Steve Brooks looks at the yet-to-be-released Cummins X12 engine
“Some trucks run long distances with grain and fertiliser, others spend most of their time doing quarry and construction work along the coast, some run into and out of farms, others do hot mix and bitumen sealing, and then there’s four agitators as well.
“There’s a lot of diversity in the work we do and the trucks reflect that. I guess the engine’s do, too,” he adds. “I figured a long time ago that it doesn’t pay to have all your eggs in one basket.”
And it shows. Kenworth and Cummins are the preferred combination for a number of reasons but none more than service, essentially through the local Brown & Hurley dealership.
Still, no one model reigns supreme and you don’t have to look hard to find examples; a T480 with an M11, T408s and 409s with 15-litre ISX and Paccar MX engines, and T3s with the 8.9-litre ISL. Still doing an honest day’s work, there’s even an old K-series with its original 14-litre Big Cam underneath.
As for the relatively new installation of the X12 in an eight-year-old and extremely well preserved T408, John Crampton is surprisingly quiet for a moment. “That’s something you probably need to ask Chook,” he says with a shrewd grin. “But I do know he was keen to get you up here to drive it.”
Funny thing though, I think Crampo was keen to get a second opinion as well.
‘Chook’ is Mike Fowler, Cummins director of engine business and I’d talk to him soon enough. For now, and with a bit of urging, Crampo was at least willing to provide some background behind the reasons for replacing the truck’s original 15-litre ISX EGR engine with its 12-litre sibling.
The short version of the story is that Chook and Crampo have known each other for a good while and with Cummins wanting to add another dimension to its long-running X12 trial program, and Crampo more than willing to operate an engine which even on paper appeared to tick a lot of boxes, arrangements were promptly put in place.
Essentially, the truck went to the pilot centre at Cummins headquarters in Melbourne, the 550hp 15-litre ISX which had notched more than 17,500 hours pulling dog trailers through the hills and hollows of northern NSW was removed, and over the next few months a highly detailed transplant was performed.
It wasn’t just the engine, though. With John Crampton firmly convinced that time and technology are now right, the Eaton 18-speed manual gearbox was replaced with its automated Ultrashift-Plus counterpart. The automated Eaton is, in fact, now the Crampo standard.
“You have to keep moving forward,” he comments, “and from what I see, they’ve absolutely got the auto box right.”
Indeed they have. In fact, it took little time behind the wheel to form the firm opinion that the relationship between engine and transmission in this installation is without doubt the best I’ve ever found in US equipment, and that includes the formidable engine and automated transmission pairing in various Mack models.
Whatever shift program Eaton wrote for this particular truck with this particular engine in this particular application, it should be set in stone. It was that good, with levels of intuition and shift quality simply second to none.
The transmission’s capacity for making huge skip-shifts and the engine’s willingness to pull away without moan or groan from as low as 1000 rpm was nothing short of extraordinary. This truly is a big engine in a small package.
What’s more, this transmission also featured a ‘dual mode’ function, reading suspension air pressure to instantly adjust shift sequences between loaded and unloaded conditions. Clever!
Now, with more than 10,000km under its belt since the truck’s return to Coffs Harbour, there are no regrets. None at all, and it’s a serious
They’ve absolutely got the auto box right
Crampo who explains, “Look, truck combinations in Australia are for the most part constrained by dimensions, so for a high gross application like a PBS truck and quad dog, you need a truck with a short BBC (bumper-to-back-of-cab) like the SAR.
“But with a big bore engine, a short BBC puts restrictions on space and weight, so there’s a negative impact on payload.
“That’s where an engine like the X12 is such a viable alternative if it can deliver the right levels of performance and fuel economy.
“And as far as I’m concerned, it’s delivering both.
“It’s definitely not shy when it comes to work. It might be a small engine but there’s nothing small about the way it pulls.
“Like I said, it ticks a lot of boxes for this sort of work.”
