The two-lane expressway nearby my place is a popular truckers’ route for driving from the Port of Rotterdam to the hinterland and vice versa. Just a short walk alongside the road is enough to spot a nice assortment of on-highway shipping container haulers.
In order to handle the variety of container lengths, the dedicated semi-trailers are often extendable/retractable, both ahead and behind the axles. Dual, (dis)connected semi-trailers are also widely used in this line of business. And many professionals work with the longer and heavier ecocombis to transport containers (25.25 m overall length and 60 metric tons GVM – 82’10” and 132,277 lbs, respectively).
Let’s get the show on the road with this 2014 Scania R730 V8 tractor. The traditional 6×2 set-up, featuring a liftable, non-steering tag axle with dual wheels. Bright red and brawny, it definitely stands out, with the red hubs as the finishing touch.
Another Scania 6×2 tractor, a 2008 R560 V8. More sinister looking than the red R730, methinks. Both drivers have adjusted their (old school) steering wheel to an almost car-like angle, quite habitual in the Scania scene. The truck maker is known for the highly adjustable steering wheels.
Heading to its homeland, Germany, this Scania R580 V8 4×2.
A Scania R-series 4×2 tractor with a Fliegl tridem axle semi-trailer. It says HN on the semi-trailer’s license plate, which means it hails from the German Heilbronn region. In the background, another container hauler, rolling around the roundabout.
Here it is, a 2015 DAF XF 460 FT tractor, towing a duo of connected Broshuis semi-trailers, thus forming one full-sizer. The second rig in this article’s first picture is similar, although the Scania tractor has three axles.
A Broshuis video, explaining things. A major commercial success, these 2CONnect semi-trailers, introduced in 2003. Proven technology for sure.
I also mentioned the frequently used, extendable/retractable semi-trailers. The Broshuis company demonstrates their MFCC HD (MultiFunctional Container Chassis – Heavy-Duty).
On the road again. Made and registered in Deutschland, a MAN TGX tractor with 580 hp, apparently. That kind of power comes from MAN’s D38 engine, an inline-six with 15.2 liter displacement.
A 2019 Scania S 650 V8 tractor with its steering pusher axle up, so is the semi-trailer’s first axle.
This 2017 DAF XF 460 FT is followed by a 2008 DAF FA CF 75. The letters FT and FA refer to the chassis and drivetrain layout: a 4×2 tractor unit and ditto truck chassis, respectively.
Jan van den Berg (Mountain John) has a diverse fleet of heavy trucks and tractors. Like a 2020 MAN TGX, housing 430 horses…
…and a 2019 Mercedes-Benz Actros with 450 hp.
An all-rounder, this brute of a five-axle Scania R-series, towing a full trailer. The 20ft sea cans are sitting rather high, the truck must be equipped with a hooklift system. The shipping containers are placed on an auxiliary frame with twistlocks to secure them.
Such a heavy truck chassis can handle a lot more than the average weight of a 20ft enclosed container. Usually, a hooklift system on a five-axle truck is technically capable of hoisting a 40 metric tons (88,185 lbs) container aboard the chassis.
Mr. Van Bruchem’s 2014 Scania R580 V8, 16.4 liter displacement.
A 2017 MAN TGX tractor with typical big fleet looks.
No, not all big Scanias are powered by a V8. The last one of today’s collection, and what a beauty the 2020 tractor above is, has a 12.7 liter inline-six underneath its cab.
I was a bit confused, as it clearly says 450 S on the front, instead of S 450. Currently, any Scania with the letter S in the model designation has the truck maker’s high end cab, with a flat floor.
Yet I learned that Daimler AG wasn’t too happy about Scania using the letter S, followed by a three digit number. So since recently, the S is placed after the power rating on premium model Scanias. Anyone happens to know the Swedish word for “Sonderklasse”?
Related article (featuring a flat rack container):
CC Global: 2019 Scania S520 Tractor And 2004 Pacton Semi-Trailer – All Packed And Ready To Go
Okay, educate me – why don’t we see trucks like this in the USA?
EU length limits (and common sense, due to infrastructure) mean cabovers make sense.
Also most American trucks are from American brands (even if made in Mexico).
Volvo bought White/GMC and then got control of Mack by purchasing Renault Trucks. Eventually they rebranded White GMC as Volvo but the trucks are made North Carolina IIRC and are unique to North America (although there is some sharing with Volvos from the outside world).
