincinnati. As a result, his dealership has adopted a “service first, sell second” mentality, particularly for his medium-duty customers.  

To lure fleet customers away from cheaper aftermarket parts, GM announced a parts discount program of up to 32% on more than 450,000 factory-certified parts, including ACDelco parts that non-GM fleet vehicles can use.

5. Connected technologies update trucks on the fly.

While telematics has enabled fleets to diagnose engine performance for some time, the ability to actually change truck performance remotely is coming to fruition.

Peterbilt has migrated SmartLinq, its remote diagnostics system, from Class 8 to an offering in its medium duty trucks.

Meanwhile, Mack announced that its GuardDog Connect connectivity package now enables users to make up to 50 parameter updates per month and receive software updates.

6. Electric trucks still in first gear.

When it comes to work truck electrification, the chatter over product plans and infrastructure rollouts has increased exponentially in the last two years at the Work Truck Show. Yet the rollout of actual electric trucks in large numbers for fleet purchase hasn’t kept pace.

Last year, electric trucks were due to hit in larger numbers in two years. This year, a slew of truck makers announced test projects and development plans, yet electric trucks are still “two years away.”

Mitsubishi Fuso’s Class 4 eCanter is the closest to being available, as the company expects “full commercial production” in 2019.

For work trucks, the biggest challenge is to provide enough battery power for reasonable range without sacrificing too much payload. On the funding front, grants and incentives will have to increase in areas other than the states where money is traditionally available, such as California.

Meanwhile, other emissions-reducing (not zero emissions) technologies are available now. XL, the makers of aftermarket hybrid and plug-in electric systems for Ford trucks, unveiled the first PHEV for the Ford Super Duty F-250 pickup.

The system provides up to a 50% mpg improvement over a gas engine and is expected to list as a $25,000 to $27,000 premium to the cost of the truck.

Propane-powered vehicles road the natural gas wave of eight to 10 years ago but never left after compressed natural gas cooled in the light-duty market. Roush’s newest Class 4 and 5 propane engines a miniscule 0.02 NOx output, the lowest NOx output in those segments.

There’s a saying in the propane world: “If you can buy four propane-powered trucks for every one pure electric truck, which is really greening the environment?”

Author

Chris Brown
Chris Brown

Executive Editor

Chris is the executive editor of Business Fleet Magazine and Auto Rental News. He covers all aspects of the fleet world.

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Chris is the executive editor of Business Fleet Magazine and Auto Rental News. He covers all aspects of the fleet world.

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