Western Star takes wraps off all-new 49X vocational truck

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new Western Star, six years in the making, is joining the family, which the company boasts is its most comprehensively tested truck ever.

The new Western Star 49X is lighter-weight, more durable, and safer than the popular 4900, which will continue to be offered alongside the 49X. The new truck debuts a vocational version of the DT12 automated manual transmission, and is the first Western Star to offer the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of active safety systems.

The truck press got its first look at the new truck during a virtual launch Sept. 24 after multiple attempts for an in-person showing were derailed by Covid-19. The truck will be revealed to the industry at large online tonight.

The new Western Star 49X. (Photo: DTNA)

But in what turned out to be a stroke of good luck, dealers got to see the truck at their annual dealer meeting in February, before the pandemic struck. In an unusual move, event organizers had dealers surrender their cell phones and then drove the 49X into the room for a sneak peek, recounted David Carson, senior vice-president, vocational sales and marketing for parent company Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).

“They have never before, from a product launch standpoint, had the chance to get a sneak peek reveal before we went public,” Carson said. “They all stood up, turned around, saw this incredible truck come into the room then they got some time to walk around the truck. They were absolutely, thoroughly impressed. We got to do that before we went into this Covid crisis and quarantine activity.”

As the pandemic shut down truck plants and forced people to work remotely, it also afforded the company to spend some extra time preparing the new truck for its launch. Tracy Mack-Askew, general manager, heavy-duty vocational platform, said the new offering meets the high standards of Western Star customers and dealers, and then some, coming in a lighter-weight package without sacrificing durability and also bringing the newest safety technologies to the vocational segment.

“We have spent years perfecting this truck and ensuring it’s the best vocational truck,” Mack-Askew said of the 49X. “It has really earned its place to be called a Western Star. We listened to our clients in Canada and we listed in the U.S. and developed some of the harshest tracks and harshest roads to prove the durability of the new 49X.”

It comes in 350 lbs lighter than the 4900, thanks in part to a new aluminum X-Series cab with steel reinforcements where needed to maintain durability.

“And of course, one of the real shining stars here is safety,” added Mack-Askew, noting it’s the first time a Western Star has been equipped with Detroit Assurance.

For the first time, Western Star will offer the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of active safety systems. (Photo DTNA)

While Carson acknowledged some vocational customers are not interested in active safety systems, “we are increasingly seeing customers that tell us that not only do they want it, it’s mandatory for them when they purchase a truck. We believe the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of safety technologies creates not something to replace an outstanding driver, or something to interfere with that work experience, but to augment it in a way that provides more value for the customer.”

Safety is also enhanced through improved visibility over the hood, enabled by splayed frame rails, and through the windshield, now 28% larger than found in the 4900. An optional three-piece rear window that’s 77% larger also enhances visibility.

The door opens a full 70 degrees to make getting in and out of the cab easier, which Samantha Parlier, DTNA’s vice-president of vocational market segment development, said should help reduce slips and falls – the second leading cause of worksite injuries.

Demonstrating the truck at a quarry, Parlier pointed out the stability of the new C-bar mirror system, which mitigates the effects of chassis and engine vibration on the truck mirrors.

Heated LED headlights can melt 3 mm of ice in under 10 minutes at -40. (Photo: DTNA)

A new dual stage heated LED headlight system is able to melt 3 mm of ice in less than 10 minutes at -40 F (-40 C), Parlier said, and can burn off condensation in warm, humid environments.

A trenched roof design allows room for air horns, roof-mounted lights or other equipment, while maintaining a more body builder-friendly roof height, half an inch lower in the center than that of the 4900.

Parlier said Daimler invested more than US$100 million globally to adapt its popular DT12 automated manual transmission to the vocational segment.

That meant adding features such as: side PTO capabilities; a rock-free mode to escape from wheel-stuck situations; an off-road mode for smoother driving on rough terrain such as logging roads; power launch for more powerful takeoffs; and a paver mode that can shift from Neutral to Drive without pushing the brake pedal in slow-moving paving operations. Two models are available, the DT12-V and DT12-VX, with GCWRs of up to 330,000 lbs. It has undergone more than 35 million miles of testing, DTNA claims.

Engine options include the Detroit DD15 and DD16, as well as the Cummins X15 and X12. The truck’s available as a day cab or with 36-, 48-, 60-, or 72-inch sleepers in set-forward or set-back axle configurations.

Carson said the decision to continue offering the 4900 for the foreseeable future was made to satisfy customers who are resistant to change, or have a particular affinity for that product.

“Some of the most loyal customers we have – you can look to Canada – buy a fair amount of 4900s today,” he said. “They appreciate he simplicity of that truck and we want to have some time to be able to discuss the outstanding features of the 49X and how it potentially fits into their business model.”

The Western Star 49X will be available to order this winter, with deliveries beginning in early 2021.

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.