Product Evaluation: Hino FE2620

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Hino Diesel Trucks, U.S.A., Orangeburg, N.Y., sold only 1,600 trucks here last year and hopes to sell 2,400 this year. But its parent company, in which Toyota has a controlling interest, is the largest truck builder in Japan, selling some 53,000 units per year, worldwide. Our product evaluation team (See “The fleet operator’s opinion,” opposite page) agreed that Hino’s success in Japan is testament to the company’s experience in its chosen, Class 4-7, low-cab-forward market.

The evaluation team, which is experienced with medium-duty equipment but largely unfamiliar with Hino’s products, was also impressed that, in 2000, J.D. Power and Associates ranked Hino highest in customer satisfaction among cabover, medium-duty trucks.

Our evaluation truck, the FE2620, is a versatile, 25,995-GVW, low COE, designed for virtually all Class 6 work, including pick-up and delivery, reefer, air-freight and “some municipal and similar applications,” according to Hino. Evaluators agreed that, with the maneuverability and visibility that comes with a cabover, and with wheelbases ranging from 148.8-244.9 inches accommodating body lengths from 14-28 feet, the FE2620 should be an ideal platform for any of the above-mentioned niches.

But is Hino’s worldwide experience in these segments enough to satisfy U.S. fleet managers’ desires for a low-maintenance, high-durability workhorse? Closer inspection was clearly in order.

Check, 1, 2, 3
Putting on their maintenance hats, evaluators were on the job. They immediately approved of the ease of routine fluid checks. None require the cab to be tilted, with the oil dipstick nestled just to the rear of the cab on the driver’s side, and the washer-fluid filler under an easy-to-open panel above the grill.

Under the same panel were the A/C charge port and sight glass, an easily accessible wiper motor and a front-removable heater core, which was received enthusiastically by evaluators. “No hanging upside down under the dash to get to it,” said one.

Moving around the vehicle, evaluators noted the conveniently located, air-over-hydraulic brake-fluid reservoir, mounted aft of the cab, on the right-hand frame rail. However, they questioned the use of this type of system over straight air.1 (See page 48 for Hino’s response to footnoted statements.) Also, one evaluator questioned the durability of the plastic reservoir and complex tubing, exposed as they are to the elements, vibration and road debris.2

Continuing the tour, evaluators noticed meticulous, non-chafing wire and hose routing, and heartily approved of spring-eye bushings equipped with zerk fittings. “Suspension lubrication – if you can do it – can save big money, mainly in labor costs, over the long run,” attested one evaluation team member.

Moving down the bodyless chassis, the team noticed, and approved of, the Spicer driveshaft and U-joints. They also noticed that, because there are no brake chambers or spring brakes, the truck relies on a drum-type driveshaft parking brake.

Scanning the frame, evaluators wondered why some areas, including crossmember attachment points, used conventional nuts and bolts instead of Huck fasteners which, they said, can withstand the rigors of city operation without loosening.3

Coming full circle and opening the driver’s door, the team was pleased to see the engine electronic diagnostic connector – allowing communication with Nexiq’s Pro-Link service tool – mounted below and to the left of the instrument panel. “It allows technicians to easily plug in diagnostic equipment from ground level,” approved one. “You shouldn’t have to crawl into the cab to do that, and here you don’t.”

Evaluators also approved of the convenient fuse and circuit-breaker location, in the dash, behind a snap-out panel.

Historically, a concern with foreign trucks, which use a high percentage of captive parts, is availability of those parts. Gary Brown, Hino’s national marketing manager, assured evaluators that routine maintenance items, such as filters, can be found at jobbers and other usual parts outlets. Captive-part orders, he added, are routinely filled and shipped in three days from one of four of Hino’s North American warehouses, with a 99.1 percent fill rate. Emergency orders, he said, are shipped same-day.

Evaluators Bruce Grankowski (left, wearing white sweater), Larry Lidlow (left) and John Dolce size-up maintenance access. Note PTO cover plate just below and to left of (red) cylinder head.

Power to the people
Turning their attention to the powertrain, evaluators found that tilting the FE’s cab is an easy task, thanks to substantial torsion-bar assist. With the cab tilted away, access to the 200-hp, 6-cylinder, intercooled, turbo diesel and standard, synchronized 6-speed (or optional, 5-speed Allison automatic) transmission was judged to be excellent, with the inner fenders tilting away with the cab.

