Both the medium-duty and work truck markets continue to increase in priority while commercial vehicle manufacturers ramp up their launches of innovative commercial trucks, vans, and cutaway chassis. Therefore, identifying efficient operating strategies is now more important than ever.
Washington is attempting to increase fuel economy through a proposed bill that would authorize appropriations to the Department of Energy (DOE) for research, development, engineering, demonstration, and commercial application of vehicles and related technologies to improve fuel efficiency in light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles. This proposed bill could require the DOE to support comprehensive research and development activities focused on reducing petroleum use and emissions.
The bill is garnering support from Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, the Auto Alliance, United Auto Workers (UAW), the BlueGreen Alliance, and the NTEA—the Association for the Work Truck industry.
TRENDS AND LEGISLATION
Current purchase practices within the medium-duty market—specifically the work truck market—are trending toward larger, higher end cutaway chassis. These cutaway chassis are equipped with heavier components, such as dual rear wheels, to handle greater weight loads. These “incomplete motor vehicles,” as they are legally defined by the United States Federal Motor Safety Standards (FMSS), offer fleet and vehicle owners the liberty to spec and outfit their own vehicles.
As Washington ramps up on fuel and emissions standards, fuel efficiency becomes an even greater focus for work truck fleet owners as they consider vehicle specifications. Many suppliers offer options that increase fuel efficiency, especially as these larger work trucks need to haul a greater quantity of heavier cargo. The past few years have brought new breakthroughs into the commercial transportation space and suppliers are always working on innovations in product design, manufacturing, materials, and finishes.
New wheel innovations increase efficiency and lower operating costs for fleet owners and managers. As the inventor of forged aluminum wheels more than 70 years ago, Arconic has a long history of providing wheels to the work truck marketplace. Each wheel in its Alcoa® medium-duty wheel catalog delivers the same benefits that its wheels provide to heavy-duty (Class 7 and Class 8) customers, but are customized to fit medium-duty applications.
This month, Arconic will launch a new enhancement to its Alcoa medium-duty wheel catalog. The new 19.5- x 6-inch wheel is custom designed for Ford F-450/550 and Ram 4500/5500, and carries a 4,000-lb load rating. Weighing just 26 lbs, this new wheel is 21 percent lighter than existing options. Most critically, it is designed to fit all six positions, including the inner dual. In the past, a steel inner dual wheel was the only option. Fitting Alcoa aluminum wheels at all six wheel positions, including the inner dual, lowers overall vehicle weight, increases payload, improves ride and handling, and enhances fuel economy. This new 19.5-inch wheel is offered in standard finish options, as well as the company’s proprietary Dura-Bright® surface treatment. Durable from the start and built to last when properly maintained, Alcoa’s Dura-Bright® wheels are manufactured using a comprehensive production process ensuring they will not crack, chip, or corrode. These specially treated aluminum wheels shine up quickly with a simple scrub to keep the vehicle looking newer for longer.
Aluminum components, including aluminum wheels, also contribute to a decrease in corrosion—another industry trend work truck experts remain focused on. A typical vehicle is expected to last 15 to 20 years; however, when the body is manufactured with steel components, and the rig runs through harsh winters and other harmful operating conditions, the body and components will rust and corrode. Equipment managers are then required to dismount tires, paint or touch up, and remount tires often to avoid that common rusty appearance found on so many steel wheels. Issues with wheel safety, appearance, and other maintenance costs from steel wheels add up. Fortunately, manufactures are embracing aluminum during the construction of their vehicles, thus we see less corrosive situations and subsequent savings on lifetime operating costs through use of aluminum components.
HISTORY OF INNOVATION
Arconic continues to innovate its entire portfolio of wheels for work truck applications. Introduced just last year, the 16- x 6-inch wheel for Ford Transit dual application weighs just 18 lbs, while the 16- x 6.5-inch wheel for Ford Transit single application weighs just 21 lbs. Each wheel is the lightest in its class.
Interest and demand continue to grow for Sprinter vehicles, especially in the work truck segment. Today, Arconic also offers both single and dual wheels designed specifically for these platforms. The 16- x 6.5-inch wheel for Sprinter 2500 single application chassis weighs just 23 lbs, while the 16- x 5.5-inch dual application wheel for Sprinter 3500 weighs just 17 lbs, shaving weight, adding strength, and lowering operating costs.
Wheels play a vital role in the operating efficiency and freight carrying capacity of any vehicle. Supplier technology is continuously evolving within the work truck industry to help reshape the market and meet efficiency standards.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brian E. Thomas is marketing communications manager of Arconic Wheel and Transportation Products (Cleveland, Ohio). Arconic Wheel and Transportation Products serves the commercial vehicle market with products used in a range of applications, including forged aluminum wheels such as Ultra ONE® with MagnaForce® alloy, Dura-Bright®, Dura-Flange®, LvL ONE®, and M-Series® medium-duty truck wheels, as well as a variety of other complementary accessory products for those markets. Find out more, visit www.alcoawheels.com.