New truck bodies introduced at WTS

April 1, 2007
Truck body manufacturers rolled out a variety of models at this year's Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. Here are some of the highlights: Four-way partnership

Truck body manufacturers rolled out a variety of models at this year's Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. Here are some of the highlights:

Four-way partnership designs new AstroBody

The new AstroBody by Supreme is an example of cooperation between the chassis manufacturer and the truck body builder, plus valuable input from customers and suppliers. All four groups helped research and design the vehicle that replaces General Motors' Astro mid-size van.

When General Motors discontinued the Astro with the 2005 model year, it heard from its customers. They felt they had no place to go for replacement vehicles in their fleets. When GM executives asked these buyers what the ideal vehicle would be for their needs, they responded with lots of ideas. Buyers represent a variety of service industries.

Truck body builders and accessory equipment suppliers were asked to help design the ideal small van body for these customers. Supreme Corporation responded with an aerodynamic body molded to van shapes that provided the least air drag, with input from Adrian Steel for the most efficient shelving and Masterack for the best type of rooftop ladder securement.

Truck body and accessory engineers worked alongside chassis engineers inside the GM design lab and inside the wind tunnel to come up with the best shapes. For example, after working out the most efficient shape for side panels, the side view mirrors were adapted and tested inside the wind tunnel to reduce air drag and put the mirror face into free air outside the attached air stream alongside the body.

Because the vehicle gross weight is under 8,500 lb, it had to be crash tested. Again, it was a case of GM engineers working alongside the truck body and accessory equipment manufacturers to insure compliance with government safety regulations. The completed vehicle was crash tested at 30 mph at the Milford Proving Ground, and all the crash dummies lived to see another crash test.

Bob Beese, director of marketing and product planning at Supreme Corporation in Goshen, Indiana, described some of the qualities of the AstroBody. First, it has no exterior flat surfaces. The front corners have a 9" radius, and the side panels are molded with a 2" bow for least air drag. The roof is crowned. OEM rear tail lights are molded into the rear corners. The body has its own skirt, and wind tunnel testing showed that drag in the wheel well area could be reduced with a skag projecting downward.

The body is manufactured by spraying fiberglass-reinforced plastic inside a mold. The two halves of the body are joined after removal from the mold. It is mounted on an FRP-plywood floor 5/8" thick and attached at 40 points to a subframe that is in turn attached to the chassis at 12 points. The two rear doors and one side door swing on commercial grade hinges. The door gaskets are industrial grade compression seals. The OEM door handles are keyed the same as the ignition switch. The rear bumper is also OEM.

The wheel wells inside the van are molded to be compatible with optional interior shelving such as Adrian Steel racks. The Leggett & Platt optional ladder racks are lowered to make the vehicle more garageable.

The vehicle is in production, and several hundred are on the road. Beese says that the completed van body mounted on a Chevrolet Colorado or GMC Canyon chassis cab actually costs less than the former GM Astro Van. Comparing specifications with the ‘05 Astro Van, the ‘07 AstroBody is about 3" higher overall and 21" longer. Inside the body, the ‘07 AstroBody is 2" longer and a half inch higher, with six more square feet of floorspace and three more cubic feet. The step height at the rear is 5" higher. The rear double doors are about 8" smaller. Payload is estimated at 1,500 lb, about 10% less than the ‘05 Astro Van.

Beese says one of the biggest advantages of the project was the cooperation it fostered between the chassis manufacturing team and the body manufacturer and accessory equipment suppliers.

Hardox floor in aluminum dump body

The Godwin Group brought two innovations to the 2007 NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. The first is a hybrid dump body — essentially an aluminum body with a Hardox 450 floor. The 3/16-inch thick single-sheet Hardox floor is formed in place with a 12" radius at the sides to curve upward at the sidewall. It is joined to the aluminum sidewall by Huck bolting, but no fasteners show on the outside sidewall. The doghouse and front wall are also steel and joined to the aluminum by Huckbolts. The dissimilar metals are protected against electrolysis by ECK electrolysis and corrosion treatment in the joint. This 16-ft frameless body has trapezoidal long sills with rubber cushion strips in the formed steel track. R/S-Godwin Truck Body Co, Ivel KY.

Bibeau shows ultimate drop test

Bibeau Enterprises tested the prototype of its new Chronos dump body to ultimate failure and then brought the much-abused dump truck to the NTEA, complete with the 14,400-lb boulder that did much of the damage. That big rock was dropped into the empty body six times while loading over the side with a front-end loader. Another 6,900-lb rock was dropped into the body 30 times.

Daniel Bibeau emphasizes that the company designs for long-term wear, not testing, but the accelerated testing should give some indication of long-term durability. The new Chronos body survived the abuse with only a cracked floor, but the truck chassis frame was bent and the suspension broken.