With the exception of the alternator, accessories are gear-driven from the rear of the engine, which, said evaluators, should reduce maintenance. Also, they applauded the flywheel-mounted PTO option, and the standard Racor water/fuel separator and primary filter.

And there were favorable comments on the big-bore features found in this 8-liter powerplant, such as four valves per cylinder, an overhead cam, sleeved cylinder liners, and a water-cooled turbo. The cutaway engine in our workspace at Hino headquarters was a hit with evaluators.

The only sour power notes were complaints of a little too much noise (from outside the vehicle) and too much smoke during cold start-up.4

Room to work
While entry and egress in a low-cab forward are never considered easy, evaluators allowed that the 90-degree door opening, self-cleaning steps and grab-handles make getting into and out of the FE2620 “about as good as it gets.”

Seating was found to be comfy, thanks, in part, to the standard driver’s air seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel. However, one admittedly tall evaluator insisted that, even with the seat moved fully rearward, there wasn’t enough leg room.5

Once in position, however, team members quickly appreciated the panoramic view out the windshield, and side/rear visibility, aided by vertically adjustable outside mirrors. Also, gauge and control placement, material quality, and driver amenities – such as cup holders, and standard AM/FM stereo cassette and power windows – elicited favorable comments.

Evaluators heartily approved of spring-eye bushings equipped with zerk fittings. “Suspension lubrication – if you can do it – can save big money, mainly in labor costs, over the long run,” attested one.

On the road, in a second vehicle with a van body, all agreed that ride, power, noise levels, steering, braking, shifting ease and maneuverability were so good as to compare favorably with passenger-car performance. “I could do my daily commute in this truck,” noted a pleasantly surprised evaluator. “It has the tightest turning circle of any truck I’ve ever driven,” said another.

On the whole, the team discovered a high-quality, easy-to-live-with work truck, which, they said, should be able to work for a very long time. It’s a vehicle they’d all like to get to know better.

Thanks to Karen Reetz, Hino U.S.A. marketing manager, for her assistance in setting up this evaluation.

The fleet operator’s opinion

CCJ Product Evaluations are not performed by CCJ editors. They are done by a team of fleet equipment managers, chosen for their experience with the type of product being evaluated. Editors report evaluators’ opinions, not their own.

An evaluation is based on a driving test and design assessment (which sometimes involves some disassembly of the vehicle), followed by a discussion among the evaluators and manufacturer’s representatives.

The manufacturer’s responses to specific, footnoted items are included in a box at the end of this article.

As always, CCJ welcomes your comments and suggestions.

The Hino FE2620 Product Evaluation Team:

John Dolce
Essex County D.P.W.,
Division of Fleet Management,
Cedar Grove, N.J.

Bruce Grankowski
Maintenance Superintendent
Middlesex County
Utility Authority,
East Brunswick, N.J.

Larry Lidlow
Shop Manager,
Old Dominion Freight Line,
Jersey City, N.J.

Hino FE2620 standard specs
GVW: 25,995 pounds
Wheelbases: 148.8-244.9 inches
Engine: Hino JO8C-TP, 6-cylinder, turbo diesel, intercooled, 200 hp @ 2500 rpm, 456 lb-ft torque @ 1500 rpm
Transmission: Hino LJ06S, 6-speed, synchronized 2-6
Clutch: Eaton/Spicer, 14-inch
Front axle: Hino LF470, reverse-Elliot, I-beam
Rear axle: Hino SH14
Brakes: Hino, air-over-hydraulic, self-adjusting, drum, with ABS
Antilock: Hino
Fuel tank: Hino, round, 53-gallon
Wheels: Hino, 22.5 x 8.25, 10-hole, disc
Tires: Bridgestone, 11R22.5G

The manufacturer responds:

  1. Air-over-hydraulic is a well-accepted, good-performing system, brought to the United States to take advantage of worldwide parts and manufacturing commonality. An additional advantage is that it doesn’t require an air-brake endorsement on one’s driver’s license.
  2. This type of system does require a lot of plumbing, but has proved relatively trouble-free. Also, with today’s plastics, coolant, washer fluid, power steering also use plastic reservoirs, with no problems reported.
  3. Because the vehicles are completely built abroad, it’s often necessary to make wheelbase modifications here, and Huck fasteners would make that process difficult. Also, Hino has received no reports of frame nuts and bolts coming loose.
  4. The unit evaluators drove had a turbo problem, which was discovered and repaired.
  5. One of the limitations of any low-cab-forward truck is that space can be limited for large or tall drivers.