With an eye to changing commerce patterns, Volvo Trucks North America and Navistar’s International division both unveiled regional semi-truck models for the North American Market at ExpoCam, Canada’s largest truck trade show.
Volvo debuted its new VNR regional semi-truck, its first full redesign of a mid-range tractor since 1996, Wednesday night.
Not to be outdone, Navistar on Thursday also introduced its new generation International RH Series regional haul truck line at the Montreal trade show.
The truck manufacturers are reacting to structural changes in the U.S. economy.
The rise of online shopping – which requires more regionalized delivery and distribution – as well as increased urban congestion are creating demand for trucks such as the VNR, said Steve Tam, vice president of trucking industry consulting firm ACT Research in Columbus, Ind.
The new Volvo truck has both a shorter wheel base and front bumper to the back of the cab length, making it better for regional hauling of fuel and food as well as urban pickup and delivery operations. And it’s much more effective when compared with a big rig designed to ship goods across country. Volvo also is targeting the truck for use in drayage – moving cargo containers around port complexes and distribution centers.
“It’s a tighter package for more maneuverability,” Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America, told Trucks.com.
“The whole industry believes in the shorter regional segment,” Nyberg said. “We want to be part of that growth and make sure we meet those expectations.”
Short haul operations make up 27.5 percent of global heavy-duty truck sales, according to IBISWorld, an industry research firm.
Navistar echoed those sentiments in its introduction of the International RH line.
Navistar’s designers paid extra attention to how drivers navigate through urban settings and worked to build in safety features. The RH has redesigned side windows and mirrors that provide better side visibility than previous models. Other features such as the large swept-back windshield, mirror placement and an aerodynamic sloped hood offer drivers a better view.
Like Volvo, the truck maker focused on maneuverability to help drivers to maneuver tight city streets or cramped loading docks. The RH Series provides a curb-to-curb turning radius of under 28 feet, the company said.
“We are confident this truck will continue to build on our momentum and be successful in the regional haul market,” said Bill Kozek, president of truck and parts for Navistar.
In the heaviest Class 8 truck segment, both Volvo and Navistar are chasing market leader Daimler Trucks for U.S. sales. Daimler controlled about 40 percent of the market last year, according to industry research firm WardsAuto. Volvo, including its Mack brand, had about 20 percent while Navistar had just 11 percent and was the smallest of the major players.
While the WardsAuto data did not detail Class 8 segments, such as regional haulers, share divisions generally mirror the sub-categories, Tam said.
Volvo plans to offer three VNR model trucks, including the VNR 300, a day cab; the VNR 400, with a small sleeper; and the VNR 640, which includes a large sleeper in the truck.
The new VNR models will come standard with the Volvo D11 engine, which Volvo described as a “fuel efficient, lightweight engine designed to improve reliability and minimize cost of operation.”
Some of the features on the new VNR include an updated version of the Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission and Volvo’s I-See predictive cruise control, which also improves fuel economy. Driver side airbags are now standard on all of its vehicles.
Additional safety features include Volvo’s Active Driver Assist system, which uses Bendix Fusion technology for collision warnings, automatic emergency braking and other alerts.
The new Volvo has improved aerodynamics to increase fuel economy by about 3.5 percent.
Trucking executives attending ExpoCam were impressed with the new VNR, but said it will take time for that to translate into sales. Volvo plans to start taking orders for the new model Monday.
Wayne Scott, senior director of maintenance of Loblaw Companies, a grocery delivery business, said the company has a fleet of around 400 trucks. He isn’t sure how many of the new Volvo trucks he will buy this year, but said he plans to put at least one to work.
“We definitely will be testing these vehicles to see how they fit in our application,” Scott told Trucks.com.
Some companies expressed interest, but have already exhausted their full equipment budgets for the year.
“My budget is spent for this year and I have nothing left for Volvo. However, what I have seen tonight of the new truck is very impressive,” said Wendell Erb, president of the Erb Group of Companies.
The company’s fleet, which comprises about 850 trucks, is 95 percent International badged trucks, with the remainder being Volvos, Erb said.
Volvo was due for rolling out a new regional truck, Tam said.
Volvo’s regional truck has seen “very few changes over the years, just knocking off the corners and rounding things to improve fuel efficiency,” Tam said. “The product life cycles in the heavy industry tend to be very lengthy.”
Volvo will phase out sales of the aged VNM model by the end of year. It will launch production of the new VNR trucks at its factory in Dublin, Va., in August.
Editor’s note: Trucks.com editor Jerry Hirsch contributed to this report.