Features of the Week

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    2010 Freightliner M2 106 Pomona, CA

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    2009 Freightliner Cascadia Gulfport, MS

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    2012 International 7300 Etna, OH

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    2006 International 4300 New Hampton, IA

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    2012 Chevrolet EXPRESS 3500 Doraville, GA

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    2007 International IHC 9400I Lake Butler, FL

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    2007 Freightliner CST12064ST Des Moines , IA

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    2005 Freightliner COLUMBIA 120 Farmingdale, NY

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    2008 Freightliner FLD13264T-CLASSIC XL Healdsburg, CA

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    2007 Volvo VNM64T670 Ocala, FL

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    2011 Kenworth T660 Conley (Atlanta), GA

News

  • States making little headway against broken highways

    Sep 18, 2014
    Rate of progress in fixing state roads & bridges slowing, says Reason Foundation

    More funding is being directed to state highways and bridges, yet “very little progress” has been made in improving their condition, according to the 21st Annual Highway Report released today by the nonpartisan Reason Foundation. 

    read more

  • More groups call for withholding CSA scores

    Sep 18, 2014

    Several weeks after 10 trade associations asked the Dept. of Transportation to withhold metrics related to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program from public view, another group of 10 organizations has endorsed the request that the Dept. of Transportation remove individual motor carriers’ Safety Measurement System scores from all federal public websites.

    read more

  • September 18, 2014: Ram Trucks paying off for Chrysler; fighting food trucks; improving logistics

    Sep 18, 2014

    Here is a look at what is happening around the world of trucking today:

    Content Classification:  Curated

    read more

  • Ken-Tool introduces new truck tire service set

    Sep 18, 2014

    Ken-Tool has unveiled a new truck tire service set. The Deluxe Blue Cobra Truck Tire Service Set (p/n 35444) features the T11ES Bead Breaking Wedge with Safety Handle (p/n 35330) and the T35 Wood Handled Rubber and Steel faced Tire Hammer (p/n 35323).

    read more

  • GPS enterprise tracking app available for Windows devices

    Sep 18, 2014

    Electric Compass has announced that its GPS tracking app is now available for Windows-based tablets and laptops running Windows 7 and Windows 8. Electric Compass Tracker, which offers a suite of enterprise workforce location tracking capabilities, is now available for all major operating systems for mobile devices, including Android devices, iOS devices, Windows embedded handheld computers, BlackBerrys, installed vehicle trackers and asset tracking devices.

    read more

  • Cummins scores Frost & Sullivan award for heavy-duty diesels

    Sep 18, 2014

    Cummins Inc. was recognized with the 2014 United States Overall Best Heavy-Duty Truck Engines Product Leadership Award by Frost & Sullivan on Sept. 16 at the consultancy’s North American Growth, Innovation & Leadership Gala in San Jose.

    read more

  • Peterbilt Model 320 now available with right-hand, stand-up cab

    Sep 18, 2014

    Peterbilt Motors is now offering its low-cab-forward Model 320 with a right-hand, stand-up configuration for side-loader collection vehicles.

    The redesigned Model 320 was introduced last year with a new ProBilt interior that features numerous enhancements that improve operator comfort, productivity and safety, the company said.

    read more

  • Shorepower offers free electric power during Driver Appreciation Week

    Sep 18, 2014

    Shorepower is offering free electric power at all 62 of its Truck Stop Electrification sites during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. The promotion gives 10 complimentary hours and is available to anyone that registers for a free Shorepower account or to anyone who is already registered.

    An interactive map with all locations can be found at www.shorepowerconnect.com.

    The free power is available Sept. 18-20.

    read more

  • SAE Seminar: Acquiring CAN and OBD Data

    Sep 18, 2014

    HEM Data Corp, will present an Society of Automotive Engineers seminar titled

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  • Truck OEMs reveal new models

    Sep 18, 2014
    Vans, pickups, and medium duty models shown during second day of the 2014 Truck Product Conference

    News and how-to’s were common during the second day of the NTEA Truck Product Conference September 17 in Dearborn, Michigan.

    General Motors, Kenworth, Mitsubishi, and Peterbilt all brought attendees up to date with their products, including new model introductions and tips for installing truck bodies and equipment.

    General Motors had two light duty vehicles that attracted a crowd—a first-hand look at the company’s Colorado and Canyon mid-sized pickups and the new City Express, GM’s entry in the rapidly expanding compact van market.

    read more

  • FMCSA considering broader options for medical exams

    Sep 17, 2014

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is weighing guidance that could allow certified medical examiners to use technology to expand their ability to conduct required physicals on commercial motor vehicle drivers, but as of today those exams must be conducted by certified examiners, the agency confirmed. As of May 21 of this year, all physical exams must be conducted by a professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

    read more

  • Panel offers guidance on private involvement in infrastructure

    Sep 17, 2014

    A special panel established by the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday released a report recommending numerous steps to improve the effectiveness of public-private partnerships (P3s) in improving transportation infrastructure in the United States. The panel’s recommendations could be incorporated into the next transportation bill, which could be enacted next year.

    read more

  • Refuse truck company acquires mixer manufacturer

    Sep 17, 2014
    Commercial Specialty Truck Holdings acquires Continental Manufacturing Company

    Commercial Specialty Truck Holdings LLC has acquired the assets of Continental Manufacturing Company, producers of concrete mixers.

    Commercial Specialty Truck Holdings produces the EZ-Pack line of refuse bodies.  The company plans to retain the Continental brand by manufacturing mixers under a separate company-- Continental Mixer Solutions, LLC/

    Continental has been serving the ready-mix industry since 1982.  Products include the Bridge Saver and Express rear discharge models.

    read more

  • Truck Product Conference: Isuzu, Freightliner and Ram

    Sep 17, 2014

    The annual Truck Product Conference, sponsored by the National Truck Equipment Association, kicked off September 16 with updates from Isuzu, Freightliner, and Ram.

    Isuzu announced that its new NPR-XD chassis and expanded applications for the fuel efficient Eco-Max low cab forward chassis that will enable it to be mounted with industry standard van body heights. Previously, Isuzu would not approve van bodies with inside heights in excess of 79 inches due to frontal area concerns.   

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  • Accuride receives AME Manufacturing Excellence Award

    Sep 17, 2014

    The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) has awarded Accuride's Henderson Operations steel wheel manufacturing facility in Henderson, Kentucky a 2014 Manufacturing Excellence Award. An AME representative will visit the Accuride plant on Sept. 18 to present the award. The company will also be honored during the 2014 AME International Excellence Inside Conference, Nov. 10-14 in Jacksonville, Florida.

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  • McNeilus delivers CNG concrete mixers

    Sep 17, 2014

    McNeilus Truck & Manufacturing, Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK) company, has delivered 40 McNeilus® Bridgemaster ready-mix trucks to multinational Argos USA. The vehicles, which feature McNeilus’ Next Generation (NGEN) compressed natural gas systems represent the first-ever CNG trucks placed into service by Argos.

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  • NTDA awards four scholarships

    Sep 17, 2014

    Each year, the NTDA provides a scholarship program to help children of NTDA member employees. MeritorWabco, Michelin, HAVCO Wood Products LLC, East Manufacturing Corp., Pitts Trailers, Dynaweld Trailers, Dorsey Trailers and Pressure Systems International generously underwrite the scholarship Program. The NTDA received $850 in individual donations this year to benefit the scholarship fund. The association is also adding a fundraising component to its annual golf tournament to help raise money for next year's scholarship program.

    read more

  • GM ramps up capacity for new pickup

    Sep 17, 2014

    General Motors will add a third shift at its Wentzville Assembly plant, creating an estimated 750 new jobs, to build the all-new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups and Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans.

    Dealers have ordered nearly 30,000 Colorados, which is very high for early orders. With the midsize trucks, Chevrolet and GMC offer the broadest truck portfolio in the business. No other manufacturer is positioned to offer all truck customers the right truck to meet their varied needs.

    read more

  • Retail truck sales hot in August

    Sep 12, 2014

    Commercial trucks continued selling briskly in August, according to figures compiled by Wards Information Products, a sister company of Trailer/Body Builders.

    Dealers sold 61,021 trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings above 10,000 pounds in August, up 22% from August 2013.  Class 8 trucks (GVW ratings above 33,000 pounds) led the way with a 28% increase.

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  • Utility’s Arkansas plant receives safety award

    Sep 12, 2014

    Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company’s Paragould, Arkansas manufacturing plant has received the Liberty Mutual Insurance Gold Safety Award.

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  • CNG truck growth rate slows

    Sep 12, 2014

    Natural gas powered trucks continue to grow in unit sales and production, though at a rate proportional to the outsized growth of the overall heavy truck market. This inline growth falls below earlier expectations of a more rapid adoption. Nevertheless, sales for 2014 are now expected to total 11,000 units, up 27% from 2013, according to a study compiled by ACT Research, Columbus, Indiana.

    read more

  • Trailer manufacturers: Can’t build them fast enough

    Sep 12, 2014

    Trailer manufacturing is booming, and could be even better were it not for a shortage of qualified production workers.

    According to FTR, manufacturers should produce 264,000 trailers in 2014, the best year since 2006. 

     “The trailer market in 2014 is very strong,” says Don Ake, FTR’s vice-president of commercial vehicles.   He attributed the strength to both fleet expansion and pent-up demand dating back the the last recession.

    Among the stats that Ake cites:

    read more

  • Rush Truck Centers has new Orlando facility

    Sep 11, 2014

    Rush Enterprises (NASDAQ: RUSHA & RUSHB) has relocated its light and medium duty truck center in Orlando.

    In addition to an extensive inventory of Ford trucks, the new facility features an expanded parts showroom and warehouse and 14 service bays, including two bays dedicated to natural gas service.

    read more

  • Godwin completes retooling project

    Sep 11, 2014

    The Godwin Group affiliate Champion Hoist & Equipment Company announces the completion of a one year, one million dollar retooling initiative.

