Sterling Announces Changes in Body Builders Book

STERLING Truck Corporation made its first appearance at the NTEA Truck Product Conference and outlined some changes for its body builders book. The company also described some of the truck models it will promote throughout the North American truck market.

Sterling is the brand name created for the Ford Heavy Truck products that were acquired last year by Freightliner Corporation, a wholly owned affiliate of Daimler-Benz AG. Sterling trucks are built at Freightliner's plants in Mt Holly, North Carolina, and St Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

"Freightliner Corporation bought Ford's heavy truck business because year in and year out there is a huge demand for vocational trucks," said Bill Thomas, Sterling marketing department. "We are exclusively a medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturer, and intend to be the dominant truck manufacturer within selected key vocations."

Key markets for Sterling include:

* construction applications, such as concrete mixers and pump trucks, dump and block trucks, and heavy-haul tractors.

* distribution uses, such as tankers, refrigerated and dry van straight trucks, and short- to regional-haul tractors.

* urban services such as refuse collection, recycling, emergency services, snowplow, and municipal work.

New-Look Book Sterling surveyed a number of body companies and installers to determine what they want in a body builders book, Thomas said. The company made several changes based on the survey results.

"There were two major changes to content," he said. "Sterling's layout book will use more wiring diagrams in lieu of schematics. We think diagrams will be easier for the average technician to understand compared to schematics. The use of diagrams should make splicing into the electrical system easier to accomplish correctly.

"The other major change is to include top-of-frame to ground measurements. That dimension is dependent on a host of component measurements, such as wheel sizes, suspensions, and frame dimensions. We have organized the layout book to have all that information easily at hand to make calculating the top-of-frame to ground dimension simpler. You won't have to hunt through the book because it will be in one section."

The body builders book will be spiral bound in an 8 1/2- by 11-inch format so that it will fit easily on a standard copier, Thomas said. The hole-punched pages can be placed in a three-ring binder.

Two Heavy-Duty Lines Sterling serves the market with two lines of heavy-duty conventional vehicles--the A-line and L-line--plus the Class 7-8 Cargo low cabover truck and tractor. The A-line consists of on-highway tractors with premium diesel power and is available in daycab and sleeper versions. The L-line of vocational tractors and trucks is offered in mid-range and premium diesel engine configurations. The Cargo is targeted at vocational and distribution applications.

In January, Sterling introduced the L7500, a high-visibility vehicle with excellent maneuverability. Offered in truck and tractor versions, it is well-suited to urban applications, such as pick-up and delivery.

"Sterling has access to technologically advanced proprietary components and systems through Freightliner's engineering resources," Thomas said. "This year, Sterling introduced the TufTrac vocational suspension, the Airliner on-highway tractor air suspension, and the SmartShift driver interface for electronic transmissions."

Custom Engineering Support

The Sterling customer application engineering (CAE) department provides support to truck body and equipment companies, according to Sterling's Eric Weese.

CAE consists of two basic functions-sales engineering and custom engineering. Sales engineering is organized by geographical regions that correspond to the company's five sales regions for the U S and Canada. Customer engineering is organized by vehicle systems such as engine accessories or electrical/pneumatic.

"CAE exists to provide the technical support needed to take the truck from its initial order through manufacturing to final delivery. CAE is there to make sure Sterling builds the exact truck the customer wants. And it's our job to make sure all customer components and systems are properly matched with the components and systems on the vehicle," Weese said. "If a customer needs a component moved to a different location, if he needs an unusual component specification, or if he needs a truck built like no truck before it, CAE analyzes the opportunity and supplies the answer."

In most cases, the local Sterling Truck dealer or Sterling field sales manager will be the conduit to the CAE department, Weese said.

Sterling offers several services designed to simplify truck body and equipment installation, he added. Among them:

* Relocating chassis-mounted components.

* Preparing the frame for installation of a pusher axle.

* Punching extra holes in the frame.

* Installing junction boxes.

Sterling products are sold through a network of 200 dealers in the United States and Canada. Efforts are underway to expand the network, which may eventually include Mexico.

Freightliner will build approximately 121,000 trucks in 1998, and Sterling will add another 12,000, according to James L Hebe, president and chief executive officer of Freightliner Corporation. By 1999, Sterling will be turning out 20,000 trucks a year. Hebe predicted that North American truck production will total 230,000 vehicles this year. Annual production should reach 300,000 by 2005.

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