Freightliner recently introduced its new Plus series, featuring its M2 and SD trucks. The models enhance the driving experience to keep drivers comfortable and safe. And with the driver shortage, that’s a plus.
Freightliner took the advice of fleet owners and drivers to make improvements to the trucks. This led to a completely redesigned interior, connectivity and safety systems available across the lineup, and the latest advancements in powertrain components.
I had an opportunity to get behind the wheels of trucks in the Freightliner Plus series, and I’m here to report back.
All trucks in the Plus series feature Detroit powertrain components. The heavy-duty Freightliner 114 SD Plus features the Detroit DD13 Gen 5 engine. The engine offers a horsepower range between 370 and 525 hp. Its diesel technology makes it reliable and enhances its performance to offer new vocational power ratings. Designed optimally for vocational applications, the DD13 Gen 5 features available front and rear PTOs and a new aftertreatment system with one large DPF that offers less downtime due to increased service intervals. Using a single, larger DPF also saves 60 lbs, and the design of the Gen 5 helps improve fuel economy by up to 4%.
For an optimum pairing, the Freightliner Plus series features the vocational-focused Detroit DT12-V transmission, which offers up to 2,250 lb-ft of torque. It also features an Off-Road Mode, Hill Start Aid, Rock-Free Mode to help free tires from mud, and a Paver Mode that allows dump trucks to shift from neutral to drive without pressing the brakes. Additionally, its Power Launch feature automatically raises engine speed to provide a powerful take-off when hauling heavy loads.
Cummins engines are available in Plus series trucks depending on the truck model. Cummins offerings include the B6.7, L9, and X12 diesel engines as well as the L9N and ISX 1N natural gas engines. Eaton and Allison transmissions are also available in the Plus series.
When you first hop in the driver’s seat, you’ll notice that the truck has a more automotive feel to it. This construction was intentional, helping drivers ease the transition from their personal vehicles to their work vehicles, and also to aid in driver comfort. Like consumer vehicles, the trucks now feature steering wheel controls and power windows, locks, and side mirror controls on the door panel. One truck I drove was even equipped with an aftermarket backup camera—which many drivers are accustomed to having in their own vehicles.
The dash layout as well as the digital driver information display that houses truck and safety information are also new features. The dash in the Plus series is customizable according to the application the truck will be used, the amount of auxiliary equipment necessary, and according to the safety system, telematics, or GPS system used. Positioned just below the dash was the gear shifter column that includes engine braking functions.
SAFETY & TECHNOLOGY
When Freightliner’s vocational trucks are equipped with a Detroit engine and DT12 transmission, drivers and owners can take advantage of Detroit’s safety systems. Plus series trucks are available with the Detroit Assurance 5.0 safety suite. But owners that are loyal to Cummins engines won’t be left out. These customers will also have the ability to order certain Detroit Assurance features even with the Cummins engine.
The Detroit Assurance suite for the Plus series includes Lane Departure Warning, Active Brake Assist, and an optional Side Guard Assist. Adaptive Cruise Control will be available with the Plus series in 2023.
Part of what makes the Plus series safe is that it’s paired with industry-leading technology with the Detroit Connect Suite of Connectivity Systems. This system offers fleet owners information on their trucks in terms of vehicle performance. These insights can even help fleet owners make business decisions that improve productivity, reduce downtime, and in turn, increase profits.
These insights include Virtual Technician remote diagnostic service, Remote Updates, Safety Event Viewer, and Detroit Connect Analysis.
Detroit’s Virtual Technician service informs fleets of fault severity as well as how to best fix the issue after a fault event occurs. Remote Updates use over-the-air capabilities to update engine parameters and more to eliminate downtime. Detroit’s Safety Event Viewer gives fleets visibility into the driver’s performance. It notifies fleets of incidents and includes data such as location, date, and time. The Safety Event Viewer also allows fleets that use Detroit Connect to monitor critical events and use data to make decisions that increase the safety of trucks on the road and on the job. Finally, Detroit Connect Analysis gives fleet owners on-demand data that identifies driver and truck trends and behaviors as well as insights that can increase productivity and lower fuel consumption.
Creature comforts are important, especially when they improve or aid in driver retention and increase driver and motorist safety. But for a fleet to purchase a truck, it also has to make business sense. It has to be reliable, handle the workload, and be a complement to the task at hand. Freightliner designed its Plus series to make upfits easy with the QuickFit Electrical System. This system provides easier access to connection points, programmable switches, power sources, interlock features, customizable parameters, and more.
The QuickFit system integrates upfit software easily with the factory software and hardware electrical connection. This increases upfit efficiency. The new electrical components also possess the potential to host TEM software and make vehicle connections plug and play. Additionally, Freightliner’s engineers relocated key electrical components to protect them from road debris and external variables after installation.
Now that I’ve given an overview of the trucks, let’s talk about how it feels behind the wheel. As mentioned before, the first things I noticed were the automotive-style features. Their presence made the brand new trucks seem familiar to me, and because I don’t drive trucks on a daily basis, the automotive features made the trucks less intimidating.
Along with the automotive features, the Class 6 trucks were an easy drive. Clearly they were much larger than any vehicle I would drive on a regular basis, but I could see novice professional drivers being quite comfortable driving these trucks. And although the 114 SD is obviously a heavy-duty Class 8 vehicle, even it didn’t seem like too much to handle. As far as making big trucks more comfortable and familiar to drivers, I’d say Freightliner delivered. But what about their safety components?
Not only were the trucks easy to drive, the technology features they have make them safer than most trucks on the road today. During testing, driving too far off to one side initiated the Lane Departure Warning that imitated the sound of tires crossing rumble strips—and it was almost just as loud. Further, when a vehicle entered my blind spot, the Side Guard Assist’s yellow, triangular warning light illuminated in the A pillar. If I initiated my turn signal with the vehicle in my blind spot, an audible warning sounded and the warning light flashed red. The Side Guard Assist works just as well if pedestrians are present (I tested it!).
I also tested the Adaptive Cruise Control. Fleet owners can govern the distance between the fleet truck and the vehicles ahead. The trucks we tested were about a three-car-length’s distance between the lead truck, and the trucks easily maintained that distance. Another safety test was automatic braking. I’ve tested these systems before while driving, but this time, I was a passenger. Freightliner set up a dummy car on the test track, and our truck headed straight for it. The automatic braking stopped us within a few feet of the dummy car as audible warnings sounded off inside the cab. No matter how many times I witness this feature in new trucks, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it, but I am glad those features are becoming more widely available.
It seemed no matter which way I looked at the trucks in the Plus series, I was pleased with how far technology has come and how it has (finally) entered the work truck space. With a comfortable cab that has the familiar automotive-style features we know and love in our own vehicles, it only makes sense that these trucks should have the same safety features that our cars have, too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jade Brasher is the editor of Modern WorkTruck Solutions magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Freightliner will begin production of the Plus series in the third quarter of 2023. Find out more about the Freightliner Plus series, visit www.freightliner.com.