    In January 2013, Champion Hoist & Equipment began the project to streamline and improve product manufacturing process. The need for increased production became acute when Champion nearly doubled sales in 2013.

    read more

  • Regional trucking data now available

    Sep 11, 2014

    FTR and Internet Truckstop have formed a partnership to generate new data regarding contract and spot freight segments, breaking it down by region and type of trailer used.

    The data will be generated by combining millions of load transactions by Internet Truckstop and the analytical services of FTR.  The resulting reports can be used as a basis for annual forecasting for truck types and regions. 

    read more

  • Fleet Product Specialist

    Sep 10, 2014
    Maxxima has experienced tremendous growth and has a current full-time need for a motivated Fleet Product Specialist...

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  • Coach Tony Dungy to deliver NTEA keynote address

    Sep 10, 2014

    Former NFL head coach Tony Dungywill serve as keynote speaker at The Work Truck Show 2015. His motivational address will be part of the President’s Breakfast & NTEA Annual Meeting on Thursday, March 5.

                The Work Truck Show will be held March 4–6 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis,  the same city where Dungy compiled an 85-27 record in seven seasons as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts           

    read more

  • Peterbilt displays autonomous driving technology

    Sep 10, 2014

    Advanced technologies capable of autonomous driving to complement vehicle operators was showcased during the ITS World Congress in Detroit this week. The innovative system was demonstrated on a Peterbilt Model 579 concept truck.

    read more

  • Mitsubishi Fuso announces engine protection system

    Sep 10, 2014

    A new engine protection system that will shut down the engine when oil pressure is extremely low and will regulate the flow of fuel should the engine overheat will be offered as standard equipment on all 2015 Mitsubishi Fuso models.

    read more

  • 3-D printer to ‘build’ a car at IMTS

    Sep 10, 2014

    A three-dimensional printer is expected to produce an automobile that will be driven out of McCormick Place September 13, a demonstration that will be part of the International Manufacturing Technology Show 2014.

    Called the Strati, the vehicle will be 3D printed in one piece using direct digital manufacturing, (DDM), which is the first time this method has been used to make a car. Mechanical components, like battery, motor, wiring, and suspension are sourced from a variety of suppliers, including Renault’s Twizy, a line of electric powered city cars.

    read more

  • Ram Bailment Pool Awarded to Stonebrooke Equipment

    Sep 05, 2014

    Ram has awarded Stonebrooke Equipment, Inc. a Bailment Pool (16614) and an approved Ship To Code (T1035) for Ram dealers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Western Wisconsin.

    read more

  • Heil Trailer, Serva Form Entrans International

    Sep 05, 2014

    Heil Trailer, owned by American Industrial Partners (AIP), has announced it is now part of EnTrans International, LLC, along with SERVA, also an AIP-owned company. Both Heil Trailer and SERVA will continue to operate under their existing brand names.

    EnTrans will be able to offer its customers a broad product portfolio, including a wide variety of hydraulic fracturing equipment, as well as tank trailers used to transport dry bulk, refined petroleum and crude oil. 

    read more

  • Ford Selects Nat G as Newest Qualified Vehicle Modifier

    Sep 05, 2014

    Nat G CNG Solutions, a Houston-based company specializing in compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle upgrades, has been selected as a Ford Motor Company Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM).

    Ford instituted the QVM Program to improve quality assurance for Ford vehicle modifications, including natural gas vehicle upgrades.

    read more

  • Class 5-8 Orders Up 20% Over a Year Ago: FTR

    Sep 05, 2014

    Preliminary Class 5-8 orders in August were 43,100 for a yearly total of 531,500 units, an improvement of 20% and 90,000 units compared to the preceding 12-month period, according to ACT.

    read more

  • Wabash Expanding Operations with Frankfort Facility

    Sep 05, 2014

    Wabash National Corporation (NYSE: WNC) plans to invest more than $2 million to expand production operations for its Wabash Composites business with the opening of a facility in Frankfort, Indiana.

    read more

  • Editor's page: Bright skies

    Sep 05, 2014
    The trends are looking good for the industry right now, despite ongoing challenges such as productivity losses engendered by hours-of-service reform and the driver shortage. Donald Broughton, managing director, senior research analyst and chief market strategist for Avondale Partners, noted during a presentation in late August that he’s maintaining a “relatively optimistic outlook” for the trucking industry.
  • Business of Trucking: Set up for success

    Sep 05, 2014
    What’s your marketing strategy for the future? How are you going to maintain your current customer and freight base, and how are you going to grow it? What are the best methods to find customers who fit into the niche you’ve developed? Where will you get the biggest bang for your marketing buck?
  • Cover story: Right place, right time

    Sep 05, 2014
    As technology continues to beef up the types and volume of data that can be extracted from trucks and trailers alike—largely in real-time—the way fleets and even dealerships manage parts is changing as well.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: Valley Transportation

    Sep 05, 2014
    Clifford Ellis has been driving trucks for nearly 44 years. Currently leased to Valley Transportation, Ellis hauls mostly overdimensional loads.
  • Kenworth Adds Allison’s FuelSense for Class 8 and Medium-Duty Trucks

    Sep 04, 2014

    Kenworth has introduced Allison’s FuelSense packages for new Kenworth Class 8 and medium-duty trucks specified with Allison Highway Series and Rugged Duty Series automatic transmissions.

    Allison’s FuelSense delivers a package of software and electronic controls that target critical components of a truck’s duty cycle to help enhance fuel savings. FuelSense incorporates features that automatically adapt shift schedules and torque, maximizing transmission efficiency based on load, grade and duty cycle, while maintaining superior performance.

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  • Class 8 Orders Up 29% Year-Over-Year: FTR

    Sep 04, 2014

    Preliminary data show North American Class 8 truck net orders at 24,947 units in August, a year-over-year increase of 29%, according to FTR Associates.

    read more

  • Fleets Saving Money with New Technologies: NACFE Study

    Sep 03, 2014

    Fleets operating 41,000 tractors and 130,000 trailers achieved fuel savings of $7,200 per year per truck by adopting a variety of new technologies, according to a new study released by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE).

    read more

  • LGS Industries Named to List of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies

    Sep 03, 2014

    LGS Industries, the parent company of LOOK, Pace American and Cargo Express trailers, has been ranked #1,013 on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 list—an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

    Matt Arnold, Founder and President of LGS Industries, attributes the growth to the experienced group of individuals that work at each of the plants.

    read more

  • River States Sales Rep Reaches Top Five in Sales for July

    Sep 03, 2014

    River States Truck & Trailer sales representative Dave Moberg has reached the top five in retail sales in America for July in the On-Highway Market Segment. Moberg earned top five status by selling 98 units in July.   

    Moberg’s success can be attributed to his “relationships with key customers,” according to Alex Mackiel, new truck sales manager for the Roberts location. “Dave focuses on his customer’s needs and goes beyond expectations for them.” 

    read more

  • Editor's Page: Keep the wheel

    Aug 05, 2014
    Recently, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conducted a survey of over 200 researchers, academicians, practitioners, university students, and government agencies involved in the development of “autonomous vehicles” to get a sense of how such technology will impact car and truck designs.
  • Business of Trucking: Changing on the fly

    Aug 05, 2014
    Since most businesses, especially trucking, are not “static” operations, i.e., lacking in activity, change, movement, or progress, it’s very important to go over your business plan regularly, analyze it, and make adjustments to reach your ultimate business objectives.
  • Cover Story: American Trucker highlights each OEM's Class 8 lineup

    Aug 05, 2014
    In the fuel-conscious and ever-greener world that is trucking, it should be no wonder to read that Class 8 truck builders are offering more alternative-fueled trucks than ever along with a variety of newly put together spec packages that aim to boost diesel mpg. Truck OEMs are also bringing to market more integrated and optimized powertrains—all engineered specifically to cut down on fuel consumption. What’s more, truck makers are advancing yet further the aerodynamic sculpting of on-highway tractor models to lift their mpg performance.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: Ashton Express

    Aug 05, 2014
    Leased to Bruce Oakley Trucking, Ashton Express is a one-truck operation hauling bulk commodities and some regular freight to locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • Editor's Page: Rising rates?

    Jul 16, 2014
    Could freight rates for truckers increase 5 to 8% by year-end, with that rate spike occurring despite the continued sluggish economy? Rosalyn Wilson, senior business analyst for research firm Parsons and author of the annual State of Logistics Report, thinks so.
  • Business of Trucking: Plugging the drain

    Jul 16, 2014
    As the owner of a business, you need to regularly check daily revenue and expense numbers. But in doing so, are you missing something in the big picture that could spell the end of your business?
  • Cover Story: Trailers-renewing the fleet

    Jul 16, 2014
    There’s probably no greater conundrum for a fleet of any size these days than deciding whether to replace or refurbish equipment—especially as the sticker prices for new trucks and trailers continue to climb. For example, global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimated that in 2013 the upfront cost for new equipment climbed 2.7% over 2012, with the price of a new trailer climbing to between $30,000 and $50,000 depending on whether it’s a flatbed, dry van or refrigerated model.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: Blue Ridge Transport

    Jul 16, 2014
    Blue Ridge Transport specializes in open-deck transport, primarily in the southeast region. Commodities hauled include lumber, construction equipment, heavy equipment, motor vehicles and building materials.
  • Editor's Page: Public opinion

    Jun 03, 2014
    When it comes to making urban real estate investment decisions, public sector officials apparently rank infrastructure quality—especially transportation systems, telecommunication networks, and utility systems—as their top influencing factor, with infrastructure ranking second only to “consumer demand” by private sector developers. Those are just some of the interesting findings contained in a new report titled “Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City” released last month by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
  • Cover Story: New ways to stop cargo theft

    Jun 03, 2014
    It’s about as routine a situation as any you’ll find in trucking. And that’s what makes it so dangerous from a freight security perspective. A tractor arrives at the loading dock of ABC Trucking’s warehouse. The driver gets out and tells the dock supervisor, “Hey, I’m from XYZ Trucking and I’m due to pick up a load of widgets heading west to Utah. Traffic turned out to be a breeze today and I got here a few hours early. Can I hook up and go?”
  • Business of Trucking: Talk up your expertise

    Jun 03, 2014
    As we continue ahead with our activities for when times are slow in the freight business, we reach number five on our list: Meeting with your best customers. Use this opportunity to learn more about the people you rely on for your livelihood.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: North Coast Cartage

    Jun 03, 2014
    by Tim Brady, Business editor

    The purpose of “Spotlight on an American Trucker” is to bring our readership to life, by putting names and faces alongside their successes. If you know of a small or micro business that utilizes trucks in the course of doing business that you’d like us to feature in “Spotlight on an American Trucker,” please send their contact information to tbrady@writeuptheroad.com.

    northcoastOwner: Michael D. Collins, president; Kathy M. Collins, vice president
    In business: Since 1977
    Location: Peru, NY
    Website: www.northcoastcartage.com

    North Coast Cartage focuses on regional hauling within a 500-mi. radius. It has permits for Canada and the Lower 48, hauling everything from office furniture to powdered milk; newspaper inserts to motorcycles; and mulch to dog food and appliances.

