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Inside the aerodynamic design of the New Cascadia

Brian Daniels, product marketing manager, talks about some of the features of the 2019 New Cascadia. ( Photo: Brian Straight/FreightWaves )

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida. When Daimler Trucks North America (OTC: DMLRY) introduced its 2020 model year Freightliner New Cascadia at a Las Vegas event in January, all attention was focused on the eye-opening headline: it is a Level 2 autonomous truck.

While that is the sexy part of the truck, an even sexier headline for fleets should be the advances in fuel efficiency in the new model.

Starting with the Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission, through subtle details that go unnoticed to most on the road, the latest-generation Cascadia provides a whopping 35 percent fuel efficiency improvement over the first-generation, released in 2007.

Brian Daniels, product marketing manager, said that between 90 percent and 95 percent of all Cascadias are now equipped with the DT12, which comes with the Detroit Connect suite of connected vehicle services, including Remote Updates and the optional Detroit Connect Analytics that tracks fuel usage and safety data.

The design of the New Cascadia, though, took fuel efficiency to new levels with several innovative and forward-thinking ideas.

Starting right at the front of the vehicle, DTNA has inserted tethered plastic covers over the tow hooks to keep air from entering under the vehicle. There is also an A-pillar deflector just in front of both the driver’s side and passenger’s side windows to help redirect airflow. An optimally sloped hood and grille, bumper with integrated air deflector, aerodynamic mirrors, upper door seal and integrated antennas are also standard efficiency items on the New Cascadia.

For those customers who want a little more, DTNA offers the “Aero” package. This package features all of the standard items but adds 20-inch side extenders, full chassis fairings and rear wheel covers. In addition, enhanced chassis fairing skirts are included to restrict air flow under the vehicle and side extender rubber seals are added, eliminating about a one-quarter inch gap that existed between the sleeper and fairing extenders.

Another package, the “AeroX” package is also available. This was the package on four production model trucks that media members test drove in West Palm Beach, Florida, this week. The ride-and-drive event showcased the New Cascadia’s safety technologies. You can read about the Detroit Assurance 5.0 safety system which turns the Cascadia into a Level 2 truck here.

The AeroX package builds upon the Aero package but includes some additional benefits that further improves fuel efficiency. These include 24-inch side extenders instead of the Aero package’s 20-inch versions. There is also an optimized roof fairing deflector that connects the two side extenders to further close the trailer gap and smooth air flow. An optimized low ground clearance bumper reduces ground clearance to just 4 inches, and can easily be snapped back into place if it becomes unhinged.

Exclusive for the next 18 months to the New Cascadia is a special line of Michelin X Line Energy D+ tires that are covered on the front by new flexible trim wheel closeouts and in the rear of the tractor by Flow Below’s optimized drive wheel fairings.

Also available on the AeroX package is an industry-first aerodynamic height control (AHC). AHC automatically deflates the front and rear suspension air bags to lower the ride height by 1 inch once it reaches 55 miles per hour. When the speed drops to 45 mph, the vehicle’s height is raised back up. Drivers, Daniels said, won’t notice the change.

The combination makes this Cascadia not only the safest to date, but also the most fuel efficient, and both of those result in dollars returned to the bottom line.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]