|By Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano|
It’s the end of the year, and change is in the air. The holiday season is upon us, and there’s a new president soon to be in the White House. This is a great time to look at the elements of your business that need renewal and updating.
If you’re thinking about adding new pickups, chassis cabs or cab-over-engine (COE) trucks to your fleet, you’re in luck; there are a lot of great choices ahead of you. For the 2017 model year, the manufacturers are emphasizing increased engine power, greater hauling and towing capacities, and technology, technology, technology.
Fuel economy isn’t being stressed as much as in previous years, due to lower fuel prices. Contractors seeking alternative fueling options, such as flex-fuel, biodiesel, propane and compressed natural gas (CNG) have about the same range of choices as they had last year.
As manufacturers bank on newer, more powerful engines with increased horsepower and torque, some are also lowering overall vehicle weight by replacing steel with high-grade aluminum. This helps with both power and fuel economy.
While the kinks in autonomous, self-driving vehicles are still being worked out, that emerging functionality has already found its way into cars and trucks, even more so this year. Sensors and cameras are all over the 2017s.
You may have seen TV commercials showing a car automatically stopping when an object was detected in front of it, before the driver could react. None of the 2017 trucks have this ability yet, but they’re getting closer.
Increasingly, we’re seeing features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) in new pickups. ACC uses forward-looking radar to prevent tailgating. Once you program in the distance you wish to keep between you and the vehicle in front of you, it’ll maintain it automatically.
Other safety-sensing features, such as blind spot monitors and cross traffic alert sensors, are finding their way into more trucks this year. That’s not all—there’s also lane-keeping assistance, collision warning, trailer sway control and many others, available as either standard or optional equipment.
Manufacturers recognize that contractors use their trucks as mobile offices. So, you’ll find WiFi, handsfree phoning capabilities and USB ports inside the cabs. Feature-packed ‘infotainment’ systems with streaming audio are available for every make. They include long lists of goodies such as SiriusXM receivers, AppleCarPlay and Android Auto, as well as navigation systems.
Truck makers also realize that, much more than ‘bells and whistles,’ you want and need durability and productivity. Versatility is also vital. You need to be able to configure these vehicles for all the different types of work you do, landscape and hardscape installation, maintenance, irrigation, snow removal and more. They’ve responded to those needs.
“We need the right trucks for the job, whatever it is,” echoes Robert Maffei, CEO and president of Maffei Landscape Contractors in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “I’d love to use something like a cabover, for instance. They’re easy to drive, and seem to have a lot less upfront and maintenance costs. But I can’t do snow removal with them.”
As usual, most makes and models will give you your choice of diesel or gas engines. Mark Norris, chief mechanic at American Design & Landscape in Parker, Colorado, prefers diesels. With 40 years of experience working on trucks, he likes the extra torque those engines provide. “We’ve got a lot of hills out here. When you’ve got to pull a 14,000- pound trailer with a skid steer in it up a good incline, a diesel’s the only one that’ll do it.”
Doug O’Bryan, owner and president of O’Bryan’s Grounds Maintenance, Inc., in Stow, Ohio, appreciates diesels for their added power and longevity. But of his fleet of 30 trucks, only two are diesels. “For me, the vehicles don’t last long enough to justify spending the extra $6,000 to $8,000 for the engine.”
He adds, “The engine might be able to last 20 years and go 200,000 miles, but the truck itself is only going to give me 10 or 13 years of service before corrosion from road salt makes the rest of it fall apart.
And the diesels cost more to maintain.” They’d be a better investment for him if he worked in the South or anywhere with a warmer climate.
All that said, let’s take a look at the changes and new offerings for 2017.
The new model year brings a redesign to the full-size Silverado HD. It’ll be available with a new Duramax 6.6L V-8 turbo-diesel engine that provides 445 hp and 910 lb.-ft. of torque for confident hauling and trailering.
