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Closer Look: International puts drivers first with redesign of venerable vocational line

The HV series features new cab designs, better visibility and body builder benefits

Closer Look: International puts drivers first with redesign of venerable vocational line

When the time came to start thinking about updating the WorkStar line, International knew that it had to be careful - they needed to keep all of the popular aspects of those trucks while bringing new ideas and offerings to the table. That was the thinking behind International's new HV line of trucks, which will replace WorkStar trucks in the company's selection, but provide more comfort for drivers and greater flexibility for body builders.

"The WorkStar product has been around for a long time, and it's done very well in the severe service markets, whether that's in construction, government, municipal or others," said Mark Stasell, vice president of International's Vocational Truck Business. "What we wanted to do with the HV was upgrade the product, focusing on the driver environment. These trucks have a lot of features and capabilities already . . . we've kept that but wanted to make it even better for the people driving these trucks."

International has built the HV series utilizing stronger components as well, adding a new, heavier frame rail that Stasell said allows operators to stay away from reinforced rails if they so choose. That, along with available frame extensions, means the HV offers strength and stability. 

For a truck with as many varying uses as the HV - it could be considered the Swiss Army knife of the International line, targeted toward such uses as concrete, dump, utility and similar challenging uses - durability and flexibility are key.

"We have two lengths of this vehicle, a 107-inch BBC and 113-inch BBC. Both of those are built in set-forward and set-back axle configurations. We put the Cummins B6.7, the Cummins L9 or our new A26 engines in these. So, you've got every kind of configuration you could need," Stasell said.

The International A26 generates a hefty 475 hp and 1,750 lb.-ft. of torque. For the Cummins offerings, the B6.7 puts out up to 360 hp and 800 lb.-ft. of torque, while the L9 offers up to 450 hp and 1,250 lb.-ft. of torque.

International continues to offer a sturdy steel cab on the HV series but with plenty of redesigns that encompass almost every part of the driver environment. The doors have been redesigned to remove wind noise and leaks, and the window has been redone as well. 

"We got rid of the old vent window - feedback told us that people don't use the vent window much anymore, and there was a post there that obscured visibility," Stasell said. "We have a bigger window to look through, put pedestal mirrors on the truck and moved them forward. The driver doesn't have to turn his head so far to use the mirrors - that's one of those things that, when you do it all day, it saves some neck fatigue."

Kevin Madigan, director of Vocational Truck Sales with Navistar in Ontario, and his Canadian customers consider the new door to be an important part of the redesign.

"What really drives our business in a more harsh climate is the need for a more durable product, so the enhancement of the reinforced doors with a better door seal prevents any drafts from coming through," Madigan said. "That's probably any OEM's biggest complaint from drivers, a cold draft entering the vehicle."

International also revamped its console and instrument cluster, taking into consideration everything down to the colour to ensure the gauges were easily readable. In addition, they held one section of the panel to be easily customizable.

"I'd guess we did something like 1,700 driver surveys . . . it's been a huge enhancement, with a much more desirable dash and layout of the gauges that has benefited from the input of the users," he said.

"The driver can program whatever he wants in that section. If he wants to see tire pressures, axle loads or real-time fuel economy, he can pick what he would like, tailored to his operation. That's a benefit because then you don't have to look for another screen around the cab," Stasell said. "Likewise, if we add the Bendix Fusion system or other driver assist systems in the truck, that can go there in the middle of the clusters."

The shifter on the steering column reduces the amount of reaching a driver must do when changing gears and also provides control of the engine brake.

International has introduced a new HVAC system to the HV that has been requested for some time by Canadian drivers dealing with snow and ice, according to Madigan.

"We now have an enhanced HVAC unit that will defrost the windows in half the time of our previous version, which was best in class," Madigan said. "That was important to owners because a lot of these trucks go into municipal plow applications; there is so much blowing snow sometimes that it becomes a safety issue."

There are also a number of other changes incorporated into the new cab, including improvements in the installation and use of International's Diamond Logic advanced electrical system. Through Diamond Logic, truck owners can customize and streamline many of the electrical functions required for vocational bodies of various kinds, while also taking advantage of on-board diagnostics.

"Some of the bodies that go on vocational trucks can be very complex - like an ambulance body or utility truck, for example. One of the things you can do with Diamond Logic is put remote power modules in those bodies, wire that up and bring the truck and body together, plug in a connector to connect the data link to the truck, and everything is done," Stasell said. "It's easy to plug and play bodies onto the truck, and within the truck we have up to 30 programmable switches on the dash for the controls they need. Those switches can be moved around anywhere they want on the dash."

A simple software tweak is all it takes to move switches from one part of the dash to another depending on where the driver finds them to be most effective. That's part of the overall drive to make the cab a safer, more comfortable place. 

"In the end, will the driver know that he's not turning his head as much when he's looking at the mirrors? Will he realize he's saving energy by not groping for the shifter or engine brake switches? Will he appreciate there's a lot of unplanned downtime avoided by the Diamond Logic and the safety interlocks we put into it?" Stasell knows that they may not but, he added, "In the end, our hope is that when the driver chooses a truck to do the job, they'll choose the International HV, because in the end, he'll feel more productive, safer and less tired at the end of the day."

Madigan said the drivers who have been involved in testing are excited about the new truck. This is not surprising, given the focus on the driver's environment in the design of the HV line. The new models are scheduled to arrive on the market in March.

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