Tuesdays online presentations began with “technical difficulties”, so decided I’d wait ’til Wednesday to do an update.

GM Fleet: Like Ford, one way communication, but a lot more down to earth. GM also gets credit for the high proportion of women presenters, which counts here at GearheadGrrrl’s blog. Some of GM’s offerings like the G series vans are going on two decades old, but it’s good to know they’re still updating the product with little tweaks here and there. Same with the rest of the line, as GM is offering help in integrating up fitter mounted cameras into their systems, moving DEF tanks and stuff out of the way, and preps for mounting ambulance bodies. Heck, they even have a back seat delete option to help turn the Bolt electric hatch into a micro van! But GM has also been afflicted with the ‘electric car craziness that’s going around, to the point of soon bringing to market a bespoke electric step van…

No doubt most of the electrics are shared with other future electric trucks, but there’s got to be at least a hundred million $$$ invested in that assumed unit body. That’s a lot of investment for a step van market that’s not even a hundred thousand vehicles a year where thousand vehicle a year customers like Hostess are gone while other fleets have upsized to separate bodies on chassis cabs or down to vans and van derived cutaways. And in a market where fleets are demanding and getting aluminum bodies and galvanized frames so they can get 20+ years from a vehicle, will they accept replacing batteries that cost more than the vehicle is worth after 10 years? GMs spun off step van operation, Workhorse, tried going all electric and is going up in flames and taking a lot of capital with it, the other players are proceeding cautiously. So how the heck does GM think they’ll grow the step van market and squeeze out enough competitors to every pay off the cost of tooling up this thing?

Freightliner Custom Chassis: The actual market leader (Ford may contest that) in step vans is being much more cautious, experimenting with electric power in their existing chassis while offering evolutionary upgrades to their current products. And remember the story that Daimler was switching to Cummins B series power in their medium duty trucks? These guys didn’t get the memo and are still pushing Daimler’s 4 cylinder diesels!

International- Some minor tweaks like factory lift axles and improved rustproofing, but the cab is two decades old and Traxon (VW Group) just bought the whole company… Is a Scania cab and maybe powertrain too in International’s future, and how soon?

Ram: No EVs, but a lot of useful tweaks like up fitter access to the OS to connect added on cameras, even camera’s mounted on trailers and a back up assist system that top’s Ford and GM’s. Even plow packages for the half ton pickups that tie into the OS and shut off front collision warning when a plow is mounted!

Isuzu: Saw my first Isuzu straight truck at the old Convention Center dock back in the 80s and inquired of the Canadian owners their opinion- They couldn’t be happier, even with a tag axle and resulting heavier load their Isuzu was still dead reliable and easy on fuel. Isuzu’s cabovers are downsized big trucks with real work truck cred, an almost unknown alternative to the beefed up pickups that dominates light end of medium duty. Big news this year is Isuzu is joining the medium duty majority in offering the Cummins B series with Allison Automatic in the Class 6 and 7 chassis.

Peterbuilt: Has built electric semi-tractors, tandem refuse trucks, and class 7 straight trucks, and has even put on staff a grant writer to fund customer’s buying more. That said, the stats are sobering- only 100-200 mile range, 300-400 KWH batteries, a few tons extra dead weight, and they don’t even mention prices. In more reality based news, they’ve got a new “pick your gauges” programmable dashboard display and looks like the legacy cab is slowly getting a well deserved retirement.

Fontaine Modification Centers: Another little known company with a big impact in the truck biz- They modify 36,000 trucks a year, probably at least a tenth of the heavy duty market they modify. They’re doing electric repowers, and if you see an a big truck with a chopped cab roof, twin steering axles, front driven axle, or even right hand or dual steering, chances are they built it.

All in all, not much new hardware, some useful tweaks, and excessive electrification fantasies… But two days to go!