Collaboration adds capacity for autocar customers
Partnership with Hendrickson gives truck buyers option for dedicated front axle and suspension
Refuse and recyclables haulers have specific equipment needs that many other truck owners may not face, especially when it comes to severe service equipment. Heavier loads need special consideration, and a new partnership between two long-standing manufacturers gives that consideration to an important aspect of the truck - the front axle.
Truck manufacturer Autocar has joined with Hendrickson to offer an axle and suspension option on its severe-service refuse trucks that adds weight capacity to the front end of the truck. This is especially important for customers who operate front-loading trucks and need some additional capacity to ensure the truck operates at its full potential.
With its fully custom approach to building refuse and recyclable collection trucks, Autocar is in a position to identify where customers need a little extra on their vehicles. A long-standing relationship with suppliers like Hendrickson helps that process along.
"Every truck we build is custom engineered; we don't have stock or standard trucks," comments Adam Burck, Autocar vice president of brand management. "We've identified a need to improve the front axle and front suspension on our heavy spec refuse trucks - first to increase capacity, and second, to make sure that they are very reliable and have low maintenance costs.
He continues, "We always want to give a better ride to our drivers, both when the truck is full and when it's empty. Those are all very different challenges.
"We were very happy when Hendrickson proposed that they could build this suspension just for us."
Steve Hampson, marketing director with Hendrickson, says Autocar approached the company with very specific requirements for weight, performance and ride.
Today's steer axles in the refuse/recycle collection truck weight category are usually in the 20,000-pound range, but Hampson says Autocar wanted a little more coverage and capacity.
"So we increased that capacity by an additional 800 pounds in order to give them more freedom of specification," he says. "On the other hand, we wanted to provide something that was lightweight and based on our proprietary axle design, which is a hollow-block-section construction."
The hollow block construction, compared to other axles which use an I-beam construction, was able to cut weight for the system, saving about 60 pounds. At the same time, its torsional characteristics were shown to be strong, improving the ride and handling, and it proved itself to be very durable.
"It ticked all the boxes that Autocar was looking for in terms of an improved product," Hampson says.
The end result was the Steertek NXT front axle and integrated suspension system, which Hendrickson is building exclusively for Autocar trucks.
"This is an exclusive offering to Autocar," notes Hampson. "The refuse business has some unique conditions in the nature and operation of the vehicle - they stop and start many times per mile, for example, so it has a very demanding duty cycle. This product was designed for that application."
According to Adam Burck, Autocar is making use of the Steertek axle on its ACX severe-duty trucks, which he calls the heavy-duty workhorses of the company's customers.
"The applications in which the load on the front axle tends to be a challenge are front loaders, both for commercial and residential uses," Burck explains. "One application, for example, is the Curotto-Can, which hangs a lot of weight out in front of the truck - there's quite a lot of leverage involved."
Autocar and Hendrickson have worked with clients to field-test the axle, with good results.
"We put a number of field evaluation units out, which serves us two purposes: one is to use the product in real environments to test its durability, and in addition it provides customers the opportunity to experience it," Hampson says. "The feedback was very positive - the additional weight savings allow the customer to either use that for additional load or, because the vehicle is lighter and therefore not having to haul that extra weight, it contributes to fuel savings. In addition, the ride characteristics and handling were considered to be very good."
The new Hendrickson offering means Autocar has another option to offer customers during the custom truck building process, Burck notes. With it now being available, truck owners in the upper range of weight specifications are able to select it during the build.
"There will be a lot of different combinations of wheelbases, rear axles, bodies and types of refuse being collected," he says. "All of that goes into computer models and determines the mix of weights that will be on the axle during a given day. There might actually be more weight on the axle when the truck is empty because there's no load in the back pulling it down, for example, or it could be that as they load up the truck there's more and more weight on the front axle.
"All of that has to be considered, and in this case those heavier-spec trucks are probably going to be good candidates for the new axle."
This article was originally published in Recycling Product News, Volume 26, Number 1, January/February 2018.