Let’s take two trucks from the same stable: Daimler, test drive the Mercedes Benz Actros and the Freightliner Cascadia to see how the European vision compares with the US one when they both have access to the same technology.
It has been a protracted process for the major truck manufacturers around the world, but the fruits of a long labour have appeared in the past few years. The process was born back at the beginning of the century when a number of truck manufacturers around the world became part of large global groups.
At that time, Volvo acquired Renault Trucks, which had just bought Mack Trucks and followed this with the acquisition of UD Trucks from Japan. Around the same time Freightliner trucks, which had been bought by Mercedes-Benz sometime before, acquired Ford’s truck operations in the US and soon after the company known as Mitsubishi Fuso, which is now known as Fuso trucks. Then we saw the Paccar group expand from its ownership of Kenworth and Peterbilt in the US to acquire DAF Trucks, which had recently acquired the Leyland trucks organisation.
Financial issues with trucking manufacturers, combined with the ever-increasing costs of research and development in creating new, much more sophisticated designs, had put some truck makers into trouble, enabling the cashed up manufacturers to build global empires.
The watchword at the time was that the formation of these three global truck makers would be able to develop global platforms for their future trucks. The plan was to spend billions of dollars developing a single engine, for example, which could be adapted for all of the different truck markets across the world. The same could be done for chassis systems, axles, transmissions, vehicle electronics and telematics.
These kinds of development projects have a long gestation period, so it wasn’t until after 2010 that we saw the first signs of the new global technologies emerging. Daimler developed a ‘global’ engine in the DD15, DD13 and later DD11, initially fitted in North American trucks and later adapted in a 16 litre guise for Mercedes Benz and at a lower capacity for Fuso trucks.
There were a few false dawns where a truly global technology platform looked to be arriving, only to develop problems in adaptation. However, in the last ten years the whole globalisation project has begun to bear fruit. Volvo Group run the same set of engines and transmission around the world, as does Paccar product to a lesser degree.
The group which bought into the package most enthusiastically was Daimler. The DD family of engines are now used right across the range, as is the Mercedes Benz AMT, even though it is branded as a Detroit in the US and Benz in Europe.
Now, here in Australia we are able to compare and contrast trucks branded differently, but fitted with the same basic technology in the most important components, like engine, transmission, electronics, safety systems and so on.
The object should not be to compare like with like. They are different trucks built to handle different tasks. Diesel is looking at how the North American trucking philosophy uses the basic technology as opposed to how it is handled by the Europeans. In essence, this is not a truck comparison – it is a trucking culture comparison. Examining how different truckies perceive their trucks.