Design work on this new and different truck was begun in 1969. The vehicle was completed in July of 1971. This vehicle has approximately 500,000 miles on it.
The design of this vehicle was a total effort to build a more efficient and versatile truck tractor. This required a new and different approach to heavy truck design. A fresh, from the ground up approach to look at every aspect of a truck and what it should do for the owner and the driver.
Being a small fleet owner at the time my efforts centered on what the truck is to the owner. A truck is first and foremost a business tool to make money. It's primary purpose is not to impress people by how much noise it makes, how fast it can go up a hill or even how great it looks with dual chrome stacks and other show items. These may be good for the ego but do very little for the bottom line on a financial statement.
Even today, if one looks at the operating cost of the average truck tractor, regardless of make, the operating cost in cents per mile is very close to being the same for one truck as another. Most trucks in 1971 were quite similar and were rough riding, noisy and inefficient. The majority of heavy trucks averaged no better than 5.0 mpg.
The primary thrust of the design was guided from the start with the following goals in mind.
1. Improving the fuel mileage by reducing the demand horsepower on the engine by lowering the aerodynamic drag, lowering the rolling resistance, lowering the accessory loads and friction losses.
2. Lowering the maintenance cost of the truck through the simplification of systems and the use of long life low maintenance components. Also by designing everything possible so that the components could be easily worked on and repaired or replaced in the least amount of time to reduce shop labor costs.
3. Improving the ride for the driver and lowering the noise levels. The vehicle has air suspension on each axle including the steering axle. This not only improves the ride for the driver but lowers the repair cost in maintaining the cab and chassis.
4. The versatility of the truck was improved by the unique chassis design that along with a 62 in. sliding fifth wheel allow this two axle tractor to pull a semi and haul the same net payload as a three axle tractor. The tractor can also pull standard double trailers.
These design guidelines resulted in a vehicle that through scientific testing showed substantial improvements in ride over other trucks. The resulting fuel mileage was increased 40 % to a documented figure of 7.0 mpg while still hauling the same payload as a three axle tractor.
The design has resulted in the issuance of seven U. S. Patents for inventions covering such features as truck aerodynamics, suspension design and chassis design and other features.
Through a subsequent project in 1974 and 1975 with Ryder Systems of Miami, Florida 10 more trucks were built of a similar design. This project ended because of an economic recession brought about by the Arab oil crisis and fuel shortage.
In 1978 a third prototype truck was built and then in 1980 two more of these third generation units were built in Lyons, Oregon. During this time period the construction of more units was considered, however high prevailing bank interest rates of 22% on loans made this unfeasible. A total of 14 Paymaster trucks were built between 1970 and 1980.
The story of why the vehicle did not ever make it to volume production is a long one and is not do to lack of effort. As in any story there were successes and failures in judgment and the timing of efforts regarding the on set of national economic recessions also played a part. Acceptance of the design by drivers and fleet owners was mixed. There is a very long list of driver and fleet supporters and there were also those who had trouble with the radical new look required to achieve reductions in aerodynamic drag.
The bottom line is that I did not go broke doing the project and I had a lot of fun in the process.