Big Rigs - - FRONT PAGE - Gra­ham Harsant

THERE are winds of change blow­ing through Daim­ler Trucks here in Aus­tralia.

The com­pany has an­nounced the forth­com­ing in­tro­duc­tion of its new (to Aus­tralia) model, the Freight­liner Cascadia.

Big Rigs was in­vited to the un­veil­ing of this im­por­tant truck re­cently in Mel­bourne.

While new to Aus­tralia, the Cascadia has been on the Amer­i­can mar­ket since 2007. This is not to say we will be get­ting an old model. Daim­ler Trucks North Amer­ica (DTNA) is pulling out all the stops to en­sure we will get the most up-to-date ve­hi­cle in this coun­try and, just pos­si­bly, the world.

The im­por­tance the com­pany has placed on this model was re­flected by the peo­ple present at the Aus­tralian launch.

Freight­liner Aus­tralia di­rec­tor Stephen Downes was joined by Daim­ler Truck and Bus (Aus­tralia) pres­i­dent, Daniel White­head, along with Richard Howard, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of sales and mar­ket­ing world­wide, and Ul­rich Loe­bich, di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional sales, Daim­ler Trucks, North Amer­ica.

Matt Smed­ley, se­nior man­ager of dealer de­vel­op­ment in Amer­ica, launched Daim­ler’s ‘Elite Sup­port’ pro­gram in that coun­try and has been sec­onded to Aus­tralia for three years to de­velop the pro­gram here. Such is the com­mit­ment of the com­pany to its Aus­tralian op­er­a­tions – not just in terms of truck sales but also to the af­ter-sales ex­pe­ri­ence.

Any sales­man will tell you the eas­i­est thing in the world to sell is a great prod­uct that you re­ally be­lieve in. The en­thu­si­asm th­ese gen­tle­men dis­play for the Freight­liner Cascadia is gen­uine and in­fec­tious. With good rea­son too, as this truck has been the best-sell­ing heavy duty truck in the United States since 2009, as well as in Mex­ico and Canada.

But don’t rush out and open your wal­let just yet. The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Cascadia we saw is a test-bed for the Aus­tralian mar­ket. To be joined shortly by a more pow­er­ful ver­sion, th­ese trucks are left-hand drive and the com­pany has had to go to some ef­fort with mon­i­tors and a plethora of cam­eras to gain ap­proval for road use.

Th­ese trucks will join the 50 oth­ers that de­part Daim­ler’s Port­land, Ore­gon, head­quar­ters ev­ery day with the sole pur­pose of rack­ing up kilo­me­tres for dura­bil­ity test­ing. Loaded with state-of-the-art soft­ware, th­ese ve­hi­cles feed a stream of live data back to the R&D depart­ment, al­low­ing the com­pany to con­tin­u­ously re­fine and de­velop ev­ery as­pect of the truck.

Freight­liner Aus­tralia will carry out ex­haus­tive, multi-mil­lion dol­lar test­ing of the truck in lo­cal con­di­tions to en­sure the best pos­si­ble spec­i­fi­ca­tion is se­lected for this mar­ket.

“As far as we’re con­cerned, Cascadia is the best-of-the-best prod­uct,” said Richard Howard.

“In Amer­ica we cur­rently have at least 85,000 or­ders for the truck where we lead the mar­ket seg­ment.

“The abil­ity to use that plat­form, to bring a spe­cific truck which is ab­so­lutely ded­i­cated to the con­di­tions here in Aus­tralia, and is ab­so­lutely aligned with the needs of our cus­tomers here, and the com­mit­ment from that point of view, is un­prece­dented within the Daim­ler Truck group.”

So, what of the truck it­self? The model un­veiled was, as men­tioned a left-hand drive Day Cab model. The shape is dis­tinctly Amer­i­can and is of a wind-cheat­ing de­sign. In­deed gen­er­a­tion 2 has some 10 per cent fuel sav­ing over gen1, with de­vel­op­ment of shape and col­lab­o­ra­tion with Detroit Diesel – 99% of Amer­i­can buy­ers plump for Detroit power and 92% opt for the auto/man­ual trans­mis­sion.

The com­pany spends a good chunk of its $1 bil­lion per year R&D fund­ing aim­ing for a year-on-year 5 per cent fuel im­prove­ment so we could rea­son­ably ex­pect the launch mod­els in Aus­tralia to add an­other 10 per cent to that cur­rently achieved.

In­side, the cab lay­out is log­i­cal and er­gonomic. Ev­ery­thing falls to hand eas­ily.

This eval­u­a­tion model is au­to­matic/man­ual and while we have yet to drive it, if it bears any sem­blance to the auto/man­ual Mercedes mod­els we drove the fol­low­ing day (more on those in the next is­sue), we can think of no rea­son why any­one would plump for a man­ual. There’s noth­ing ‘slush’ about th­ese in­cred­i­bly in­tu­itive ‘boxes.

Sleeper cabs will be

❝ As far as we’re con­cerned, Cascadia is the best-of-the-best prod­uct.

— Richard Howard

avail­able up to 72”, up there with the best avail­able in our mar­ket. Tech­ni­cally though, th­ese ve­hi­cles are a tour-de-force.

Let’s talk disc brakes, air bags – not one, but two!

En­gines placed lower for a bet­ter cen­tre of grav­ity and with eas­ier ac­cess for me­chan­ics.

Let’s talk about adap­tive cruise con­trol, which al­lows you to travel from one side of a city to the other with­out ever touch­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor or brake.

Let’s talk about lane-keep­ing as­sist and the abil­ity to pla­toon.

Then there’s the telem­at­ics which will keep the driver – and the com­pany, and Daim­ler HQ – con­stantly in­formed about ev­ery as­pect of the ve­hi­cle’s op­er­a­tion from wear and tear of parts to ser­vic­ing re­quire­ments when they are needed, rather than when x kilo­me­tres turn over on the odome­ter.

The safety sys­tems in this truck have changed one large Amer­i­can cus­tomer’s col­li­sion rates from one in four to one in 19. It has also re­duced the cost of those col­li­sions from $7000 to just $300.

We Aus­tralians love to trick up our trucks and Freight­liner Cascadia should lend it­self to be­ing turned into a ‘bad boy’ for any­one so in­clined.

Aus­tralia/New Zealand is a ‘min­now’ mar­ket com­pared to Freight­liner’s over­all base. The fact the com­pany is pre­pared to in­vest $100 mil­lion into a right-hand drive de­vel­op­ment pro­gram specif­i­cally for us, speaks vol­umes of the im­por­tance and re­gard they hold for this mar­ket.

To be re­leased in early 2020, the Freight­liner Cascadia has the po­ten­tial to turn this mar­ket on its head.

Big Rigs will keep you in­formed of the Aus­tralian de­vel­op­ment of this world-beater over the com­ing cou­ple of years.

Mean­while, maybe start putting your loose change into your piggy-bank. There’s a fair chance you’re going to want one of th­ese.


Stephen Downes can’t wipe the smile off his face.


The new Cascadia.


Ergo in­te­rior ensures ev­ery­thing eis at hand.


GAME-CHANGER: The Freight­liner Cascadia.


The Cascadia is be­ing put to the test.

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