High-tech trucks

The 2020 model year brings us the smartest, most technologically advanced trucks yet.
2020 trucks

If there’s one thing that stands out from the new crop of trucks, whether they be pickups, chassis cabs or cab-over-engine types, it’s that they’re smarter than ever before. While they’re still the tough-as-nails workhorses that will haul your crews, irrigation pipes, mowers and hardscaping equipment to and from job sites, it’s clear that the 2020 trucks are loaded with brains as well as brawn.

Fleet telematics systems are being offered by almost all manufacturers this year. Infotainment and navigation systems have been upgraded with bigger screens. Safety is enhanced with more self-driving features such as pedestrian detection and blind spot warning systems becoming standard on some trim levels. Even some tailgates have gotten smarter, adding new ways to open and close.

Technology has found its way into the drivetrains to give you greater fuel economy along with gas and diesel hybrid engine options. It’s even found its way into the frames, making them lighter without sacrificing strength.

In addition to the backup cameras required by law since 2016, many manufacturers have added 360-degree views around the truck and trailer backup assistance.

Because you rely on technology more and more, and use your truck as a mobile office, most of the 2020s have Wi-Fi connectivity and USB ports, often as standard equipment.

High-tech trailering technology

2020 trucksTowing and backing up large trailers are huge obstacles for many contractors and their drivers. For the 2020 model year especially, work truck manufacturers have come up with some things to help ease the strain. Trailer backup assistance is increasingly being included with some optional safety packages along with blind spot warnings, collision avoidance and other features. Ford updated its Trailer Reverse Guidance system to accommodate all trailer styles.

General Motors, for its part, is offering a technology that causes a trailer to do a disappearing act. What it really does is let the driver see through a trailer as if it isn’t there.

2020 trucksThis automotive cloak of invisibility is called ProGrade Trailering Technology, and it was first introduced on 2019 Sierra light-duty trucks earlier this year. For 2020, it’ll be optional on all GMC Sierra HDs and Chevrolet Silverado HDs (on Chevys it’s called the Advanced Trailering System).

Here’s how the “transparent trailer” trick works: A total of eight cameras provide up to 15 different camera views. Six cameras are mounted on the truck, and two more accessory cameras are mounted on the trailer itself. Those two extra cameras are what give you the see-through effect. The picture above shows what it looks like on the in-dash monitor; the “V” outline shows where the “invisible” trailer actually is.

Contractors like yourself have different priorities, depending on what your company’s focus is, what part of the country you work in and your own personal preferences. We asked a few of your peers about the types of trucks they buy and what qualities and features they most want them to have.

Steve Crowe owns Sunshine Landscaping in Cherry Valley, Massachusetts. His biggest priority is service after the sale. He buys gas pickups because for him, diesel isn’t worth the extra cost.

Dependability is next for Crowe. “In the winter we plow snow,” he says. “That’s not like mowing lawns, where you can just do it the next day. You have to be there. The trucks can’t be in the shop.”

Dan Bywalec is president of D and B Landscaping Inc., Livonia, Michigan, a company that has 85 trucks in its fleet: 35 1-ton and bigger pickup trucks, 22 dump trucks, five stake trucks and one semi. Most of them are diesel for the greater torque that provides.

Fuel economy is the most important feature in a truck to him. “We’re always telling our drivers not to let the vehicles idle,” he says.

But for contractor Chris di Stefano, owner and president of di Stefano Landscaping, Jericho, Vermont, fuel economy is not that big a deal. “We don’t really worry too much about that,” he says. “If the price of gas goes up, our prices go up a little bit.” Towing and hauling capacities are much more critical for him.

Bywalec likes all the new technology that trucks offer. “Some of the technological advancements that they have made in the last couple of years are unbelievable. I remember when we thought remote start was a big deal,” he says. He especially appreciates backup cameras and 360-degree views. None of his trucks currently have trailer backup assistance, but he thinks it will be a major asset for his drivers that pull trailers.

While di Stefano agrees that backup cameras are “a wonderful thing,” he also adds, “There’s something about looking out the window and assessing your surroundings or getting someone to spot you that seems better. We have backup cameras in our trucks and our guys still back into things.”

He doesn’t care much for all the new self-driving features being added to trucks nowadays either. “That’s brought about an unfortunate decline in driver awareness and attention,” he says. “We hire a lot of younger drivers who aren’t very experienced, and I don’t want them to get complacent because they have tools that supposedly are going to watch out for them.”

