Ready To Roll | Truck Review – Freightliner Australia opens the door to Cascadia

Freightliner Australia opens the door to Cascadia.

It’s often difficult to place the correct perspective on the introduction of a new truck range into Australia when production volumes in overseas countries make the annual sales figures in our country look somewhat insignificant. With over 17 brands competing in our market, the average of a truck fleet at 14.9 years suggests that fleet upgrade on a national scale is long overdue. This is especially significant when noting that 42 percent of the nation’s truck fleet was manufactured prior to 2003, with these vehicles missing many of the safety standards available today.

Although successive governments have failed to provide incentives to operators to upgrade their fleets to reduce pollution levels and raise safety standards, it’s into this scenario that Freightliner Australia intends to introduce the Cascadia truck range. Make no mistake, this is a critical step by parent company Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) to introduce its next generation of heavy trucks that have the capability to reduce running costs, improve fuel economy, lower accident rates and raise safety standards.

Product launches of a completely new truck range happen infrequently, and Cascadia is no exception. What started out as the Cascadia in North American markets in 2007 bears little relationship to the Freightliner trucks that will carry the Cascadia nameplate when these models are made available here in 2020.

The Cascadia for the Australian market has been developed from the New Cascadia that was released into the North American market last year. Not to be confused with a general upgrade from the days of Sterling or the Columbia nameplate, New Cascadia is the result of five years’ work by 800 research and development engineers and a budget approaching a $400 million (AUD) development cost and over 1 million hours of development time.

With close to 5 million kilometres of real-time, on-road testing by 50 pre-production models in conditions that varied from -40 degrees Celsius in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to +40 degrees Celsius of Phoenix, Arizona, the background to the development programme illustrates the extent to which DTNA is prepared to go to ensure the future success of the product.

“A once in a generation opportunity” – that’s the description applied to Freightliner’s new Cascadia by Daniel Whitehead, Daimler Truck and Bus Australia president and CEO.

“The large investment in the Cascadia right-hand-drive programme demonstrates a strong commitment from DTNA and just how serious DTNA is about the Freightliner brand in Australia. DTNA also understands that an extensive local testing and development program is critical for the success of the new Cascadia and has given us its full support,” he added.

Speaking at the launch of the Australian development programme for Cascadia, which is now officially underway in this country, Daniel was joined by Richard Howard, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) globally, who outlined how history for the company was being made for its American brand of conventional trucks.

“Our customers are central to everything we do. The international business strategy for DTNA has moved from doing business in 45 markets cross the world. In recent years we have shifted focus to four or five major markets where we can make the necessary investment to attain the number-one position. As an example, we’ve left the South African market to focus on the Asia-Pacific Rim market,” said Richard.

“Freightliner entered the Australian market in 1989 and collectively we have 20,000 trucks running today in the Australian and NZ markets. The new Cascadia entered the American market last year and is part of an R&D annual spend of $1 billion each year.

“The new Cascadia is a brand-new truck with a brand-new chassis. The new platform has revolutionised the market. This integration of Detroit DD13 and DD16 engines has been the choice for 95 percent of truck orders, with the further integration of the DT12 automated manual transmission accounting for an order take-up of 65 percent of buyers for the new Cascadia.

“We want to be the undisputed market leader in the Australian market, following our aim to achieve an American market share for Class 8 of 30-40 percent.

“Fuel economy is 8.0 percent better than previous Cascadia. Safety technology is the other dimension. So far, we have taken 41 percent of forward orders in a total market of 280,000 class 8 trucks in the North American market, making a current order bank of 85,000 units. Production is through our plant at Portland, Oregon, with further manufacturing options at Cleveland, North Carolina, the largest Freightliner Trucks manufacturing plant in the US.

“The biggest revolution with the new Cascadia in the market is with the safety systems we offer that are driving revolutionary change in safety. The impact of those safety systems in safety have virtually eradicated rear-end collisions in North American fleets. A 1 in 4 accident collision rate between trucks in major fleets has now decreased to 1 in 19. This has reduced the cost of a collision since the introduction of our safety systems from $7000 to $300 (USD) per incident, driving massive changes in the reduction of the cost of fleet operation,” added Richard Howard.

Stephen Downes, director of Freightliner Australia, outlined some of the expected specification choices for the new Cascadia when it is released onto our market in 2020, at the conclusion of the current interim development programme.

“Access to the latest cutting-edge technologies available will prove to be a game changer for conventional trucks. From a safety perspective we have the ability to step into this market with higher levels of active and passive systems, complete with two SRS airbags in the cab, disc brakes and ultra-low EPA 10 (Euro 6 equivalent) emissions standards. Airbags may not be a common thing in Australia, but the feedback we get from specific operators is that they now expect that level of safety.

“The Cascadia 116 will feature the 13-litre Detroit DD13 and DT12 transmission, and for the Cascadia 126 the higher power options we will be offering will be based on the 15.8-litre, big brother DD16, again matched to the DT12 automated manual transmission. We will also use the prelaunch development time in Australia to evaluate the requirement for manual transmissions such as the Eaton Roadranger and other engine options.

“Our preferred course is to offer proprietary engines and drivelines as they are engineered to go together. Also, under evaluation is the fitment of 24-volt systems or higher voltage options, especially in multiple trailer combination scenarios as a key question of the future,” added Stephen.

“We all know Australian trucks run harder, faster and in hotter conditions, so we are conducting a test and development programme that is far more comprehensive than anything Freightliner has previously done in this country. There is good reason the Cascadia is the best-selling truck in the United States, but we have to make sure we get it right for Australian conditions,” he added.

Key to the success of the new Cascadia is the inclusion of safety systems such as the Detroit Assurance 4.0 collision mitigation system and Meritor EX+ L air disc brakes that are standard on all new Freightliner Cascadia truck models.

The Detroit Assurance 4.0 suite of safety systems includes adaptive cruise control (ACC) and active brake assist (ABA) 4.0. ACC helps drivers maintain a safe, continuous following distance and can be adjusted to following distances between 2.4 and 3.6 seconds.

The Detroit Assurance 4.0 collision mitigation system is radar-based and always on. Its bumper-mounted radar tracks the distance from the front of the truck to other vehicles in its path. When a truck gets too close to another vehicle, the driver first receives an audible alarm with visual warning, followed by partial braking, and finally full active braking, where the system slows the truck using the transmission, engine brake and service brakes.

In addition to the standard collision mitigation system, the new Cascadia can be specced with other optional safety features, such as lane departure warning and side object detection systems.

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