Admit it- None of us gear heads can just walk on by a decently executed bucket truck, Hi-Rail, service vehicle, or the hundreds of other variations on the “work truck” theme without eyein’ up the machinery and then spending the next few minutes or hours figuring out how it works. So when the folks that put on the annual Work Truck Show actually offered this lowly backwater blogger a press pass I jumped at the chance. But living 800 miles from the shows home in Indy or else wintering in Florida 1200 miles away, I never was able to fit the show into my travel plans…

Until COVID-19 blew the hell out of our plans, period. Thus I’be been comfortably holed up here at my Buffalo Ridge home consuming more online content than I ever could travel too- As a small town water system operator I’ve built up a stack of more continuing education credits than I’ll ever need in this lifetime and probably at least the next three. I’m learning CAD and fantasized getting an engineering degree from a college hundreds of miles away, and I’ve actually at least virtually made the Work Truck Show… Finally!

I gather that the Work Truck Show is your typical exhibition hall trade show with the big three having big chunks of prime turf on down to the newbie hopeful supplier behind a table in the back corner. Forced onto a computer display that pecking order can be seriously disrupted, and a video production savvy guy or gal from that tiny table in the back corner can outshine the big three. and they did…

Ford was the first to fall, starting with the pre-show tweets of a Ford exec promising an exciting new truck, setting us gear heads up to speculate the intro of the Maverick compact pickup or announcement of the VW sourced next generation Transit Connect. What we got was a sales pitch for Ford’s fleet management software (yes, Ford software?) and various new features of their attempts to give their so-so truck offerings all the features of a cheap smart phone of five years ago. Yes, real useful? stuff like a speed sign reader that instead of just announcing the speed limit like some of Ford’s overseas trucks have done for years actually slows the truck down to that speed. That should be a real hit on two lanes where political pressure has produced ridiculously low speed limits than sane drivers add 5 or 10 MPH too. Ford didn’t do themselves any favors- If you want software to police your fleet, best not to buy it from the vehicle maker who can turn around and use it as evidence to void your warranty. And that “new truck” tweet was wiped while Automotive News hinted that the next Transit Connect will be built in a Ford plant on a Ford platform… Who the hell is running Ford?

Next on my dance card was Mack promoting their medium duty truck and some more Volvo bits that have infiltrated the legendary Mack trucks build sheets. Modern Macks are a touchy subject for us old school gear heads who have mourned Volvo’s slow and steady substitution of their usually inferior bits for the legendary Mack bits. That said, Mack and even Volvo North America’s media reps are a joy to work with, always helpful and answering every question, even from us old Mack loyalists who view Volvo as a foreign invader. Thus Macks MD series has a Cummins B series engine, Allison automatic, and Meritor Axles under the legacy Mack cab. The B series and Allison are the best in class(es) 6 and 7 and the Mack cab is both more functional and even more aerodynamic than the 20 years younger Volvo cab, which ain’t a bad thing… Too bad most of the Mack line is stuck with Volvo bits instead. Nothing fancy, but I’d sure as heck rather be behind the wheel of one than a low bid Freightliner, International, or worse yet Ford. The new Volvo bits being fenestrated are the Volvo T-Ride tandem suspension we have known and loathed for the decade or so they’ve been trying to insert it instead of our legendary Mack suspension, and the more useful “Command Steer”, which looks to be a real useful option if not game changer for rough road trucking, here’s a link to more info:®%20Command%20Steer%20for%20Mack%20Granite®%20Models%20Now%20in%20Production.pdf

And that little disruptor that used the online opportunity to outshine the big two if not all three? XL Fleet, a growing company that has added hybrid and even plug in hybrid capability to several brands of light and medium trucks years ahead of Ford while GM and Ram haven’t even made it to the starting line. Yup, while the big two or three are reinventing everything but the wheel to bring electric vehicle vaporware to market, XL Fleet took advantage of the Lego like layout of trucks to tuck batteries between the frame rails and motors on those long driveshafts to produce working models of the big manufacturers electric vehicle fantasies. No surprise that XL Fleet was getting inquiries from some big fleets, and they answered every one. Here’s the link for more info:

That’s all for today, be back with more of the show highlights tomorrow.