Virtual press events get the word out, sort of, except, unless you watch out for them, they don’t, case in point: the new Western Star 49X, you shoulda been there. PowerTorque’s US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, was there when the new truck was released in the US, but there has been no word on its possible introduction in Australia, as yet.
It’s a total refresh of the rugged vocational line from Daimler Trucks North America but unless you’re there to see it up close, to experience the enthusiasm from the company staff releasing the news and reviewing the new product, it becomes a ho-hum news release and, unless you’re looking for it, the news will totally pass by.
The new Western Star 49X, when you dig into the details is an amazing evolution of the North American tipper truck/vocational vehicle. For a start there’s a brand-new cab based on the Cascadia’s steel and aluminium construction. That makes it eight per cent lighter than the 4900 cab it replaces. The 4900 cab was derived from the Constellation that was introduced to North America early in 1996 and replaced the even earlier Heritage cab that was derived from the White Motor corporate cab of the ‘50s.
From a personal perspective, I loved that old, very traditional, narrow-hipped Heritage design that was so reminiscent of the early days of trucking. My favourite truck of all time also used the white corporate cab on the Autocar AT64F. It just looked so right with the early style low window doors, big sun visor and tall, proud hood with the historic Autocar badge.
Well, this new Western Star is a big conventional, too, but the splayed frame rails at the front allow the engine to sit lower, greatly improving the sight line to the ground in front of the truck an important feature on a job site, where pedestrians work in close proximity to the machines.
This is a contributor to the all-round visibility and safety, afforded by the huge one-piece windscreen, 28 per cent larger than the 4900’s. Rearward visibility should be good, with the door-mounted mirrors that, in the six-year development of the 49X were fine-tuned so no vibration would disturb the image at any engine rpm or road-induced vibration. Also isolated from vibration is the hood. For the first time, coil-over shocks are used to cushion the mounting and save the hood from banging around in off-road conditions. I bet the Australian market will give that a big thumbs up.
And the cab is pretty innovative with its lowered centre section roof. It looks a little weird from the back of cab, but it allows a lower profile when the horns and clearance lights are installed. It is possible that Western Star had car hauling in mind with the design, but since there was no press event to launch the new truck, I couldn’t ask…
The big benefit is that the roof is lower, but the doors and door frames (which look decidedly like the Cascadia’s) and are claimed to be part of the Daimler engineering’s ‘toolbox’ can be accommodated for excellent ingress. The fact they open a full 70 degrees also means excellent access and a step-ladder approach to the steps that have really aggressive non-slip treads should mean operator ease and safety when getting in and out as job sites demand. When I get my hands on the first Western Stars some time in 2021, I shall be looking to see how true this is.
Again, the cab should be very comfortable and allow a driver to adjust seating to suit him, or herself, easily. Since construction people often go gloved, it’s good to see that the switchgear should be easily operable even when wearing the things.
The walk-around video that’s part of the press kit also makes a point that the steering is very good with absolutely no kickback through the steering wheel even on the proving ground test areas that look very much like the Daimler proving ground in Madras, Oregon. If there’s ever a chance to get there, I’d like to check that out for myself.
The new Western Star 49X comes with the full suite of safety options that include lane departure warning and automatic braking. A very convincing scenario in the video is of a 49X coming through a dust cloud at a quarry to be confronted by a stationary loader as it emerges – a highly likely and dangerous situation that could so easily occur.
There’s a lot to see and experience here, but to quote Warren Buffet, “You will never see eye-to-eye if you never meet face-to-face.” I’ll keep you posted …