Revolution in trucks on full display at ConExpo-Con/Agg

Ready mixed concrete producers planning post-recession fleet investments will confront the cost of compliance with 2010 Environmental Protection Agency diesel engine emissions exhaust treatment, adding upwards of $10,000 to the price of mixers purchased prior to the 2008 construction market drop. Buying decisions might also factor the potential over the next five to 10 years for EPA or Department of Transportation rules dictating Class 8 truck fuel efficiency or greenhouse gas emissions levels.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood proposed new standards late last year for vocational heavy-duty vehicles. With a target 2014 through 2018 model year implementation, they contend, the standards could a) net a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions against current Class 8 trucks; and, b) drive development or wider adoption of technologies, including vehicle aerodynamics, tire rolling resistance, plus engine and transmission upgrades.

Major New York City ready mixed producer Ferrara Bros. Building Materials Corp. views truck emissions rules as a moving target in the decade ahead (page 44). That influenced the company’s inclusion in a 2010-11 fleet order of two compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered mixers—one pictured on this month’s cover, captured en route to a Brooklyn plant following a Tower 4 pour at the World Trade Center site. Truck 55, or its twin Kenworth/McNeilus/Westport Cummins CNG mixer, will take a break from hauls through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel for a 2011 ConExpo-Con/Agg showing.

The sixth staging of the combined ConExpo and Concrete & Aggregate Show, this year’s Las Vegas Convention Center mega-gathering abuts a deep mixer-truck sales slump. Yet prospects for a sustained positive business cycle beginning in 2012, coupled with a need to reload an industry fleet diminished through attrition and parking since the 2008 ConExpo-Con/Agg or before, suggest better times ahead for truck makers, mixer builders and their customers.

The 2011 ConExpo-Con/Agg has the makings of a watershed for heavy-duty truck and mixer offerings. Manufacturers and their customers are coping with new corporate alliances and brand realignments, plus—as Mack Trucks demonstrated first—costly EPA 2010 compliance measures for diesel engines.

Developments across the truck OEM landscape will be evident this month in Las Vegas: Caterpillar’s exit from on-highway engines and, through new business unit Cat Vocational Trucks, entry into mixer- and dump-suited chassis; Navistar’s Continental Mixers integration and severe-service model commitments in light of Cat Vocational contract production, plus Advanced EGR engine emissions compliance strategy unique among OEM peers; Daimler Trucks North America’s Sterling Trucks sunset and Freightliner brand strengthening with the new 114SD (page 43) and two other concrete- and aggregate-ready models; and, Kenworth Truck’s promotion of a recently introduced, lighter-weight T440, and CNG power option on the Ferrara Bros. T800SH-mounted McNeilus mixer.

Proving a capacity to create Las Vegas Convention Center buzz with the composite Revolution drum unveiling in 2002, McNeilus Cos. this year will spotlight the CNG mixer and a separate model bearing on a new 114SD. Showing the truck first in January at World of Concrete, Freightliner credited McNeilus for a key role in the federal bridge formula-wise model.

Thanks to regulations and improved market outlook, 2011 ConExpo-Con/Agg invites potential game changers in heavy-duty trucks and power. In the McNeilus Revolution tradition, anticipation centers on Cat Vocational Trucks’ charter model, the CT660 (page 46). Those who trek to Las Vegas the week of March 21 can size it up against worthy competition, checking its power options and whose mixers the show models sport.