Lafarge Pouring Praise on New Eaton® UltraShift® PLUS Transmissions
“They love the Hill Start Aid feature when operating on steep grades, and they have been especially enthusiastic with the transmissions’ intuitive capability to skipshift precisely when it needs to do so.”
Equipment Manager, Lafarge Canada Inc., Calgary, Alberta, Canada
During the development and testing phase of its new UltraShift PLUS transmissions, Eaton Corporation collaborated early on with roughly 25 trucking firms including the Western Canada operations of Lafarge Canada Inc.
“The trucks that are being used there are operating in extremely severe environments and carrying much heavier payloads than what is normally seen in the U.S.," explains Michael Holahan, Eaton's program manager for the new family of automated transmissions. "So getting a passing grade from Lafarge was very important to us.”
Testing was conducted under a variety of different terrains. One vehicle in the Vancouver, British Columbia area had to negotiate a 6.5 percent grade on an urban street. There were several traffic lights for more than one kilometer (0.8 miles)shortly after exiting the ready mix plant while hauling payloads as heavy as 46,500 kg (102,500 pounds).
Lafarge also has vehicles operating in Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg with similar payloads. In total, Lafarge’s Western Canada operations now have 14 units the UltraShift PLUS transmissions inservice, 11 of which must also contend with the harsh winter weather conditions of Canada’s Prairie Provinces.
Holahan notes that in addition to the 14 test units in western Canada, the Lafarge organization has been testing an additional 40 UltraShift PLUS transmissions throughout the U.S. and Canada since June 2007. Pinkerton notes that others are being evaluated at Lafarge operations in Georgia, Maryland, eastern Canada and the western U.S.
In addition to in-use testing, Colin Pinkerton, equipment manger for the greater Calgary, Alberta area, also conducted his own hands-on evaluation on three separate occasions at the Eaton Proving Grounds in Marshall, Michigan.
Lafarge needed a transmission that provided safety, performance and slow speed maneuverability in severe applications and environments.
All 54 of the Lafarge test units are UltraShift PLUS VMS (Vocational Multipurpose Series) transmissions. The UltraShift PLUS VMS transmissions feature an ultra-low gear reduction to enhance low-speed maneuverability for efficient curb pouring and other mixer jobs like those typically encountered at Lafarge. The transmissions feature 11 forward and 3 reverse speeds, with a 36:1 overall ratio that provides a world-class combination of low-speed control and highway efficiency.
All of the UltraShift PLUS fully automated transmissions feature new automated clutch technology and intelligent shift selection software that employs grade sensing, weight computation, and driver throttle command to make smart launch and shift decisions.
“We were contacted early on by Eaton to provide feedback,” says Pinkerton. “We took delivery of our first unit last year and were initially very impressed. Eaton continued to work with us until we had a unit ready for the field. Once that happened, Eaton continued to provide on site support.
“Eaton came back to us at one point and added important updates to the clutch and software when we were already very impressed with the performance. In effect, they took a perfectly good product and made it even better,” said Pinkerton.
During his evaluations, Pinkerton cited the transmissions’ lowspeed maneuverability as being especially impressive.
“The curb and gutter work that we are able to accomplish in low-low hold mode was outstanding,” adds Pinkerton.
“Operating at less than one mile-per-hour, we were capable of pouring 55 to 60 feet per minute. That’s very important to us, as that type of performance really improves our overall efficiency and will definitely help us operate more profitably.” Of course, no new product on a commercial truck – regardless of its potential to improve a fleet’s bottom line – is going to be successful if does not get an approval stamp from the men and women who operate the vehicles. Fortunately, Pinkerton reports that their drivers are also giving the UltraShift PLUS an A-plus grade.
“The reviews have been positive across-the-board,” he says. “They love the Hill Start Aid feature when operating on steep grades, and they have been especially enthusiastic with the transmissions’intuitive capability to skip-shift precisely when it needs to do so. We have had virtually no negative feedback from our drivers.”
The two-pedal design of the Eaton automated transmissions also lends itself to safer operation when compared to manual transmissions, believes Pinkerton, and noting that Lafarge has never purchased a new ready-mix truck with an automated transmission prior to the Eaton project.
“With safety being a top priority here,” says the 37-year trucking industry veteran, “we like the fact that our drivers do not have to worry about shifting the UltraShift PLUS transmissions. Because they are now keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on he road, our drivers are now capable of being much more attentive to driving the truck instead of constantly having to be concerned with shifting gears.”
“It will definitely be our transmission of choice with our next new truck order,” concludes Pinkerton.