September 22, 2021, Bellevue, Washington – PACCAR has teamed up with Aurora, a leading autonomous driving technology company, and FedEx, one of the largest transportation and logistics companies in the world, to launch a commercial pilot of autonomous trucks in linehaul trucking operations. This is the first collaboration of its kind between a truck manufacturer, an autonomous technology developer and a logistics provider.

Starting today, PACCAR’s autonomously enabled trucks configured with the Aurora autonomous Driver will haul FedEx loads between Dallas and Houston, a 500-mile round trip, along the I-45 corridor. The trucks will operate autonomously, with a backup driver for additional safety. “PACCAR is pleased to partner with industry leaders FedEx and Aurora on this innovative project,” said John Rich, PACCAR chief technology officer.

“As leaders in our respective fields, we have critical and unique perspectives on how to develop and deploy safe, self-driving truck solutions for this industry,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora chief product officer. “This collaboration allows for the creation of a cohesive and integrated product and service. We believe there is no other credible way to deliver this complex and valuable technology at scale.”

“FedEx was built on innovation, and we always anticipate what’s next to be future-ready,” said Rebecca Yeung, FedEx Corporation vice president, advanced technology and innovation. “This is an exciting, industry-first collaboration that will work towards enhancing the logistics industry through safer, more efficient transportation of goods and we are pleased to collaborate with other industry leaders – Aurora and PACCAR – on this endeavor.”

In January 2021, PACCAR announced a strategic alliance with Aurora to develop, test and commercialize autonomous Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. The strategic alliance will integrate PACCAR’s state-of-the-art autonomous vehicle platform with the Aurora Driver to enhance the safety and operational efficiency of PACCAR’s customers. “This new commercial pilot collaboration demonstrates the excellent progress that PACCAR and Aurora are making in our strategic alliance,” added John Rich.


PACCAR is a global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF nameplates. PACCAR also designs and manufactures advanced powertrains, provides financial services and information technology, and distributes truck parts related to its principal business. PACCAR shares are listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market, symbol PCAR. Its homepage is

About FedEx

FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenue of $87 billion, the company offers integrated business solutions through operating companies competing collectively, operating collaboratively and innovating digitally under the respected FedEx brand. Consistently ranked among the world’s most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its 560,000 team members to remain focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities. FedEx is committed to connecting people and possibilities around the world responsibly and resourcefully, with a goal to achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2040. To learn more, please visit

About Aurora Founded in 2017 by experts in the self-driving industry, Aurora is on a mission to deliver the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly. To move both people and goods, the company is building the Aurora Driver, a platform that brings together software, hardware and data services to autonomously operate passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles, and heavy-duty trucks. Aurora is backed by Sequoia Capital, Baillie Gifford, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, among others, and is partnered with industry leaders including Toyota, Uber, Volvo, and PACCAR. Aurora tests its vehicles in the Bay Area, Pittsburgh, and Northern Texas. The company has offices in those areas as well as in Bozeman, MT; Seattle, WA; Louisville, CO; and Wixom, MI. To learn more, visit

Trane Technologies’ brand Thermo King announced Monday it will invest more than $100 million over the next three years to deliver a fully electric product in every segment of the cold chain by 2023.

Thermo King evolve logo

The company’s all-electric portfolio, branded evolve, will include electric refrigeration solutions for truck, trailer, rail, air and marine transport in the North America, Latin America and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions. Thermo King says the evolve portfolio aligns with customers’ goals to transition to more sustainable solutions for their fleets, and will help advance Trane Technologies’ 2030 Sustainability Commitments, including its Gigaton Challenge to reduce customer greenhouse gas emissions by 1 billion metric tons.

As new products are added to the evolve portfolio, electric solutions will be available in every cold chain segment in EMEA by 2023, and in the Americas by 2025.

“Bold solutions for a more sustainable world are core to our strategy. We continue to innovate to help reduce the carbon footprint of customer operations,” says Paul Camuti, chief technology and sustainability officer, Trane Technologies. “The evolve portfolio builds on our ongoing efforts to help customers reduce environmental impact and meet their sustainability goals as they transition fleets and stay ahead of future regulation.”