The Chronos is fabricated from AR550 structural abrasive-resistant Stabor steel containing boron. The body is 15' 6" long and has 48" sides and a 54" high tailgate. It weighs 5,035 lb. Bibeau Enterprises, St Felix De Valois PQ.

Thiele adds smooth skin for hot asphalt

Thiele Manufacturing clad its 19 ½-ft dump body with a flat sheet of aluminum. The shiny outer skin obviously improves aesthetics and aerodynamics, but the real reason is for insulation to haul hot asphalt. Now that the truck engine's exhaust gas is no longer available to be routed through the body for heating, insulation is required.

This double-wall body has two inches of polyisocyanate extruded insulation between the walls. The inner skins are of 3/16" aluminum, and the outer skins of 1/8" sheet. The body is mounted on a Freightliner Business Class M2 equipped with a Silent Drive lift axle. With 72" sides it is versatile enough to haul coal and sand and gravel as well as asphalt. Thiele Manufacturing LLC, Windber PA.

Eby introduces landscape body

On the lightweight end of the landscape dump bodies is this nine-foot, 4.l-yard all-aluminum Eby body. Shipped as a complete package with subframe and Harsh hoist, it weighs 880 lb. M H Eby Inc, Blue Ball PA.

New body from trailer manufacturer

The new ten-foot landscape body by MAC Trailer Manufacturing is built with the same heavy-duty components as used in the company's 14-ft to 26-ft dump bodies — 3 ½" extruded box crossmembers and 5" I-beam long sills with channel for rubber pad, and 1 ½" interlocking snap panels in the sidewall with quarter-inch floor plate. Tailgate frame members are the same as in the large bodies. With 24" high sides, the new body and underbody scissors hoist weigh 1,800 lb. MAC sales engineer Bryan McElroy points out the heavy-duty tailgate hardware. MAC Trailer Service Inc, Alliance, Ohio.

Aluminum stake body saves weight

Omaha Standard, building on the aluminum platform body that the company introduced last year, unveiled its Badger aluminum stake body.

The basic design is similar to the steel version, but the use of aluminum reduces weight. Offered in lengths of 8' to 12', the Badger aluminum stake body has a 1/8" treadplate floor, 4" long sills, and 3" channel crossmembers. Omaha Standard, Council Bluffs IA.

Computer-aided dump body specs

Henderson Manufacturing touted its new system for ordering dump bodies. With it, distributors can select an array of options for the company's Mark E bodies, cross sections of which can be seen in the background. The computer calculates the price when the specs are complete. The order is confirmed, and information from the order is distributed to the affected departments at Henderson via the company's management information system. Henderson Manufacturing, Manchester IA.

Utility foremen drive well-equipped trucks

Dakota Bodies Inc showed at the NTEA Work Truck Show its expertise in building specialized utility bodies, such as this electric foreman's truck completed for Dakota Utilities in Bismarck. They also build a gas foreman's truck for the same customer.

Besides the welding machine mounted back of the cab, the platform has sockets for a cable reel rack and recessed D-rings rated at 6,000 lb capacity. The rear corner is reinforced for crane mounting. The two vertical compartments also include a small transverse compartment for long tools.

The two decks have a Rhino spray-on liner and removable side rails. These foreman's trucks bodies are usually mounted on F-450 or F-550 chassis. Dakota Bodies Inc, 601 Pheasant Ridge Drive, Watertown SD.

Beau-Roc introduces roll-off body

Beau-Roc Inc displayed a new roll-off body made of Hardox steel. Available in lengths of 8' to 24', the standard length of the new roll-off is 16'. The Vars, Ontario, Canada, company built the first model in November.

Stahl refines Challenger service body

A pickup-style tailgate and full-length door hinges are now part of the Challenger service body produced by Stahl/Scott-Fetzer Company, Wooster OH. The same specs are available as well on the company's USV utility service vehicle.

Service body in the cab

One of the freshest ideas presented at the NTEA Work Truck Show is this back-seat module that transforms the pickup into a well-organized mobile field office. The brainchild of Debi Manning, the UFO (ultimate field office) provides clean storage space for records, manuals, blueprints, and an optional printer-copier-scanner. Lockable drawers can safely store levels, instruments, a rifle or handgun, or even fishing gear.

The UFO module bolts to the floor after the rear seat is removed. All the top-opening compartments can be reached from either front seat. An optional 350-watt inverter provides 115-volt AC power to recharge tools or operate the printer-copier. The idea spawned a new company: MobileDUZ LLP, 624 Atchison Way, Castle Rock CO 80109.

About the Author

Paul Schenck | Senior Editor