    Do you run regularly scheduled routes or on-demand delivery?
    Over 37 years, our traffic lanes and customers have changed many times. At present we pick up at the Electrolux warehouse twice a week and do an overnight northbound delivery to Vermont. Southbound loads vary weekly. We also have time between the two trips to do a third, if we can find a round-trip that works.

    How is maintenance handled?
    We handle light maintenance such as grease jobs, oil changes, wiring problems, worn airline replacement, air chamber replacement, and pressure washing.

    What challenges do you face with maintenance?
    I use my Cummins Engine Road Relay, backed up by my Rand McNally GPS, to track routine maintenance and a pop-up to alert me when it’s time for preventive maintenance services. Second, I try to carry everything I need to do a small roadside repair. Major repairs are handled at outside shops, preferably one that’s local and we’ve used before.

    How do you minimize downtime? Mileage/time intervals on preventive maintenance?
    I put OTR free time to good use by checking tire air pressure, greasing the truck & trailer, putting on my jumpsuit and going under both units to look for anything that needs attention, etc. We perform grease jobs every 7,500 mi.; oil changes every 15,000.

    Do you stock parts or purchase as needed? If you stock parts, which ones?
    I try to stock many parts to ensure simple things don’t delay departure and affect delivery, e.g., engine oil, rear & trans lubes, oil test kits, ATF, washer fluid, antifreeze, spray lubes, heat gun, propane torch, grinders, drills and bits, assorted air tools, 60-gal. air tank, air filter, cab air filter, and assorted electrical parts.

    How do you ensure good tire mileage?
    I check tire pressure often, and don’t let tires get more than 3-4 lbs. out of spec. I watch wear patterns closely and rotate as determined by tire depth and wear patterns.

    How do you determine when it’s time to replace a truck/trailer?
    Normally, when I approach a million miles on my tractor, I’m looking to order a new replacement. Unfortunately, the new tractors have dependability problems, and being a one-truck operation, having my truck down for an extensive time would ruin our reputation for on-time service. I’ve had to rethink this and am trying to stay on top of the maintenance of our tractor (which is rolling up on a million miles), seeing if we can get a few more good years out of this one.

    Specifications for your trucks? Do you purchase used and customize them? Or order new trucks built to your specs?
    In the past, I’ve always purchased new, preferably with specs I ordered. I want a good turning radius, slippery sides for good fuel mileage, fuel-efficient tires, midrange power, double bunk, auxiliary heat and cooling, stationery fifth wheel set to perfectly balance the weight so there’s no need for a sliding fifth wheel, air ride suspension, and air ride cab.
  • Editor's page: Good news

    May 07, 2014
    An uptick in truck sales, gross domestic product growth (GDP) and potential rate increases have given fleets plenty of reason for hope this year.  John Larkin, managing director and head of transportation capital markets research for Wall Street firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., stressed in a recent research report that the U.S. economic GDP growth should “accelerate slowly” at 2% to 2.5%.
  • Business of trucking: Engage your employees in brainstorming to create innovate solutions

    May 07, 2014
    Albert Einstein’s theory that we must change our mentality to solve our problems is a fitting lesson for trucking, one that can be incorporated into your operation through the simple process of brainstorming.  Periods of slow freight are a perfect time to seek out ideas from those within your organization on how to improve the efficiency and profitability of your operation. Involve your bankers and insurance agents as well.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: Servall

    May 07, 2014
    Servall LLC was founded in 1963 . The Ken-Tenn area/Martin, TN, location opened in 1983. Its primary business focus is termite, pest control and home repair. The company provides services to customers with its fleet of 1/2 ton pickups, each carrying from 50- to 200-gal. tanks containing termiticides, pesticides, tools and equipment.
  • Cover story: Forging the best deal

    May 07, 2014
    What’s happening at dealers and with the OEMs they represent should benefit fleet owners open to tapping into changes being made to better serve a marketplace in flux. Trucking is evolving away from the days when fleets were largely islands unto themselves. To get the most out of their business relationships with dealers, fleets are wise to grasp ho
  • Business of Trucking: Climbing the educational ladder

    Apr 02, 2014
    by Tim Brady, Business editor

    Additional training can help keep employees happy and motivated

    Education leads to knowledge, and the more knowledge you have, the better you can understand your business. This helps create a more efficient operation, which then generates more profit. That’s why training is such an important part of any successful operation.
  • Editor's page: Female friendly

    Apr 02, 2014
    by Sean Kilcarr, editor

    An estimated 200,000 female truck drivers guiding big rigs up and down our nation’s asphalt ribbons make up roughly 5.2% of the overall truck driver population in the U.S. Finally, a new effort is underway to craft more “female-friendly” truck specs to make their work lives easier.
  • Cover Story: CSA - Compliance starts in the shop

    Apr 02, 2014
    by David Cullen, Contributing editor

    Shop talk—the best kind, anyway—has always revolved as much around safe operations as vehicle uptime and cost control. But since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rolled out its Compliance, Safety,
    Accountability (CSA) program, fleet owners have had to absolutely ensure that their maintenance personnel are walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: Carney McNicholas Inc

    Apr 02, 2014
    by Tim Brady, Business editor

    Carney McNicholas is an interstate agent for and shareholder of United Van Lines LLC. The primary focus of the company is the relocation of private property consisting of household goods and corporate or government assets. The company’s secondary focus is delivery and/or recovery of high value and ride-sensitive commodities requiring specialized equipment or heavy labor.
  • Editor's Page: At what cost

    Mar 07, 2014
    The mandate delivered by President Barack Obama back in February to the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks is going to raise something else as well: sticker prices.
  • Business of Trucking: Tune-up time

    Mar 07, 2014
    Last month we began our nearly year-long series on tasks you can undertake during periods of slow freight with a look at how scheduling maintenance chores can ensure your trucks are in tip-top shape. This month we take a look at upgrading computer systems and their software.
  • Cover story: Saving Equipment Cash

    Mar 07, 2014
    It should come as no surprise to fleets these days that commercial trucks continue to get more expensive as OEMs and related suppliers comply with a variety of emissions reduction and fuel efficiency mandates. So, how can fleets minimize the expense associated with their rolling stock—both at the time of purchase and over its lifecycle?
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: March 2014

    Mar 07, 2014
    The purpose of “Spotlight on an American Trucker” is to bring our readership to life, by putting names and faces alongside their successes. If you know of a small or micro business that utilizes trucks in the course of doing business that you’d like us to feature in “Spotlight on an American Trucker,” please send their contact information to tbrady@writeuptheroad.com.
  • Editor's Page: Eye on autos

    Feb 05, 2014
    It’s no secret that innovation is what keeps any industry healthy and capable of adapting to change—even if there’s no inkling that radical change may be on the horizon.
  • Business of Trucking: Scheduled downtime

    Feb 05, 2014
    You have many options on how to deal with slow periods of freight. One of the most beneficial is to bring trucks and trailers in for a good going-over by mechanics.
  • Cover Story: HOS - Out of time

    Feb 05, 2014
    The HOS rewrite by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is stinging carriers and drivers alike as well as their customers. And, says research drawn from the real world, stinging them good and hard.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker - February 2014

    Feb 05, 2014
    by Tim Brady, Business editor

    The purpose of “Spotlight on an American Trucker” is to bring our readership to life, by putting names and faces alongside their successes. If you know of a small or micro business that utilizes trucks in the course of doing business that you’d like us to feature in “Spotlight on an American Trucker,” please send their contact information to tbrady@writeuptheroad.com.

    spotlight febCompany: Coleman Trucking
    Owner: Scott Coleman
    In business: Since 1991
    Location: Union City, TN

    Coleman Trucking is focused on hauling bulk commodities.

    Do you have regularly scheduled routes or on-demand delivery?
    Both. The majority of our outbound freight is regularly scheduled routes and loads, and inbound is more on-demand or spot market freight.

    What programs do you have in place to ensure Compliance, Safety, Accountability compliance?
    CSA is an important part of our business. We have training programs for our drivers and specific inspection procedures both for drivers and for when a truck is in for maintenance and/or repairs.

    How is maintenance handled? Your own shop or jobbed out?
    Regularly scheduled main­­tenance is handled in-house. Major repairs are jobbed out. We use Tri-State International, the local International dealer, for most of our major repairs.

    What are three challenges you face with your maintenance program?
    Cost is the number-one challenge we face with our maintenance program. We reduce cost by handling most repairs in our company shop. Because we are a smaller trucking company, I handle most of the labor myself. Even though this minimizes the cost of minor repairs, it is not always feasible for me to be available. When I am not able to handle the maintenance of my trucks, I have it jobbed out.

