A landscape, irrigation or landscape maintenance contractor without a truck is like a sailor without a boat. It’s an essential tool that he absolutely needs to do what he does. He needs it to get his workers, tools and supplies to job sites; to pick up materials; to haul away trimmings; and he also might use it to pick up the kids from school. It’s not as if he can accomplish all these things with a bicycle. No, a good truck — or 12 or 200 of them — are as important to his operation as his mowers, trimmers, blowers and other tools are.
A contractor buying one or several 2019 trucks will find them to be smarter, safer, quieter, more connected and more economical to run than ever, whether he buys a pickup, chassis cab or cab-over-engine model. The field includes diesel, gas, flex-fuel and “mild hybrid” pickups, an all-electric COE and a hybrid diesel/electric COE.
What are contractors looking for in their trucks? “They view these things as a tool,” says Dan Tigges, full-size truck product manager, General Motors. “They’re looking for great value for their money, at the total cost of ownership, the operating, repair and fuel costs, resale value and performance. A lot of these guys spend many hours in these trucks, so they’re looking for a pretty comfortable truck as well.”
Dave Sowers, the head of Ram commercial vehicle marketing, says, “A certain amount of productivity is essential. They won’t even consider a vehicle if it doesn’t do the job they need it to do. If it allows them to put a little bit bigger trailer behind it, that might be a consideration. After that, it’s efficiency and safety. The other piece is to have a socially responsible and environmentally responsible image, particularly in the green industry.”
Benjamin Allen, COO of Lawn America, a lawn care company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, owns about 30 heavy-duty pickup trucks. Rounding out the fleet are several large trucks with custom box bodies built on Isuzu COE chassis so there’s no need to pull trailers. “The box trucks are easier and better for safety and liability reasons,” says Allen. “Younger men don’t know how to back up a trailer.”
When he’s asked what’s most important to him, Allen says “price — getting a good deal.” Next is how much hauling capacity a truck has; it must be beefy enough to transport a 300-gallon sprayer. Allen’s workers probably appreciate the fact that he puts air conditioning into most of his trucks. “You need that here in Tulsa,” he says. “It gets hot in the summer here, into the 100s.”
This model year sees a continued striving toward lighter frames without sacrificing strength. Ford lightened up its F-Series trucks with military-grade, all-aluminum bodies a couple of years ago; GMC/Chevy have taken a “mixed materials” approach, including using high-grade aluminum to replace heavier steel in some parts of their truck bodies. Tigges says GM chose to go that route because “it can be expensive to get an all-aluminum truck repaired. You have to go to a body shop that specializes in aluminum where the labor rates are typically much higher.” Ram has also done some lightening up.
Backup cameras are now standard equipment for all vehicles over 10,000 pounds; in 2019, it’s possible to get an optional multiple-camera, 360-degree view around one’s truck and trailer backup assistance.
And while self-driving trucks aren’t quite here yet, the safety technology that will eventually make that a reality continues to find its way into both heavy- and light-duty 2019 trucks.
Look for forward collision alerts, lane departure and blind spot warnings, front and rear parking assistance, collision and low-speed-forward alerts. One truck has a new automatic trailer detection feature that knows how long your trailer is and will give the driver an alert if there’s anything beside it he might hit.
Contractors with teen drivers in the family can now get a package on some trucks that will let you limit how fast it will go, how loud the music can be, and will even let you lock out the more explicit SiriusXM channels. One truck will even tell you if you’ve left your toddler or four-legged best friend in the back seat.
You’ll find plenty of connectivity and mobile office functions, often as standard equipment, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi with built in hotspots, 4G LTE, hands-free calling, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and multiple USB ports. But you might not a see a CD slot any longer. As Ford states in its marketing materials, “In keeping with consumer trends, CD players are no longer available.”
A telematics system, a fleet-management tool that keeps tabs on your trucks through a combination of GPS tracking and onboard diagnostics is available from most of the truck makers. It tracks and records exactly where your vehicles are, how fast they’re going and other information, and crossreferences it with what’s going on under the hood.
We don’t have the space to list every single standard and available (optional) feature, powertrain, trim package, cab style, available bed lengths, or paint color, but we will give you the heads-up on the biggest news from each manufacturer, plus a little extra. So, keep on truckin’!