Arguably the biggest tick of all though is in the box marked ‘tare weight’. With a dry weight of just 860kg in its current Euro 5 form, the X12 is around 540kg lighter than its 15-litre brother. However, the big news in the Crampo installation is that along with a number of significant changes to the cooling system and front suspension, Cummins has stripped more than 820kg off the weight over the front axle compared to the 15-litre layout.
For the record, the standard multi-leaf front suspension was replaced with parabolic springs while the original copper and brass radiator made way for an aluminium assembly based on the cooling package used with Paccar’s MX engine and in Kenworth’s new T610 range.
The payload improvement is obviously significant but according to John Crampton, there’s still more work needed to maximise the engine’s full payload potential.
At the moment, the truck struggles to reach six tonnes over the steer but as Mike Fowler would explain, there are ways and means of increasing weight over the front axle. Like, the X12 is an extremely compact package – in fact, it’s now also being trialled under the short snout of a Kenworth T359 in a weight-sensitive fuel haulage application – and simply locating the engine further forward will result in a notable increase over the steer which, in turn, will allow more payload over the drive axles.
As for fuel, the average is 1.93 km/litre, or 5.5 mpg in the old scale, measured over the engine’s first 4,000 km since returning to Coffs Harbour. AdBlue consumption is typically around 3.5 percent of fuel consumption.
John Crampton admits to being satisfied with the early figures. As he is quick to point out, the engine is still new, the hills are many in and around Coffs, and loaded weight is always around 56 tonnes.
“Anyone who reckons that’s not reasonable fuel consumption for a new engine hasn’t spent much time pulling quad dogs around here,” he says abruptly. “Besides, it’ll only get better as it goes along.”
Still, there’s one box the engine doesn’t tick. At least, not yet. Given its modest displacement, engine brake performance of the X12 is marginal at best, an opinion no doubt accentuated by the formidable braking power of the 15-litre engine it replaced.
And there’s the thing: Cummins set the bar exceptionally high with its 15-litre engine dispensing up to 600 braking horsepower, so given the X12’s peak braking output around 375hp, it’s easy to be disappointed in a high weight application running over steep hills. Even unloaded it’s surprisingly unimpressive, struggling to pull road speed back when running from, say, an 80 km/h zone into 60. It needs to be better.
Fortunately, Mike Fowler says there are several ways to improve the 12 litre’s braking performance but again given its relatively modest displacement, improvements may be similarly modest.
Meantime, back behind the wheel, everything Crampo was saying was quickly becoming
Given its modest displacement, engine brake performance of the X12 is marginal at best
obvious and in terms of pulling power, the X12 was full of surprises. There’s a deep rumble reminiscent of its bigger brother as it digs towards a torque peak of 1,700 lb ft at 1,100rpm, matched by a level of gritty determination across the rev range belying the engine’s humble 11.8-litre displacement. Again though, in this instance it’s a performance unequivocally enhanced by a superb affinity with the Eaton shifter.
Yet marry this inherent tenacity with a level of throttle response which I’m prepared to suggest is unmatched in any installation of similar proportions, and you can be quickly left wondering about the vast array of workloads applicable to something so light yet offering such solid performance.
As John Crampton put it, “It’s always horses for courses and I probably wouldn’t use it for pulling a five-axle dog but other than that, I can’t see why it wouldn’t handle most other jobs. I expected it to be a reasonably good thing but it’s definitely better than I thought it’d be.
“Like, think about the payload you’d get if it was in a T350 pulling a three-axle or even four-axle dog. That’d be awesome, I reckon.”
Crampo paused for a moment. “There’s never really been any engine like this since Cat’s C12 and C13.”
He’s right, but the difference is the X12 does it with considerably more grunt. Then again, the Cummins currently lacks something the Cats didn’t. A truck to call home!
HOMELESS OR HOMELY?