The global leader in temperature control solutions already offers fully electric products such as the E-200 for middle and last-mile delivery, and the TE-18 and Athenia all-electric HVAC units for public bus transit. Successfully launched in EMEA in 2020, Thermo King says the Advancer trailer unit is 30 percent more fuel efficient and can operate on a variety of power sources such as shore power, hybrid, holdover battery and axle generator. In the Americas region, the enhanced electric architecture on the connected Precedent trailer unit leverages shore power and will undergo field trials with customers later this year. These innovations will pave the way for all-electric zero-emission trailer refrigeration units in both regions, the company says.

“Our expertise in electrification has positioned Thermo King as a trusted partner to respected industry leaders such as Isuzu, Tesco, Mercedes-Benz and technology companies such as ELMS, Gatik and BPW who continue to find new ways to innovate the cold chain,” says Karin De Bondt, president, Thermo King Americas. “Through these strategic partnerships we are able to further our advancements of sustainable power solutions and electrified product offerings that meet customer, regulatory and environmental requirements in our industry and our world.”

Providing electric solutions for buildings, homes and refrigerated transportation is part of Trane Technologies’ overall approach to reducing carbon emissions in the industries it serves, meeting its Gigaton Challenge for a more sustainable future, and supporting net-zero cities, the company says.

TRUCKS, PARTS, SERVICE ™ Staff (TPS)Aug 30, 2021

FleetPulse by Great Dane

Great Dane announced Thursday its FleetPulse platform, the first OEM-developed smart trailer system, will now come as a standard feature on new Great Dane trailers with an integrated CAN harness to prepare equipment for future smart technology adoption.

Great Dane says this move reflect the company’s commitment to a future focus on connectivity, ensuring all equipment built today is prepared to meet the market’s future demands. All dry and refrigerated Great Dane trailers will now come standard with FleetPulse, delivering real-time data and valuable insights for fleets to get the most out of every mile.

“At Great Dane, we continue to build on our legacy of innovation by keeping an eye on the future,” says Dean Engelage, president, Great Dane. “By making our FleetPulse telematics solution a standard feature, Great Dane remains future-focused on trailer connectivity. We are laying the foundation for fleets to have greater flexibility in terms of accessing smart sensors years down the road.” 

FleetPulse by Great Dane

The company says this new offering includes GPS location, mileage data, geofences, automated yard checks, tethered status, heading, speed, as well as proprietary trailer specifications and parts information. The standard also includes built-in CAN harnessing, so that smart sensors can be added in the aftermarket and when new technology is introduced.

[RELATED: ConMet partners with Fleet Complete to up telematics offering]

Additionally, the company says there is the ability to upgrade to the full FleetPulsePRO option, which provides access to a full suite of smart sensors available today, taking a fleet to the leading edge of smart trailer technology. These include the ability to monitor and decipher ABS fault code alerts, tire inflation systems, door open status, light out detection, mileage from tire rotations, cargo status, rear axle weight, and more, Great Dane says.

Great Dane adds it is committed to leading the forefront of transportation innovations, integrating state-of-the-art technology in its premium trailers and truck bodies to facilitate the expansion of electronics and data insights. With FleetPulse, fleets benefit from real-time trailer-level data that puts more predictability into maintenance schedules, with real-time alerts from trailer health sensors creating greater productivity and more ROI for every asset, the company says.

“We are proud to offer telematics as standard and to provide insights for our customers, elevating the way they do business to ultimately deliver more uptime,” says  Chris Hammond, executive vice president, sales, Great Dane.

“One of the major hurdles to a connected vehicle future is that long trailer life can hinder the speed of innovation,” adds Mike Molitor, executive director, business development, Great Dane. “By equipping each Great Dane trailer with a FleetPulse device and CAN harnessing, we believe fleets are better positioned to take advantage of future technologies.”

[RELATED: Great Dane introduces telematics solution for pre-owned equipment]

Great Dane says Thursday’s announcement comes as industry-leading suppliers, including Hendrickson, TSE Brakes, and many others are developing compelling sensors that will become commercially available over the coming years.

“By equipping Great Dane trailers with a CAN network, fleets can cost-effectively take advantage of these technologies, while laying the groundwork for communication on the edge between the truck and trailer,” Molitor says. “We remain committed to providing premium trailers that benefit our customers as the industry transitions towards a connected, autonomous, and zero-emission future.”

