Cover Story/Machine Matters: 2009 Heavy haulers

Fuel costs may have you questioning your tried-and-true specs, and asking whether manufacturers plan to crank out less commanding versions of the powerful dump trucks you’ve come to depend on.

That isn’t the case. While concerns in the on-highway market have directly shifted to improving fuel economy, the vocational truck market continues to set its sights on delivering increased performance and productivity, with fuel consumption concerns next on the list.

Specs for success
Chances are, you’ve used the same dump truck specs for years and haven’t had a reason to change. As costs go up, however, it’s not a bad idea to talk to your dealer about other spec options so you can reduce operating costs and extend maintenance cycles.

Dump truck manufacturers have begun to address requests for trucks that haul effectively and keep fuel consumption relatively low through advancements in engine technology and by lending advice on weight reductions of certain components.

“There’s a sophistication in the spec’ing of a dump truck – you need to get the truck’s tare weight correct and save weight in places where you won’t detrimentally affect the life of the dump body,” says Stephen Ginter, vocational products marketing manager, Mack Trucks.

Finding a good balance for both hauling and fuel efficiency largely depends on the truck’s application and where you’ll be driving. “If you’re operating mostly on stop-and-go streets, you may not be able to improve fuel economy just through spec’ing,” says Bob Bees, marketing product manager, Volvo Trucks. Dump trucks performing hauls for mostly long distances, however, can be spec’ed more intelligently by talking to a dealer about proper gear ratios, Bees notes.

Educating drivers about driving techniques, such as learning to shift so the engine remains in the sweet spot – or the optimum rpm range, around 1,350 to 1,450 rpm – and preventing unnecessary idling on jobsites, aids tremendously in maximizing fuel economy.

Here’s a list of specs to reconsider if you’re shopping around, and tips for getting the most out of 2009 dump trucks:

Engine selection has a lot to do with where you plan to haul – specifically, how rough the terrain is – and what you intend to carry. Discuss with a dealer the gross vehicle weight and payload rating so you can meet your hauling criteria and then select your engine accordingly.

A downsized engine with lower horsepower may help improve fuel economy, but as Ken Marko, market planning manager, Peterbilt, notes, your truck still needs to be rugged and tough enough to make substantial hauls. If you’re unsure, stay within the mid-size range rather than opting for too much or too little horsepower, since you don’t want to under- or over-compensate for the jobs you plan to do.

Before selecting an engine, ask a dealer whether recent improvements have been made. Mack Trucks, for example, says its MP Engine Series – including the MP7 and MP8 – have horsepower ranges up to 405 and 485, respectively, and achieve up to 10 percent fuel economy gains compared to previous Mack engines.

Available on select Daimler vocational trucks in 2009, Detroit Diesel’s new DD13 engine weighs 340 pounds less than the DD15, and delivers 350 to 450 horsepower as well as 1,350 to 1,650 foot-pounds of torque. An added bonus: the DD13 provides up to 5 percent better fuel economy than the MBE 4000. Western Star plans to include the DD13 on its trucks in 2010.

Choosing an engine with a direct-drive engine fan that has on/off capabilities – such as the Detroit Diesel Series 60 14-liter engine on Western Star’s 6900 XD 40-ton dump – or an engine fan that remains off unless needed, is another good option for saving energy.

Kenworth added the Horton DriveMaster two-speed fan drive as an option on its T800, which enables the fan to turn at a lower speed and reduce the time it’s fully engaged.

Ask how much the truck’s frame weighs per foot or per inch so you can select one robust enough to handle your payload, but not so heavy that it has too much extra weight. “Lighter components are available so drivers can carry more payload, but that doesn’t always allow for better fuel economy,” Marko explains.

A truck body builder can clue you in on where it pays to reduce weight, such as using a lighter frame rail configuration. Take a look at the various crossmember options available, too.

Sterling offers a 13 1⁄8-inch single channel frame rail on its set-back L-line dump (see the sidebar on Sterling below). “Traditionally, customers used a liner or outer reinforcements,” says Paul DeLong, product manager, Sterling. “But not all customers need a double frame rail in certain applications. For instance, a 13-inch frame rail on a 252-inch wheel base super dump can reduce the truck’s weight by 640 pounds.”

