Peterbilt’s latest vocational truck is clearly designed with drivers foremost in mind
The expansive light and space of the Texas plains have always fascinated Americans in a manner that is disproportionate to its hard-scrabble terrain. But, as many truckers intimately know, driving a big rig across the Longhorn State is where the vast immensity of the United States truly hits home. At times, it seems like Texas goes on forever. Many a Texan would argue that in fact, it does.
Peterbilt has deep roots in Texas. So it’s not surprising that both Peterbilt and Texas take the idea of their respective history and legacy seriously. In some ways, these can be a burden for a truck-builder. Peterbilt’s storied past, and the expectations of its customers, means the company is not free to simply build any truck design that pops into its engineers’ heads. There is a family history here to be considered. And any new design has to not only pay homage to that past, but also build on it while adding to its stature.
It’s a tall order. But one that Peterbilt has fulfilled with the advent of its newest vocational Class 8 truck: The Model 567.
Given the realities of truck design today, the Model 567 simply did not spring into existence all on its own. The truck is derived from the company’s Model 579 tractor, which debuted two years ago at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, KY. The focus of the Model 579 was to create an entirely new and modern cab/driver environment. In order to do this, Peterbilt surveyed hundreds of truck drivers all across the country, putting them in cab mock-ups and asking them to configure various structures, components and controls to their liking.
The untold thousands of data points created by this research effort led to the final Model 579 product and the eventual Model 567 vocational truck which is now entering full production. And make no mistake: The end result is a truck that is crafted with driver comfort and productivity as a first priority.
Winter in Texas seems to wash out the entire landscape in muted hues of tan, and brown, highlighted by the yellow glow of an early morning sunrise over the plains. This washed out landscape made my candy-apple red test truck positively glow in comparison. I know from my visit to the company’s Denton facility that Peterbilt is experimenting with some very exciting paint schemes. And while the colors on this Model 567 could hardly be called experimental, there’s no question the truck is a head-turner.
For starters, there’s that iconic Peterbilt hood and grill up front. It’s an interesting hybrid design: Without question, the Model 567’s front end features retro styling that instantly calls the company’s long-nose truck heritage to mind. But his new front end is also highly aerodynamic and features aggressively sloping lines that give the drive excellent views to the front of the truck. In fact, at highway speeds, the hood is largely an afterthought with Peterbilt’s horned ornament the chief reminder that it’s there at all.
Peterbilt vocational brand manager Charlie Cook walked me around the truck prior to my test drive. Most of the enhancements found on the Model 567 are straight-forward enough. But a few he noted are more subtle. During a cursory inspection of the 450 horsepower MX-13 diesel engine under the hood, Cook pointed out the power steering assembly behind the left front tire. Peterbilt engineers have angled the steering gearbox off the frame by 8-degrees. The result is more even stop-to-stop steering inputs and a more sure-footed vehicle in tight surroundings. Combined with the excellent views from the diver seat, the dump truck proved to be a breeze to maneuver across the busy Denton plant and a delight to handle out on the highway.
Well-positioned grab handles make climbing up into the Model 567 a breeze. An extra boost is PACCAR’s new, proprietary, Evolution air suspension seat. This seat was developed in conjunction with the Model 579/567 cab and shares the same dedication to improving driver comfort. The seat is very comfortable and features an infinite range of ergonomic settings. It’s most high-profile feature, however, is an automatic raise-lower function, which makes getting in and out of the truck much easier. The seat automatically lowers to let a driver out once the cab door is open, and remains down until you climb back inside. Once a driver is in place, however, the seat smoothly raises up to your preselected driving height. It’s a slick design that drivers will certainly appreciate.
Perhaps the most noticeable hallmark of the Model 567 is how quiet the truck is. Walking around the truck at idle, I was amazed at how quiet the PACCAR MX-13 is. This is the case regardless of whether you’re outside the truck or up in the cab. Peterbilt engineers have done a wonderful job of isolating the truck’s interior from engine and road noise and dampening powertrain and road surface vibrations. The optional – and highly effective – Eaton UltraShift Plus automated transmission smoothly converts the MX-13’s 450 horses into usable power; another convenience calculated to ease driver workload and enhance safety.
The instrument cluster on the new Model 567 positively sparkles. All displays are crisply presented and laid out logically. Everything is within easy reach and clearly reflects the driver input Peterbilt acquired during the research phase of developing this cab interior.
Although the Model 567 will eventually be “the” primary vocational truck offered by Peterbilt, for now production of the company’s Model 365 and Model 367 will continue for the foreseeable future. Peterbilt is taking Model 567 orders now for both 115- and 121-BBC models of the new truck.