The Wheel Deal

Feature Story

Practical design enhancements, plus the right specs, can make fuel oil trucks better tools – and provide greater productivity

By Stephen Bennett

Fuel oil distributors engaged in the task of specing a new delivery truck typically have a list of “must-have” features and a list of “like-to-have” features. The truck that finally gets purchased ideally has all of the “must-have” features and, depending what they cost, at least a couple of the “like-to-haves.”

When fuel oil distributors talk about their truck needs in general terms, they frequently will mention durability and maneuverability among the “must-haves.” Truck manufacturers said they have been working to provide these and additional features that they’ve learned are useful to fuel oil distributors.

Bob Bees, marketing product manager for Volvo Trucks North America, Greensboro, N.C., who is primarily responsible for the VHD vocational tractor,�said that while the VHD might not be an obvious or common choice for fuel oil delivery, “it’s got a great wheel cut” – a primary consideration for operators who require maneuverability in negotiating driveways and other tight spots in the course of making deliveries.

Home heating oil tankers typically have a capacity of approximately 2,000 gallons to 3,000 gallons, Bees said, and they’re typically single-axle vehicles. The front axle often ranges from 14,000 pounds to 16,000 pounds, with a rear axle typically ranging from 23,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds. “They might go all the way up to a 29,000- or 30,000-pound rear axle,” Bees said. “We can put a 23,000- or a 26,000-pound rear axle on it, and it would make a very, very good home fuel oil truck, but it’s on the high end of the cost spectrum.”

Other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) that make trucks that can be spec’d for fuel oil delivery are: Freightliner Corp., Portland, Ore.; Hino Motors Sales U.S.A., Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; International Truck and Engine Corp., Warrenville, Ill. and Kenworth Truck Co., Kirkland, Wash. What follows is a sampling of what these truck OEMs offer to fuel oil distributors. (The names, contact information and basic details about these and many other truck makers, as well as manufacturers of tanks and related equipment, such as Boston Steel, Malden, Mass.; Heil Trailer International, Chattanooga, Tenn.; and KME Fuel Trucks, Nesquehoning, Pa., are included in a directory that accompanies this article.)

Hewing to the priority of maneuverability, Freightliner, for example, said its Business Class M2 106 features up to a 55-degree wheel cut, achieved through a combination of a setback front axle and a swept-back bumper. Complementing the wheel-cut are a 2,500-square-inch windshield which may have been installed by companies like windshield replacement frisco, low-profile dash and an aerodynamic sloped hood – features that combine for visibility, crucial in the negotiating of tight spots, the manufacturer noted. Wide door openings, low step-in heights and interior and exterior grab handles on the M2 are designed to help reduce fatigue, and offer easy entry and exit for drivers making numerous fuel oil deliveries daily.

Hino Motors Sales U.S.A., Bloomfield Hills, Mich., offers a Hino Model 338 Class 7 straight truck with a 260 HP engine, optional in-cab controlled rear locking differentials and optional vertical exhaust, among other specs. The truck also has an air suspension. Chad Bamberg, marketing manager for Hino, said the straight truck features an exceptional turning radius because of its 55-degree wheel cut and wide visibility for ease of movement during fuel oil deliveries, even to homes where access is cramped. The truck’s dashboard includes a “Driver Information Display” capable of presenting a range of information, including trip fuel economy and service and maintenance intervals. “The addition of several new options on our ’08 model year trucks, and our core benefits of exceptional fuel economy, up-time and reliability, make the Hino truck a perfect fit for this market segment,” Bamberg said, noting the cab is “ergonomically friendly,” roomy and quiet – factors that make a big difference to a driver who must get in and out of the truck many times during the course of a typical day.

Among the trucks in the International lineup that fuel oil distributors sometimes spec are the 4300 and 4400 models. John Wadden, director of severe service marketing for International Truck and Engine Corp., Warrenville, Ill., echoed what other OEMs said: maneuverability and visibility are among the key attributes that fuel distributors require. An International 4400 4 x 2 is a popular vehicle among fuel oil dealers, according to Babylon Motor Truck Corp., a truck dealer in West Babylon, N.Y. With a gross vehicle weight of 33,000 pounds, it can be spec’d with an International DT-466 260 horsepower engine that produces 800 lb-ft torque. An automatic five-speed Allison transmission is an integral part of the specs for that truck. “Many fuel oil customers find that the automatic transmission helps shave several minutes off each stop,” according to the dealer.

The T370 and T270 are the latest Kenworth models to be introduced that could be used in fuel oil delivery operations, according to Jeff Parietti, a spokesman for Kenworth Truck Company, a division of PACCAR Inc.

Kenworth introduced the T370 Class 7, T270 Class 6 and T270 hybrid-electric conventional models and the K260 Class 6 cabover, which joins the K360 Class 7 cabover, at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., earlier this year.

The T370 Class 7 and T270 Class 6 models feature new halogen projector low beam headlamps for more light down the road and also offer three times longer life than sealed beam headlamps. A new hood assist device and 90-degree hood tilt opening provide easy access to the engine compartment for mechanics performing service or repairs, Parietti said.

The T370 and T270 are scheduled to begin production this summer. Both are available with the Paccar PX-6 engine rated to 325 hp and 750 ft-lb of torque and with the Paccar PX-8 engine rated to 330 hp and 1,000 ft-lb of torque. Fuel oil distributors can choose manual or automatic transmissions and air or hydraulic brakes.

“Drivers will appreciate the 50-degree wheel cut for excellent maneuverability,” Parietti said.

The Kenworth T270 Class 6 hybrid-electric medium duty conventional is powered by the new Paccar PX-6 engine and features an integral transmission-mounted motor/generator, a frame-mounted 340-volt battery pack and a dedicated power management system. The T270 hybrid operates like a standard diesel vehicle with all power coming from the engine during steady driving conditions above 30 mph and uses a combination of diesel and electricity below 30 mph. The system automatically switches between the two modes of operation and is seamless to the driver, according to the company. The Kenworth K260 Class 6 cabover is especially suited for tight maneuvers in city conditions, the company said.

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