Freightliner Shows New Safety Concept Offering 15% More Cube and Payload Weight

March 1, 1998
A new concept combination vehicle that advances safety performance and increases payload capacity was introduced to Frieghtliner Corporation dealers and

A new concept combination vehicle that advances safety performance and increases payload capacity was introduced to Frieghtliner Corporation dealers and the trucking press March 2 in Palm Desert, California.

The Argosy Safety Concept Vehicle is an integrated, low-profile tractor and semitrailer that achieves up to 15% greater gross weight (to 90,000 lb GCW) and an equivalent gain in cubic capacity. Instead of the standard 53-ft trailer, the safety concept vehicle incorporates a 58-ft trailer designed by Wabash National Corporation.

Overall length of the vehicle is 69.5 feet, which is shorter than most conventional tractors with single or double trailers on the road today, yet there is no compromise to driver space and ergonomics in the unconventional cab, said Freightliner President Jim Hebe. In addition to the low-profile design, the Argosy concept vehicle incorporates an array of safety features that add up to more safety for all drivers on the road.

"Through this innovative truck design, Freightliner effectively has linked safety performance with more efficient highway transportation," said Hebe at the introduction. "The Argosy concept has the potential to make truck transport safer by reducing accidents, highway crowding, and road damage, while boosting truck ton mileage efficiency.

Independent studies show the low-profile design combined with wide-track axles results in a variety of performance improvements, including 15% greater rollover resistance, 24% greater resistance to load transfer, and more stable lane changes. The trailer's 72" kingpin setting and its innovative electronic axle control also allow improved corner maneuverability. During low-speed turns, the air is dumped from the third trailer axle, reducing the effective wheelbase to 38 feet.

Low-profile 19.5" tires drop the frame height of the truck and trailer to increase the trailer's payload capacity vertically. The 110"-BBC tractor is designed with a 40" mid-axle setting for the front axle and has a 183" wheelbase. Use of 19.5" tires provides a truck frame height of 34" and a fifthwheel height of 39".

The 58-ft high-cube trailer has an interior load height of 121.5", nearly a foot higher than the standard truckload carrier 110" interior height. Overall height is 13'6". Use of the Wabash National proprietary composite plate sidewall provides an interior width of 101.5".

Estimates place this new vehicle's potential reduction in cost per ton-mile in excess of 5%, according to Hebe. The greater payload capacity means less space on the roads is used for freight transport. The six-axle vehicle design distributes loads better so there is less weight impact on the roads, resulting in a 3% reduction in highway wear and tear. Axle weights meet federal bridge law requirements. The three trailer axles carry about 14,650 lb fully loaded, rather than the 17,000 lb for each trailer axle of the typical five-axle rig.

"This vehicle can carry 10% to 15% more cargo while gaining only 13% in gross weight," Hebe said. "Obviously, that means fewer trucks and drivers required to deliver the same goods. It also translates into less fuel use and the resulting environmental benefits, not to mention an easing of the burden on the highway and bridge infrastructure across the country."

Scale weight of the tractor is 16,170 lb without fuel and the driver's weight. The composite plate trailer weighs about 15,000 lb, leaving 58,000 lb for payload if the maximum GCW is increased to 90,000 lb.

Advanced safety features on the combination vehicle include:

Electronic braking systems which further enhance braking stability and decrease stopping distance beyond current ABS-equipped standards;

Advanced Eaton-Vorad collision warning system with adaptive cruise control that alerts drivers in poor visibility situations of hazards ahead, as well as automatically keeping safe following distances between moving vehicles;

A prototype lane-departure warning system that alerts fatigued drivers who may be drifting from the road;

Additional driver protection systems, including air bags and seat and belt pretensioning devices, plus a cab that meets new SAE and European crashworthiness standards.

"We have created a highly advanced vehicle with a 90,000-lb GCW and 58-ft trailer length that addresses all the issues that have become barriers to a more efficient truck transport system: safety performance, longer combination lengths, pavement and bridge damage, and operational efficiency," Hebe explained. "This concept vehicle can now operate only in a few states, but we are committed to working with our customers, safety advocates, and policymakers across the country to open the national highway system to it from coast to coast."

After the tractor and trailer have toured the truck show circuit, the rig will be put in a service test in Oregon. It is legal to operate the long trailer in nine states at present: Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington. It can be operated legally at 90,000 lb GCW in only the two states -Oklahoma and Wyoming.