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Updated Freightliner vocational trucks packed with new features

Interior and electrical improvements boost safety and comfort

A vocational truck drives on a dirt road near a facility
Freightliner Plus Series Freightliner

Freightliner recently launched its new Plus Series vocational trucks in Detroit, Michigan, and detailed the improvements and features of the line. I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel and drive the trucks on a simulated highway loop and off-road course at the nearby American Center for Mobility's 3.7-km test track in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Daimler Truck North America Product Marketing Manager Greg Treinen says, "With the Plus Series, based on customer feedback, we knew we needed to update the driver environment inside the cab and then also make a significant upgrade to the electrical system to enable some of the groundbreaking technologies that we are able to offer."

The Plus Series includes enhanced versions of Freightliner's M2 medium-duty trucks and SD severe-duty trucks, including the M2 106 Plus, M2 112 Plus, 108SD Plus, and 114SD Plus models. The improvements targeted safety, comfort, and connectivity.

Technology upgrades add new safety features

Significant upgrades to the electrical system enable new technologies for safety, connectivity, and upfit efficiency. The reconfigured electrical architecture allows access to the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of safety systems which include active brake assist, lane departure warning, optional side guard assist, and adaptive cruise control which adjusts to maintain a safe following distance down to 10 miles per hour. A camera system and radar system mounted in the bumper provide the signals. I made full use of the lane departure feature setting off the alert a few times and took advantage of the adaptive cruise control as I drove behind another truck.

Treinen comments, "It takes one or two of those events to really understand how powerful that technology is and how it can help increase that level of safety for their employee and the truck - and also the public around them."

The effectiveness of active brake assist was demonstrated by a product manager. He drove straight toward a dummy vehicle in the middle of the road, the system detected the obstacle, and the truck slowed then came to a full stop just a couple of feet short of hitting it. This safety system can detect moving vehicles, stationary vehicles, and even moving pedestrians.

Freightliner Plus Series interior Freightliner

A quiet and comfortable interior

Inside the cab, Freightliner has improved the materials for the trim using updated plastics and insulation. This reduces squeaks and rattles as well as exterior road noise. The quality and structure of the foam in the ergonomic seats has also been upgraded for better comfort. These features were most noticeable as I drove on the off-road course over a variety of bumps and ruts. 

Other enhancements include a driver-centric dash with a driver information centre, a customizable switch layout, and a transmission control stalk that allows automated manual and automatic shifting and engine braking functions from the column.

Treinen adds, "The cab is designed for more robustness and improving the fit and finish of the operator's environment. There is less physical stress on a driver who's spending all that time in the cab throughout the day, whether it's in the street or on a job site."

Connected diagnostics

Plus Series fleets will be outfitted with the Detroit Connect suite of connectivity systems. This provides information on vehicle performance with a remote diagnostic service. Remote updates for engine parameters are made with secure, over-the-air programming capabilities. Analytics provide users with on-demand automated analysis to identify driving behaviours and trends as well as data on fuel consumption and safety performance. A Safety Event Viewer notifies fleet managers of collision mitigation events, showing the time, date, location, and vehicle speed. 

Adaptable electrical system

The Plus Series also introduces the QuickFit electrical system. It is a multiplexed architecture designed to make it easier to integrate truck equipment into the vehicle. Critical connection points, more power sources, programmable switches, customizable parameters, and interlock features are more accessible to upfit the vehicle. The Daimler Truck North America CHEC Tool provides a user-friendly interface to view and modify electrical configurations and change parameters. In the Plus Series, a number of key electrical components have been relocated to better isolate them from various hazards.

Treinen explains, "We relocated the power distribution module [PDM] from the top part of the fender to the firewall, and we've put it in a box that is IP69K waterproof rated. It's really designed to keep that PDM safe from shakes and rattles, road debris, chemicals, anything that might cause downtime with our customers. We took great care to make sure we relocated those components in areas where we're maximizing our customers' uptime and maximizing the reliability of our vehicles."

The Freightliner Plus Series goes into full production in the third quarter of 2023. Freightliner

New engine and transmission combo

The Freightliner 114SD Plus sports the DD13 Gen 5 diesel engine, the latest in Detroit's heavy-duty engine lineup. It has a rapid torque feature to get payloads moving quickly. ThermoCoasting in the DD13 Gen 5 prevents aftertreatment cooldown during a driving regen to keep the system at its optimum temperature and reduces the need for parked regens. The engine is paired with the Detroit DT12-V transmission. This transmission has an off-road mode for aggressive shifting on any terrain, a hill start aid to prevent rollback on steep grades, and a rock-free mode to help avoid wheel-stuck situations. There is also a paver mode in which a dump truck can shift from neutral to drive without pressing the brake pedal allowing for a steady flow to the paver.

Depending on the truck model, the Plus series lineup will also feature the Cummins B6.7, L9, and X12 diesel engine options as well as L9N and ISX12N natural gas engines. Eaton manual and automated manual transmissions and Allison automatic transmissions are also available.

According to Treinen, "The SD Series has always been tied with a Detroit engine. But we have a lot of customers that run Cummins B6.7 and L9 engines. Now we're able to offer assurance, active brake assist, lane departure warning, side guard assist, and adaptive cruise control down to 10 miles per hour in that truck. We are continuing to expand our coverage with the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of safety systems." 

Familiar features remain

Many of the key features of the SD and M2 models that operators have enjoyed in the past will remain the same, Treinen says. "The maneuverability, the visibility, the ease of ingress and egress, all of those types of things that have driven its success in the past, all of those things that our customers have come to know and love about the M2 and SD over time - now we've made that product even better with the Plus Series." 

The Freightliner Plus Series goes into full production in the third quarter of 2023.

Company info

2477 Deerfield Drive,
Fort Mill, SC
US, 29715


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