Aug 12, 2021

Whether a large-scale attack on infrastructure or a smaller-scale attack on individual trucks, how real is the threat of cyberattacks in the trucking industry? - Graphic: HDT
Whether a large-scale attack on infrastructure or a smaller-scale attack on individual trucks, how real is the threat of cyberattacks in the trucking industry?
Graphic: HDT

In May, a ransomware cyberattack forced the shutdown of a major U.S. pipeline between Texas and New York, causing disruption to the supply of diesel and other petroleum products.

The event even prompted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to create more flexibility for motor carriers and drivers hauling these products to the affected states.

Whether a large-scale attack like this one, or a smaller-scale attack on individual trucks, how real is the threat of cyberattacks in the trucking industry? Heavy Duty Trucking has gathered up some of the top cybersecurity-related articles into one place for quick reference:

June 30, 2021 • by Vesna Brajkovic • HDT

Cummins displayed a hydrogen-fuel-cell concept vehicle at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in 2019. - Photo: Deborah Lockridge
Cummins displayed a hydrogen-fuel-cell concept vehicle at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in 2019.
Photo: Deborah Lockridge

You don’t have to look very hard at all to be inundated by news about electric cars and buses and trucks these days. In the four-wheel world, some manufacturers plan to offer predominantly electric powertrains within the decade or nearly so. By 2025, Volvo aims for 50% of its cars to be “pure electric,” the rest plug-in hybrids. In Norway — a rich oil-producing nation — the majority of cars sold today are already electric.

The electric storm won’t slow down, and it’s just as strong in the trucking universe. But Daimler and Volvo recently put the hydrogen fuel cell option more firmly on the truck map than it’s ever been. (More on that in a minute.)

You won’t catch me owning an electric personal vehicle any time soon, I promise. It’s about the range, or dramatic lack of it. I just read one car-maker’s attempt to assuage range fears, which suggested that its car’s 250-mile maximum one-charge driving distance would be fine for long trips. When you hit that max, you just stop for a meal and wait 40 minutes for a fast charger to give you 80% of a full charge, they say.

Gimme a break.

First off, getting 250 miles out of a charge assumes warm weather, with limited use of air conditioning and electric bits like headlights, and certainly no trailer being towed. Try getting that far in winter when battery life shrinks like mad. No, thanks. I routinely drive from my Toronto-area base to Michigan and Indiana and such places, and an electric car just wouldn’t cut it.

Just take a Detroit jaunt. For me, it’s an easy-peasy 290-mile run with no stops. Do I want to gamble that I can stretch my range by 40 miles? Or shut it down and wait 40 minutes when I’m less than an hour away from the end? Assuming I could find a vacant fast charger.

Columbus, Indiana, is something like 625 miles for me, usually a straight-through run. In ideal conditions, an electric vehicle with that 250-mile range would demand three stops, again assuming fast chargers. As things stand now, my Explorer needs one fuel stop for five minutes or so and maybe another 10 minutes to grab a hamburger to eat on the fly. The extreme hassle of stopping three times to recharge, not to mention wasting a couple of hours while plugged in, would drive me nuts. That nine-hour trip would become 11-12 hours at least.

In other words, again, an utterly firm no thanks.

But hey, this is about trucking. In our game we have an advantage in many applications where the required range is predictable. Urban and close-regional freight work, towing, utilities, and such where the truck is likely shut down overnight are all fine for battery-electric vehicles.

But when we get thousands of cars and buses and trucks demanding power from the grid at the same time, where are we then? Billions of dollars will have to be invested over the next 20 or 30 years to make it all work. I’m not even sure that’s possible. And if the power isn’t produced by sustainable, environmentally responsible means, what do we gain?

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Hydrogen fuel cells, on the other hand, don’t come with such baggage, though an expensive infrastructure does have to be developed. Crucially for trucks, a fill-up takes no longer than diesel does.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric trucks will be key for enabling CO2-neutral transportation in the future,” said Martin Daum, chief of Daimler Truck. “In combination with pure battery-electric drives, it enables us to offer our customers the best genuinely CO2-neutral vehicle options, depending on the application.”

He was speaking in late spring during the formal launch of a new fuel-cell joint venture between Daimler Truck and the Volvo Group. The two companies outlined their “industry-first commitment to accelerate the use of hydrogen-based fuel cells for long-haul trucks and beyond” with the new venture, called cellcentric.

They say fuel-cell electric and battery-electric options are complementary, which they obviously are, if you accept that the grid and infrastructure challenges can be met.