    How do you handle the maintenance on your trucks and/or trailers to minimize downtime? What are your mileage/time intervals on preventive maintenance?
    To minimize downtime, oil is changed monthly or every 15,000 to 20,000 mi.; tires are maintained and replaced as needed; and trucks are cleaned and inspected weekly.

    How do you ensure good mileage from tires?
    Good mileage from tires is ensured through regular rotation, regularly checking air pressure, and constant inspection of tires at every opportunity by the driver.

    Do you stock any parts for your trucks or purchase as needed? If you stock parts, which ones?
    We generally keep a stock of tires, filters, oil, and anti­freeze. Other parts are purchased as needed.

    How do you determine when it’s time to replace a truck or trailer?
    Trucks are replaced when they are no longer cost-effective to operate.

    What are your specifications for your trucks? Are you able to find these on the used market? Do you purchase used and customize them to your specs or order new trucks built to your specs?
    I am able to find used trucks on the market and customize them to my specs. Both the weight and mileage of the trucks are especially taken into consideration because of the commodities we haul where the more weight we can get on a truck, the greater our revenue.

    What does your company do best?
    Our company strives to always be dependable and available to our customers.
  • Editor's Page: Lights and CSA

    Jan 14, 2014
    Who could’ve imagined the trouble the simple, humble tail light would cause truck operators within the context of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: January 2014

    Jan 14, 2014
    Bruce has been involved in trucking since 1978, starting as a driver for a private carrier. In 1982 he purchased his first truck and leased it with two separate motor carriers. He acquired his own status as a motor carrier in 1987 and has been operating as one ever since.
  • The 2013 Readers Rigs Grand Champion

    Dec 03, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    While flamboyance might work in Hollywood, it’s certainly not a trait that will help a tow truck operator gain much traction with customers.
    Yet Steve Sedberry feels that while hard work, determination, and a willingness to venture out into the dead of night or in bad weather remain the stock in trade for tow truck companies, standing out from the crowd doesn’t hurt.
  • Editor's Page: The new fight

    Dec 03, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    Trying to solve the ongoing truck driver shortage might have just gotten more difficult. Not only must the trucking industry wrestle with how to make pay, home time, and work conditions more attractive for the next generation of big rig operators, it’ll now have to deal with a negative perception that driving a truck for long stretches can lead to a significant increase in the risk of certain kinds of colon-related cancers in men.
  • Business of Trucking: Knowledge

    Dec 03, 2013
    by Tim Brady

    Knowledge is the bedrock of every success­ful business, and trucking’s no different. Success can be summed up by your profitability: Is it where it should be based on your revenue and the market(s) you serve?
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: December 2013

    Dec 03, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    The purpose of Spotlight on an American Trucker is to bring our readership to life, by putting names and faces alongside their successes. If you know of a small or micro business that utilizes trucks in the course of doing business that you’d like us to feature in Spotlight on an American Trucker, please send their contact information to tbrady@writeuptheroad.com.
  • Cover story: One oil does not fit all

    Dec 03, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    Complications are never a good thing in trucking, especially when they involve routine maintenance tasks such as changing engine oil. That’s one of the reasons lubricant makers struggled mightily over the years to craft engine oil blends that not only met strict chemical limits related to exhaust aftertreatment technology, but also to make them backward compatible so they could be used in new and old engines alike.
  • Editor's Page: Neighborly advice

    Nov 04, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    Standard & Poor’s reported the government shutdown shaved at least 0.6% off of annualized fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year, taking an estimated $24 billion out of the U.S. economy. Eli Lustgarten, senior vice president of economics with Longbow Securities, expects GDP growth of 2% to 2.5% for 2013 and 2014. But that was before the long-term impact of the shutdown and another potential Congressional showdown in January is factored in.
  • Business of Trucking: The way to pay

    Nov 04, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    Should you pay your drivers by the mile, by percentage, or by the hour? Truckers aren’t covered by the 1937 Fair Labor Standards Act, or by the federal minimum wage law, so the decision as to which method to pay truck drivers is left to each individual motor carrier. But, remember, you get what you pay for.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: November 2013

    Nov 04, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    “Spotlight on an American Trucker “ is a monthly feature that aims to bring American Trucker’s readership to life by putting names and faces alongside successes.
  • WIX American Trucker of the Year: Rusty Allen!

    Nov 04, 2013
    By Sean Kilcarr, editor

    A chance glance at a double-bunk cabover sparks a lifelong affiliation for hauling freight on the open road
  • Tax man taketh

    Oct 07, 2013
    Here’s a scary trend truckers should keep an eye on: adding local-level fuel taxes as a way to fund transportation projects. Nevada’s Clark County recently passed a two-year, 3¢/gal. tax hike that’s expected to raise $700 million for transportation projects across Southern Nevada.
  • Sip away

    Oct 07, 2013
    As we look at what’s happening across the globe, particularly in the Middle East and specifically Egypt, it reinforces how global our economy really is. Egypt controls the Suez Canal and a number of important pipelines in the area. Approximately 4 billion barrels of oil travel though the Suez Canal daily.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker - October 2013

    Oct 07, 2013
    The primary emphasis of Road Runner Driving Academy is to provide top-quality, hands-on training through small, personalized classes. Our philosophy is to respect you as an individual and challenge you to perform to your maximum potential as a leader in tomorrow’s transportation industry.
  • Cover story: Tires - A lifetime commitment

    Oct 07, 2013
    Tires need not be the problem child bedeviling your operating budget year after year by demanding premature care and costly attention. Not if you ensure everything within reason is done to baby tires along their path from cradle to grave—that is, from initial purchase to final disposal. “There’s rocket science when it comes to tire development, but not when it comes to tire maintenance,” points out Tom Fanning, director of replacement truck tire sales-North & Central America for Continental’s Vehicle Tire Group. He contends that what pays off most in the end is “simple but thorough attention” to the basics throughout a tire’s lifespan.
  • Editor's page: "Hours" of prose

    Sep 09, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    Decisions issued by judges can often become incomprehensible documents as they tend to be weighted down with ponderous terminology (adjudication, amicus curiae, and habeas corpus, just to name a few).
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker: September 2013

    Sep 09, 2013
    by Tim Brady

    Charles Kuhn started JK Moving Services in 1981. He was only 16 years old, but Kuhn saw the moving industry was in need of change. His vision for JK included an ongoing investment in state-of-the-art technologies, facilities and employee training. JK is now the third-largest independent moving company in the United States.
  • Businiess of Trucking: Run the numbers

    Sep 09, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    We all remember those awkward teenage years when our bodies grew faster than our coordination. Owning a trucking business is also a bit awkward during times of growth.
  • Finding & keeping drivers

    Sep 09, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    It’s no secret that the trucking industry is suffering from a shortage of drivers. How to solve that shortage, however, is becoming something of a mystery as relatively low pay and the challenges posed by living on the road for long stretches are turning off many potential recruits.
  • Editor's Page: Racing lessons

    Aug 12, 2013
    sean kilcarrBy Sean Kilcarr, Editor

    A lot of folks think motor racing is a waste of time and energy, especially when the talk turns to burning fuel and generating exhaust emissions. That might go double for European truck racing, where big rigs chase each other around Grand Prix-style tracks at 100 mph during the course of 40 or so official events between the months of March and October.

    Until you meet engineers such as Artur Klein, that is, as I got to do after spending a day at the famous Nürburgring Race Track outside Nürburg, Germany, last month.

    Klein serves as racing team manager for the engine research division of Europe’s MAN Truck & Bus AG. He told me that three weekends of truck racing equate to about three to four years worth of over-the-road European commercial truck operation and between 124,000 and 186,000 mi. That’s due in no small part to the extreme acceleration, deceleration, violent maneuvers, and hard braking actions these racing trucks endure.

    Many European trucking OEMs, especially engine makers, sponsor truck racing teams. So, what do engine makers learn? Well, Klein told me that four years ago MAN discovered that the metal material on some of its ball bearings didn’t withstand the strain, and that the tolerances for its piston rod connector pins weren’t up to snuff either. Changes made by the company to both resulted in a more robust on-highway tractor.
  • Business of Trucking: Unlocking the ball and chain

    Aug 12, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    A driver sitting with an empty, idle truck is a lost revenue opportunity

    ball chainWhat’s your focus when dispatching and developing freight lanes for your trucks? It seems a lot of carriers focus on getting their trucks back to the company’s yard or getting that truck “home,” which appears to make good business sense. After all, if your truckers don’t get home on a continued and regular basis, driver turnover occurs and it makes it very difficult to cover the needs of your shipping customers.

    But it’s the driver who needs home time, not the truck. A truck that is empty and not rolling is nothing but a financial ball and chain that stifles revenue production and interrupts your company’s cash flow. How do you separate the truck from the driver so an apparent conflict in objectives becomes a smooth-flowing, revenue-producing machine for both your carrier and your truckers?

    Getting that truck and trailer back within a reasonable distance of your office is a good goal; however, having good-paying tonnage aboard that brings money ‘home’ is an even better goal. Let’s look at some different ways to accomplish ‘bringing home the money’ that achieves your other goals of driver retention and keeping revenue flow where it needs to be.

    Develop specific freight lanes for each of your trucks and drivers. A freight lane, by definition, is a combination of loads that run in succession geographically.

    Let’s say you’re located in Kansas City, MO, and you have a local customer who ships to multiple locations: north to Chicago, east to Nashville, south to New Orleans, and west to Albuquerque. These loads are consistent every week. You own four trucks. Take each of these outbound destinations and they become the first leg of a freight lane for each truck. Then develop other profitable legs for each truck, which return it to Kansas City in time to load the next outbound load.