The midsize Chevy Colorado, introduced in 2015, has been updated for 2017 with an all-new V-6 gas engine and 8-speed transmission, the Hydra-Matic 8L45. It’s roughly the same size and weight as the 6L80 6- speed automatic it replaces, but with a wider 7.0 overall gear ratio spread than the 6L80’s 6.0 ratio. The higher first-gear ratio is designed to help with heavy loads and trailering.
Chevy has made extensive use of aluminum and magnesium in the Colorado’s body, to ensure that there’s no increase in overall weight from the addition of the new 8-speed transmission. When equipped with the optional diesel engine, it gets 31 mpg on the highway, and delivers 308 hp at 6,800 rpm and 275 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.
The 2017 Colorados will include gas-saving active fuel management (cylinder deactivation), which disables two cylinders under light throttle applications. This feature joins an updated suite of advanced gas engine technologies, such as improved Variable Valve Timing (VVT) for intake and exhaust, and an upgraded direct fuel injection system.
Chevrolet’s Low Cab Forward (COE) truck was all-new last year, but didn’t start arriving at dealerships until this past fall. It’s offered in regular- and crew-cab body styles, with either a 6.0L V-8 gas engine, a 3.0L turbo-diesel engine, or a 5.2L turbo-diesel engine, all with 6-speed automatic transmissions. The largest model, the 5500XD, has a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 19,500 pounds and a payload capacity up to 12,875 lbs.
For the first time in 18 years, Ford has completely redesigned its entire Super Duty truck line. Highstrength, military-grade aluminum has been incorporated into the cabs, boxes, hoods and fenders, giving each model a 350-lb. weight reduction.
“To meet the needs of the Super Duty customer, we reinvested that weight savings into a stiffer, fully boxed, 95 percent high-strength steel frame,” said Jiyan K. Cadiz, product communications manager for trucks and commercial vehicles.
Ford says its Super Dutys are the first trucks to offer ACC and collision warning with brake support for heavy trailers, allowing drivers to traverse steep mountain grades while maintaining speed, even while towing a trailer weighing 32,500 lbs.
Blind spot monitoring and crosstraffic alert are also available. Blind spot monitoring can keep tabs on trailers up to 33 feet long, and trailer reverse guidance provides visual cues to make backing easier.
Also available is in-cab trailer tire pressure monitoring.
New 2017 F-250 through F-450 Super Duty’s have seven optional cameras: one in front, one on each side and two in the rear. The seventh can be installed on a trailer. These help with the lane-keeping assistance system that warns the driver when he starts to drift over the line.
Taller drivers will enjoy increased legroom. SuperCab models increased theirs by 3”, crew cabs, 4”, and the super crews, 6”.
The F-150, allnew last year, introduced an industry-first 10- speed transmission for 2017, as well as an all-new, optional, 3.5L EcoBoost gas engine.
The F-250 has an all-new trailer tow package that provides up to 18,600 lbs. of fifth-wheel towing capacity. The dual-rear-wheel F-350 increases its fifth-wheel towing capacity to 32,000 lbs.
The F-450 Super Crew 4x4 also got a boost to its towing capacity. Maximum gooseneck towing is now 32,500 lbs., fifth wheel towing, 27,500 lbs., and conventional towing, 21,000 lbs., with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 41,800 pounds.
The optional 6.7L Power Stroke turbo diesel V-8, available for all Super Duty F-250s, F-350s and F- 450s, produces 440 hp with 925 lb.- ft. of torque. The standard 6.2L V-8 gas engine produces 385 hp with 430 lb.-ft. of torque. Both diesel and gas engines are backed by a TorqShift 6- speed automatic with SelectShift.
The year 2017 will be the first that Ford’s Torque Shift, 6-speed transmission will become available with the 6.8L V-10 gas engine, optional for the F-450 through F-750 chassis cab models. It produces 320 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque.
The full-size Sierra HD gets an allnew, optional Duramax 6.6L V-8 turbo-diesel engine, which GMC says is its “most powerful diesel engine ever,” yet smoother and quieter, with a 19 percent increase in max torque over the previous Duramax 6.6L engine.
