Large displacement diesels still rule tractor purchases

Endurant HD transmission

Engines with more than 10 liters of displacement that dominated Class 8 truck production in 2019 because of peak demand for new tractors now have a new transmission to match.

Eaton Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies joint venture on Wednesday announced the biggest version yet of its Endurant transmission, which can be mated with the Cummins X15 engine. The X15 is offered by all major truck makers.  

The 87% share of high-displacement engines followed the near-record production of 345,000 Class 8 trucks in 2019. Production in 2020 could fall to less than half of the peak year due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, ACT predicts.

“North America’s Class 8 truck and tractor production had a banner year in 2019, with tractor production up more than 4% year-over-year and truck build nearly 9% above 2018’s year-end total.” said Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst, “The vehicle, or more accurately, the application of the vehicle directly correlates to the type of engine needed.”

New Endurant

The new Endurant XD series from the 50/50 joint venture of Eaton (NYSE: ETN) and Cummins (NYSE: CMI) are designed for on-highway applications with high gross combined weight ratings, such as double and triple trailer trucks, and severe-duty on/off-highway applications like dump and logging trucks.

“We’ve taken that DNA and added the durability and unique features that customers demand from trucks operating in severe heavy haul and vocational applications to create the Endurant XD series,” said Charles Masters, the joint venture’s general manager. Endurant XD transmissions will be available starting in 2021.

The Endurant XD series has 18 forward speeds and up to six reverse gears with software that allows the automated transmission to make smart shift decisions.

Downsizing trend

An expected trend toward smaller engines for trucks will grow as emissions guidelines get more strict.

“We expect the 12-14L engine segment to dominate in tractor-use demand by 2024,” said Andrew Wrobel, who tracks commercial vehicle engine use for Rhein Associates. 

Demand for engines with fewer than 10 liters, used mostly in trucks, fell last year, ACT and Rhein found. Engines under 10L are expected to account for about 16% of the market in 2024.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are both working on regulatory changes to mandate lower nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions from heavy duty on-road trucks. That could swing engine purchases to alternative fuels or electricity, Vieth said.

Gasoline-powered engines are expected to make up 24% of the share of Class 5-7 medium-duty trucks by 2024, Wrobel said.