    We’ll use the Chicago freight leg to demonstrate in more detail how to develop a profitable lane. The objective of any freight lane is to generate the required revenue goal by the end of each month for each truck and trailer. For most general freight or refrigerated truckload carriers, that figure is typically around $20,000 per truck, depending on cost factors.

    In this example, that becomes our monthly goal. By creating a monthly revenue goal for each truck and driver rather than looking at how much a truck earns per mile, you’ve moved from trying to play basketball on a regulation court with a Solo cup and a ping-pong ball to playing the game with a regulation basket and ball. Skill is still required, but it’s a much easier target to hit.

    Say the Chicago load pays $1,100. The next load you broker from Chicago to Madison, WI, pays $270. From there, your next load is scheduled to Little Rock for $1,200. Then the next load in this lane picks up in North Little Rock and goes back to Naperville, IL, for $1,300. From there, the driver loads in Chicago and runs to Indianapolis for $300. The last load is from Indy to Olathe, KS, for $860.

    Add that up and the total revenue for the truck for the week is $5,030. And, over a four-week period, that would exceed the $20,000 revenue target.
    However, it’s not realistic to anticipate you’d find identical, consistent loads like this from week to week. While in our example the Kansas City to Chicago load would be consistent, it’s possible (and likely) you’d have to find other loads for some of the legs from week to week to meet your revenue goal.

    Typically, many shippers have products shipped to specific destinations on regular schedules. Some ship daily, some weekly, some are biweekly, every other week or even monthly.

    The challenge and goal in developing your legs and completing your lane for each truck is to become an expert in knowing the freight and who, when and where it’s shipped for each freight lane in which you run a truck. This means you’re ready for the unexpected, i.e., the load that is cancelled or delayed, weather or traffic delays, or the customer who changes the shipping schedule. It’s important to have a consistent freight lane that meets your weekly and monthly revenue goals.

    One thing most micro- and small carriers don’t consider when developing their business plans is the location of their drivers. Again using the Chicago freight lane, you (the owner) would need to look at that lane and determine where the longest delay will be for the trucker or truckers who run it.
    Anywhere in that lane where an overnight stay is consistently required before loading or unloading occurs is from where you need to hire your truckers. The reason for this is it’s far better for the driver to be home with family, even for a 10-hour break, than cooling his heels at a truck stop. This could be anywhere along the lane listed above.

    Let’s say the driver lives in Kansas City but has to lay over in Naperville every week. When he rolls into Olathe to deliver, if you have him loading right back out to Chicago he’s not going to be a happy driver for very long—especially if he has to stay in the truck near Naperville. If he lived in Naperville or an area nearby, however, he could spend that night at home, and every time he delivers to Olathe, he’d be ready to get out of Kansas City because he would be heading back home. A trucker with home time is always happier.

    The bottom line? Work on the specific freight lanes allotted to each truck for more efficiency. Not only will this keep the revenue flowing, but you will improve driver retention—bringing more money home for both your carrier and your truckers.

    Contact Tim Brady at tbrady@write­uptheroad.com or call 731-749-8567. Join Brady in the Trucking Business Community at www.truckersu.com.
  • 2014 Truck Review

    Aug 12, 2013
    by David Cullen, Contributing Editor

    American Trucker takes a peek inside each OEM’s Class 8 lineup

    Four new models are joining the ranks of heavy-duty trucks this year. The Volvo VNX and the Freightliner 122SD are for heavy-hauling over the road applications and the Kenworth T880 and Peterbilt Model 567 for work-truck applications.

    Other developments from Class 8 truck builders include the availability of two engines boasting SCR for the International ProStar.

    The hottest trend across the new-truck landscape is the more mpg, the better. For example Kenworth’s T880 features the Paccar MX-13 engine, characterized as a lightweight, fuel-efficient package, and Mack’s new high-horsepower Econodyne diesel is described as capable of maximizing fuel efficiency. The manufacturers are also expanding availability of alternatively fueled trucks, especially those powered by natural gas engines.

    No matter where or how you run, you’ll find this special section delivers a solid update on what’s new in new trucks.

    Autocar’s newest model remains the E3 Advanced Series hybrid cab/chassis truck. This model is aimed specifically at the refuse-hauling market. The OEM positions the E3 cab/chassis as “the industry’s lowest emission, fully functional Class 8 truck available today.” According to Autocar, the truck’s hybrid drive is capable of reducing fuel consumption by 30 to 50%, with typical savings coming in at around 45%. The company says that such a fuel-economy gain translates into a savings of up to 4,500 gals. per year in the average refuse-truck application.

    In addition, the OEM notes, those fuel savings come along with an environmental benefit as the hybrid drive reduces carbon-dioxide output by some 50 tons per truck. The E3 makes use of the trademarked Runwise hybrid module, which was developed for Autocar by partner-supplier Parker Hannifin. The Runwise module replaces the traditional automatic transmission in the standard refuse model, Autocar notes.

    The truck maker also continues to offer the Autocar ACX. According to the OEM, the ACX boasts the “strongest frame and cab in the industry and the best overall strength-to-weight ratio” as well as diesel and natural gas powertrain options.


    Western Star Trucks is not making any major product changes but will continue to offer “affordable tractors and rugged, fuel-efficient models suited for a range of haul applications, building off its success in the on-highway segment,” advises Guy Lemieux, marketing segment manager. He says the Western Star 4700 set-forward (SF) tractor “marries real trucking intelligence and innovative engineering in an affordable package” and calls it an ideal solution for bulk haul, local delivery and construction applications.

    wsThe 4700 tractor features a short 110-in. BBC for optimal maneuverability and a durable steel cab both to promote safety and provide long-term durability. This model also features one of the broadest power range offerings in a single truck model, according to Lemieux. The 4700 features power ratings from 260 to 470 hp. through its engine offerings, which include the Cummins ISL and the Detroit DD13. Transmission choices include Allison automatic, Eaton Fuller manual and the Eaton Fuller UltraShift Plus automated manual. “Overall, the 4700 tractor is a smart return on investment, combining rugged design, premium components, and a roomy, quiet interior for the ultimate workhorse model,” says Lemieux.

    According to the OEM, the Western Star 4900SB with Fuel Efficient (FE) package significantly reduces fuel consumption without sacrificing performance or style, thanks to its combination of aerodynamic engineering and Detroit engine technology. Lemieux says the 4900SB with FE package is “ideal for fleet, long-haul, bulk and manufacturing segments.” This model features a wraparound front bumper, underhood air cleaners, and sloped hood to improve overall fuel efficiency while maintaining classic Western Star exterior styling. It can be equipped with the Detroit DD13 or DD15TC engine with ratings of 350 to 505 hp. and 1,250-1,750 lbs.-ft. of torque, or the Cummins ISX with ratings of 400 to 500 hp. and 1,450-1,850 lbs.-ft. of torque.


    Caterpillar Inc. has released no further word on when it will debut the Cat CT680, the second model in its line of on-highway vocational trucks; however, the OEM had originally planned to do so in the first quarter of this year. Like its existing sibling, the set-back axle Cat CT660, the CT680 Class 8 model catwill be built in America and sold and serviced exclusively through the North American Cat Dealer network in the U.S. and Canada.

    According to Cat, the CT680 will feature a set-forward axle and will be offered in 116- and 122-in. BBC lengths. Engine options for the CT680 will include the Caterpillar CT11 diesel with ratings from 330 to 390 bhp; the CT13 with ratings from 410 to 475 bhp; and the CT15 with ratings from 435 to 550 bhp. The OEM said a “notable” transmission option for the CT680 will be the Cat CX31 automatic transmission. The CT680 will also offer other transmission options, including Eaton manual and UltraShift Plus vocational automated transmissions.

    Meanwhile, the Cat CT660, introduced in 2011 as a truck or tractor model, is offered in 116- and 122-in. BBC lengths. It can be powered by Cat CT11, CT13 and CT15 engines as well. And it offers the choice of a Cat CX31 automatic or various Eaton manual and automated transmissions.


    Freightliner Trucks has rolled out the new severe-duty 122SD vocational truck model. The OEM says the 122SD will join the 108SD and the 114SD models this month and “with numerous enhancements to the former Coronado SD,” the 122SD will be the cornerstone of the SD line of Freightliner severe-duty vocational trucks. With a GVW rating of up to 92,000 lbs. and a GCW rating of up to 160,000 lbs., the 122SD is engineered to haul heavy, oversized loads and can be configured for a variety of severe-duty applications such as logging, oil/gas field services, concrete mixing, specialty/heavy-haul, crane, dump, vocational on-highway and towing/recovery.

    flThe 122SD boasts a durable, non-corrosive aluminum SD cab re­inforced with e-coated steel, which meets stringent A-pillar impact, rollover and back wall impact tests. The OEM says that state-of-the-art adhesives and Henrob rivets further reinforce the ergonomically designed cab’s durable structure. The chassis features a broad offering of vocational suspension choices, and single- or double-channel frame rails have tensile strength of up to 120,000 psi and up to 5 million RBM. The truck is offered with new sleeper interior options, including cabinet nets and “extreme climate insulation.”

    “Not only did we put the 122SD through a variety of virtual and physical tests, we developed a customer forum that provided important feedback that helped steer our product development,” advises Mary Aufdemberg, Freightliner’s director of product marketing. “The result is a severe-duty vehicle that is engineered to handle the most challenging jobs with ease and efficiency, while delivering the performance and reliability customers expect.”

    Standard power for the 122SD is the OBD13-certified/GHG14-compliant Detroit DD1 TC engine. The Detroit DD13, DD16 and the Cummins ISX15 engines can also be spec’d. Engine ratings are available up to 600 hp. and 2,050 lbs.-ft. of torque. The truck is offered with a variety of Eaton manual and automated manual transmissions, including the Eaton Cobra shifter or Allison automatic transmission options with Gen 5 controls.

