Desert Trial

Retooled Internationals demonstrate new engines in Arizona tests.

They’re not far apart geographically, but there’s a world of driving difference between the Phoenix International Raceway and the tortuous tracks winding among the Sonoran Desert’s giant Saguaro cacti.

International Truck and Engine Corp. recently made use of Arizona’s on-road and off-road courses to let dealers and customers see how 40 heavy-duty and severe-service trucks, modified for the new low-emissions engines, perform with those engines.

The redesigned trucks and the International, Cummins and Caterpillar engines that powered them performed well. The engines demonstrated very quick throttle response in the exhaust gas recirculation-equipped trucks, due largely to the high-speed turbo technology used to power the EGR.

International has tried to compensate for the extra costs of the new engines by providing customers with upgraded maintenance and durability features, says Steve Keate, president of International’s truck group.

Many of the truck improvements were engineered in conjunction with the EGR technology used in the Cummins and International engines, says International Chief Engineer Tom Osborne. (The Cat engines used in Phoenix were “bridge” engines that contain some of the proprietary ACERT technology Cat has developed to provide engines this year that will comply with the new regs.)

“We have added new air and chassis suspension and stiffened the floor to improve ride, especially under the seat,” Osborne says. The new wide track with 35-inch spring centers improves wheel cut by 10 percent in the 9000 series heavy-application models, for example. Taper leaf front suspension reduces side sway and improves handling.

On the track, the most noticeable upgrade across all models is ride and handling, especially wheel cut. Steering is easier in severe terrain, due in part to a high-pressure power steering system. Even dumps and ready-mix trucks exhibited a heightened maneuverability through horseshoe and other extreme turns.

The new 5000 series, released last August, has a wheel cut of up to 50 degrees. The series is available with Cummins ISX power. The 7600 series sports 10- and 12-liter power. All severe-service models are designed as a single unit, eliminating the need to buy body and chassis from separate dealers.

Ergonomic upgrades, including National seats, improve the driver environment across all models.

As for EGR-related changes, International officials say considerable effort was made to provide cost savings – from the tangible reduction in cooling system maintenance to the less tangible savings due to retention of drivers satisfied with fleet equipment.

Recovering compliance costs is just one factor in a buying decision, says Richard Strobel, of G&P Trucking in Columbia, S.C., who attended the Phoenix event. Strobel, who needs to buy about 80 new tractors this year, says he is looking favorably at International’s 8600 for his regional needs.

“I can put a DOT-legal bunk in there and save myself $20,000 with a $3,000 upgrade,” he says.

Strobel also likes the 9200 series for his team operations. The 9900ix, International’s premium owner-operator truck, looks and performs like a classic big hood. It takes the Cummins ISX in the 435-hp to 565-hp range, Cat’s C-12 with 380 hp to 455-hp or Cat’s C-15 with 435 hp to 525 hp.

International noted other assets of the trucks:

  • The bigger radiators introduced for increased cooling will last longer.
  • A wider frame engineered for bigger radiators made room for springs mounted wider and shocks tuned to weight, providing better handling and ride.
  • HVAC systems are available with self-diagnostics.
  • Entry and egress is improved with offset steps and doors that open 85 degrees.
  • Multiplexing, a system allowing one wire to be used for multiple signals, allows for decreased wiring and faster troubleshooting.
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