Volvo engines for the US are made in a Mack plant in Maryland. Volvos are a used bargain partly because so many owner operators refuse to drive something with a foreign brand name. I’ve even read truckers saying that they won’t “support the Chinese Communist Party”, obviously unaware that Volvo trucks and Volvo cars are separate.
Would Euro-style cabover trucks make sense in the USA if they were built in the USA?
Yeah, I forgot about all the flag waving factors.
No, except for extremely specialized applications. The longer overall vehicle lengths mean that conventional tractors are the norm here. They inherently ride better, although the European COEs with the air-suspension cabs have gone a long way to compensate for the inherently harsh ride.
Also, conventional cabs are more aerodynamic, so for the long haul trucking in the US, that’s a very significant factor.
And I am quite certain conventional cab tractors are cheaper to build. So why bother?
Smaller cabovers like Isuzus and the Kenworth and Peterbilt badged Leylands are common, and having used conventional tractor units to do deliveries in little alleys in Minneapolis I do wonder if there could be a some small demand for a smallish daycab cabover tractor. Then again there are few owner operators in that type of work and big corporations don’t care if it’s a pain to maneuver the truck.
I frequently see beautifully restored OTR tractors at truck stops so some drivers obviously like them.
One of the applications that’s a hold-out for Class 8 highway cabovers, at least in the western US, is hauling hay on flatbed trailers. I guess hay is fairly light so perhaps they want to maximize load volume while keeping maneuverability in the fields? And the distances from the fields to the feed lots are less than a day drive, so a sleeper and driver comfort may be less of an issue. In any case, though there are fewer than there used to be, it’s not uncommon to several an hour on the right road, at the right season. Usually Freightliner, a Kenworth K100 or Peterbilt 362. I think they’re mostly owner-operators or small outfits.
Cabover tractors died in the US for the very simple reason, trucking companies stopped buying them. The last big buyer for the International Cabovers was Walmart. When production was stopped in the US the tooling was sent to Brazil where it was produced, with some updates, for several more years. So it was still a viable truck, just not viable in the US.
I should add one of the reasons they died was length restrictions, no not on overall length but in minimum length.
When doing the calculations on how much a combination can weigh one of the inputs is length between the first axle and the last axle. This is why in some areas you see a lot of dump trucks with stinger axles.
Kenworth and Peterbilt (the Paccar brands) are the last, US-based manufacturers in the big rig segment. Daimler, Volvo and -soon- Traton (VAG) control the rest.
Engine-wise, only Cummins. As Daimler also owns Detroit and Caterpillar has left the on-highway trucking market years ago.
It’s interesting to me that American trucks seem generally underpowered compared to Euro “big rigs”.
How come people are driving sub 500hp trucks through mountain ranges in the US but operators in famously flat parts of Europe demand 700hp plus? Especially when they can only go 56mph anyway. Seems the opposite approach taken for personal transportation, when Americans need an 8.1 litre dually to go out for a pack of smokes.
I’m assuming it’s largely a status thing, along with the fact that Scania offers a V8.
Surprised that MPG (liters/100 KM) doesn’t take absolute priority considering the European fuel costs.
Maybe the taxes are a non-issue for commercial traffic in Europe and taxes represents majority of the difference in fuel costs between Europe and the USA.
These trucks drive also in mountains. Then at least 10 hp per tonne is required.
One of Scania’s arguments for monumental horsepower is you save fuel by not mashing the gas constantly. If driving in hilly areas.
But yes UK truck and bus operators send drivers on courses to learn to save fuel and take all kinds of steps to even save 0.5 mpg. In the UK it’s MPG. Although you buy it in litres.
Scania and Volvo also offer > 700 hp engines because of the > 70 metric tons big rigs those folks drive, up north. In hilly and mountainous terrain.
In short: light (weight-wise) commercial vehicles in the US are heavier than their Euro-counterparts and for heavy commercial vehicles it’s exactly the other way around.
Many regions and countries, in Europe and elsewhere, go way, way beyond 80,000 lbs GVM. That’s a nice number alright. As a payload capacity, not as GVM.