International offers 12 /-inch frame rails in single or double configurations on its PayStar 5900 SBA, as well as 10-inch frame rails for the weight conscious. Additionally, 16 Cornerstone frame rail options are available on Mack’s Granite dump truck and Volvo Trucks has five frame rail packages to choose from to optimize weight and strength.

Front and rear axles
Your axle configuration also depends on the truck’s intended payload and whether it will take on medium or heavy-duty jobs. “Oftentimes, hauling efficiency is the biggest concern,” says Phil Christman, vice president and general manager, Severe Service Vehicle Center, International.

To be safe, note your state’s rules on truck weight limits before deciding axle spacing. Manufacturers differ on their axle offerings, which range anywhere from 8,000 to 23,000 pounds for the front axle and from 17,000 to 70,000 pounds for the rear axle.

“We have an up-to-20,000-pound front axle rating (on the PayStar 5900 SBA) so operators can maximize hauling capacity and still manage maximum speeds to perform tasks such as drilling in oil field applications, logging, etc.,” Christman says.

For even more payload capacity, you can opt for a lift axle. “When choosing a lift axle in the aftermarket though, be careful to consider your truck’s park brake chamber and its overall gross vehicle weight rating, because it may not be capable of handling the extra load,” Bees adds.

If you want visibility around tight jobsites, consider a set-back, short hood axle dump truck, according to DeLong. Some trucks could require an axle-forward configuration, however, to meet bridge formula requirements in your state. Many trucks are available in either configuration.

A suspension must be highly maneuverable, assist in turning and have high articulation.

For hauling high-center-of-gravity loads, several manufacturers offer walking beam suspensions. Air ride suspensions – which weigh significantly less than conventional suspensions – are popular for smooth hauling. To make it around rough jobsites, Mack offers its Camelback multi-leaf spring suspension with heavy-duty shock absorbers on the Granite, and Freightliner features the Hendrickson Primaax EX rear air suspension on its M2 112V for reduced vibration.

Manufacturers say they are seeing a trend toward automatic transmissions on dump trucks, primarily because they make driver training easier. Peterbilt, for instance, offers an Allison automatic transmission on its Model 365, with good customer response. Kenworth has also expanded automatic transmission offerings on its T800 to include Allison 4000 and 4500 series transmissions (when spec’ed with Cummins ISX engines not to exceed 1,650 foot-pounds) for applications with high horsepower requirements.

“Many people are aware of the automatic transmission’s success in the mixer and refuse segments, which has made these transmissions popular for the dump truck market,” Ginter says.

Standout features
Several manufacturers are including features designed to help you get more out of your truck.

Western Star, for example, partnered with Zonar Systems to offer fleet management tools on its 6900 XD, including Zonar’s Electronic Vehicle Inspection Report System, a high-definition GPS system and the Ground Traffic Control web-based telematics application.

EVIR incorporates a handheld scanner and radio frequency identification tags. “Drivers can place the tags anywhere on the truck’s body, such as the tires, dipstick tube, etc., so when it’s time to perform daily visual maintenance inspections, they simply scan each tag and then select (on the scanner’s screen) the condition the truck component is in,” says Chuck Whitehead, manager, vocational sales, Western Star Trucks.

For example, if a tire leaks or a frame fastener breaks, cracks or becomes loose, an operator can select the appropriate observation from a list of options on the scanner. “Once the operator has finished, the information immediately uploads to the maintenance terminal’s computer system, and fleet managers then decide whether the truck should go out that day or not,” Whitehead explains.

If the truck gets cleared for work, GPS tracks the vehicle and pinpoints vehicle stops, speeds, routes, excessive idling and more. The truck’s information is continuously transmitted via satellite to the maintenance terminal, where fleet dispatchers can view data through the web-based Ground Traffic Control program.

Peterbilt included a new electrical system and lighting on its Model 365 so drivers can see better at night while working on off-highway jobsites and in rough terrain areas that are not well lit. New front suspensions were also introduced to improve the turning radius on the 365, as well as maneuverability.

Sterling’s new dash finish for its SB113 L-line dump features a stone look that’s more scratch resistant and reduces glare while fitting in with the truck’s overall heavy-duty look and feel. “We also reduced noise levels by 25 percent by improving seals within the cab, engine mounts, floor mats, cab floor dampening, firewall insulation, roof dampening and thermal insulation packaging,” DeLong says.