They may not like to admit it, but it’s a fair bet Cummins insiders have long known it wouldn’t be easy finding a home for the X12.
Simply explained, the giant diesel engine specialist missed the boat badly almost a decade ago when it found itself largely empty-handed in the wake of Cat’s 2008 departure from the onhighway engine business.
Sure, Cummins had its 15-litre Signature engine to supplant the yellow company’s C15 but what it didn’t have was something to step into the void left by the sudden departure of Cat’s supersuccessful C12 and its C13 successor.
It’s no secret, of course, that in our part of the world Cat’s little big boys carved a huge following, never more than in Kenworth’s T4 range. Before then, Cummins had reasonable success with its M11 and ISM engines but as
Mike Fowler admits, “Once the C12 arrived, we were out of the picture between 400 and 450hp.
“The C12 kicked a lot of goals and Kenworth was quick to capitalise with the T4, particularly as 50-tonne truck and dogs entered the market.”
Of course, Cat’s departure also created a massive void at Kenworth. It, too, had nothing to fill the hole and it would take a long and tedious development program before the Paccar MX-13 was ready to start life under the snout of a T4. However, with the MX now on stream, why would Kenworth consider adding the X12 to the portfolio and potentially risk sales of Paccar’s own engine?
An answer depends on who you talk to. Like, ask some Kenworth dealers and salesmen, and they will quietly and very unofficially admit they’d like the X12 because the Cummins reputation for service is second to none and reports about the engine’s attributes are starting to filter deep into customer ranks.
Fair enough, but what Kenworth’s corporate masters in Seattle would have to say about the X12’s inclusion is open to speculation. From the outside looking in, it won’t be an easy sell.
Then again, Kenworth and Cummins are both exceptionally good at keeping the customer satisfied. Likewise, it’d be a brave individual who’d suggest that Volvo Group would allow Mack to add the X12 to a family stable already endowed with a hugely popular 13-litre engine.
Simply put, there’s a better chance of winning Lotto.
… along with a number of significant changes to the cooling system and front suspension, Cummins has stripped more than 820 kg off the weight over the front axle compared to the 15-litre layout
Maybe Freightliner! Maybe so, except that Freightliner is part of Daimler. So, too, is
Detroit Diesel and it has an engine of similar displacement called a DD13. Sure, DD13 in Australia sells little better than square marbles but nonetheless, it’s still part of a large and powerful corporate collective with its own agendas.
Then again, corporations can be strange creatures at times and the recent appearance at a major US commercial vehicle show of a Freightliner with an X12 under the snout did not go unnoticed.
Make of that what you will but it certainly fires the thought that Daimler’s other dependant, Western Star, could also be a candidate for an X12. It’s a big ‘may be’ though, particularly in our neck of the woods where Western Star and Detroit Diesel both operate under the Penske banner and the consistent feedback from the mogul’s men is that X12 and Star won’t be cohabiting anytime soon.
However, as you’ll read soon enough, X12 is already on trial in a couple of Western Stars and from all reports, doing a great job.
Meanwhile, what about International’s ProStar? With no viable alternative to the X12 from within its own ranks, surely ProStar’s appeal for short-haul truck and dog applications would be enhanced by adding the light and lively 12-litre Cummins to a portfolio already equipped with the X15 engine. Besides, it’d certainly be something of a coup to be first to offer an engine with so much apparent potential.
But don’t hold your breath. Given the delays in bringing ProStar to market, you’re probably better going for another Lotto win than wait for anything resembling an International initiative.
Looking outside the square, perhaps X12 could be a candidate for a nationality other than American. Japanese, for instance. Market leader Isuzu doesn’t lack for much except an effective prime mover model and it’s no great secret that some of its local leaders would dearly like a strong, efficient, advanced engine around the 12 or 13 litre size for its flagship Giga.
Again though, it’s hard to see a way through the corporate complexities.
