Freightliner Plans Production Hike

FREIGHTLINER Trucks is planning an additional 10 to 12% increase in production by adding production on Saturday and by finding additional ways to make the plant more efficient, the company said during its portion of the NTEA Truck Product Conference.

"We currently are building 110 trucks per day," said John Wyman, director of Business Class vocational sales for Freightliner. "We are doing what we can to increase our production. One of our limitations, though, is the availability of automatic transmissions."

Wyman reported that business has been brisk at Freightliner Trucks, a division of Freightliner Corporation. Freightliner is a multinational company with sales estimated at $7.3 billion for 1998, he said, and a 30% market share of Class 8 trucks.

Wyman disputed the conception that Freightliner is strictly a highway tractor manufacturer.

"The reason for this is understandable," Wyman said. "Freightliner owns nearly 50% market share with the top 20 carriers. But the Freightliner vocational product has a wide range of options that make it well suited for vocational applications. During 1998, we will produce approximately 25,000 Business Class trucks in the Class 5 to 8 range."

Four and six-cylinder engines from Daimler-Benz AG are new this year to the Business Class lineup. The PR-900 Series engine will be available with horsepower ratings of 170 to 280. It can be matched with a new six-speed manual transmission from Daimler-Benz.

Freightliner made its first appearance at this year's truck conference. As such, Wyman introduced the company's product lineup, focusing on the Business Class conventional cab. The company's primary product for the medium-duty truck market, sales and production of the Business Class have increased almost 300% since 1994.

Model Lineup Wyman explained the Freightliner way of badging its Business Class chassis. The FL50, a Class 5; FL60, a Class 6; and FL70, a Class 7-all with 106" BBC dimension. The Class 8 FL80 also has a 106" BBC and comes with front axle capacities up to 18,000 lb.

The FLD is an aluminum-cab conventional. Along with the FLD is a severe-duty version called the FLD-SD designed for Class 8 vocational applications. It is available with engines rated as high as 600 hp and axle ratings to 70,000 lb.

Business Class is available in Class 5 to 8 in both conventional and low-COE configurations. The low-COE chassis are the result of Freightliner's acquisition of the Ford Cargo and integrating the cab into the Business Class chassis. Freightliner also has changed systems such as air and electrical to conform to its own standards. The Cargo, along with the rest of the Business Class, is produced at the Freightliner plant in Mount Holly, North Carolina.

All Business Class trucks are available with up to 300-hp engines. The FL106, a Class 8 truck, is available with a 325-hp engine or a 350-hp Detroit Diesel Series 50 engine for fire and emergency applications. The 112" BBC model FL112 is available with Caterpillar or Cummins engine ratings up to 430 hp.

Multiple Cab Configurations Freightliner offers a variety of cab options on its Business Class conventionals. The extended cab adds 26 inches to the length of the regular cab. A high-roof version of the extended cab elevates the roof an additional three inches in the front and six inches at the back.A dual, sit-down steering option is offered for street sweeper and refuse applications.

The four-door crew cab can be ordered with special seating for self-contained breathing apparatus required by fire departments.

For the refuse industry, Freightliner offers a stand-up, right-hand drive option.

Other options include a safe for handling cash, PTO controls and prewired switch panels, transverse mufflers, optional suspensions, and extended frames.

"The more we do to meet customer needs, the fewer modifications you will have to do to the chassis, reducing installation times and improving throughput," Wyman said. "The way we see it, we are your partner and not just your truck manufacturer."

Factory Support Freightliner has established a team dedicated to vocational truck sales. The objective is to increase market share and to provide support to customers, body manufacturers, and dealers, Wyman said.

The entire team attended the NTEA Truck Product Conference. Team members and their areas of specialization are: Alex Bernasconi, construction and refuse applications; John Casale, municipal, street sweeper, and towing and recovery areas; Jim Looysen, agricultural and railroad markets; Dennis Manchester, electric utilities and crane applications; Bob Mercer, beverage and recreational areas; Ed Raniszewski, food business and airline ground support; and Bill Thomas, emergency vehicle business.

In addition to the sales team, 40 Freightliner employees staff the customer assistance center, an operation that is open 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Two additional operations complement the Freightliner lineup. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation produces step van, school bus, and motorhome chassis at a plant in Gaffney, South Carolina. The Cleveland, North Carolina, home of American LaFrance Group makes custom firetruck chassis. Freightliner also serves the firetruck market with its Business Class chassis.

"We expect to produce in excess of 1,000 Business Class firetruck chassis in 1998," Wyman said.

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