2021: A year in truck test drives

Cannon Mug Headshot

In late 2020, somebody promised me that 2021 was going to be better. 

While it was (to a degree), I still feel like we were short-changed on the number of brighter tomorrows. 

Ever since I got my commercial license more than five years ago, one of the things that I enjoy most about my job is that I get to drive trucks. My role at CCJ since 2016 has changed a lot, but there's still nothing more fun than climbing up in the cab and running off a few hundred miles (or more). 

The pandemic shut down a lot of my fun down after March 2020, but I had high hopes for making up time and miles in 2021. What I don't think any of us knew at the time is that the effects of 2020 would linger for as long as they have, and the fallout – including a truck component shortage – would vary as much as it has. 

It wasn't as much as I'd hoped but, thankfully, I was able to get some seat time this year.

2021 came out of the gate hot with a new T680. Kenworth in 2012 introduced the T680 as a third-generation aerodynamic conventional tractor and eventual successor to the T660 and T700, and gussied up its technology for 2021 while beefing up its aero (the new T680 is 10% more aerodynamic over the prior generation.)

Back in February, I was able to take the new model around Renton, Washington, before the even truck was formally announced to the public. 

Kenworth also intro'd an all new medium-duty lineup.

Not to be outdone, Kenworth's Paccar sister company Peterbilt overhauled its medium duty lineup this Spring. The new Model 535 and Model 536 trucks are designed for the Class 5 and 6 non-CDL lease and rental market – a segment that makes up almost 40% of the entire medium duty market – and with them come a new new 2.1 meter cab and the new Paccar TX-8 fully automatic transmission.

I took several of Pete's revamped models for a spin around the road course at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. 

T680 aside, 2021 apparently was the year of medium duty drives. 

I was there in 2019 – at Mack's Roanoke Valley Operations (RVO) facility in Roanoke Valley, Virginia – when the company announced its plans to re-enter the medium duty market, and in the face of a global pandemic Mack launched it anyway. 

Targeting medium-duty trucking vocations with frequent urban stop-and-go cycles like dry van/refrigerated, stake/flatbed, dump and tank, the 25,995 pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) MD6, and 33,000 pound GVWR MD7, are both exempt from the 12% Federal Excise Tax (FET) and the MD6 model slides in just under the cutoff for requiring a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for non-hazardous payloads.

I was able to take a Class 6 model for a trek around Birmingham, Alabama, in November

Here's to hoping for brighter tomorrows in greater quantities in 2022.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].