Superload drivers in training appreciate its DT12 automatic transmission
It takes great skill to safely move a superload, which, depending on the jurisdiction, may be defined as over 120,000 kilograms (264,500 pounds) GVW, more than seven metres (23 feet) wide and over 4.26 metres (14 feet) high. Heavy load specialist Transport Bellemare International Inc., out of Quebec, likes to train drivers on the Western Star 2018, model 5700XE SLP tractor, before they graduate to heavier loads.
“These tractors are built for lighter trips, which allow drivers to train, not with overweight loads, but with regular and somewhat oversize loads. Depending on how they evolve in their apprenticeship, a driver can be transferred to a bigger tractor and move heavier loads,” says Luc Theberge, formerly a superload driver and now an instructor with Bellemare.
“We bought these trucks with our specs to haul lighter cargos all around North America, to train less experienced oversize/overweight drivers and built their confidence so one day they will be driving superloads,” Theberge adds.
Bellemare’s 2018 Western Stars
The company has 10 – are spec’d with DD13 470Hp engines with 1,650 pounds of torque, and the DT12 Detroit automatic manual transmission. For comfort on the long hauls across the continent, drivers enjoy a big sleeper, fridge and a 110-volt electrical system that lets them custom equip their home away from home.
But it is that automatic manual transmission that frees up new drivers to focus on their driving. In automatic mode, the DT12 shifts up and down smoothly and automatically disengages the transmission when coasting. It even has a “creep mode” for super-fine speed control in stop and go traffic. A kick down function that works like a passing gear. When drivers need a little more pepper, they can shift from economy mode to performance mode. In this mode, the transmission shifts at slightly higher RPM.
“The flexibility of this transmission allows more control over the truck, particularly during slow and precise manouvers. It allows the driver to concentrate on the road while letting the transmission do the work. You can be either on the highway or in a city, you won’t see differences while operating it. As well, the fuel economy is really important. The suite of functions of this transmission are very useful and appreciated by the drivers,” Theberge says.
The biggest challenge, Theberge observes, is teaching a manual shift veteran to enjoy the automatic transmission. “At the beginning he will resist and find a thousand reasons not to be happy. Then after a few trips, you will see a happy driver.”
Theberge confides, “I have driven these new trucks and after a few days in one of them, I was ready to go back on the road.”