INDIANAPOLIS — Funny thing... The National Weather Service has started naming snowstorms. When I headed to Indianapolis early morning March 5, we had not been formerly introduced yet. This one evidently was called the Snowquester. Intimidating, I know. The storm that hit the Midwest in early March forced road closures, canceled flights and some power outages from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic. But it didn’t stop thousands of work truck enthusiasts to head to Indy for NTEA’s Work Truck Show. In fact, despite the weather conditions, The Work Truck Show saw its second best attendance in show history. Attendance figures in the area of 10,351, actually just 51 people short of the record set last year, as a matter of fact.  

“The NTEA is proud to provide the industry’s ultimate platform for sharing new work truck products and cultivating business relationships,” said Steve Carey, NTEA executive director. “It is clear that The Work Truck Show has truly become the single most important forum for work truck professionals throughout North America. With a record level of exhibitor booths already sold for the 2014 show, we are confident that the industry is again poised for growth in the upcoming year.”

Held in conjunction with The Work Truck Show and jointly produced by NTEA and CALSTART, The Green Truck Summit was another educational track of the show that offered a vision of what future trucks can be, and what they could be running on. There was a great amount of buzz about making trucks more fuel efficient through new technologies, new fuels and fuel combinations, and advanced telematics.

Commercial vans were shown by Chevrolet and GMC Commercial Truck, Daimler Vans USA LLC, Ford Commercial Truck, Nissan North America and Ram Trucks & Commercial Vehicles. With more than 120 products debuting at the event, two major product categories dominated the news: vans and fuel-saving technology. Dozens of companies featured green technology, including alternative fuels and technologies to improve commercial vehicle fuel efficiency. For example, Allison Transmission Inc. introduced a new hybrid transmission; ECHO Automotive unveiled its EchoDrive bolt-on hybrid electric kit for fleet vehicles; eNow Inc. introduced solar panels for trucks; Green Alternative Systems and ROUSH CleanTech debuted a propane-powered Ford F-550 chassis cab; and SmartDrive Systems showed its enhanced SmartDrive Fuel program.

Show highlights

Exhibitors unveiled some interesting products and some new features on some favorites.

Chevrolet Silverado: Chevy begins production on the 2014 Silverado in early summer. The Silverados are powered by a set of brand new engines, called the EcoTec 3, based on the three technologies that are all in these engines — direct injection, variable valve timing and active fuel management.

“It turns off part of the engine when you don’t need power,” said Dan Tigges, a Chevrolet spokesman. “Because these are direct injection engines they deliver great performance; it will allow the engine to operate in four-cylinder mode. We expect this family of engines to be leaders in fuel economy, performance and low-end torque.”

Something new to the Silverado line is the bumper corner step. The corner step is designed to be used with any kind of work boot, and it comes standard on all of the work trucks. “It is easy to use and it is something that our contractor friends will be using every day,” said Tigges.

Ram ProMaster: The all-new 2014 Ram ProMaster features some best-in-class attributes. It starts with the powertrains, which comes with a V-6, front-wheel drive gas powertrain and it also has a fuel-efficient diesel that’s going to deliver total cost of ownership. Many features of total cost of ownership, including 18,000-mile oil change intervals, deliver longer uptime on the road. There are 13 variations of the van to meet every need of the commercial customer. The ProMaster Van features a high-roof, which offers best-in-class step-in height and they are very upfitter-friendly, as well. “Focused on best-class-fuel economy to deliver best-in-class total cost of ownership — delivering more profitability to the customer’s bottom line,” said Joe Benson, head of Ram Brand Commercial Vehicles.

One of the best features of the ProMaster is its efficiency that it delivers. It is the lowest step-height in the industry. Plumbers and contractors need to get in and out of the vehicle, as this is their mobile workshop. It also features best-in-class payload at more than 4,400 lbs.

“We are taking a very efficient product and we’re delivering — from a GVW [gross vehicle weight] standpoint — lower GVWs from an efficiency standpoint, but the ability to do more and carry more in their specific location,” said Benson. “Whether you are a plumber or an electrician, you can modify the interior of this vehicle to be the mobile workshop that you need it to be.”

Ford Transit Connect: The 2014 Transit Connect is an all-new model, and it comes with two different wheelbases. “We have a shorter one and a little bit longer one,” said Rob Stevens, a spokesman for Ford.

The roof height has come down about five inches but the floor has come down about 2 ½ inches, “so we only lost a little bit of head room inside,” said Stevens.

It’s a more efficient package and also more modern. This is a brand new vehicle from the ground up; a well done interior with a lot of appointments. It is available as a van or as a passenger vehicle/wagon — up to seven passengers in the long wheel-based version of it. In the seven-passenger vehicle, all the seats will fold totally flat, so it can be used as a flexible vehicle, to load things in it. The van is easily upfittable as is today’s truck.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC): Featuring the S2Gat the Work Truck Show, the message was clear for FCCC, “Propane Delivering Propane,” said Bryan Henke, manager of product marketing. S2G commercial chassis pairs FCCC’s popular S2 chassis with the only factory-installed liquid propane gas (LPG) engine available to the medium-duty truck market. Benefits of an LPG chassis include lower operational costs and reduced emissions, without sacrificing payload capacity, chassis performance or overall ride quality. The FCCC S2G’s 8-liter, 350 hp engine is supplied by Powertrain Integration, with a proven General Motors long block as its core. The engine can provide 500 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4600 rpm.

Weather Guard: At the Weather Guard exhibit, new Underbed Boxes, a steel and aluminum application, were showcased. It is the most severe weather guard product application we have,” said Jim Scarlata, director of marketing operations at Knaack.

These rugged storage boxes keep larger heavy items and tools accessible when a contractor needs them and safely out-of-sight when not used. Designed for heavy-duty trucks and semis, Weather Guard Underbed Boxes are available in a range of sizes from mini to jumbo, steel and aluminum, and backed by a limited lifetime warranty.  The Underbed Boxes keep valuable tools secure and protected from the elements, yet remain easily accessible. Features include an easy-to-grip stainless steel D handle with drill-resistant lock core for added protection against break-ins, a tool-less quick release drop down door that provides full, easy access and adjusts from 90 degrees to 180 degrees, and gutter design and weather stripping that protects against the elements to keep contents dry.

Reading Group LLC: This group announced that its new Classic Hybrid Spacemaker Body, which combines aluminum and galvannealed steel, results in a 45% weight savings over steel. Weighing in at 345 fewer pounds than comparable all-steel bodies, the company said benefits include increased fuel efficiency, better payload capacity and less wear and tear on chassis components.

The Work Truck Show 2014 returns to the Indiana Convention Center March 5-7, 2014, with educational programming and the Green Truck Summit kicking off March 4. For more information, visit www.ntea.com.