Volvo has two available power take offs: a front PTO that can be combined with an Allison transmission for up to 425 horsepower, or a rear engine PTO available off the drive shaft with an Allison transmission for 335 to 485 horsepower. To access the REPTO, Volvo offers a cover plate in the floor of the cab, with removable bolts for easy maintenance.

A new outlook
Several other specs should be considered to ensure your dump truck reaches its optimal performance capabilities.

This includes using wide-based tires for less rolling resistance instead of dual tires on the rear axle. “Previously, super singles had their issues, but now these wide-based tires are lighter than dual tires,” says Ivan Neblett, vocational product manager, Freightliner.

Selecting an aluminum cab or aluminum wheels and other components, as opposed to steel, goes a long way toward reducing the truck’s weight. But again, think about your intended application. For truly heavy construction tasks, a steel cab can withstand a beating.

And don’t assume picking a larger fuel tank for your new truck will help save time and money in the long run. A 100-gallon fuel tank won’t eat up as much room as a 150-gallon tank and it should provide enough fuel for most projects, while weighing a lot less. “There used to be extra space for a large fuel tank on dumps, but now the diesel particulate filter eats up most of the room, and you still have to think about other components,” Bees says.

“We realize fuel economy is important to the dump truck operator,” Ginter says. “While it’s true drivers must start everyday and pull the hills, there’s been a misconception that operators only care about having enough fuel to last through the day. That’s not true anymore – they also care about how much fuel is left at the end of the day.”

2010 engines – A brief look ahead
As the 2010 on-highway emissions requirements draw near, manufacturers say engines with SCR and/or EGR technology will not only reduce emissions, making trucks more fuel efficient, but also lead to better engine performance. The SCR/EGR debate went on for months, with manufacturers choosing a side and then touting the benefits of their preferred technology. In August, however, Cummins – which had previously settled on EGR – announced that it, too, plans to use an SCR-based approach for its 2010 engines. Navistar International says it will use an EGR-only approach, while Mack intends to use a combination of SCR and EGR technology, as does Volvo Trucks. Other manufacturers say they plan to use SCR for their engines.

International PayStar 5900 SBA


  • Caterpillar C13, 305 – 625 horsepower
  • Caterpillar C15 ACERT, 435 – 625 horsepower
  • Cummins ISX, 400 – 600 horsepower


  • Fuller 8LL, 10-, 11-, 13-, 15- or 18-speed manual
  • Spicer 10-speed
  • Eaton Fuller 10- or 18-speed manual AutoShift
  • Allison 4000 RDS and 4500 RDS

Front axle:

  • 12,000 – 20,000-lb. Meritor

Rear axles:

  • 40,000 – 46,000-lb. Dana Spicer tandem
  • 40,000 – 70,000-lb. Meritor tandem

Volvo VHD

  • Volvo D13, 335 – 485 horsepower


  • Volvo I-Shift, 12-speed
  • Eaton Fuller FR, FRO, RTO, RTLO 10-, 11-, 13- and 18-speed; manual and AutoShift
  • Allison 4000 and 4500 series; 5- and 6-speed

Front axle:

  • 14,600- 22,800 lb.

Rear axles:

  • 23,000- 58,000-lb. Meritor
  • 58,000- 65,000-lb. Volvo

Kenworth T800

  • Caterpillar C13, C15, 305 – 600 horsepower
  • Cummins ISM, ISX, 310 – 600 horsepower


  • Allison 4000 and 4500 series 5- and 6-speed automatic
  • Eaton Fuller 10-, 11-, 13-, 15- and 18-speed manual

Front axle:

  • 12,000-,13,200-, 14,600-, 20,000- and 22,000-lb. Dana Spicer
  • 12,000-,13,200-, 14,600- and 20,000-lb. Meritor

Rear axles:

  • 40,000-, 44,000-, 45,000-, 46,000-, 52,000-, 60,000- and 70,000-lb. Dana Spicer Dual-Drive tandem
  • 40,000-, 44,000-, 50,000-, 52,000-, 58,000- and 70,000-lb. Meritor Dual-Drive tandem
  • 58,000- or 70,000-lb. Sisu Dual-Drive (planetary)
  • 58,000-lb. Dana Spicer tri-drive
  • Up to 69,000-lb. Meritor tri-drive

Mack Granite

  • Mack MP7 11-liter, up to 405 horsepower
  • Mack MP8 13-liter, up to 485 horsepower


  • Mack MaxiTorque ES T310M 8-, 9-, 10-, 13- and 18-speed manual
  • Eaton Fuller 9-, 10-, 11-, 13-, 15- and 18-speed manual
  • Allison 5- or 6-speed automatic

Front axle:

  • 12,000-, 14,000-, 18,000-, 20,000- and 23,000-lb.

