The Cabover Contenders 

the cabover contenders

A couple of months back Diesel News looked at the conventional contenders, we turn to the cabover contenders in the B-double prime mover segment and a couple of brands on the up. We look at brands trying to make a mark in their particular segments competing up against the dominating brands in their sector.

Any casual observer of the cabover prime mover market will have noticed some major changes in the nature of the market in the last few years. As new brands make their mark on the segment, the market has become more dynamic and less predictable. 

Twenty years ago, a B-double prime mover was nearly always a North American truck. The European brands struggled to get anything with a sleeper cab to fit into the tight rules around the 25 metre overall length and six tonne front axle mass. The Kenworth K 104 ruled the roost. The truck’s design met the requirements of a set-forward axle and small bumper to back of cab (BBC), alongside a big fuel capacity, to a tee. The Freightliner Argosy was second favourite with its US-style layout and it also met the rules.

European brands, like Volvo, lobbied along with many others in the industry to get the current 26 metre rules put in place, alongside the 6.5 tonne front axle. When this amendment came to fruition, the Volvo FH was able to fit into the tight envelope with just enough fuel to be viable. The Swedish truck maker was able to whittle away at the North American dominance, offering higher comfort levels and more sophisticated electronics.


the cabover contenders


Other European brands tried, but with limited success, due to high front axle weight and limited fuel capacity. However, the gradual chipping away had an effect, Kenworth came back with the K200 cabover, a redesign which brought the brand back in comfort and space contention with the smoother Europeans.

The market was changing overall. Larger fleets were giving occupational health and safety a higher priority and looking at the European offerings more closely. The market still had a top three of Kenworth, Volvo and Freightliner, but the Europeans were developing new models which would start to change all of that.

Scania made the first big gains after the arrival of a new Managing Director, in the form of Roger McCarthy and some new engines which were especially frugal when it came to fuel consumption. A combination of hard-nosed truck sales and great fuel results from trial prime movers, plus the right power options, saw Scania double its market share.


the cabover contenders


Waiting in the wings was an all-new heavy duty prime mover from Mercedes Benz with a powerful 16 litre engine, that was performing well in Europe. It took over five years from its launch on its home market to its first appearance in Australia, but when it arrived, it was market ready. It followed in Scania’s footsteps and grabbed considerable market share.

The cabover B-double prime mover market is still dominated by Kenworth and Volvo, with Freightliner losing ground, but the Scania, Benz and more recently MAN introductions and results have managed to change the paradigm in this market segment. 

Diesel News test drove the two new contenders to see just what they offer to the truck operator and driver and what it is about them which is cutting into the former market front runners’ lead in truck sales. Paul Matthei drove a Mercedes Benz from Brisbane to Melbourne, while Tim Giles ran the new Scania from Cairns to Cunnamulla.