Mark Becker is purchasing and scheduling manager at Todd’s Services Inc., Hamburg, Michigan. His company relies heavily on its fleet telematics service. “It reminds us about maintenance intervals and sends us alerts about speeding and harsh driving,” he says.

We don’t have enough space to include every single engine and transmission type or optional and standard feature for every truck, but we are going to bring you the highlights of what’s new, what’s changed and what’s most intriguing.

See what the manufacturers have in store for us for model year 2020 below.

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD & 3500 HD

2020 trucksThe Silverado HD is all-new for 2020. It’s longer, wider and taller than its predecessor with a wheelbase that’s been stretched 5.2 inches on Crew Cab models.

Every component between the transmission and the wheels has been upgraded to bring about a 52% increase in maximum towing capability, now up to 35,500 pounds. Buyers can choose between two new powertrains: a 401-horsepower 6.6- liter V-8 gas engine with direct injection that achieves 464 pound-feet of torque (22% more than last year) when mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, or a 445-horsepower Duramax 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V-8 engine with 910 pound-feet of torque when coupled with the all-new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission. A bigger, 28-inch-diameter variable-speed fan helps cool that engine.

The frame has been enhanced to handle the truck’s higher load capacity and gross combined vehicle weight rating of up to 43,500 pounds. The upgraded driveline includes more robust front and rear axles and the prop shafts have been made 30% larger.

Both the Silverado 2500 and the 3500 are available in five trim levels including Work Truck, Custom, LT, LTZ and High Country.


  • Optional Advanced Trailering System with “transparent” trailer view (see sidebar)
  • New optional Allison 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Autotrac active two-speed transfer case, standard on all 4×4 models electronically controls “4 Auto” mode, allowing the truck to seamlessly shift between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive based on road conditions
  • BedSteps feature and larger CornerSteps, both standard, eases loading of cargo bed

Ford F-150

For the first time, F-150 buyers can have a Power Stroke diesel engine, optional on the XLTs: a 250-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 that gets 30 mpg on the highway. It delivers 440 pound-feet of torque, giving you 11,400 pounds of towing capacity and 2,020 pounds of payload capacity.


  • Ford Co-Pilot 360, with Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Information, Lane Keeping Assistance and Auto High Beams now standard on Lariat and higher trim levels.

Ford F-250, F-350 & F-450 Super Duty

There are more substantial changes to Ford’s Super Duty lineup. A new, optional upgraded 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8 delivers 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque.

The all-new, optional 7.3-liter V-8, which Ford says is the most powerful gas engine it’s ever offered in the Super Duty class, produces 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque.

Maximum towing capacity was increased for the entire Super Duty series. Expect maximum gooseneck towing up to 37,000 pounds, maximum fifth-wheel towing of 32,500 pounds and maximum conventional towing of 24,200 pounds.


  • New Pro Trailer Backup Assist, available on XL through Lariat, standard on King Ranch through Limited
  • All-new, optional-speed heavy-duty TorqShift automatic transmission
  • Lane-Keeping Alert, Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage and Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, standard on XLT and above

GMC Sierra 2500HD & 3500HD

The Sierra HD is all-new for 2020, with a longer wheelbase; a taller, more dominant hood line; and a taller overall height. Available engines include an all-new, standard 401-horsepower 6.6-liter V-8 gas engine with 464 pound-feet of torque and a towing capacity of 14,500 pounds.

For 2020, GM increased the efficiency of the optional 445-horsepower Duramax 6.6-liter turbo-diesel engine by giving it a dual-path intake system that draws cool air through both the prominent hood scoop and the larger front grille. That engine is capable of 910 pound-feet of torque and can tow more than 30,000 pounds.

The cargo bed’s lift-in height was lowered 1 inch to make loading cargo and hitching up fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailers easier.

The daytime running lamps now have prominent LED light blades. LEDs are also used for the headlamps, taillamps, optional fog lamps and other illuminative elements, including the available roof marker lights standard on all dual-rear-wheel HDs and all Sierra HD Denalis except where prohibited by law.

Models include Sierra, SLE, SLT and new AT4 models. Denali and AT4 models are offered exclusively in 4WD.