It offers 90 percent of peak torque at 1,550 rpm and sustains it through 2,850 rpm, providing 445 hp at 2,800 rpm and 910 net lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm. It’s B20 biodiesel compatible, and will be available in the Sierra HDs in the first part of next year.
A new, patent-pending vehicle air intake system drives cool dry air into the engines of the Sierra HD 2500s and 3500s for sustained performance and cooler engine temperatures when trailering on steep grades. There’s also a stronger front prop previous Duramax-equipped Sierra shaft and a larger U-joint than in HD models. It’s quieter, too, with a new full-length, damped steel oil pan, and a new rocker cover/fuel system with acoustical treatments.
The midsized GMC Canyon gets a new, optional 8-speed Hydra-Matic able with the 3.6 L V-6 gas engines.
8L45 automatic transmission, avail- That engine also features continuous VVT, direct fuel injection and Active Fuel Management.
The Canyon can tow 7,700 lbs. with the available 2.8L Duramax diesel engine. A trailer brake controller is now available with the trailering package.
Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD models, including the Sierra Denali HD, are offered with gas and Duramax diesel propulsion systems, with a conventional trailering rating of 20,000 lbs. and a max fifth-wheel/gooseneck trailering rating of 23,300 lbs.
If you attended GIE+Expo 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky, this past October, you may have already seen FUSO’s All-Electric E-Cell MediumDuty Truck, a battery-powered FUSO Canter FE-Series cabover model. It was shown at GIE and other trade shows in North America, to help gauge your level of interest in an electrically-powered COE truck.
You can’t buy one yet, but a year of inuse testing has demonstrated that the FUSO E-Cell can generate a 64 percent savings in operating costs, compared to an equivalent diesel-powered vehicle in the same service. The eight test vehicles produced zero CO2 or other tailpipe emissions.
FUSO will start a small production run of vehicles for several markets around the world, and expects the first all-electric trucks to reach the U.S. in 2017.
Isuzu’s new diesel-only FTR marks the return of the F-Series to the company’s Class 6 COE truck lineup. Technically a 2018 model, it will become available by mid-2017. It’ll be available in eight wheelbase lengths ranging from 152” to 248”, accommodating bodies from 14’ to 30’ long. The cab is larger than those found on Isuzu’s N-Series COEs. The FTR will have a GVWR of 25,950 lbs.
A turbocharged 5.2L 4HK1-TC 4- cylinder diesel engine will generate 215 hp and 520 lbs.-ft. of torque for the FTR. It’ll be mated to an Allison 6-speed automatic transmission with power take-off (PTO) capability. Dana axles have been included to help bear 12,000- lbs. up-front and 19,000-lb. rear-suspension loads.
Gas engines, including a 6.0L GM-made entry, are available in the NPR and NPR HD trucks. CNG, LPG or bifuel upfits are available for the gas engines from aftermarket suppliers.
The TITAN half-ton pickup is allnew for 2017. It joins the bigger TITAN XD, introduced last year. A single cab version of both TITAN and TITAN XD went on sale last month. A king cab variant of both will follow next year.
TITAN will ultimately be available in a total of three cab sizes and three bed lengths, with 4x4 or 4x2 transmissions. Trim levels include S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve; a Texas TITAN package adds custom exterior treatments. The TITAN single cab, like the crew cab, will be offered initially with a new 390 hp, 5.6L Endurance V-8 gasoline engine.
The TITAN XD single cab, like the TITAN XD crew cab, can be equipped with a choice of a Cummins 5.0L V-8 Turbo Diesel or the new Endurance V-8 gas engine. Diesel-equipped models will feature Aisin 6-speed automatic transmissions, and V-8 gas-engine-equipped versions will have 7-speed automatic transmissions.
Both TITAN and TITAN XD offer an optional integrated trailer brake controller. Trailer sway control is standard on SV trim levels and above, while blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert are standard on PRO-4X trim packages and above. Around view monitor with moving object detection is standard on the Platinum Reserve model and the PRO-4X Luxury Package.
