A fleet and commercial truck show is a little different from a normal auto show. In truth, it's a lot better because you don't have to cut through all the distractions of glitz and shiny parts. For the most part, the NTEA Work Truck Show is no-nonsense and practical, just like the work-truck guys in this industry.
Over the past few years, several automakers have made the show an important place to reveal products — pickups, vans, chassis cabs — that capture the interest of fleet and commercial buyers. And, of course, a lot of technology that might not be possible packaged for a single-purchase customer might make more financial sense for someone purchasing 100 or 3,000 vehicles.
There is certainly good money to be made here, and this year there was definitely a feeling that everyone could take a deep breath and get back to building up their pipelines. The mood at this show hasn't been so great the past few years for the big or small players. But even the little companies trying to catch the attention of the major manufacturers and hoping to sign a few purchase orders at the show seemed to be in good spirits.
We spent the day walking around the show and looking for interesting products. Here are some of the cool things we saw.
Ford F-750 Plug-in Hybrid
Ford partnered with mega-powertrain experts from Odyne to make what could be the largest and strongest plug-in hybrid vehicle ever seen. Just one of the lithium-ion battery packs (it has two) wieghs more than the payload capacity of a Chevy Volt. Depending on use, the systems could save as much as 1,750 gallons of fuel per year. Click here to learn more about Odyne.
Venco VP6 Dump Truck
This company has been around for several years, but recently its VP6 bed hoist has become more and more popular. The cost of the install is likely to be under $4,000, and it will turn your long or short bed into a hard-working, max-payload-hungry dump truck. It's worth noting the install will affect towing capacity, and you will have to raise the bed each time you have to fill up with fuel. For more info, click here.
Via Motors VREV VTRUX Test Drive
We had the chance to drive one of the newest powertrain supplies around. Via Motors (we saw them at this year's Detroit auto show) sells Volt-like powertrains to those interested in buying GM pickups, full-size vans or SUVs. Via already has 2,500 orders this year, and it expects about 10,000 orders for 2013. To Via's credit, the company has a simple cost calculator that gives fleet buyers all they need to know about making back their significant investment. As you'd expect, the VTRUX has great off-the-line feel because the system effectively works like a one-speed electric-motor transmission. Expect a heavy-duty version to come out with a stronger two-speed model. Go to www.viamotors.com for more info.
Fuel Tank Capless Ram HD
With the introduction of Ram Truck's first factory-installed 2500 HD long-bed crew-cab pickups that can run on compressed natural gas, we noticed this is Ram's first use of a capless fuel tank. We're told Ram had to move to that option to allow the CNG and gasoline filler locations to sit under the same fuel door. (To date, Ford is the only truck maker to use a capless fuel tank.) It was unclear whether all Ram vehicles are getting ready to switch to the "capless" strategy, but all the CNG units will require it.
ProPickup's Contractor's Giveaway
ProPickup Magazine spent the year building this contractor's special Super Duty truck, called Project Super Crew, and the magazine is ready to give away the truck by the first week of April. The truck has a 75-gallon refueling tank, a Vanair 150 compressor and arc welder, 35-inch Mickey Thompson tires, a Transfer Flow 50-gallon fuel tank and many other accessories. For more information on how to register and the specific eligibility requirements, click here.
Stop, Drop and Load
We're putting the LoRiser inclining platform trailer on our Christmas list. These trailers have a hydraulic lifting and lowing mechanism that allows the entire trailer to drop and tilt at a five-degree angle to eliminate any need for a separate set of ramps when loading your rigs. The trailer essentially pivots the single or dual wheels with a powerful ram that also acts like a dedicated suspension for the trailer, riding soft when empty and stiffer when loaded. The trailers have between 6,000- and 16,000-pound capacities cost from under $10,000 to just under $20,000. Click here to learn more.
Strapping Down the Cargo
We see too many pickup trucks moving down the road with cargo just tossed into the bed and not properly secured. We're not saying you need to strap everything you carry in the bed, but it's not a bad idea. One of the best cargo restraint setups we saw at the show was from Bednet, which offers all sorts of large and small strapping solutions for cargo inside and outside your truck.
Going for the View
Cars.com Multimedia Editor Matt Avery jumped at the chance to risk life and limb by climbing into a rooftop-mounted telescoping bucket from French Canadian company GSR Conception. Matt thought we needed a few birdseye-view shots to create the mood for anyone watching the videos we put together at the show. To see the videos, you can check the PickupTrucks.com homepage or search the site under 2012 Work Truck Show videos.
Cargo Protection and Tailgate Shade
This product from HercuLoc is a simple solution for Ford and GM truck owners who need to keep their cargo secure but want more than a sandard rear-hinged tonneau cover. The bed cover is solid and lockable, and it offers a spring-loaded, four-post design that moves out of the way for easy loading and unloading. This could also be the ultimate tailgate product, as the cover can also act as portable shade. For a look at the product, click here.