Daimler Truck is testing its second-generation fuel-cell electric truck. - Photo: Daimler Truck
Daimler Truck is testing its second-generation fuel-cell electric truck.
Photo: Daimler Truck

According to a press release, the other major European truck manufacturers, backed by Daimler and Volvo, are calling for the setup of around 300 “high-performance” hydrogen refuelling stations suitable for heavy-duty vehicles by 2025 and of around 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations no later than 2030 in Europe. Daimler and Volvo aim to start with customer tests of fuel-cell trucks in about three years and to be in series production of such trucks during the second half of this decade.

This joint effort does not mean that the two manufacturers are joining forces to produce trucks together. All vehicle-related activities will be carried out independently from each other, and the companies will remain competitors in all vehicle and product ranges, particularly in the integration of fuel cells in their trucks.

Cellcentric is a huge step forward in the advancement of fuel cells in Europe, where environmental goals are far more rigidly respected than they are on this side of the Atlantic, but of course the technologies it develops will be applied elsewhere.

Fuel-Cell Trucks in North America

Here in North America, Daimler and Volvo’s involvement in fuel-cell-electric trucks remains to be seen, but there are many others in the picture.

Cummins, for example, is a leader. Among other projects, which include a demo fuel-cell truck running in California and a joint development with Navistar, it bought the Canadian company Hydrogenics two years ago and has since built a 20-megawatt PEM electrolyser system to generate green hydrogen. It’s the largest such operation in the world. Installed at the Air Liquide hydrogen production facility in Bécancour, Quebec, it can produce over 3,000 tons of hydrogen annually using clean hydropower. The technical details don’t matter here. Just know that this solves the challenge of how to store hydrogen.

Kenworth, Toyota, and Shell have teamed up with public agencies in California to test hydrogen-fuel cell trucks at the Port of Los Angeles with four fleets (including Toyota’s own private fleet.) The Class 8 fuel cell electric trucks will have the ability to travel 300 miles on one charge of hydrogen.

Hyzon is a new entrant into the hydrogen-fuel-cell truck market. - Photo: Hyzon
Hyzon is a new entrant into the hydrogen-fuel-cell truck market.
Photo: Hyzon

An interesting new entrant is Hyzon Motors, which aims to build up to 100 hydrogen production hubs across the United States and globally. Each hub will convert organic waste in nearly every form into locally produced, renewable hydrogen for Hyzon’s zero-emission commercial vehicles, including garbage trucks. The first hub is planned at a landfill in the San Francisco Bay Area and is expected to be commissioned in 2022.

“In our considered opinion, the slam-dunk use case for hydrogen is heavy, high-utilization vehicles,” said company CEO Craig Knight in an interview with my colleague Jim Park. “A big vehicle that gets driven many hours a day is a bloody hard thing to get off fossil fuels without hydrogen. So we focus on those heavy kind of payload-imperative type vehicles, where they’re paid to carry weight.”

It’s ready to put trucks on the road this year.

Locking It In  • July 12, 2021 • by Rolf Lockwood • 

A blue sleeper semi parked on street
Transition Trucking

Kenworth, FASTPORT and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes initiative are joining together for the sixth consecutive year to discover America’s top rookie military veteran driver, who has made the transition from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces to driving for a commercial fleet.

Under the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” recognition program, Kenworth will again provide the top award – a Kenworth T680 equipped with a 76-inch sleeper and the PaccarPowertrain featuring the PaccarMX-13 engine, PaccarTX-12 automated transmission, and PaccarDX-40 tandem rear axles.

“Kenworth’s ongoing participation in the Transition Trucking program is one way to recognize the importance of our veterans and thank them for their service. We urge trucking fleets to nominate their best rookie drivers who have served our country and encourage service members transitioning from the military to consider the trucking industry as their future career,” says Laura Bloch, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. 

“An estimated 200,000 veterans transition from the military into the private sector each year. FASTPORT’s mission is to educate and inform veterans about career opportunities in the nation’s trucking industry. The ongoing driver shortage makes recruiting from the military more important than ever before. We look forward to awarding a well-deserving veteran with a Kenworth T680 in the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” program this year,” says Brad Bentley, FASTPORT president.

“The trucking industry thrived last year despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, proving its position as a sustainable career pathway,” says Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes. “The 2021 ‘Transition Trucking’ award campaign is another opportunity to highlight the impact veterans are making in the transportation industry and introduce a new generation of veterans to the real economic opportunity a career in trucking can represent.”