On all these scenarios and suggestions, Mike Fowler just shrugs and says, “We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing, and that’s building a case for the X12 by showing the market what it’s capable of.
“We already know it’s capable of so much and so do a lot of others. Word is getting around.”
BUILDING A CASE
On a quiet Saturday afternoon in the latter part of 2012 I was given an unofficial and definitely ‘off the record’ steer of a Kenworth T609 in the industrial backblocks of south-east Melbourne. Underneath the drooping snout was a Cummins 13-litre engine, secretly installed at the company’s Scoresby pilot centre.
Yep, that’s right, 13 litres! The engine was a test unit built at a state-of-the-art Cummins manufacturing plant in China and with Australia becoming a global field test site for Cummins, it was sent here for a two-year trial to validate reliability, performance and fuel economy in a B-double shuttle operation. Horsepower was said to be ‘something above 500hp’.
Known internally as the ISZ13, the engine was essentially built for the burgeoning Chinese market where Cummins has established large operations in joint ventures with the massive Dong Feng and Foton brands.
In this case, the 13 litre was part of the Dong Feng business and for Cummins South Pacific it was an ideal opportunity to assess its merits for the Australian market. After all, there remained a yawning gap in the Cummins product range between the 11-litre ISM and the 15-litre ISX.
However, little more than a year later, in September 2013, something occurred which would take the local focus off the 13 litre and shove it square in the face of an entirely new engine project called the G-series. Not to be confused with the existing ISX12 engine designed and built in the US for the US, the G-series would come in 10.5- and 11.8-litre displacements with the bigger of the two known as the ISG12.
While design and development would be led by a team in the US, the G-series was created in a joint venture with Foton – the Beijing Foton Cummins Engine Co – and would be built in China in a high-tech plant described as the showpiece of Cummins manufacturing facilities around the world.
Indeed, at the announcement of the new engine family its importance was ideally described by Cummins vice-president and chairman of Cummins China, Steve Chapman, when he said, “The G-series global design approach is a vivid demonstration of how Cummins is transforming from a multi-national to a truly global company.”
After that, nothing much was heard of the ISG12 in our neck of the woods until its appearance at the 2015 Brisbane Truck Show, accompanied by a press release announcing the start of Australian field trials.
Cummins was excited, and rightly so. Finally, here was an engine with the apparent attributes to fill a seemingly interminable void in the Cummins catalogue. What’s more, Cummins was quick to point out that ‘the field test program is solely a Cummins project, with engine installation carried out at the brand’s Scoresby pilot centre.’ In other words, it was totally a Cummins initiative.
Still, looking small and spindly alongside its 15-litre brother at the Brisbane Truck Show, and with no immediate sign of an eager truck partner, the future was undeniably uncertain.
Nonetheless, Cummins was determined to push forward, citing a long list of features starting with the ‘innovative architecture’ of a sculptured block design and extensive use of composite materials to bring the engine’s dry weight down to just
Peter ‘Pedro’ Folwell runs Melbourne-based Primo Haulage, however back in the 1970s Pedro was running around Melbourne in a GM-powered butter box ACCO. He’s not exactly enamoured with how the industry has changed over the years.
“We went from having a lot of fun to political madness.” These days the company runs nine trucks which he says suits his lifestyle.
For Port Lincoln-based Hayden Hore, trucking began as a family affair on the Eyre Peninsula. “I started out driving tippers for my uncle,” he recalls. “But I did a bit of everything.” Hayden ended up subbying to Eyre Transporters and hauled general freight to Adelaide.
“I bought my first Volvo, a G88 in 1976, I’ve been a Volvo man ever since.”
Hayden retired six years ago, his last truck was an F10 Volvo tippers. Looking back however, he reckons the best time for him behind the wheel was pulling road-train fuel tankers across the Nullarbor. “It was a lot of fun, a lot of good memories.”
In 1968, Lindsay Knight scored his first driving job in an F700 Ford. And 12 months later he went and bought his own.