    Additional standard and optional components on the 122SD include West Coast-style door-mounted mirrors; severe-duty front cab mounts; impact-resistant rear window; lower radiator rock guard and an up to 1,700-sq.-in. radiator; new durable halogen headlights with replaceable glass lens reflectors; one-piece skid plate; 80,000-lb. rated “logger” front bumper; disc brakes; and an in-cab battery box for the day-cab version.

    In other news, Freightliner has introduced an integrated in-cab exercise and flexibility system. Dubbed the Freightliner In-Cab Training (FIT) system, the system is designed to provide drivers with full-body strength and conditioning workouts in the comfort of their own cabs. The system uses existing seat tether and bunk restraint mounting points for installing custom brackets.

    Navistar International’s biggest heavy-duty product news is that this spring it began shipping its on-highway ProStar Class 8 tractors powered by EPA-certified International MaxxForce 13L engines that include SCR exhaust aftertreatment systems. The first International ProStars with SCR engines were shipped in December 2012. Those trucks were powered by Cummins ISX 15L engines, which the OEM continues to offer in the ProStar.
    According to Navistar, the MaxxForce-powered trucks were shipped ahead of schedule, starting in April from its truck manufacturing plants in Springfield, OH, and Escobedo, Mexico.

    int“Delivering our 13L engine ahead of schedule is another important milestone for Navistar, and it completes our transition to SCR-based, heavy-duty engine offerings,” says Troy Clarke, Navistar’s president & CEO. “We continue to receive great customer feedback on the refined 13L engines we’re delivering today. And customers will continue to see outstanding levels of quality, reliability and uptime with our 13L engine combined with the proven Cummins SCR aftertreatment system.”

    Navistar has also “relaunched” its International 9900i heavy-haul and PayStar 5900 SBA (set back axle) vocational truck models as both truck models are now available with the high-horsepower Cummins ISX15 engine. Production of both of these truck models resumed in April. According to the OEM, the “proven ISX15 engine offers robust electronic controls and horsepower ratings that range from 400 to 600 hp. with 1,450–2,050 lbs.-ft. of torque for excellent power and performance” in these models.

    The 9900i is now available exclusively with the ISX15 engine, while the PayStar 5900 SBA can be ordered as well with International’s MaxxForce 13 engine, which also includes SCR aftertreatment. That engine comes in horsepower ratings ranging from 365 to 475 with torque ratings from 1,250 to 1,700 lbs.-ft.

    According to Clarke, the Cummins ISX15 is also slated to become available in the OEM’s premium LoneStar highway tractor “at a date to be determined.” Clarke says the truck and engine builder now aims “to give customers what they want; there is ample demand in the market for both 13L and 15L diesels across our heavy-duty portfolio.”

    Clarke also says the OEM is committed to making further efficiency improvements to its truck models, such as through more advanced aerodynamics. He pointed out that the OEM’s “Project Horizon” vehicle, which it showed off publicly at the Mid-America Trucking Show, is not so much a concept vehicle as it is a demonstration project that showcases what he called near-term possibilities for the ProStar highway tractor that will reach the market in 24 to 36 months. Clarke notes that those improvements will amount to “a mid-cycle redesign of the ProStar.”


    Kenworth Truck has launched a new Class 8 truck model—the T880 vocational truck—and a 52-in. mid-roof sleeper configuration for its T680 tractor. According to Kenworth chief engineer Kevin Baney, key attributes of the T880 include a stamped aluminum cab with more interior space; a panoramic windshield for enhanced visibility; triple-sealed doors; a five-piece hood for easier and faster repairs; air-assisted hydraulic clutch; complex reflector headlamps; and new lightweight, factory-installed lift axles.

    kwThe vocational truck is engineered for work applications, including dump, mixer, refuse, and heavy haul. It complements Kenworth’s heavy-duty vocational lineup, joining the T800, T440, W900S and C500.

    The T880 comes standard with the 12L Paccar MX-13 engine. With its high-end ratings of 500 hp. and 1,850 lbs.-ft. of torque, according to the OEM, the Paccar MX-13 engine provides “a lightweight, fuel-efficient engine option for vocational applications,” including those over 100,000 lbs. The T880 also is available with the Cummins ISX15 engine, rated up to 600 hp. and 2,050 lbs.-ft. of torque.

    The truck is available in a 116.5-in. BBC and a 122.5-in. BBC standard length with two hood configurations. One hood is designed specifically to accommodate the company’s 12.9L Paccar MX-13 engine, while the other, larger hood covers the Cummins ISX15 engine option. Baney notes that Paccar updated the MX-13 for the 2013 model year, reducing its weight by 100 lbs. and improving fuel economy by some 3.5% over the previous version. It also offers onboard diagnostics and more engine ratings, up to 500 hp. and 1,850 lbs.-ft. of torque.

    The T880 uses Kenworth’s 2.1-meter-wide, stamped aluminum cab. It has 23 in. of room between the seats. It comes with either the premium Diamond VIT or Vantage trim levels and in Sandstone Tan and Slate Gray interior colors.

    The T880 is available with five factory-installed lightweight Watson & Chalin lift axles, including a 10,000-lb. capacity offering for the first time and a 20,000-lb. version offering a 200-lb. weight saving. Also available are new steering gears for improved feedback and increased wheel cut for greater maneuverability, the truck maker notes.

    Kenworth says the 52-in. mid-roof sleeper configuration for the T680 tractor is designed to accommodate the need of tanker and flatbed fleets; however, the OEM offers an aerodynamic roof cap as well for its mid-roof sleeper for dry van-trailer operations, noting that that configuration offers more upper bunk storage space as well.

    The OEM has also developed a special demonstration vehicle dubbed the “T680 Advantage” to showcase the possibilities for fuel economy savings if fleets engage in comprehensive spec’ing efforts that integrate the powertrain, tractor and trailer as a single unit. “We’re trying to show fleets how to develop tractor-trailers as a complete package, one that maximizes operational savings for them,” Baney says.


    Mack Trucks has unleashed a new high-horsepower 13L Econodyne diesel and two new suspensions, one for its on-highway tractors and the other for its vocational truck models. The OEM says its new Mack MP8 Econodyne+ is a “powerful and high-performing engine ideal for on-highway customers who require additional muscle to move their loads.” Available in Mack Pinnacle on-highway models, the 13L MP8 Econodyne+ engine produces 505 hp. with 1,860 lbs.-ft. of torque when operating in either of the top two gears. According to Mack, this capability “maximizes fuel efficiency while providing the necessary power to help drivers conquer long and steep grades.”

    mackMack says its new Twin Y air suspension is the industry’s first suspension to use an innovative Y-shaped high-strength steel design. The OEM points out that it delivers “unmatched comfort, handling and fuel efficiency for highway customers desiring a smoother, more stable ride.” In addition, the Twin Y is up to 403 lbs. lighter than other air suspensions. The Twin Y has been field-tested by customers for more than 3 million mi. and is available on Mack’s Pinnacle Axle Back and Axle Forward models. It features Mack S38 and S40 Series axles with C125/126, C150/151, and 200 Series carriers.

    The OEM says its new Mack mRIDE spring suspension is offered with Mack axles and is “ideal for vocational customers demanding a durable, stable ride with greater articulation.” Paired with Mack C150/151 Series axle carriers, the mRIDE is available on the Mack Granite, Titan by Mack, Mack Pinnacle Axle Forward and Mack TerraPro trucks. “Customers want a durable, rugged truck that gets the job done, but they also demand outstanding performance, handling and comfort,” says John Walsh, vice president of marketing. “This is where Mack excels. The fully integrated Mack Twin Y and mRIDE suspensions featuring our proprietary Mack axles offer improved stability, fuel efficiency, and ultimately a greater ROI for our customers.”

    The design of the Mack Twin Y air suspension includes two stamped high-strength steel Y-shaped blades per wheel end. Clamping the axle with both upper and lower axle seats, the Twin Y blades greatly reduce suspension windup and significantly improve tire traction and braking control. They will also increase tire life by up to 25%, according to the OEM. As for the mRIDE, Mack says the use of leaf springs over four separate rubber block packs provide stability and articulation while also allowing the clearance needed for larger tires and brake components required in certain applications.

    Mack has also rolled out a 12L LNG-powered Pinnacle Axle Back model for on-highway applications, noting that this option expands Mack’s natural gas lineup to the highway segment. The LNG-fueled Pinnacle day cabs are powered by Cummins Westport ISX 12G natural gas engines, which are factory-installed by Mack. The OEM notes it offers natural gas-powered TerraPro low-entry and TerraPro cabover refuse-truck models. According to Mack, the company plans to introduce a natural gas-powered version of its Granite vocational model later this year.


    Peterbilt Motors has rolled out the Model 567, which the OEM says is designed to meet the severe-service and high-performance demands of vocational fleets. The new truck is the result of extensive research and development, according to Peterbilt. The 567 will be offered in 121- and 115-in.-BBC configurations as either a day cab or with a selection of detachable sleeper configurations. It will be available with single, tandem or tridem drive axles and a variety of lift axles. The truck is powered by the Paccar MX-13 engine in ratings of up to 500 hp. and 1,850 lbs.-ft. of torque. A Cummins 12L engine is also available, and Peterbilt says a compressed natural gas option is “a future part of the program.”

    The Model 567 can be spec’d with a wide variety of heavy-duty components and in a number of configurations for increased payloads and optimized weight distribution. It is available in a set-back front axle configuration for increased maneuverability in congested worksites and with steer axle ratings up to 22,000 lbs. An angled steering gear installation further improves maneuverability by increasing wheel cut by up to 9 deg. over other designs, reducing curb-to-curb turning diameter by up to 9 ft.

    The new model also comes standard with front air disc brakes to provide straight-line braking stability and significantly increased brake maintenance intervals. Complementing air disc brakes, the standard electronic stability control system provides added stability and traction by applying the brakes when excessive wheel slip or a critical stability threshold is detected.