  • New, optional ProGrade Trailering System with “transparent” trailer view
  • All-new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission, standard for diesels
  • MultiPro, GM’s six-function tailgate is now standard on SLT, AT4 and Denali models and optional on all other trim levels
  • All-new optional Park Grade Hold Assist
  • All-new larger, door-mounted trailering mirrors with a four-bar link providing power extend and retract for the driver and passenger sides, standard
  • New, optional 120-volt power outlet

Hino M series

Hino announced in late October that it’s given its Class 4 through 7 diesel and LP trucks a total makeover for model year 2021, including new model names that better match each truck’s GVW.

The Class 4 and 5 cab-over-engine 155 (14,500 GVW) and diesel/electric hybrid 195 (19,500 GVW) have been replaced by the M Series M4, M5 and M5H hybrid.

In Class 6 and 7, the 258 (25,500 GVW) 268 (25,950 GVW) and 238 (23,000 GVW) conventional trucks have been replaced by the new L Series L6 and L7. Each vehicle now contains larger cab configurations.


  • Optional 6-speed Aisin automatic transmission with gear hold feature
  • Optional “first-in-segment” fully integrated Lane Departure Warning System
  • New shifter layout and steering wheel controls
  • All-new gauge cluster with 4.2-inch LCD multi-information display

Hino L series


  • Optional Electronic Stability Control, Collision Mitigation System, Lane Departure Warning, Active Cruise Control and driver’s seatbelt sensor
  • New wheelbase options
  • New 30-inch extended cab models will seat five; new 44-inch crew cabs seat six
  • Extended cabs and crew cabs will have full-size doors and rear zone A/C and heat

Hino XL series


  • Extended cab and crew cab options coming spring 2020
  • Snowplow package with 18,000-GVW front axle and front frame extensions available summer 2020

Isuzu Class 5 NQR diesel

There were a few changes to Isuzu’s Class 3, 4 and 5 N-Series and Class 6 F-Series cab-over-engine trucks.

Changes include an optional receptacle for the engine block and oil pan heater, optional Mobileye advanced driver- assistance features and optional Alpine audio and backup camera upgrades for the entire N- and F-Series.

The Class 4-6 N- and F-Series trucks are equipped with an EPA-certified 5.2 4HK1-TC diesel engine that should last for 375,000 miles. They offer engine power options for GVWs from 12,000 pounds to 25,950 pounds.

The F-Series trucks offer 215 horsepower and 520 foot-pounds of torque. N-Series diesels produce 215 horsepower and 452 foot-pounds of torque. The Class 3 and 4 N-Series trucks have an optional Vortec gasoline engine that gives you 297 horsepower and 372 foot-pounds of torque. That engine is also CNG/LPG alternative-fuel capable.


  • New, standard Aisin A465id 6-speed double overdrive automatic transmission with a lockup torque converter plus a PTO opening
  • New 225/70R19.5 tires added with 5%-10% reduction in rolling resistance for improved fuel economy

Isuzu Class 6 FTR diesel


  • Air compressor stroke increased from 30 to 40 millimeters, improving air output volume by 33%
  • New purge valve silencer was added to the air dryer
  • Dana S19-140 rear axle replaced the Dana 19060S to achieve an 86-pound weight reduction

Mitsubishi Fuso FE180

Buyers who have been waiting for the new FE180, the new Class 5 cab-over-engine gas truck Fuso announced this past March can finally get one; it began being shipped out to dealers Oct. 30.

The FE180 has a 17,995-pound gross vehicle weight rating, with an estimated 11,855-pound body/payload capability. The drivetrain mates a 297-horsepower GM V-8 6.0-liter gasoline engine with an Allison 1000 Series transmission to produce 361 pound-feet of torque. The transmission includes FuelSense 2.0 featuring DynActive Shifting for greater fuel economy.

Its chassis frame has been powder-coated for greater durability and maintains the standard 33.5-inch width allowing upfitters to use the same box sizes and body attachments found on Fuso’s Class 5 diesels. Choose from four wheelbase sizes including 133.9, 151.6, 169.3 and 187.0 inches.

Fuso offers a five-year/unlimited miles warranty with an extended warranty on the transmission at no additional cost.


