Navistar's light-duty Terra Star uses advanced exhaust gas recirculation to meet 2010 emissions standards. No diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is needed. Photo: Navistar International Corp.
The TruckStairs three-step folding staircase secures to any 2-inch receiver hitch. Photo: New England Machine LLC

The first quarter of each year is my gold mine. Some of the most important trucking shows take place, starting with World of Concrete and ending with the Mid America Trucking Show. In between are the Technology and Maintenance Council Exhibits and the National Truck Equipment Association's Work Truck Show. The following are just a few products from this year's shows that should improve your fleet operations.

Hendrickson USA LLC launched a series of steerable lift axles. Their new Compliant Tie Rod (CTR) and PerfecTrack technology make them totally unique. The steering tie rod — made of spring steel — bends on impact to absorb shock, but pulls straight under tension so both wheels steer properly. The compliance minimizes or eliminates most damage, while PerfecTrack maintains geometry. The CTR lift axles are available in 10,000-, 13,500- and 20,000-pound capacities.

Many batteries are replaced when the real problem is in the charging system. Purkey's Fleet Electric Inc. developed a simple device that identifies state of battery charge (engine-off) or alternator condition (engine-on) by plugging into a 12 V power point and reading signal lights. The tool doubles as a keychain so it's always handy.

To prevent slips and falls, New England Machine LLC introduced Truck-Stairs. The three-step folding staircase, with extendable leveling legs, secures to any 2-inch receiver hitch. They are 24 inches wide and 9 inches deep, with slip-resistant safety treads. The complete assembly weighs only 45 pounds.

It seems as if every up-fitter is making systems for Ford's new Transit Connect (see “The Euro transit of choice,” page 17, PUBLIC WORKS March 2010 issue), voted (light-duty) Truck of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show. The Katerack adjustable slide-out shelves, from Dejana Cargo and Van Interiors, got my attention when a man stood on the extended top shelf to demonstrate its 250-pound capacity.

Several new light-duty trucks will be available later this year, including Ford Super Duty pickups, a new class 2-3 cargo van from Nissan, and the Chevy/GMC Heavy Duty pickups. Navistar International Corp. announced the Terra Star, available in day, extended, and crew cab versions. Powered by International's MaxxForce 7 diesel engine, Terra Star comes in class 4 (16,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating; GVWR) and class 5 (19,500 pounds GVWR) versions. Its V-8 engine produces up to 300 hp and 660 pounds-foot of torque.

Frustration and injury can occur when a trailer and the ball hitch of a pickup or truck aren't properly aligned, especially with heavier trailers. Now there's less need to strain and lift to reposition the trailer. Williams Innovations LLC developed TeleSwivel Pro, a hitch adapter that extends and swivels to enlarge the target zone for connecting a ball hitch trailer by 25 times. It works with 2-inch and 2.5-inch receivers, using an adapter for the larger. Capacity is up to 14,000 pounds.

Smith Electric Vehicles' Newton plug-in electric truck has a range in excess of 100 miles and a top speed of 50 mph with a payload of 16,060 pounds. Its GVWR is as high as 26,455 pounds. It's an ideal in-city delivery and utility vehicle, reaching 0 to 30 mph quicker than most diesels.

Do you need separate padlocks for storage boxes located on your trucks? Strattec Security Corp. makes a heavy-duty padlock that you can operate with the key to your truck. Simply order the locks for your make, insert your ignition key into the automotive grade lock, turn it right then left, and your lock is set to work with your truck's key.

Have any of your workers ever unhitched a trailer, and then driven away without disconnecting the electrical connection? That will result in at least an hour of downtime for two pieces of equipment, and one driver out of service waiting for them. And if not done right, the repair will be open to corrosion from rain and road salts. EZ-Connector Inc. makes a full line of sealed connectors held together magnetically. They hold under normal towing, but break away when a truck is driven away from its trailer. Neither the plugs nor the cords will be damaged. Dummy sockets are available to cover plugs to protect from weather and against corrosion when not towing.

— Paul Abelson ( is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association, a board member of Truck Writers of North America, and active in the Society of Automotive Engineers.

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