    Other key features of the Model 567 include an enhanced forward-lighting system; a “panoramic” windshield with narrower A-pillars for improved visibility; a lighter-weight, stiffer chassis design to improve ride and handling and reduce noise; and an interior available in Platinum and Prestige trim levels.
    According to Peterbilt, the stainless steel oval mesh grille and surround provide enhanced protection from gravel and road debris, while a new Metton hood is designed to absorb many impacts that could shatter or crack other materials. In addition, the hood pivot system has a protection feature designed to direct energy around the cooling module in the event of an impact.

    The OEM has also added a lightweight, 117-in.-BBC, mid-length version of the Model 579. It will be available with the Paccar MX-13 engine and is designed to offer “excellent maneuverability and outstanding visibility, while maintaining the Model 579’s aerodynamic characteristics.” It can be configured as a day cab or with a full range of sleepers.

    Other additions to Peterbilt’s product line include an 80-in. sleeper option for the Model 579, an enhanced interior for the Model 587, and extensions to its natural gas engine lineup. The OEM notes it has also made enhancements to its SmartNav navigation system.


    Volvo Trucks has launched a new heavy-haul tractor and will be adding to its Class 8 alternative-fuel offerings in the next two years. Stating it aims to broaden the appeal of its product line in the North American market, the OEM has rolled out the VNX heavy-haul tractor, which is designed for “extreme” gross-weight applications. It is powered by a Volvo D16 diesel rated for 600 hp. and 2,050 lbs.-ft. of torque that is mated to the Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission.

    volvoDeveloped for applications up to 225,000 lbs., the VNX will be available this fall in 6x4 and 8x4 configurations. Front axle ratings will range from 16,000 to 20,000 lbs. with parabolic springs. Rear axle capacities will range from 46,000 to 52,000 lbs. in regular, dual-track and wide-track tandem configurations. A 20,000-lb. steerable pusher axle will be available.

    Also new from the OEM is the Volvo Blade air suspension for its VNL and VNM models. According to Volvo, the Blade suspension features paired high-strength steel blades for each wheel end that are attached to the axle using the upper and lower axle seats. With that setup, the design acts to control “wind up” for smoother and more effective braking and improved traction.

    The OEM has revealed it will begin limited production of VNL models powered by the alternative fuel dimethyl ether (DME) in 2015. According to Volvo, DME can be produced from a variety of biomass waste materials or from natural gas, and it offers CO2 reductions of up to 95% compared to diesel. Handling and storage of DME is similar to propane, Volvo says, and it does not require cryogenic or high-pressure storage.

    The truck maker says modifications needed to fuel the Volvo D13 engine with DME are relatively minor and will not require the use of diesel particulate filters. In addition to the CO2 reduction and handling benefits, DME is similar to diesel in performance and efficiency and is non-toxic, says Volvo. And unlike natural gas, it is a compression-ignition fuel that does not require spark or diesel-pilot injection. It also has enough storage density to be suitable for long-haul applications or for trucks fitted with vocational bodies.

    Volvo points out that the addition of DME-powered vehicles will expand its alternative-fuel product range, which already includes compressed natural gas-powered Volvo VNM and VNL day cabs. The OEM says it will introduce its proprietary D13-LNG (liquefied natural gas) engine in both VNL day cabs and sleeper models next year. Volvo notes that the LNG-fueled D13, which uses compression-ignition technology developed by Westport Innovations, uses a small amount of diesel fuel to ignite the LNG to provide “diesel-like durability and performance.”


    Western Star Trucks is not making any major product changes but will continue to offer “affordable tractors and rugged, fuel-efficient models suited for a range of haul applications, building off its success in the on-highway segment,” advises Guy Lemieux, marketing segment manager. He says the Western Star 4700 set-forward (SF) tractor “marries real trucking intelligence and innovative engineering in an affordable package” and calls it an ideal solution for bulk haul, local delivery and construction applications.

    wsThe 4700 tractor features a short 110-in. BBC for optimal maneuverability and a durable steel cab both to promote safety and provide long-term durability. This model also features one of the broadest power range offerings in a single truck model, according to Lemieux. The 4700 features power ratings from 260 to 470 hp. through its engine offerings, which include the Cummins ISL and the Detroit DD13. Transmission choices include Allison automatic, Eaton Fuller manual and the Eaton Fuller UltraShift Plus automated manual. “Overall, the 4700 tractor is a smart return on investment, combining rugged design, premium components, and a roomy, quiet interior for the ultimate workhorse model,” says Lemieux.

    According to the OEM, the Western Star 4900SB with Fuel Efficient (FE) package significantly reduces fuel consumption without sacrificing performance or style, thanks to its combination of aerodynamic engineering and Detroit engine technology. Lemieux says the 4900SB with FE package is “ideal for fleet, long-haul, bulk and manufacturing segments.” This model features a wraparound front bumper, underhood air cleaners, and sloped hood to improve overall fuel efficiency while maintaining classic Western Star exterior styling. It can be equipped with the Detroit DD13 or DD15 TC engine with ratings of 350 to 505 hp. and 1,250-1,750 lbs.-ft. of torque, or the Cummins ISX with ratings of 400 to 500 hp. and 1,450-1,850 lbs.-ft. of torque.








  • Editor's Page: Tap or say?

    Jul 15, 2013
    Thomas Schalk, vice president of voice technology for Agero, a telematics service provider, believes the time is ripe to add what he calls a “voice command” structure to motor vehicles while ensuring such verbal interfaces don’t create distractive risks of their own.
  • Business of Trucking: Modern approach

    Jul 15, 2013
    The temptation for many truckers in today’s logistics business environment is to consider a revolution—an insurrection of sorts. Why? With new regulations coming down the pike, not only from Washington but every state capital, the increasing cost of equipment and labor, and the ups and downs of fuel costs, it’s becoming an effort in futility to set and maintain profitable rates and reasonable revenue levels.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker- July 2013

    Jul 15, 2013
    Danny Larcon Heating and Air currently has 12,500 sq. ft. of office, shop and warehouse space to accommodate all aspects of residential and light commercial heating, air and electrical work. The company has 14 vehicles and 21 employees and has been in business since 1999.
  • Cover Story: Shifting Pattern

    Jul 15, 2013
    To shift or not to shift? That is the question facing many trucking firms these days where truck transmissions are concerned. And increasingly the decision is to favor non-shifting technology in order to improve fuel economy and attractiveness of the truck driver job profile as well.
  • Trucks at Work Blog

    Jul 01, 2013

    sean kilcarrSean Kilcarr’s Trucks at Work blog – hosted on the web site of American Trucker’s sibling publication, Fleet Owner magazine – garnered a Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism award in 2010, which is considered the “Pulitzer Prize of the business media” and given out every year by American Business Media. The group awarded “Trucks at Work” its top honors that year for the way the blog combined text, photos, and video to illustrate the many different issues affecting all levels of the trucking industry.


    Sean strives to tackle and write about issues in ways that are "real."   Is a worthy read each and every time.  Be sure to follow Sean through his escapades exploring the trucking industry!

  • Editor's Page: Drowsy Driving

    Jun 03, 2013
    We’ve heard time and again that “drowsy driving” poses a major safety threat to the motoring public. But how big is this threat, really? Well, a report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this year tried to answer that ...
  • Business of Trucking: Trucking & terrorism

    Jun 03, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    Know what to look for to protect yourself and your vehicle

    tim bradyWith recent events involving bombs detonating in large crowds and poisons sent through the mail to our elected officials, we’ve learned once again that we must not let down our guard against terrorism, be it international or domestic. It’s an absolute must that every trucking operation, regardless of size, monitors and evaluates its terrorism risk assessment. The objective is to reduce or eliminate the potential that one of your trucks could be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

    Let’s look at potential threats and from where they emanate.

    First of all, there are terrorist threats called “homegrown” and “lone wolf.” These are individuals who are not connected to a specific group and who plan, prepare and execute a terrorist act.

    A lone wolf comes in all forms and ideologies and operates all over the world. There is no single common denominator or profile for a lone wolf, but there are some traits shared by many of them:
    • Lone wolves do not ‘work and play well’ with others and often live alone and out of touch with society.
    • They post manifestos.
    • They have an increased interest in violence.
    • They acquire excessive quantities of weapons or explosives.
    • They have a need to correct a perceived injustice.
    A loner of this nature is much more difficult to detect and stop than a typical terrorist cell or group. This type of person just doesn’t show up on the law enforcement radar often. Many exhibit anti-government, anti-religion, racial prejudice, or disruptive behaviors that are apparent to those in close contact with them. Because of the protections afforded Americans under the First Amendment, these behaviors often are not considered crimes or even dangerous enough to warrant an investigation.

    In reality, there’s a far greater possibility a trucker in the U.S. is going to be the victim of a robbery or hijacking. A criminal gang may also research the trucker’s movements and steal the truck and trailer for the load he’s carrying. While these crimes aren’t considered acts of terrorism, they are the largest strong-arm criminal threat to the trucker, shipper and carrier.

    The due diligence procedures a trucker needs to follow to avoid these criminal situations are the same procedures to avoid becoming a tool a terrorist can use. If the trucker doesn’t leave himself open to becoming the victim of a robbery or a hijacking, then he’s also protected himself from being used in a terrorist plot.

    The single greatest activity a trucker can undertake to avoid becoming a crime statistic is to be aware of the surroundings. Be selective where you park. Don’t get out of the truck if your gut tells you otherwise. Walk in wide-open spaces, not between trailers or buildings. And stay out of dark parking lots and alleys. Use plain common sense.

    Since Sept. 11, 2001, there hasn’t been a single terrorist attack in the U.S. carried out with the use of an 18-wheeler, despite continual threats. This is not to say that it’s impossible, but to date the closest this situation has come to occurring was when packages from Yemen were shipped via UPS.
    So, what’s the greatest terrorist threat to truckers and trucking companies in the U.S.? The biggest threat posed is one in which a truck or container will be used as a delivery device for a bomb. As to those UPS packages previously mentioned, that plot was discovered and foiled. But who’s to say this can’t be tried with a 20 ft., 40 ft. or larger shipping container?