  • Rear-mounted 40-gallon fuel tank, standard
  • Larger 19.5-inch tires, standard
  • One free year of Verizon Connect telematics
  • Power take-off option for Allison transmission
  • Noise-insulated cab with new interior upgrades
  • Ladder-style frame
  • Cab colors available in silver, white, green, red, blue and black

Nissan Titan & Titan XD

Nissan’s full-size pickups underwent major redesigns for the 2020 model year. Both the half-ton Titan and the 3/4-ton Titan XD got a new powertrain that includes a retuned standard 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 gasoline engine rated at 400 horsepower that delivers 413 pound-feet of torque and a new standard 9-speed automatic transmission with a larger final gear ratio for smoother, faster acceleration. Towing and hauling capacities for this engine will be available when the vehicle goes on sale.

Titan XDs are distinguished from Titans by a new extensively reinforced and strengthened fully boxed, full-length ladder frame, with an extended wheelbase that’s 15 inches longer, allowing for a full-size 6.5-foot bed.

Both trucks are offered in King Cab and Crew Cab body configurations and five trim levels: S, SV, Pro-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve, in 4×2 or 4×4 drive configurations.


  • New all-LED full-surround lighting added to pickup bed, optional for Pro-4X and above
  • New front bumper, interlocking frame grille and surround, fog lights, badging and wheel designs, with choice of three separate grille designs and five different wheels
  • New, optional Dual Panel Panoramic Moonroof, available on Crew Cab models
  • New, optional Nissan Concierge with 24-hour access to live assistants (monthly subscription required)
  • New flexible smartphone holder/charging system, standard on Pro-4X and above
  • New Integrated Command Center with optional 9.0-inch WXGA-resolution touchscreen on Titan XD PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve models

Ram 1500

The Ram 1500 is all-new with the emphasis on fuel economy. An all-new optional 260-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine produces 480 pound-feet of torque and is capable of towing 12,560 pounds and hauling 2,300 pounds of payload. A 395-horsepower 5.7-liter gas Hemi V-8 with variable-valve timing and 410 pound-feet of torque is also available.

The standard 3.6-liter Pentastar gas V-6 is capable of delivering 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Or, choose the optional 5.7-liter eTorque gas/electric hybrid Hemi V-8 with variable valve timing, providing 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.

Available in eight models: Tradesman, High Fuel Efficiency, Big Horn, Lone Star, Laramie, Longhorn, Limited and Rebel (offroad), with quad or crew cabs, in 4×2 and 4×4 drive configurations.


  • Multifunction Tailgate with 60/40 split swing-away doors optional for all trim levels
  • New, optional Uconnect 12.0 console with Navigation and Sirius XM, 12-inch touchscreen with split-screen capability and 360L bird’s eye camera system

Ram 2500 & 3500 Heavy Duty


  • Big Horn and Laramie models now available in Night Edition
  • Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Steering now optional for all trim levels

Ram 3500, 4500 & 5500 chassis cabs (class 2, 3, 4 & 5)


  • Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Steering, body-color bumpers and the Ram Telematics vehicle tracking system now optional

Toyota Tacoma

All Tacoma grades got appearance and technology upgrades with a new front grille and a revised taillamp design.

The Toyota Safety Sense P package that includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection was made standard equipment on both Tacoma and Tundra since model year 2018.

Six model grades include SR, SR5, TRD and TRD Pro Off-Road, TRD Sport and Limited.


  • New 8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility standard on SR5 and above
  • New Multi-Terrain Monitor standard on Limited, optional on TRD Off-Road
  • New Panoramic View Monitor with 360-degree view around truck standard on Limited and TRD Pro models, optional on TRD Sport

Toyota Tundra

Toyota’s half-ton pickup will be powered again exclusively by the 381-horsepower 5.7-liter i-Force V-8 gas engine that offers up to 10,200 pounds of towing capacity and a maximum payload of 1,730 pounds. The 4.6-liter V-8 and the 5.7-liter FFV engines have been discontinued.

Six model grades include SR, SR5, Limited, off-road TRD Pro Platinum and 1794 Edition, in Double Cab and CrewMax configurations.


  • TRD Pro now available with Double Cab
  • New 8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility standard on SR5 and above
  • Smart Key with pushbutton start now standard on SR5 and above
This article originally appeared in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine.
Mary Williams-Villano is a contributing editor to Irrigation & Green Industry and can be reached at pouncerspy@gmail.com.

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