International PayStar 5900i SBA Expands Capabilities

Sept. 28, 2010

Let's see... Here's an online ad for an '82 International PayStar down in Texas, apparently an oil-field rig with what looks like a 25,000- or 50,000-pound winch ready to pull hefty, skid-mounted pieces of drilling and extraction equipment over a rear-set roller onto a long, steel flatbed. Its Cummins 400 almost certainly smokes nicely (didn't they all in those pre-emission days?), and specs include “6 and 4” double-stick manual gearboxes, 20,000-pound steer axle, 50,000-pound tandem with a 6.80 ratio and a wheelbase of 280 inches. Think of the work that thing has done in its 24 years of life. And, wouldn't it be a handful to drive?

By contrast, check out this month's Hands-On Trucking ride — a 2008 PayStar long-wheelbase 10-wheel heavy truck with a high-sided steel dump bed, with lots of frame space for two or three pusher axles, strong front and rear axles, and a gutsy Caterpillar C13 complete with a diesel particulate filter. All its aluminum is highly polished, and chrome covers about anything else not painted gloss black. This, too, could do a lot of construction-related hauling, and accomplish it in style and effortlessly, too, because it's also got a thoroughly modern Allison automatic transmission.

One specification the two trucks share is a setback front axle, generally available throughout the PayStar's history, but something missing until recently from the latest iteration of the builder's 5000i series of vocational trucks. The builder announced it about a year ago and the 5900 SBA, as this model is called in International's data book, is now in production at the vocational-truck plant in Garland, Texas, joining the originally available axle-forward version.

The rearward setting of the steer axle alters the balance of weight among all axles and can make the truck more legally useable in certain geographical areas. Mostly it's axle-weight states with peculiar formulas for certain configurations — “tri-axe” setups with a single, high-capacity pusher or “quads” with two pushers, for instance. However, some bridge-formula states encourage multiple pusher and tag axles, and the axle-back design is better able to take up a sizeable share of the load. A side benefit is greater maneuverability for a given wheelbase because there's more room for the front wheels to cut toward the frame. The 5900 SBA thus expands possible applications and allows dealers to resume selling a premium model into that specialty market.

And, of course, customers have another vehicle to choose from, which right now might not matter too much because business in general is painfully slow. That doesn't mean nothing is happening, and there are some operators who are ready to acquire this type of truck. If they are already International customers, and even if they're not, they and their drivers will be pleased with the latest PayStar. It is truly a premium truck, with a stout and roomy aluminum cab that can be trimmed as richly as any reasonable trucker would want, a firm but smooth ride, terrific driveability, and easier maintenance that comes from a longer engine compartment compared to the WorkStar 7000 series.

Driving a modern and nicely appointed PayStar is one of life's trucking pleasures, in my opinion; so is wheeling its brother, the 9900i highway tractor. They share the cab and interior and basic hood design, but of course the rigors of on/off-road work changes many other things in the 5000i series. That this one had an Allison was disappointing to me, because wheel time in PayStar axle-forward trucks and tractors showed that they are also easy and even fun to shift when set up with manual transmissions. And shiftability is one of the tests of a truck model's value, not just to the driver but to the owner, because hard shifting irks the driver and leads to various driveline damage.

Nonetheless, an Allison is what I had and what I happily drove. This was actually back in March, during the Conexpo-Con/Agg show in Las Vegas. Athena Campos, International's vocational segment marketing manager; and Melissa Gauger, mechanical engineer/marketing manager for severe service trucks, had driven me to McCandless International Trucks north of the city where the long truck was waiting. Gauger pulled it out of the lot to the dealership's offices, and I looked over the vehicle and then shot some photos.

My lens found the Cat C13, among the engine options in this line and which early this year was not remarkable. But now it is because come 2010, Cats will disappear. As we've reported, Caterpillar is leaving the truck-engine business at that time. About then, Cat dealers will begin selling an International-built, Cat-branded on/off-highway truck which well could be based on the 5000i series. So maybe this is a preview of that; we'll see.

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International PayStar 5900i

Steer axle's center is 47 inches behind the bumper, compared to 30 inches for the PayStar 5900i's axle-forward version. The long 10-wheeler's frame has room for at least two pusher axles.
Steer axle's center is 47 inches behind the bumper, compared to 30 inches for the PayStar 5900i's axle-forward version. The long 10-wheeler's frame has room for at least two pusher axles.
Premium is as premium does, and International does it in great “truckee” style with PayStar's nicely trimmed interior and completely outfitted instrument panel.
Caterpillar C13 is among engine options in current PayStar trucks, but International's own MaxxForce 13 is coming soon, and Cat meanwhile is getting out of the truck-engine business by 2010. Then the only vendor engine will be Cummins' ISX. 
The diesel particulate filter doubles as a muffler, but its bulk pushes the body back almost 2 feet and extends the truck's overall length. There are other ways to mount the DPF, though.

Truck: International PayStar 5900i SBA, conventional-cab vocational chassis with setback front axle

Engine: Caterpillar C13 Acert, 430 hp @ 2,100 rpm, 1,550 lbs.-ft. @ 1,200 rpm

Transmission: Allison automatic 4500-RDS wide-ratio 6-speedw/overdrive 5th and 6th

Front axle: 20,000-lb. Meritor MFS-20-133A wide-track on 18,000-lb. taperleafs and 2,000-lb. rubber auxiliary springs

Rear axles & suspension: 46,000-lb. Meritor RT-46-160Pw/locking rear differential and 4.56 ratio, on 46,000-lb. Hendrickson HMX-460-54 walking beam

Wheelbase: 248 inches

Brakes: Meritor S-cam w/Meritor-Wabco ABS

Fuel capacity: 100 gallons

Body: Warren 18-ft. steel