Company: General Motors
The biggest news from Chevrolet is that it’s re-entered the medium-duty truck market it abandoned in 2009 by adding to its Silverado line. The 2019 Silverado 4500HD, 5500HD and 6500HD are the result of a partnership with commercial truck manufacturer Navistar International Corp., Lisle, Illinois (formerly known as International Harvester Corp.).
Both GMC and Chevrolet are introducing new full-size half-ton trucks this year; the ¾-ton and 1-ton trucks will be replaced next year, according to Dan Tigges, full-size truck product manager, General Motors. “The new light-dutys are all-new trucks from the ground up,” says Tigges. “We’ve made our cabs significantly larger and our box much more usable and bigger.” The new Silverado 1500 has been slimmed down; it’s some 450 pounds lighter than the Crew Cab V8s that preceded it due to the “mixed materials” approach.
- all-new “segment-exclusive” power up/ down tailgate standard on High Country, available on LTZ
- HD rear-vision camera that is available on certain models
- new HD surround vision that provides a 360-degree view around the truck, available
- rear-camera mirror that can function either as a traditional mirror or as a camera screen, available
- new Durabed with more cargo volume, standard. The short box offers 63 cubic feet of volume, up to 20 percent more than typical short boxes
For more information: www.chevrolet.com
Company: Ford Motor Co.
Ford completely redesigned the F-150 in 2015 and refreshed it in 2018, the main change being a loss of some 700 pounds from the chassis due to military-grade high-strength aluminum being used instead of steel in some places.
The F-150 Limited got a redesigned interior for 2019, including real wood trim with ash swirl, and the Navy Pier upholstery is now a Camel Back two-tone color scheme. A 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel V-6 engine was added for the 2018 model year and is still available.
- a high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, previously only available on the F-150 Raptor, is now available on the F-150 Limited. It kicks out 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, can haul a maximum payload of 1,520 pounds and tow up to 11,100 pounds
- a high-flow dual-exhaust system, standard on F-150 Raptor and 2019 F-150 Limited; not available for other trims or packages
- the “class-exclusive” Pro Trailer Backup Assist lets drivers rotate a knob to control direction, with the truck automatically steering to follow the course selected; standard on Limited, optional on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum
- an integrated Trailer Brake Control, standard on King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor and Limited, available on XLT and LT.
- 360-degree camera with split-view display with dynamic hitch assist to simplify the hitching process, standard on Limited, optional on XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum
For more information: www.ford.com
Company: General Motors
Like its cousin the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, the full-size GMC Sierra 1500 has also been completely redesigned. It’s also now larger in almost every dimension, including a longer wheelbase and longer crew cab body that offers about 3 inches more rear legroom than the previous model. And it, too, has lost some weight; it’s up to 360 pounds lighter than the previous model, thanks again to a mixed materials approach, including aluminum for the doors, hood and tailgate, with steel for the fenders, roof and standard cargo box.
- “GMC-exclusive” and “industry-first” MultiPro Tailgate with six functions and positions for enhanced second-tier loading and load-stop solutions is standard
- “segment-first” Multicolor Head-Up Display projects customizable data such as speed and fuel levels on the windshield so driver can keep eyes on the road, standard
- a GMC-exclusive, CarbonPro carbon-fiber cargo box, available on certain models, offers better dent, scratch and corrosion resistance
- HD upgrade of standard rear-vision camera, available for certain models
- rear-camera mirror that can function either as a traditional mirror or as a camera screen, available
- lane change alert with side blindzone alert, available
- HD surround vision, available
- Traction Select System allows the driver to choose from preset drive modes tailored for different terrain or weather conditions, standard
For more information: www.gm.com
Company: Hino Motors Sales USA Inc.
Hino has entered the U.S. Class 8 heavy-duty truck market for the first time with the launch of its 2019 Hino XL Series. The series includes both Class 7 and Class 8 trucks. The series will be offered in straight truck and tractor configurations ranging from a GVWR of 33,000 to 60,000 pounds.
Hino’s medium-duty COE trucks, which range from the 155 with a GVRW of 14,500 pounds, to the 195 with a GVRW of 19,500 pounds, have added larger wheelbase options for 2019.