The top driver will be determined by an expert panel of judges. To qualify, drivers must meet three eligibility requirements:

  • Must have been active military or member of the National Guard or Reserve.
  • Graduated from PTDI-certified, NAPFTDS or CVTA member driver training school, with a valid CDL.
  • First hired in a trucking position between Jan. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2021.

The nomination window opened June 10 and the final deadline is July 31, 2021. Full criteria and online nomination forms can be found on the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” website (        

TRUCKS, PARTS, SERVICE ™ Staff (TPS)Jun 29, 2021

Kenworth 52 In Sleeper

Kenworth has debuted a 52-in. flat roof sleeper especially targeted for Class 8 crane, pump, car hauler and other applications that may require a low roof.

With the addition of the 52-in. flat roof sleeper and the Kenworth AG400L rear suspension’s new 6.5-in. ride height – two inches lower than previously available – Kenworth says it has created a perfect combination for low roof applications. The new specification and sleeper are available for the Kenworth T680, T880 and W990 models.

“Truck height is extremely critical in many low-roof operations,” says Laura Bloch, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. “The 52-in. flat roof sleeper, plus the other supporting options, will help our customers specify their trucks to meet the needs of their low-profile applications.” 

Additionally, to support the new application, the W990 added a righthand side horizontal tailpipe under the DPF/SCR to match the current T680 and T880 offering. An under rail DPF/SCR exhaust system is also available on the T680 and T880 models. 

To further reduce overall truck height, Kenworth says the set forward front axle W990 and T880S models have a 5-in. drop front axle option that lowers the front of the truck by 1.5 in. over the standard 3.5 in. drop. Kenworth low-profile tire options include 275/80R22.5 front tires and 255/70R22.5 rear tires, 295/60R22.5 front and rear tires. The smaller 22.5-in. diameter fuel tanks allow for maximum ground clearance.

Marker lights, beacons, airhorns and vertical stacks are also available, making the flat roof sleeper an excellent option for image-conscious fleets and truck operators, the company says.

Finally, the flat roof sleeper model is equipped with the 2.1-meter wide cab providing a premium driver experience. Key features include fully trimmed premium interior, 56-in. interior cab height, triple-sealed door for a quiet ride, 15-in. Digital Display, Kenworth SmartWheel available with cruise and radio control on the steering wheel, and under door light which illuminates the steps and ground. Also available are the latest driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation, Kenworth says. Remote PTO controls also are available from the factory for easy upfit and a full truck kit provides air and light lines to the end of the frame. 

Truck, Parts, Service Staff (TPS) May 27, 2021

Paccar unveils 2021 MX engines

Posted: May 11, 2021 in Kenworth
2021 PACCAR MX-13 Engine 2
2021 PACCAR MX-13 Engine 2

With the launch of Kenworth’s new T680 Next Generation truck model, also comes the 2021 Paccar MX-11 and Paccar MX-13 engines, giving even better performance and efficiency to Kenworth’s Class 8 truck lineup, Paccar says.

Both engines feature re-designed internal components to enhance fuel economy — up to 2.4 percent in the Paccar MX-13, and 3.4 percent in the Paccar MX-11 — depending on the application and specification. The Paccar MX-11 can now be spec’d with a higher horsepower rating of up to 445 hp at 1,700 lb.-ft. of torque @ 900 RPM. The Paccar MX-13 can be spec’d up to 510 hp at 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,000 RPM, the company says.

These new engine developments make Kenworth trucks more productive. When paired with the 12-speed Paccar TX-12 transmission, Kenworth predictive cruise control and Paccar DX-40 axles, the performance is enhanced even further.

Helping drive fuel efficiency improvements is a number of refinements that all come together to maximize performance. The engines feature optimized combustion with multi-pulse fuel injection. A smaller, more efficient turbocharger boosts power and improves responsiveness. And an enhanced piston design has added features to reduce frictional losses. Paccar adds that its next generation aftertreatment system completes the system to further reduce particulates and NOx without sacrificing power or MPGs.

Paccar says the engines were updated for added reliability. An enhanced fully-encapsulated engine harness protects against the elements, while connections were reduced between the engine and vehicle. Inside the engine, several structural enhancements were added to strengthen components and optimize rigidity.

