Sterling accomplishment

Buyers can order Sterling’s new NightShift mid-size sleeper model starting in December. Production will start in March.

Identifying a gap in the less-than-truckload regional haul market, Sterling Trucks is launching a mid-size truck that offers additional comfort and storage.

The NightShift, unveiled as a prototype in August, aims to attract drivers who are on the road just a few days per week. The finished product will be a 60-inch sleeper, mid-roof configuration for Sterling’s set-back 113-inch and 122-inch models.

“We know the demand is there because our customers are telling us they want this sleeper,” says Rich Shearing, Sterling’s manager of product strategy.

Shearing says the model completes Sterling’s lineup for Class 3 through Class 8. Company officials hope the NightShift also will spark new business for a brand that saw its heavy-duty market share drop to 5.8 percent this year from 8 percent in 2007.

The prototype NightShift was built on the Sterling set-back A-line chassis. The new sleeper will also be available on Sterling’s set-back L-line chassis for vocational off-road applications.

The NightShift will be powered by Detroit Diesel’s DD15 or DD13. Another engine brand will be offered later. Sterling is a division of Daimler Trucks North America, which also owns Freightliner, Western Star and Detroit Diesel.

In developing the NightShift, the company interviewed about 100 regional and LTL drivers, who said they wanted a more comfortable bed, additional storage, a refrigerator, a writing desk and improved lighting. Sterling focused on those creature comforts, and most of the amenities are standard.

The 8-inch quilted spring mattress is twice the thickness of the foam mattress standard in many trucks. Natural light comes in through a 36-by-10-inch back wall window and two side windows, which can be opened to provide ventilation.

A multi-function, wall-mounted panel controls heating and cooling, radio volume, a reading light and a dome light. It also contains an alarm clock and a power outlet. Connections are available for installing an optional TV and microwave. Auxiliary power unit installation will be optional.

The company claims it has more storage than any other truck in the 60-inch sleeper category, with an estimated 50 cubic feet found in cabinets and overhead bins that can be outfitted with doors or cargo netting. A pull-out surface provides a place for desk work.

An optional NightShift goody is a Coolbox refrigerator/freezer. Available on Daimler trucks in Europe, the under-bunk unit has an adjustable thermostat with a freeze setting, an 8.5-gallon capacity and a removable storage tray.

While NightShift offers a few new items, it borrows from other brands in the Daimler lineup. Wall panels are the same as in other Daimler models, while the optional roof fairing also is found on the Cascadia.

Shearing waves off suggestions that NightShift is a revival of Sterling’s Silver Star, which was dropped in 2001 after a brief run. “Silver Star was expensive, heavy, limited to its own model and wasn’t the right size for our target customer,” he says.

NightShift is the result of an almost three-year development project, says Dan Silbernagel, medium-duty product manager. Besides regional and LTL drivers, Sterling also heard from its daycab customers who wanted to expand into a sleeper.

NightShift will compete with models such as the Mack Pinnacle, Volvo VN 630 and International’s ProStar, Silbernagel says. Shearing says NightShift prices haven’t been set.


DD13: Small block, big delivery
Detroit Diesel introduced the DD13, an on-highway 12.8-liter engine, at an August press event in California.

The new model is a smaller version of the 14.8-liter DD15 launched about a year ago. The similarities between the two siblings are apparent in features and performance. The pair share roughly 65 percent of their parts.

The DD13, however, is smaller and lighter – about 400 pounds – and it doesn’t include the DD15’s exclusive turbo-compounding unit, which is said to boost power by up to 50 hp. That device obstructed the location of a rear-drive PTO, an option on the DD13. A front PTO is also available.

Bulk, vocational and regional haulers are the target customers for this model, but plenty of other truckers also might find it appealing. With an output range from 350 to 450 hp and torque from 1,350 to 1,650 lb.-ft., the DD13 offers a superb power-to-weight ratio for nearly any application other than heavy haul and severe-service off-road work.

The engine is reportedly 5 percent more fuel efficient than the model it’s replacing, the Mercedes MBE 4000, which was well-known for its operating economy. Buyers concerned about longevity – once an issue with small block motors – should be satisfied, too. The DD13 offers a respectable “B50 life” of 1 million miles. In other words, at least half of those built should hit the million-mile mark without needing significant repairs.

During the introduction, Detroit Diesel provided a DD13-powered Sterling SB113 daycab for drive tests. The 20-mile route provided few challenges to showcase engine power, which was set at the highest rating: 450/1,650. Within the final mile, however, was a steep little pull. The grade was all the more difficult because drivers had to climb it after making a sharp right turn at the base.

The DD13 had no problems accelerating the loaded truck and trailer (roughly 65,000 lbs.) to the top, allowing an attached Eaton UltraShift transmission to grab gears all the way up. The engine’s torque curve, starting around 1,100 rpm and spanning to about 1,650 rpm, was obvious. Journalists on hand were impressed.

Shortly, Detroit Diesel is expected to launch yet another heavy-duty product, the 15.6-liter DD16. In the meantime, though, truckers will have plenty of power choices from the DD15 and its newest next of kin, the DD13.
– Paul Hartley


Sterling NightShift
ENGINE: Detroit Diesel 15-liter and 13-liter.

SLEEPER: 60-in.

TRANSMISSIONS: Eaton Fuller manuals (10-,13-,15-,18-speed), Eaton Fuller automated manuals (10-,13-,18-speed) and Allison fully automatics.

FRONT SUSPENSION: 12,000-lb. to 20,000-lb. taperleaf, 14,600-lb. to 20,000-lb. flat leaf, 12,000-lb. air ride.

REAR SUSPENSION: Air ride, spring and walking beam from 40,000-lb. to 52,000-lb. for on-highway to 20 percent off-highway applications.

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