The Freightliner Cascadia, which is the best-selling truck in the US, was developed in right-hand drive for a cost of additional $100 million in order to ensure it was properly engineered for uniquely tough Australian conditions and met local operator requirements.
As part of this commitment to the region, an unprecedented international market testing program was held on both sides of the Pacific, with six test trucks operating in the US and three others running up miles in Australia on challenging routes.
One of those in Australia is a Cascadia 126 in the fuel tanker fleet of Maktrans, a family business that delivers fuel across a wide area of Queensland and New South Wales from its base in Toowoomba.
The test truck has clocked up 660,000 kilometres running a B-double fuel tanker set on some challenging Australian roads.
The truck, which was slotted into the Maktrans fleet before the Cascadia was launched in Australia, has held up so well that director Rob Hannemann ordered another 126 last year through Daimler Trucks Toowoomba.
Hannemann, said the Cascadia test truck, which is still collecting data for Freightliner, hasn’t missed a beat running at 68.5 tonnes on roads across regional Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia, including dirt tracks into many farms.
“It hasn’t touched a spanner outside the scheduled services,” said Hannemann.
“We haven’t had an ounce of trouble with it. All the drivers comment on how quiet and comfortable the Cascadia is. It has absolutely no rattles or squeaks whatsoever.”
Both of Maktrans’ Cascadias, which feature a 600hp 16-litre six-cylinder Detroit DD16 engine linked to a 12-speed DT12 automated transmission, have also impressed Hannemann with their fuel numbers.
“We are getting 2km per litres at 68.5 tonnes on mixture of the Newell and the New England highways, so we are really pleased,” he said.
The Cascadia represents a significant jump forward for conventional trucks in Australia, with the most advanced automation and advanced comfort and safety features in the market. It is also delivers a new level of connectivity with a full suite of telemetry data as standard.
Hannemann said that old-school truck drivers, including himself, took a while to adjust to the Cascadia, with its fully-automated transmission (which uses GPS data to decide when the truck should change gear for optimum efficiency) and features such as adaptive cruise control to maximise fuel efficiency gains and driver comfort.
“It is a different mindset, but once you get your head around it you can just let it do its thing,” he said.
Fully integrated safety is at the core of the Cascadia story and much of it comes standard in every Australian truck. These are not systems from a third party that are bolted on, but were integrated into the truck from the start of the design process.
The Cascadia is the only bonneted truck to feature a head-protecting airbag, while a seat-based side airbag is also an option.
All Cascadias come standard with radar-based AEBS advanced emergency braking system, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. A popular option is Sideguard Assist, which uses radar to detect people, cars and other objects down the side of the truck when it is about to move left into a lane or turn left.
“Safety is central to what we do at Maktrans, so the level of active safety in the Cascadia is very important to us,” added Hannemann.
A big part of safety is fatigue minimisation and the advancements present in Cascadia, especially the integrated fully automated (AMT) DT12 transmission and adaptive cruise control, which even works in very slow moving traffic, means driving it takes less of a toll on the driver.
Hannemann said the Cascadia is “beautiful” on the road, and “extremely comfortable” and easy to drive.
The Cascadia is available with a day cab, 36-inch XT, 48-inch XT, 60-inch XT and the cavernous 60-inch RR raised roof version. Interior features include steering-wheel controls, a wrap-around dashboard that puts everything within easy reach of the driver, aircraft–inspired ambient lighting on select models, three door seals, Sealy Posturepedic mattresses that measure up to 35-inches in width, a double bunk option, standard Laredo seat leather, an optional battery powered sleeper cab HVAC system, a vast amount of interior storage spaces and optional chrome touches and woodgrain panelling.
Engine choices for the Cascadia include the 16-litre DD16 with up to 600hp and 2050lb/ft for the 126 model and a 13-litre DD13 with up to 505hp and 1850lb/ft for the 116. Transmissions include the smart Detroit DT12 Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), while a traditional 18-speed Eaton non-synchro manual is still an option.
These advanced engines exceed Euro 6 emission standards by meeting US GHG 17 standards using an enhanced SCR system and upgraded common rail injection. Smart connectivity allows Cascadia customers to monitor how the engine is performing, along with a vast array of other information available in real time with the Detroit Connect system. This is standard, with each truck fitted with a pre-intstalled SIM card and a five-year subscription.
There are telemetry elements, such as route and location information can also be examined in detail, but the Detroit Connect system goes further because it can give operators an immense amount of data from the truck’s advanced systems that third party telemetry systems just can’t see including fault code data.
While any telematics solution can provide certain data, Detroit Connect can actually tell you what the truck is thinking including exactly what the vehicle’s systems, such as the integrated radars and camera, are actually processing throughout any incident.
The Detroit Connect system can tell the fleet operator everything from when the AEBS was engaged, to the throttle position, steering positon, gear and braking actions. It can present the incident in an overhead satellite map, with dots for each second of the event.
It also allows the owner to drill down into the fuel efficiency data in great detail, including idle time and how often the cruise control is used.