Lindsay was based in the South Australian Riverland and racked up quite a few miles as a long-haul operator. In the late 1990s he defied advice from friends and family and teamed up with his wife, driving their truck two-up from Adelaide to Cairns running wine and produce. “That was the best time,” he says.
Now Lindsay stays closer to home as an employee driver doing local tanker work for Booths.
Tragedy bought Sandra Little to Alice Springs this year. Her daughter Gayle who died in a truck accident last year was inducted at this year’s event. Trucking has played a huge part in her family with three of her children and her exhusband driving trucks at one stage.
Looking back at the presence trucking has had in her life Sandra reckons its camaraderie that she misses the most, many of her friends had family members who were away on the road.
“We were a family,” she says.
Neville Murphy has the bearing of a bloke who’s done more than his fair share of hard yards. Growing up the rural hamlet of Tara in Queensland’s Western Downs region, Neville started out as a delivery boy. As a grownup he hauled a lot of timber for local company Harwood Transport.
Marriage and family saw him move to Brisbane and give away the long-haul life. Container work and bulk cement work kept him busy enough after that. Working for Queensland Cement and Lime was a highlight of his career. “The people were great, as was the manager at the time, Terry Leween, the best bloke I ever worked for.”
Heavy haul veteran and Mack aficionado Paul Harrison of Cardiff NSW was inducted as an ‘Icon of the Industry’.
The tales continued. Phill James of Broken
Hill, for example, was too caught up hauling livestock to attend. Bunny Brown, known for his involvement in the Tarcutta Truck and Farming Museum as well as ALDODA (Australian Long Distance Owner Driver’s Association) is now also a part of the Shell Rimula Hall of Fame.
Every five years there’s a big shindig at the
Road Transport Hall of Fame. However, while the sight and spectacle of all the trucks in town is a sight to behold, there’s something about the atmosphere of these smaller gatherings. The stories don’t get lost in the crowd.
There are few events that celebrate the contributions that trucking and the people that make up the tapestry of the industry. And no doubt there will be more stories to tell next year.
1. A new home for the Kenworth 900 Legend
2. Another new addition for the Kenworth pavilion at the Road Transport Hall of Fame
3. This year the event had a relaxed and almost intimate atmosphere
1. Hayden Horne was joined by his grandkids Chelsea and Max Sheppard. A Volvo man at heart, Hayden spent the bulk of his life hauling out of Port Lincoln 2. Heavy haulage veteran Paul Harrison was inducted as an ‘Icon of the Industry’
3. Lindsay Knight’s best memories of being on the road are from the years when he and his wife used to drive two-up from Adelaide to Cairns hauling produce 4. Neville Murphy started out as a small town delivery boy in Queensland’s Western Downs. He ended up devoting many years to driving cement tankers around south-eastern Queensland
5. Pedro still owns nine trucks on interstate fridge work. It’s a far cry from slogging around town in a butter box ACCO
6. Sandra Little made the long journey to Alice from Shepparton to see her daughter Gayle inducted. Gayle was tragically killed in a truck accident last year. Sandra’s family has always had close ties to trucking and the camaraderie of trucking families is something she has always valued
7. Eighty new names were added to the Hall of Fame this year
Left: John ‘Crampo’ Crampton. Cummins X12 ticks a lot of boxes. The engine’s harmony with Eaton’s Ultrashift-Plus shifter is exceptional
1. Cummins-powered Kenworths dominate the Crampo’s Tippers operation Cummins engine chief
Mike Fowler and John Crampton. X12 installation in a well preserved T408 was a good move for both. Performance of the 12-litre is surprisingly strong Crampton is a big believer in ‘horses for courses’ and MX-powered DAF CF does a good job in a particular application
Cummins insiders have long known it wouldn’t be easy finding a home for the X12
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Right: Road Transport Hall Of Fame CEO Liz Martin kicks off proceedings