To make fuel filter changes more efficient, Paccar now mounts primary and secondary fuel filters on the engine, instead of on the chassis. And, a 12-volt fuel heater comes standard for improved cold weather performance.

Extended service intervals of up to 75,000 miles for both the oil and fuel filter combined with major components warranty, which is 5 years or 500,000 miles, results in improved performance and service intervals.

TRUCKS, PARTS, SERVICE ™ Staff (TPS)May 07, 2021

Both aluminum and steel wheels can work in any trucking application you can name. So deciding which is right for your operations is often a highly specialized decision. - Photo: Accuride
Both aluminum and steel wheels can work in any trucking application you can name. So deciding which is right for your operations is often a highly specialized decision. Photo: Accurid

Once upon a time, truck maintenance managers didn’t put much thought into the wheels on their trucks. These days, the choice of wheels is more complicated. Wheels need to be as light as possible to minimize weight and maximize fuel economy. Uptime is critical, so they need to be as maintenance-free as possible. On top of that, fleets need to think about how wheel choice will be affected by new technologies such as “smart” wheel hubs and braking systems, as well as tire pressure monitoring and inflation systems.

Jamie Hagen is the chief executive officer and chief driver for Hell Bent Xpress, a small fleet running bulk haulers and a new dry van fleet out of Aberdeen, South Dakota. He’s a “social media influencer” who shares his tests of the latest technology and his quest for always-higher fuel economy to a large following.

“I spec aluminum wheels for everything on my bulk haulers and run them with super singles on top,” Hagen says. “I want those rigs to be as light as possible for fuel economy. But recently, I’ve been buying new dry vans, and they’re coming from the factory with steel wheels on them. I’ve been buying aluminum wheels here and there, and will eventually put them on the dry vans. In this case, it’s as much about maintenance as it is weight. Up here in South Dakota, those trailers can sit idle for long months in the winter and they go forever between wash bays. So, I know that sooner or later they’re going to start to rust out on me. In fact, I’ve already got rust on some of the new trailer wheels – and they’re only about six months old.”

Hagen says aluminum wheels don’t seem to make much of a difference in his fuel economy numbers, although he’s never done a serious comparative study between the two.

“Mainly this is based on application. My bulk haulers are always maxed out at 80,000 pounds,” he explains. “Whereas my dry van trucks average 70,000 pounds per run. So, as far as I can tell, the difference in vehicle weight really negates any advantage I’d see in terms of fuel economy.”

Lighter wheels, better fuel economy?

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency says lightweighting technologies save 0.5% to 0.6% of fuel per 1,000 pounds of weight reduction, notes Mike Palladino, director of sales and product management at Accuride.

“We can use this formula to get an idea of what going from Accuride’s lightest steel wheel of 65 pounds down to our 38-pound aluminum wheel would save a single truck,” Palladino says. “According to our calculations, that spec change would cut 450 pounds off the truck, which translates into a fuel economy increase of 0.2%, assuming the total vehicle weight decreases.”

For bulk haulers like Hagen who often replace that weight saved with more payload, that equation isn’t valid. For those fleets, the extra payload capacity drives wheel choices.

“Weight reduction has been an ever-present goal for truck wheel manufacturers,” says Amy Gross, marketing manager of Alcoa Wheels. “We continue to innovate with manufacturing processes and metal technology, finding new opportunities for weight reduction without sacrificing performance and durability.”

Gross says aluminum wheels have come a long way over the past 75 years, with some models shedding up to 14 pounds per wheel. She cites the Alcoa ULT39x, in the 22.5-by-8.25-inch style so common in trucking, which dropped to 39 pounds in 2020 – compared to 53 pounds in 1986. The load rating has increased from 7,300 pounds to 7,400 pounds. “In essence,” she says, “the wheel got lighter and stronger at the same time.”

Beyond the metal choice

Wheels are evolving in other ways, too. Hagen recently spotted something he’s interested in learning more about.

“I saw a story that Alcoa has come out with a new, two-air-stem wheel, specifically designed for TPMS,” he says. Tire pressure monitoring systems are standard on all his trucks and trailers. But the valve stem cap is a critical component that physically connects the tire to the system.

“You can take a TPMS cap off easily enough and put air in a tire, and put it back on again,” he explains. “But I’ve already had a couple of drivers lose the caps. Once the cap is gone, the TPMS is useless. So, I love the idea of having two separate valve stems – one dedicated to the TPMS, and the other dedicated to inflating or deflating the tire.”