Rear axles:

  • 38,000-, 44,000-, 46,000-, 52,000-, 58,000- and 65,000-lb.

Western Star 6900 XD

  • Detroit Diesel Series 60, 380 – 515 horsepower
  • Caterpillar C15, 435 – 625 horsepower


  • Eaton Fuller FR-13210B 10-, 11-, 13-, 15- and 18-speed
  • Allison automatic
  • Twin disc automatic

Front axle:

  • 20,000-lb. Meritor FL-941 single
  • 22,000- to 24,000-lb. Dana Spicer single
  • 28,000-lb. Sisu single

Rear axles:

  • 46,000- 110,000-lb. Meritor tandem
  • 70,000-lb. Sisu tandem

Sterling SB113 L-line

  • Caterpillar C13, 305 – 470 horsepower
  • Caterpillar C15, 435 – 625 horsepower
  • Detroit Diesel MBE 4000, 350 – 450 horsepower
  • Detroit Diesel DD13, 350 – 450 horsepower
  • Detroit Diesel DD15, 450 – 560 horsepower


  • Eaton Fuller 10-, 10- (AutoShift), 11-, 13-, 15- and 18-speed
  • Allison 4000 or 5000

Front axle:

  • 10,000- 22,000-lb. Meritor
  • 10,000- 20,000-lb. Sterling
  • 12,000-lb. Hendrickson Steertek

Rear axles:

  • 17,500- 30,000-lb. Meritor single
  • 34,000- 44,000-lb. Sterling tandem
  • 40,000- 68,000-lb. Meritor tandem

Freightliner Business Class M2 112V

  • Mercedes Benz MBE 900, 190 – 250 horsepower
  • Caterpillar C13, 305 – 430 horsepower
  • Transmission: Eaton Fuller 5-, 6-, 9-, 10-, 11- or 13-speed manual
  • Eaton Fuller 10-speed AutoShift or UltraShift
  • Allison automatic

Front axle:

  • 12,000- 22,000 lb.

Rear axles:

  • 23,000-lb. Meritor single
  • 58,000-lb. Meritor tandem
  • 69,000-lb. Meritor tri-drive

Peterbilt 365

  • Cummins ISM, 280 – 410 horsepower
  • Cummins ISL, 345 – 365 horsepower
  • Cat C13, 305 – 470 horsepower
  • Cat C9, 335 – 350 horsepower


  • Eaton Fuller 10-, 11-, 13-, 15- and 18-speed manual
  • Eaton Fuller 10- and 18-speed AutoShift
  • Eaton Fuller 10- and 13-shift UltraShift
  • Allison 4-, 5- and 6-speed automatic

Front axle:

  • 12,000-, 13,200-, 14,600-, 20,000- and 22,000-lb. Dana Spicer

Rear axles:

  • 21,000-, 23,000-, 25,000- and 26,000-lb. Dana Spicer single
  • 21,000-, 23,000- and 26,000-lb. Meritor single
  • 40,000-, 44,000-, 46,000-, 52,000-, 60,000- or 70,000-lb. Dana Spicer tandem
  • 40,000-, 44,000- and 46,000-lb. Meritor tandem
  • 58,000- and 70,000-lb. Sisu tandem
  • 58,000-lb. Dana Spicer tri-drive

Sterling to exit truck market
On October 14, Daimler Trucks North America announced the discontinuation of the Sterling Trucks brand, effective March 2009. (See the Reporter story on page p.13). Dealers will continue to accept truck orders until January 15, 2009, and new truck sales will continue until dealer stocks are depleted.

The company cited substantial overlap with Freightliner offerings, which have achieved better market penetration, as one of the reasons for Sterling’s discontinuation.