All of these trucks have the same standard powertrain; a Hino JO5E Series diesel engine that produces 210 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque, paired with an Aisin A465, 6-speed automatic transmission. A telematics system has been standard on Hino 155 and 195 COE trucks since the 2017 model year.
- Hino XL7 and XL8 have electronic stability control (standard on tractor), collision mitigation systems, payload management suspension options, airride cabs and driver’s seats, hands-free Bluetooth audio/calling, steering wheel controls, LED headlights, cruise control and air conditioning as standard equipment
- the 195h and the 195hDC are hybrid diesel/electric models, the only cabovers to have such an engine
- the XL series buyers get a one-year free subscription to Hino Insight Telematics. Insight Remote Diagnostics and Insight Case Management are free for five years
For more information: www.hino.com
Company: Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc.
Isuzu is being close-mouthed about any changes or updates to its Class 3, 4 and 5 N-series and Class 6 F-Series COE trucks. Executive Director of Marketing Brian Tabel does say, “We’ll be announcing that after the first of the year when we launch the 2019 model-year gas and the 2020 model-year diesels. We’ll have some changes in the product lineup, but at this time I couldn’t share what those are.”
Tabel says that Isuzu’s lighter weight N-Series trucks, particularly the 14.5 GVWR NPR-HD crew cab that has a 6.0-liter V-8 engine and a body-andpayload allowance of 8,442 to 8,503 pounds is probably Isuzu’s most popular gas model among landscape contractors. It seats 7, with plenty of room for equipment.
The F-series, especially the FTR, is popular with tree-care companies. A woodchipper body was shown at GIE+- Expo.
- Isuzu showed an all-electric N-series truck at the 2018 Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, but you can’t buy one yet. Tabel says that the truck is “a basic concept, not in production.” Five of them are being test-driven by Isuzu customers in different parts of the country
- a Verizon Connect telematics system is optional
For more information: www.isuzucv.com
Brand: Mitsubishi Fuso
Company: Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America Inc.
Fuso’s biggest news is the debut of the 2019 Fuso FE Gas truck. It’s the only gasoline-powered truck that Fuso makes and is only available in the U.S. and Canada. Fuso is making it in the U.S. with its new brand partner Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, South Carolina.
The available models range from the FE 130 diesel with a gross vehicle weight rating of 13,200 pounds and a body/ payload capacity of 7,975 pounds, to the FE180 diesel with a GVRW of 17,995 pounds and a body/payload capacity of 12,490 pounds.
- all 2019 Fuso FE trucks, both gas and diesel models, have new modernized interiors featuring heavy-duty driver’s seats with adjustable lumbar support and upgraded seating fabric
- Fuso makes the only all-electric COE, the eCanter. This truck has a GVWR of 15,995 pounds
- buyers of Fuso FE Gas trucks will get free oil changes for the first five years or 75,000 miles, up to 10 oil changes. The dealership will also provide a free multipoint inspection with each oil change. Fuso is also providing two free additional years on this models’ Allison transmission
- all Fuso trucks come with a Verizon Connect telematics system and 12 months’ free service
For more information: www.mitfuso.com
Company: Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
A contractor who uses his truck for both work and home errands will welcome Rear Door Alert, a new standard safety feature on both Titan and Titan XD, from Nissan, that notifies the driver whenever he exits the truck if there is a child or pet in the back seat. Titan XD got a larger fuel tank for 2019.
- Fender Premium audio system with a 485-watt, 9-channel amplifier and Panasonic’s proprietary Acoustic Motion Control, duplicates the reverberation and ambience of original recordings; standard with 12 speakers on Crew Cab SL and Platinum grade levels; optional, with 10 speakers, on PRO-4X Crew Cab and King Cab
- 7-inch touchscreen audio/IT display with NissanConnect, standard
- Apple Car Play and Android Auto have been added for the first time as standard equipment on all grades
- second USB media port standard on all trim levels
- outer grille with a high-gloss metallic black inner treatment, standard on SV grade, replaces previous chrome grille
- integrated gooseneck hitch with inside-the-bed plug; the plug is standard when the optional gooseneck hitch is selected
- available 360-degree camera system
For more information: www.nissanusa.com
Company: Chrysler Group LLC
Ram has completely redesigned the halfton Ram 1500 for 2019, and now you can get it in a hybrid version.