Steel wheels are generally less expensive than aluminum but require more maintenance over their working lives. - Photo: Accuride
Steel wheels are generally less expensive than aluminum but require more maintenance over their working lives. Photo: Accuride

Alcoa’s Gross is happy to confirm.

“Dual-valve Alcoa wheels offer a second valve stem to attach valve-mounted tire pressure monitors, where they can be left alone and the other valve can be used for airing the tire, limiting the chance for sensor damage.”

She also cites a new and improved hub bore technology on Alcoa wheels. A unique contour limits the contact area of the wheel to the hub where corrosion is likely to build up and cause the wheel to be hard to remove.

Costs to consider

According to Alcoa, more than 70% of new Class 8 trucks are being spec’d with aluminum wheels from the factory.

“Gradually over the past few decades, fleets and OEMs have come to realize the benefit of aluminum wheels versus steel to aid in lightweighting, maintenance improvements and aesthetics,” Gross says. “The aluminum wheel penetration has been increasing steadily.”

Matt Brest, senior sales engineer of commercial vehicle and military wheels for Maxion, says the market share between steel and aluminum is very different depending on the class of vehicle and what part of the vehicle the wheel is on.

“It also depends on the application,” he says. “For Class 8 tractors, it’s roughly 80% aluminum and 20% steel. However, on trailers, the numbers flip to 80% steel and 20% aluminum. This is for the market as a whole. However, there are segments like bulk haulers, where every piece of the vehicle uses as much aluminum as possible because the payback is so great. For medium-duty trucks like Class 4-6, steel is still the predominant solution” at about 90%.

The steel-vs.-aluminum question is common enough that Alcoa Wheels developed a program to help fleets decide which option is best for their operations.

“To prove the value of aluminum versus steel wheels, we often provide a fleet with a set of wheels to test, in addition to providing an ROI model,” Gross says. Fleets are asked to benchmark and evaluate the gains in tire life, torque retention, corrosion reduction, image advancement, ride improvement and ease of maintenance.

Accuride’s Palladino notes that both steel wheels and aluminum wheels will work for the same vocations.

“Whether or not a fleet will decide to spec steel wheels or aluminum wheels will be based upon their own opinions, and what is important to them.”

He says this includes issues such as lightweighting, financial impact, aesthetics, and driver preference. For those reasons, he adds, Accuride is the only wheel manufacturer in North America that supplies both steel and aluminum wheels for all vocations.

“Some fleets value weight savings the most,” Palladino says. “Others prefer the cost of a steel wheel. Accuride manufactures the lightest aluminum wheel in the market at 38 pounds and the lightest steel wheel in the market at 65 pounds, so we can cover any application or vocation in trucking today.”

Maxion’s Brest says there’s another reason we may see more aluminum wheels in the future.

“The other big reason for reduced weight is the obvious push toward electrification in the industry now. Batteries are currently very heavy.  So, in order to maintain payload capacity, OEMs are looking to reduce weight in other areas. Wheels have been able to reduce their weight every few years with advances in materials and processing.”

Price remains an issue, too.

“Upfront costs can be an issue for aluminum wheels, and they can vary between each OEM,” Alcoa’s Gross says. “Oftentimes it is easy to prove an ROI based on productivity gains. For aluminum wheels, that includes a reduction in maintenance costs, increased resale value, and even driver retention.”

Palladino cautions that COVID-19 economic factors have affected pricing.

“With the slow recovery of the economy since the height of the pandemic, raw material prices have been in extreme fluctuation,” he says. “Steel wheel prices have nearly tripled since late 2020 and aluminum has seen a dramatic increase as well. It is important to keep these current cost increases in mind during the spec’ing process.”

April 23, 2021 • by Jack Roberts

The growing lineup of Paccar Powertrain components offered in Kenworth heavy- and medium-duty trucks now have a new set of names. The new naming convention is consistent for each powertrain component segment, the company says, and follows a similar naming style as the Paccar MX and PX engines, and provides cohesive Paccar Powertrain product branding. The Paccar Powertrain products feature the Paccar MX-13, Paccar MX-11, Paccar PX-9 and Paccar PX-7 engines; Paccar TX-12 automated and Paccar TX-8 automatic transmissions; and Paccar DX-40 drive axle and Paccar FX-20 front axle.