2020 has presented some supply chain challenges, but the task of getting raw materials to manufacturers, and goods to outlets, will always represent the strong backbone of a healthy economy. Reliable semis that do the tough cross-country hauling will always be in demand, and although 2020 has bucked trends in many ways, this is one area where demand remains strong.
Fleet managers in the competitive commercial trucking industry are looking for powerful semis with great reliability and low running costs, and these brands have topped the rankings. These are the tough semis that got going when the going got tough.
There’s a huge demand for International trucks for sale. And small wonder. These trucks aren’t just powerful, they’re unpretentious, durable, and have a touch of the retro feel that still makes us admire trucks and truckers. There’s also the question of the Cummins engine that drives these unpretentious, yet somehow-beautiful semis.
From personal experience, I can vouch for the reliability of what’s under the hood. Admittedly, my experience stems from a fleet with some seriously old trucks, but I’m not expecting anything but a workhorse that keeps on going from the new iteration. It’s cost-effective, it’s practical, and if you’re looking for beauty in a semi, those retro-style lines are a dream.
But International hasn’t just gone with good looks and a reputation for reliability. There are some super-interesting additions to the 2020 models including the Ultrashift Plus smart gearbox. Earlier variants were somewhat clunky, but the 2020 version is a whisper-smooth game changer that compares well to anything else on the market.
But the management perspective pales when compared to that of the drives who take International trucks on the long road – their verdict? It’s easy to drive, reliable, and a good all-round workhorse.
You can’t consider a new semi in the US without taking a look at Freighliner. This brand enjoys a respectable 40 percent market share. It’s all-American, and it looks great. But while this is one of the best-selling brands in the US, drivers are in two minds as to how drievable it is. Most will agree that the International’s transmission makes for an easy drive, while the Freightliner needs getting used to. Then again, an experienced driver will know how to read the engine pitch. We also read a few gripes on the recent Freightliner reputation for reliability. Some sources say they’ve been slipping a little in recent years. The 2020 trucks are hot off the production line, so it’s early days to tell whether this is still a justifiable criticism.
On the upside, the spaciousness of the Freightliner cab makes it a popular choice – especially for drivers who are built to match the trucks they take out on the long road. And once they’re through the learning curve, most drivers find it a pleasure, albeit a little sensitive on the gas.
Our verdict? According to driver reviews, the Freightliner is a little bit temperamental on the gearshift and gas, but a pleasure to drive once they’re used to it. Looks and running costs are comparable to the International (with a possible edge on looks), so this is a worthy entry in our list of the top semis for 2020.
With an estimated 14 percent of the US market share, Kenworth trucks are definitely not out of the running when it comes to choosing 2020’s best semi trucks. The main reasons why this brand has been gaining market share from Freightliner seems to be a combination of excellent reliability and after-sales support.
At a glance through specifications, this could be Kenworth’s primary competitive advantage. Certainly, both the muscular appearance and tech specs are comparable to other brands. According to some industry insiders, Freightliner’s primary advantage over Kenworth was lower cost – until downtime became an issue.
Can Freightliner recover lost market share by turning this perception around? Time will tell.
From a driver perspective, most truckers agree that the Freightliner has more legroom – but when it comes to cab ergonomics, they vote for Kenworth.
Comparisons get tough when trying to contrast Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks – but that’s no surprise. They both come from the Paccar stable, so it’s to be expected that the two brands will share the best of their characteristics. Sturdiness is one of the areas that gets the thumbs up for both. Although there are drivers who prefer one above the other, that could be a matter of loving what they’re used to, because technically speaking, we’re looking at two sides of the same coin.
Having said that, Peterbilt styling is legendary. It’s an iconic brand with a very dedicated following and, together with its sister brand, accounts for a sizable chunk of the semi truck market in the US.
Although it has a smaller piece of the pie in the US, Swedish brand, Volvo is the second-biggest seller worldwide. In the US, Volvo has secured a reasonably substantial market share and is supported by a far-reaching network of dealerships, ensuring a reliable supply of components and service when needed.
The vehicles themselves are most praised for their interior comfort. Despite a few gripes about periodic repair requirements, they are nevertheless considered to be tough and reliable, especially for long haul trips. Here, the fuel efficiency of the latest Volvo engines receives accolades, earning it a place in our list of the top five 2020 semi trucks on the market.
Making the Final Choice
Making the final choice between these brands will be a tough call for many business owners. Purchasing and running costs will feature in their decision making, and brand loyalty is often a factor in an industry that’s passionate about trucks and trucking. Each of these top 5 brands has its adherents and there’s hot debate as to which of them could be seen as the “best” overall.
Suffice to say that this top 5 will still be ruling the roads for years to come while fleet owners and drivers will continue the debate on reliability, driveability, and overall performance. The best choice? Individual purchase deals available could be the deciding factor for your business.
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