Hill Truck Sales
Truck Dealer Carving Green Niche with Eaton Systems, Support
“We are seeing more and more today the hybrid option coming into play. Most of the interest,
I believe, is driven by companies wanting to project a green image. The grant and incentive money is also becoming progressively more available.”
District sales manager, Hill Truck Sales
The Elkhart, Ind., location of Hill Truck Sales is not your typical truck dealership. According to Dave Klockow, district sales manager, specialty vehicles represent 95 percent of the location’s sales.
Klockow, who has been with the Freightliner dealership for more than 26 years, says, “The vast majority of our business is centered on the recreational vehicle and shuttle bus markets.”
That might sound surprising at first, but when you take into account the fact that northern Indiana has one of the largest concentrations of RV and bus manufacturers in the world, it make perfectly good sense. To support those manufacturers, the area is also well stocked with a sizeable number of body builders – the companies that specify, order and assemble the vehicles for the RV and bus concerns.
Klockow is currently working with seven of the local body builders, and describes his relationship with every one of them as a “partnership.” Of late, he adds, interest in hybrid applications has been growing with many of those partners.
“We are seeing more and more today the hybrid option coming into play,” says Klockow. “Most of the interest, I believe, is driven by companies wanting to project a green image. The grant and incentive money is also becoming progressively more available.”
Yet hybrid vehicles present a whole new set of challenges for Hill Truck Sales and Klockow.
“There’s been a lot to learn,” says the former service technician who moved to the sales side of the truck business only four years ago. “There are so many more details with which you need to pay attention. A hybrid vehicle changes the spec tremendously because I have many different options, different dash layouts, different transmission models, and different battery positioning. The chassis’s real estate can get pretty limited, especially with a shuttle bus application.”
But Klockow discovered long ago that telling the customer “I don’t know” or “no I can’t do it” are two very unacceptable answers. That, he adds, drives him to learn as much as he can about hybrids.
Helping him accomplish that is another one of Klockow’s responsive suppliers – Eaton Corporation. Eaton supplies Hill Truck sales with the hybrid electric drivetrain systems that are used on all of the hybrid vehicles.
In doing so, he says Eaton has been helpful with on-site training at both his location and the location of the customer. “They are there with us every step
of the way,” says Klockow. “Working as a team, with both the Eaton and the Freightliner people, we try to maximize the performance of the hybrid vehicles. There are a lot of approvals that need to be made with axle ratings, axle ratios and application approvals.”
Aside from nuts and bolts support, Eaton has also been helpful in terms of assisting Hill Truck Sales and other dealerships throughout North America with chasing down tax incentives and funding that has been made available from federal, state, municipal and other governmental organizations. In fact, Eaton employs in-house and sub-contractors who specialize in working with hybrid customers to locate and apply for the incentives.
“In my line of business, with the ever changing day, I rely heavily on that kind of assistance,” says Klockow. “Eaton has the specialty people who look at grants, at applications and help you out with whatever you need.”
Klockow recently took delivery of his first hybrid chassis – a new Class 6 Freightliner M2 106 with a Cummins ISB diesel engine. The vehicle was delivered to Turtle Top Inc., in nearby New Paris, IN, where the body builder will turn it into a 32-passenger shuttle bus. Another 11 chassis will follow.
Where the buses will end up after Turtle Top completes the puzzle is anybody’s guess, says Klockow. But he does know the units will be performing well, while delivering fuel economy benefits and environmental benefits that the eventual end user is sure to welcome.
Eaton’s patented electric hybrid power system uses a parallel configuration that maintains the vehicle’s conventional drivetrain layout and uses patented controls to blend engine torque with electric torque to move the vehicle. The system recovers power normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries and can provide engine-off power take off and work site capability for those needing hydraulic operations and an auxiliary electric power source from the vehicle. As an additional benefit, should the hybrid electric system go off-line, conventional engine-powered operation continues.
To create the system we couple the vehicle’s engine with Eaton's UltraShift® automated manual transmission and clutch. Between the output side of the clutch and the transmission, an electric motor/generator is integrated and connected to a power inverter and lithium ion batteries. It is controlled with Eaton's own electronic control module.
Hill Truck Sales, Inc. includes two dealerships, one in South Bend, Ind., and one in Elkhart, Ind. The company is a family owned business founded in 1962 by Allen Hill. The company's goal is to provide the highest quality experience to its customers each time they contact either of the two dealerships. Both provide complete sales, service and parts departments. The South Bend dealership also provides a full service body shop featuring complete wreck repair, painting, and front end alignment using the latest in alignment technology.