It’s been recreated lighter, longer, wider and quieter, with 120 pounds taken from the chassis and another 100 from the frame, while at the same time, adding more high-strength steel. The body is over 50 percent high strength steel and the frame, 98 percent.
The overall cab length increased by 4 inches, creating an interior with 151.1 liters of storage capacity. Models equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine have an active noise cancellation system that cuts ambient sound down to 67.1 decibels. All the TorqueFlite 8-speed transmissions for the new Ram 1500 have been upgraded and modified with more powerful control computers for improved efficiency.
- larger payload and towing capacities than previous Ram 1500 models; it can haul 2,300 pounds and tow up to 12,750 pounds
- all-new Frequency Response Damping shocks, standard
- “class-exclusive” air suspension that enhances fuel efficiency, improves ride, and gives greater off-road capability, load-leveling and entry/exit convenience, optional
- new 4x4 off-road package includes suspension with one-inch lift, electronic locking rear axle, tuned shocks and hill-descent control
- electronic locking rear differential is standard on 4x4 off-road package and Rebel, optional for all other models
- all-new SiriusXM with 360L personalized listening experience, optional
For more information: www.ramtrucks.com
Company: Toyota Motor Sales USA
The mid-size Tacoma and the full-size Tundra remain pretty much unchanged for the 2019 model year, except for some minor interior updates. The TRD Pro, available in the CrewMax configuration only, has returned for both Tacoma and Tundra in an upgraded edition.
In 2018, Toyota’s trucks added the Toyota Safety Sense active safety system, standard on all grades of Tacoma and Tundra. It includes a precollision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with a sway warning system, automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.
The rearview mirror with compass has been eliminated on vehicles that are already equipped with navigation systems.
- two additional USB ports in center console
- TRD Pro (CrewMax configuration only) returns to lineup, gets standard moonroof, new available Desert Air Intake, designed to provide the Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V-6 with cleaner air on dusty trails or protection against water ingestion during stream crossings, and a 1/4-inch thick aluminum skid plate with red TRD lettering, and a TRD Pro exhaust with black chrome tip.
- new SX package available on SR5 double cab models in 4x2, 4x4 and 4x4 FFV features exterior styling with color-keyed front grille surround, front bumper end caps and rear bumper
- privacy glass is standard on the SR
For more information: www.toyota.com
The great debate: Gas versus diesel
Some contractors swear by diesel trucks for their extra torque, long life and low maintenance costs. Diesel fuel also used to be much cheaper than gasoline. Others used to buy diesel trucks exclusively, but since the price of diesel went up, have switched to gas.
Benjamin Allen, COO of Lawn America, a lawn care company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, used to buy both types of trucks, but these days, sticks to gas. “It just wasn’t worth it to me to run diesel,” he says. “A gas truck is good for about 150,000 miles, say around 10 to 12 years, then it’s pretty much shot. A diesel, I would have to run that up to 300,000 miles to get the extra money out of it that I’d have to pay to get it."
David Sowers, marketing manager at Chrysler Group LLC, Auburn Hills, Michigan, says, “Because of the new Tier 4i emissions regulations, the cost of entry for diesel is higher than it has ever been, and the cost of the fuel itself is higher, too. The people that still strongly consider diesel are the ones that frequently tow or tow heavier weights, accumulate a lot of miles and keep their trucks for a while. For a heavy-duty pickup truck, a diesel engine option costs about $9,000 more than a gas engine.”
Brian Tabel, executive director of marketing for Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc. Anaheim, California, says gas is by far the more popular fueling choice. “The amount of miles a landscaper drives, in some cases, it doesn’t make sense for them to have a diesel. But for some, their whole fleet, or their business model, is diesel and they prefer to use it. When you go with diesel you can have a higher gross vehicle weight. That also helps. But for the most part, a 12,000-pound or 14.5 GVW truck works for them.”
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both gasoline and diesel power; one choice isn’t clearly “better” than the other. What you choose will depend upon the needs of your particular operation and the kinds of applications you use your trucks for.
The author is senior editor of Irrigation & Green Industry magazine and can be reached at email@example.com.