The Western Star 5800 doesn’t quite fit with the narrative, this is a much smoother Star with a good aerodynamic shape and modern styling. Normally, the Western Star brand is well known for its rugged no nonsense truck styling with traditional radiator, air cleaners and stacks, plus plenty of bling.
If anything, the introduction of the Western Star 5800FE is an indication of a trend across the trucking industry. Truck operators are, finally, starting to really care about fuel consumption and will buy trucks accordingly. In the past some were fuel oriented and others paid lip service to lower fuel use, without wanting to compromise on truck styling and driver acceptance.
In recent years, a series of European models introduced to the Australian truck market have made serious gains in market share by dint of their frugal fuel use. Operators have seen real savings and realised fuel economy can be a reality. These changes have taught truck buyers to ask about fuel consumption and forced truck manufacturers to offer a fuel efficient option in the range, or miss out on a sale.
The Western Star 4800 has been with us for a while and the FXB model was developed to be a truck able to fit into the B-double envelope. The 5800FE is a bringing up to date of that model to suit the preference of some truck buyers who are not quite so concerned about bling and concentrating more on running costs.
Walking up to the truck at the Wacol headquarters of the Penske truck organisation, it is clear this is a Star. It has the vertical grille bars gleaming, but where are the air cleaners? Nowhere to be seen. Walk around the side of the truck, where are the vertical exhausts? Again, nowhere to be seen.
This is a Western Star but it is fitted with the air cleaners inside the bonnet and a downwards facing exhaust system. It seems even the Western Star buyer is now looking for smoother lines on the truck and better fuel consumption.
Apart from the difference in the overall look between the more familiar 4800 and the 5800, with its slippery shape, the front axle is set back. This means it is easier to get maximum mass onto the steer axle, get an even spread of weight, helping to maximise payload without running into axle mass issues.
Fuel capacity on the truck driven on this test is 1400 litres, a number which seems to be acceptable to the truck buyer. There are four tanks, which means the batteries are mounted on top of the chassis, just under the rear of the cabin. The batteries can be mounted on the side of the chassis, but these means only three tanks and a lower fuel load.
Detroit Engines Only
The engine is the Detroit DD15, there are no other engines available in the 5800. These trucks are made by Daimler in North America and production there is geared towards always fitting the in-house Detroit on the assembly line. The 4800 buyer can option a Cummins, but the 5800 buyer going for fuel efficiency has to get the DD15.
On this truck the engine was rated at 500 hp (373 kW) but still retained the 2500 Nm (1850 ft lb) of torque available to this engine at higher ratings. The DD15 can be recalibrated to 560 hp, but for the operator looking to reduce fuel burn, 500 is recommended.
As is becoming almost mandatory in North American trucks these days, the transmission is the Eaton Ultrashift Plus with 18 speeds. Even in the Western Star B-double models, the proportion of buyers choosing the AMT over the traditional Roadranger is edging towards 50 per cent.
The 5800 has had an odd history, it has been available for a number of years, but the Australian market showed little interest in acquiring it. It has been the market shift, where operators are examining running costs more deeply, which has brought the 5800 back into play.
Starting from a very low base two years ago, the 5800 now represents around a third of all of the B-double prime movers sold by Western Star in Australia. This gives us a strong signal there is a shift in attitudes in many fleets, away from the more traditional style to a more efficient profile.
When comparing the 4800 to the 5800, the Western Star team reckon up to a 1.5 per cent improvement comes from the slippery shape and then the same again can be gained by optioning the downdraft exhaust.The advantage of the other aerodynamic improvement, the under bonnet air cleaner, is improved visibility either side of the front wheels.
From the front of the bumper to the rear of the cab is 277 cm, or 109 inches in US terms. This includes the standard 40 inch Stratosphere sleeper, this means the truck can handle 34 pallet B-double applications and get under the 26 metre mark.