For 2017, the RAM 1500 Rebel edition adds a long list of new standard features, including a rear backup camera, Rear Park Assist, an anti-spin differential, automatic dual-zone temperature control, remote start and a theft alarm. A Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system and media hub also become standard for the Rebel.
The RAM 1500 Sport adds a remote-start feature and a security alarm as standard equipment. The RAM 1500 Laramie Longhorn model adds LED bed lighting and keyless go, smartbeam headlights and rain-sensing wipers as standard features, while the RAM 1500 Bighorn edition adds standard automatic temperature control. All RAM trucks receive new five-micron cabin air filters.
Functional improvements were made to the Bluetooth connectivity on all of RAM’s truck radios, including better interior microphones.
The 3.6L gas V-6 engine gets 25 mpg on the highway, while an optional HEMI V-8 gas engine gets 21 mpg on the highway. Also available is an EcoDiesel 3.0L V-6 engine, 240 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. It gets 29 mpg on the highway.
RAM 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups also have some changes for the new model year. A 6.4L HEMI engine, previously optional, is now standard on Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited trim packages. Bilstein monotube shocks become standard on Laramie Longhorn and Limited 4x4 models.
Want a manual transmission in your pickup? RAM says it’s the only heavy-duty pickup and chassis cab truck manufacturer to offer one. “Some contractors like it for its greater fuel economy,” said Dave Sowers, head of RAM commercial vehicle marketing.
The RAM 5500 chassis cab increased its GCWR (gross combined weight rating, with truck and trailer) by 1,000 lbs, to 38,500. Its maximum payload is 12,480, with a towing capacity of 30,600 lbs.
Engine options for the 3500, 4500 and 5550 chassis cabs include a 6.4L HEMI V-8 gas engine that provides 370 hp at 4,600 rpm (410 hp at 5,600 rpm under 10,000-lb. GVWR) and 429 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. A 6.7L Cummins diesel engine is also available for the chassis cabs with a high-output option producing 325 hp at 2,400 rpm and 750 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,500 rpm.
Also new for 2017 are right- and left-hand 60 hp power take-offs (PTOs) for both 4x2 or 4x4 chassis cab models. (Previously, left-side PTO was only available with 4x2 models.)
RAM is the only truck manufacturer to offer a factory-built and warranted CNG solution, including tanks. It’s available in their three-quarter-ton 2500 pickups. All RAM diesel engines are B20 biodiesel capable.
The year 2017 will also see the relaunch of an all-new Power Wagon.
Designed mainly for off-roading, it could be a good choice for a contractor who regularly works under rugged conditions.
RAM says it’s the only pickup on the market to include a factory-installed 12,000- lb front winch.
The full-sized Tundra has added two new standard amenities to its Limited grade: a 10-way power driver’s seat; and a 4-way power passenger seat. A tow hitch receiver becomes standard on all 2017 Tundras.
Tundra Regular Cab models continue to come exclusively with 8.1’-long beds. Double cab models are offered with either a 6.5’ standard-bed or long-bed configurations.
All Tundra beds are 22.2 inches deep. Properly-equipped Tundras offer a payload capacity of up to 2,080 lbs. and a towing capacity of up to 10,500 lbs. The lockable easy-lower-and-lift tailgate lowers slowly with no slam and can easily be removed. A deck rail system is available for carrying larger items. The front and rear bumpers have three-piece construction for reduced repair costs.
The Tundra is powered by one of two available I-FORCE V-8 gas engines (no diesel engines are available for Toyota trucks in the U.S. market). The 4.6L I-FORCE V-8 produces 310 hp at 5,600 rpm and 327 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,400 rpm. The 5.7L V-8 delivers 381 hp at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm.
For 2017, 21 Tundra models equipped with 5.7L V-8s are certified Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), able to run on E85-blend fuel.
All Tundra models come standard with backup cameras. On select 5.7L models, power-heated outside tow mirrors with turn-signal indicators and manual-extend features are available.
The Tacoma remains virtually unchanged, except for a sliding rear glass window that’s now standard on TRD and Limited double cab models.