Freightliner Unveils its New Diesel-Powered Refuse Truck at WasteExpo

April 24, 2018 by Clarissa Hawes

Looking to capture a larger segment of the work truck market, Freightliner unveiled a new diesel-powered refuse truck – the 2018 EconicSD – at WasteExpo, a waste management and recycling conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Freightliner, owned by Daimler Trucks North America, currently dominates the long-haul heavy-duty truck market but is a smaller player in the refuse collection vehicle business, where many offerings are powered by natural gas.

The Euro-style low-entry cab-over-engine waste collection truck will be the third of the U.S. truck division of the Daimler, the German automaker that also owns Mercedes-Benz. One of its existing models handles smaller loads and the other uses a Cummins Westport natural gas engine.

The EconicSD cab and chassis are designed and manufactured in Woerth, Germany – Daimler’s largest truck plant. The company has made more than 125 modifications to adapt the truck for the North American market. Final assembly will take place at Freightliner’s factory in Gaffney, S.C.

Freightliner Trucks EconicSD refuse truck. (Photo: Freightliner)

“We borrowed proudly from the foremost automotive and commercial manufacturer in the world, Mercedes Benz,” said Richard Saward, Daimler’s U.S. work truck sales chief.

The refuse truck will be equipped with Daimler’s Detroit DD8 mid-range engine, which will produce up to 350 horsepower and 1050 pound-feet of torque.

Freightliner worked with Heil Environmental and McNeilus Truck & Manufacturing, two waste collection industry truck equipment manufacturers, to modify the truck for U.S. sales.

“The cab-over-engine design for the North American waste collection market is a unique concept, so collaborating with Heil and McNeilus was critical to ensure a streamlined upfit process and efficiencies from the very beginning,” said Richard Howard, senior vice president, sales and marketing for Daimler Trucks North America.

Sales of the truck start later this year for deliveries in 2019.

The new Freightliner will operate in the heaviest Class 8 weight segment and compete against established players such as Peterbilt, Mack Trucks and Autocar, said Antii Lindström, IHS Markit trucking industry analyst.

However, it won’t be hard for Freightliner to muscle its way in, Lindström said.

“They have the horsepower to penetrate the market,” he told “They can price their product aggressively.”

The new Freightliner diesel refuse truck will arrive when much of the industry is exploring alternative fuel systems and other technology for garbage collection. Cities and some countries are looking to ban diesel-powered trucks and the harmful emissions they produce.

Natural gas has become a popular alternative fuel option for refuse trucks in the U.S. It’s less polluting and easy for municipalities to use. They’ve built central fueling depots and yards where the garbage trucks are parked overnight.

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But the push to natural gas trucks has lost some steam in recent years because low diesel prices make it less competitive, Lindström said.

Other truck manufacturers are experimenting with electric refuse trucks or hybrids.

Wrightspeed Powertrains, an Alameda, Calif. company, partnered with Mack Trucks to build a plug-in hybrid refuse hauler with a range-extended electric powertrain.

The vehicle’s motors are powered by batteries that can be recharged while the truck is operating via regenerative braking and through a turbine generator that can run on diesel fuel or natural gas.

Mack announced at Waste Expo that it plans to have a fully electric version of its LR garbage truck ready for the North American market in 2019. The Volvo division said the New York City Department of Sanitation will conduct tests of the vehicle.

Mack LR refuse

Mack Trucks plans to build an electric version of its LR refuse truck. (Photo: Mack Trucks)

The company said an electric garbage truck makes sense because it works “within a closed loop application, in which the truck returns home every night.”

“It’s clear that electromobility will be a part of the trucking industry’s future, and Mack is well-positioned to offer integrated, fully electric solutions for the North American market,” said Jonathan Randall, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Mack Trucks North America.

Volvo unveiled its all-electric refuse truck – the FL Electric – in Europe this month. The vehicle can travel up to 186 miles before recharging.

Peterbilt also showed off an electric garbage truck at Waste Expo. The company said its prototype vehicle can drive 80 miles and pick up 900 cans on a single charge.

“Electric is the perfect application for refuse trucks, city and school buses because they have fixed routes and return to the same depot every night to charge for the next day’s run,” Lindström said.

Truck makers also are looking at other ways to improve refuse trucks.

Volvo started testing a self-driving garbage truck in Sweden late last year.

When the truck reaches an area mapped in its database, the driver switches on the autonomous system and climbs out of the cab. The worker walks to the back of the truck and brings out the bins just as they would if they were driving the vehicle along the route. The truck empties the trash containers and then backs up to the next bin location. The driver walks alongside and makes sure the bin is in place for the truck to empty.

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