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Test Drives- Ch, Cx, Freightliner, And International

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I'm back temping again at the local UPS hub in Minneapolis. We have an all Mack fleet of tractors, ranging from 241xxx series '94 vintage CHs to 266xxx series CX Visions on the shared Mack/Volvo chassis. We had some Ford Louisvilles and International S Series of similar vintage, but they didn't stand up as well and have all been scrapped. I spend most of my time moving trailers around the yard with one of our Ottawa spotting tractors, but once in a while I get out on the road for a bit.

I've grown to like the CH, but a few details still bug me about them, like the long handled turn signal lever/high beam switch you keep bumping with your knee when you go for the clutch. I'd driven a CX around the yard before, but last week I got to take one on the road for a whole shift. I was most pleased- the clutch is easier, the turn signal lever no longer competes with my knee for space, it turns tighter, and rides better. Visibility is much improved with the sloping hood, and it's even easier to properly place in your lane. Finally, Mack has built a conventional that is as comfortable and has as good an ergonomics as the old R model.

Yesterday two rentals showed up, a Freightliner Century and an International 8600. I was going to try the Freightliner at first, my driving experience in the new cab Freighliner being limited to backing one in for a two week wonder who couldn't. Noting that the steering column was raked back in the now popular "gangbanger" style with no apparent adjustment, I abandoned the Frightliner for the International. My pre-trip inspection revealed an engine all but buried under the International's medium duty cab, but the ergonomics were actually pretty good. The 11 litre Cummins engine was a real disappointment though, barely able to power the accessories below 1300 RPM and shut down at 1800 with not a hint of governor overrun. With it's underdeveloped electronic controls first letting it darn near die on clutch engagment then surge ahead, one had to use way to many of the Fuller box's 10 gears just bobtailling. Both the CX and International had these "low bid" Fuller boxes, and their tiny gate made it a pain to select the middle gears in the pattern. The CHs have proper Maxitorque 9 speeds, and their spring loading of the wide gate makes it easy to find the gears. I've been spoiled by the 1000-1800 RPM operating range of the older CHs and the 1100-1950 RPM ranges of the Maxicruise engines in the newer Macks- I feel sorry for the driver stuck with Cummins, Cat, and Detroit's less flexible engines.

BTW, I get over to the Eagan hub once in a while and it looks like they have at least one MH in the deadline- I'll have to stop and pay my respects before they're scrapped.

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