As a truck writer, the first quarter of each year is like a gold mine. Some of the most important trucking shows take place, starting with World of Concrete and ending with the Mid-America Trucking Show. In between are the Technology and Maintenance Council Exhibits and the Work Truck Show.
Here are some new product introductions from these events that should improve concrete producers' operations.
- Hendrickson (www.hendrickson-intl.com) launched a series of steerable lift axles. Their new Compliant Tie Rod and PerfecTrack technology are unique. The steering tie rod is made of spring steel. It bends on impact to absorb shock but pulls straight under tension so both wheels steer properly. The compliance minimizes or eliminates most damage, while PerfecTrack maintains geometry. The tie rod lift axles are available in 10,000-, 13,500- and 20,000-pound capacities.
- Many batteries are replaced when the real problem is in the charging system. Purkey's Fleet Electric (www.purkeysfleetelectric.com) has developed a simple device that identifies state of battery charge (engine-off) or alternator condition (engine-on) just by plugging into a 12-volt power post and reading signal lights. The tool doubles as a keychain so it's always handy.
- It seems as if every up-fitter is making systems for Ford's new Transit Connect, voted (light duty) Truck of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show. The Katerack from Dejana Cargo and Van Interiors is available through Ford dealers. The infinitely adjustable slide-out shelves got my attention when they demonstrated the 250-pound capacity each shelf has by having a man stand on the extended top shelf.
- Light-duty truck introductions include Ford Super Duty pickups, a new class 2-3 cargo van from Nissan, and the Chevy/GMC Heavy Duty pickups. Navistar announced its new Terra Star, available in day cab, extended cab, and crew cab versions.
- Powered by International's Maxx-Force 7 diesel engine, the Terra Star comes in class 4 (16,000 lbs gross vehicle weight rating) and class 5 (19,500 lbs GVWR) versions. The new V-8 engine produces up to 300 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. Using advanced EGR to meet the 2010 emissions standards, no diesel exhaust fluid is needed.
- Frustration and injury can occur when a trailer and the ball hitch of a pickup or truck are not properly aligned, especially with heavier trailers. Now there's less need to strain and lift to reposition the trailer. Williams Innovations (www.williamsinnovations.com) developed TeleSwivel Pro, a hitch adapter that extends and swivels to enlarge the target zone for connecting a ball hitch trailer by 25 times. It works with 2-inch and 2.5-inch receivers, using an adapter for the larger version. That makes it easier to position the truck without having to manually move trailers.
- Smith Electric Vehicles (www.smithelectricvehicles.com) made news two ways. The Newton plug-in electric truck has a range of more than 100 miles and a top speed of 50 mph with a payload of 16,060 pounds. Its GVWR is as high as 26,455 pounds. It's an ideal city delivery and utility vehicle, reaching 0–30 mph quicker than most diesels. Smith's U.S. operation is attempting to buy its parent company headquartered in England, which would make Smith an American company.
- Do you need separate padlocks for storage boxes located on your trucks? Strattec (www.strattec.com) makes a heavy-duty padlock that you can set to work with the key to your truck. Order the locks for your make, insert your ignition key into the automotive grade lock, turn it right and then left, and your lock is set to work with your truck's key. No more keys left back in the shop or yard.
- Slips and falls getting into and out of vans and pickup trucks are costly in both time lost and claims. New England Machine LLC introduced TruckStairs, a three-step folding staircase with extendable leveling legs (www.truckstairs.com). Truck-Stairs secure to any 2-inch receiver hitch. They are 24 inches wide and 9 inches deep with slip-resistant safety treads, and weigh only 45 pounds.
- Have you unhitched a trailer and then drove away without disconnecting the electrical connection? The result is at least one hour of repair time for two pieces of equipment and a driver out of service. If not done right, the repair will be open to corrosion from rain and road salt. EZ-Connector (www.ezconnector.com) makes a full line of sealed connectors held together magnetically. They hold under normal towing, but break away safely when a truck is driven away from its trailer. Neither the plugs nor the cords will be damaged.
Paul Abelson is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association and is on the Board of Truckwriters of North America. Efirstname.lastname@example.org.