80,000lbs is only a part load, the big gear here runs at 60,000kg GVM 132,000lbs on 9 axles,
We have a huge variety of trucks doing boxes some outfits specialise in empties and run small Jap 4 wheelers carrying a 20 towing a skully carrying a 40, every other truck on the road has containers on the money is in swinglifting the containers I dont know how they load and off load them other countries but here if its not port loaded a swinglift does the job.
Those big hp European engines lack the torque that the big US engines pump out Scanias feature a hill mode on the transmission that allows an over rev up to 2100rpmfor climbing hills Volvo has a kickdown feature allowing big rpms for hills, by contrast American sixes pull down to around 1200 rpm then shift a full gear thats for Cummins CAT or PACCAR engines will lug lower and pull longer and if you are past 1500rpm all you are doing is making noise and burning diesel the torque from 1100rpm is what you drive with.
European cabovers are much quieter and comfortable to drive 14 hours in a DAF,. VOLVO, Scania will leave you feeling fine the same hours in a Kenworth Freightliner Mack etc leave feeling tired and completely drained newer US trucks have improved but are yet to achieve driver comfort of European brands
US conventional cabs are small noisy and cramped, severely uncomfortable after long periods at the wheel I’m 5,11 and cannot get the seat far enough back for comfort in any US day cab tractor unit Ive driven the absolutely only part I like about them is the shifter connects directly into the top of the transmission zero linkage and it makes an 18 speed a total pleasure to shift.
Exactly, better not compare the 21st century generations of top model cabovers with the ones from the seventies and eighties, regardless where these were built. Apples and oranges.
As always it is wonderful to get a look at the great looking tractors. What beautiful paint jobs they have. Thanks.
Sonderklasse in Swedish would be ’Specialklass’.
I do not recommend the use as it gives the connotation of riding the short bus.
Right, in that case I won’t edit the text.
A nice selection of containers. I could use some of those containers for work, need to get a bunch of equipment from Finland to Montana.
Yes, between Covid and the recent blockage of the Suez canal container transport is a bit disrupted at the moment. If you see any space on a container ship bound for USA let me know Johannes!
Sorry, I’m not an ocean vessel spotter. Maybe Mountain John can help.
Great comments and assessments on trucking needs versus laws in Europe and The U.S. Johannes, once again, thanks for the pictures.
As always with your truck posts, Johannes, fascinating. So are all the responses of people from different countries. One thing is for sure: I’ll be paying more attention to the trucks going through my town for the next week or so!
Going off-topic a bit, it’s interesting that Jan van den Berg (I used to know one; he was a fantastic baker) translates to Mountain John. Here in Australia I’ve met many people with that surname (or all squashed up as one word), but I’ve only ever met one person with the surname Mountain.
Also off-topic. Surnames are a great invention and lasting part of Dutch history thanks to Napoleon and the French occupation around 1800. Surnames did exist but only for the noblity and the non nobel elite.
Names, later to become surnames most of the time refered to your occupation – Bakker, Visser, – or to the place they lived like a forrest or a hill. Like my own surname that refers to a small settlement near a big water way on the opposite of a larger city. As you may know, the Netherlands are rather flat – understatement – a hill is in the our eyes a mountain. So in this case mountain is better translated into hill.
When the French brought in a civil code they also brought the obligation to register a surname by law. Especially in the north of the country the most hilarious names, as a part of defiance, where made up and registred. Up to thils day very funny surnames exits like: ”Mud man (modderman) or Naaktgeboren ”born naked”.
Literally translated it would be something like “John from the Mountain”. You’d be surprised how many flatlanders are called Van den Berg or Van den Heuvel (heuvel = hill).
Also, numerous people are called De Boer and have never met a farmer in their entire life. And so on… (see comment by MadDutch above for some good info)
500 horses to move 40 TEU, while a barge with 2000 Caterpillar horses moves 398 TEU.
And the river Rhine where Rotterdam is situated is so well connected to the hinterland that you can even reach Vienna and Budapest by barge.
Vienna has a big container terminal on the river Danube.
Those barges pass by too, of course, in large numbers. Say about 1 to 2 km north of this road. And across and alongside that river, there’s a major freight railroad route. So all posibilities are represented just fine.
I’m sure the freight haulers can calculate the most efficient way to get a container at its destination quite well: ship, train or truck. Or a combination of them.
Relatively short distances are for the trucks, rolling directly from the sea port to the customer’s doorstep.