Beyond the obvious criteria - the ability of a truck to perform the intended tasks - other key considerations can impact performance, such as life-cycle cost, fuel economy, safety features, operator comfort and resale value. The 2011 chassis cabs were designed to address these issues.
Life-cycle cost is a primary consideration with any work truck. All of the manufacturers have managed to reduce costs through better fuel economy, exhaust brakes that save on wear and tear, extended service intervals and increased capability.
"Don't just look at the purchase price," says Dan Tigges, product manager, General Motors. "Look at what it is going to cost you in fuel, insurance and maintenance and repairs, and try to factor all of those into the decision. This is why a commercial dealer network is huge. If the truck is not up and running, nobody makes money."
"Small contractors will tell you that the first consideration is purchase price, when in fact it is really about fifth," says Todd Kaufman, F-Series chassis cab marketing manager, Ford. The reality is that the first consideration is the proper truck for the job. "We find that people will try to under-specify the truck, then they have a problem because they are misapplying it - maintenance cost goes up, etc. First, and probably the most important thing, is to make sure you are purchasing the right truck for the application."
Work with the dealer to get the right truck; they are trained to ask the right questions. "The end result is you apply the correct vehicle for the application," notes Kaufman. "Everybody is happy because the vehicle lasts a very long time and it has very low maintenance costs. It gets the job done and it doesn't break down. It provides the lowest cost of ownership."
Reduce operating costs
When it comes to life-cycle cost, fuel economy is a major factor. "Because of the large scale of the jobs heavy-duty trucks do, they tend to consume a lot of fuel," says Tigges.
Most major suppliers claim fuel economy improvements for the 2011 model year. The Chevrolet and GMC diesel-powered chassis cabs boast an 11% improvement in fuel economy on the highway, even with increased horsepower and torque ratings. The selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system used to meet 2010 EPA emissions limits helps achieve this goal. "That is one of the reasons we went to SCR as opposed to a lean NOx trap," explains Tigges. "We also have better aerodynamics, and made improvements in the Allison transmission electronic fan clutch. There is less drag on the engine. So there is really a combination of things that helped us get to those numbers."
Ford claims up to 22% improvement in fuel economy for its 2011 chassis cab models equipped with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke vs. 2010 models. "What is really interesting is that we don't sacrifice any performance. The torque and horsepower are improved; so is the towing and payload," says Kaufman. This is due to a combination of changes, including improved aerodynamics, the new diesel engine with SCR system, a totally new transmission, new axles and improved tires.
The largest share of the savings is due to the new double overdrive six-speed transmission. "The internal components on the transmission reduce parasitic loss," says Kaufman. "The efficiencies that the transmission added make up almost 60% of the 22% improvement in fuel economy."
Ford also asserts that the SCR system has been beneficial. The previous generation trucks relied on exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and particulate traps to meet emissions requirements. "It puts a bunch of heat inside the engine," says Kaufman. The result is a huge loss of performance. "By adding SCR into the aftertreatment, there are two main benefits. One, you certainly get the reduction of NOx, virtually eliminating it and turning it into hydrogen and water. Two, the engineers are able to reduce the amount of EGR that goes into the engine initially, which then allows for a cleaner burn and a lot more efficient use of fuel."