    On April 18, 2011, The Journal of Commerce published an article concerning a bill in committee before Congress to reauthorize the 2006 Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act. The original act included a provision, with a July 2012 deadline, for scanning all containers before they board a U.S.-bound vessel. Now, opponents of that provision are trying to have it suspended.

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the original authors of the SAFE Port Act, said, “The 100% effort was misguided and provides a false sense of security. It would also impose onerous restrictions on the flow of commerce, costing billions with little additional security benefit.”
    As of April 14, 2013, the S.832 SAFE Port Reauthorization Act is still in committee.

    Many overseas containers are scanned as they exit U.S. ports, being hauled by U.S. truckers to their U.S. destinations. In my opinion, that’s a bit late to discover a biological or radioactive terrorist device—when it’s already in the U.S.

    What does this mean to the average trucker who hauls shipping containers from U.S. ports? That trucker won’t have the security of knowing that the contents of the container match what’s listed on the manifest.

    As truckers and trucking company owners, we are America’s first line of defense against any terrorists using trucking as a delivery method for one of their heinous acts. It’s our responsibility and obligation to be observers with due diligence for the security of our personnel and trucking operations.

    What should truckers be doing when it comes to homeland security? Trucker and motor carrier security is the same whether you’re talking about personal safety from domestic criminal activity or terrorist attack. Always use common sense, and know what’s going on around you at all times. Never let your guard down, and trust your instincts.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker - June 2013

    Jun 03, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    liggonLiggon Transport Inc.
    Evansville, IN
    Keith White, Owner


    How long have you been in business?  One and one-half years.

    What is the primary focus of your business?  We are a flatbed operator hauling steel coils for the auto industry.

    Do you have regularly scheduled routes? We do both scheduled routes and on-demand pickup and delivery.

    How are major repairs and maintenance handled?  We lease our trucks through Ryder, so they handle all the repairs through the maintenance agreement. We pay so many cents per mile and they handle all maintenance, repairs and towing.

    What three challenges do you face with your maintenance program? How do you resolve each of these maintenance, repairs and towing?  That’s the great thing about having the maintenance agreement through Ryder. For a small operation like ours, it takes all the challenges out of the equation. They even provide a replacement truck if they can’t get the truck needing repair back on the road in a timely manner.

    Do you stock any parts for your trucks or purchase as needed? If you stock parts, which ones?  No. We purchase as needed or just stop in at a Ryder shop to have the in-stock part installed.

    How do you handle maintenance intervals on your trucks and/or trailers to minimize downtime?  All this is handled through the maintenance program.We just provide the mileage on each truck, and Ryder tells us when to have it available for maintenance. We have no downtime because they provide a loaner truck to complete a run if necessary.

    How do you determine when it’s time to replace a truck or trailer?  This is all determined by the lease and maintenance agreement with Ryder. They handle all those details.

    What are your specifications for your trucks? Are you able to find these on the used market?  We have set specifications that are put in place by Ryder for their lease program.

    What programs do you have in place to ensure CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) compliance for your trucks and or trailers? We use the Ryder RydeSmart System to keep our equipment in compliance. One stop and it’s all taken care of. (RydeSmart is a full-featured GPS fleet location, tracking, and vehicle performance management system offered to Ryder’s full-service lease customers.)

    What does your company do best?  We provide great service in a timely manner by exceeding all expectations. We pride ourselves on safety, employing qualified, respectful drivers who enjoy working in an environment that is focused on providing stellar customer service. This philosophy defines how we do business and is the reason we have earned our reputation for excellence.
  • Cover Story: New or used?

    Jun 03, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr, Editor

    With old trucks getting older and new trucks getting more expensive, the market has changed

    Old trucks are getting older, yet new trucks keep getting costlier. What’s a fleet to do, especially when freight rates still remain flat, making the money required for equipment reinvestment strategies extremely hard, if not impossible, to acquire?

    The strategy many fleets settled on in recent times revolved around keeping trucks longer and buying late-model/low-mileage equipment when possible. This allowed them to avoid mandatory emissions control systems that have pushed new-truck sticker prices up an additional $30,000 over the last six years or so.

    cover story juneThat works as long as the supply of late-model/low-mileage equipment remains robust. Now, however, that’s changing, according to Eric Starks, president of research firm FTR Associates. “There’s been a tightening of supply in the used Class 8 market especially, with a growing amount of older, higher mileage equipment and a falloff in the late-model/low-mileage units everyone wants,” he says.

    “Those prime late-model/low-mile­age units are just not there anymore because for several years new-truck production fell to record lows,” Starks explains. “And those are the years that would nominally provide the type of used trucks the market is looking for right now.”

    DRAWDOWN
    Data compiled by used-truck dealer chain Arrow Truck Sales shows that by 2011, the used-truck pipeline started drawing on the Great Recession years of low Class 8 new-truck production and shipment volumes. As a result, availability of highly prized three- to four-year-old trucks with 300,000 to 400,000 mi. on the odometer dropped 35% in 2011 compared to 2010, followed by another 20% decline in 2012.

    This year Arrow projects that availability of late-model/low-mile­age tractors should fall another 11%, as that’s when the used-truck market will be relying on the supply of Class 8 trucks built in 2009.

    Still, when it comes to the used-truck market, it’s not all bad, stresses Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst for ACT Research. During a speech at the National Private Truck Council’s annual meeting this year, Vieth explained that used-truck valuations are still high, hovering in the $50,000 range on average. Yet there are so many old trucks in the nation’s fleet right now that those levels may not hold.

    On top of that, the average mileage for a truck at trade-in is about 575,000 mi.; thus, Vieth predicts a fall-off in trades between 2014 and 2016.
    “If there is a reason to go out and buy new trucks, this is it: improved fuel economy,” he says. “Trucks have jumped from delivering about 6 mpg to 8 mpg and that is huge. For a truck that operates over 100,000 mi. per year, it can mean an annual fuel savings of 4,200 gals.”

    According to data from ACT, that may be one reason why order cancellation rates are the lowest they have been in two and one-half years, with the truck order backlog now stretched out to about four months.

    Still, finding the money to buy new Class 8s sporting better fuel economy seems to be a growing stumbling block.

    Derek Leathers, president and COO of TL carrier Werner Enterprises, said that isn’t going away anytime soon. Speaking at the ALK Technology Summit in May, Leathers said that while Werner’s average tractor age now stands at 2.3 years, the company had to invest some $650 million in new equipment over the last three years to reach that mark.

    AGING TRUCKS
    By contrast, as a whole the truckload industry average tractor age is now 6.6 or 6.7 years, up from 5.5 years less than a decade ago, he pointed out.

    “To claw back from 6.6 years to get to 5.5 years, the industry would have to spend $24 billion within a 24-month window,” Leathers emphasized. “I don’t know where that money comes from. Banks are not lined up to lend money to an industry whose return on assets at this point is still very unimpressive.”

    Saddled with aging trucks, significantly higher prices for new replacement vehicles, and banks unwilling to fund fleet capital requirements means that “fleets are slowly shrinking” in his view.

    “They’re trading two or three old trucks for [every] new one,” Leathers noted. “And because they can’t afford new trucks, the cost of maintenance [for the older trucks] puts them in a death spiral.”

    That’s the key issue when relying on excessively older equipment, says FTR’s Starks. “Those higher maintenance costs for older equipment simply make it tough to make money,” he explains.

    For such reasons, Jake Civitts, director of used equipment for Paccar Financial Corp. (PFC), stresses that fleets and independent operators alike need to do their homework when it comes to analyzing a used truck’s history before taking ownership.

    “With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program requiring truck operators to be much more vigilant about the safety of the equipment they operate, the days of buying used trucks nearly sight unseen are over,” he cautions.

    STILL A DEAL
    That being said, and despite the almost certain longer-term potential for higher maintenance costs, used trucks can remain a good deal in several ways if buyers play their cards right, Civitts notes.

    First, buying used trucks can often allow independent operators and fleets the opportunity to go after business that may not provide standard operating margins, he explains.

    Second, financing used trucks usually provides an owner with a much lower monthly payment than financing new trucks, according to Civitts.
    With state and federal roadside inspectors looking closely at equipment, particularly for mechanical conditions that would likely cause an accident or breakdown, he emphasizes that fleets and single operators need to be much more vigilant about inspecting equipment and checking maintenance records when it comes to acquiring used iron today.

    “If you’re not fully comfortable with the idea of buying a truck from someone without inspecting it first, then don’t,” he says. As a result, he recommends conducting a full inspection before buying, paying particular attention to the truck’s brake systems, coupling devices, exhaust systems, frames, fuel systems, lamps, electrical systems and batteries, steering mechanisms and kingpins, suspensions, tires, wheels, rims and hubs.

    “Use the same pre- and post-trip inspection sheets you or your drivers use and look for conditions that could affect your safety score if you were operating the truck that same day,” Civitts adds. “If possible, ask to see recent inspection reports or maintenance records associated with the truck.”
    Since mileage is on the rise, the key metric used-truck buyers need to focus on in today’s market is value. Based on data points gleaned from PFC’s used-truck centers, Civitts says four key specs help drive the value of a used truck, making it more attractive and productive and lowering its operating cost:
    • Transmission. A convertible 9- to 13-spd. transmission, a manual 13-spd. transmission, or a manual 18-spd. transmission is most appealing. According to Civitts, manual transmissions that offer shorter shifting ranges provide more operational flexibility and can add as much as $4,000 to the value of the truck.
    • Interior. Lower quality interiors may seem cost-effective, but they can show considerable wear. Used-truck buyers should look for premium interiors because they not only look good, but also hold more value and can make for a more comfortable and productive working environment.
    • Fifth wheel. An air-slide fifth wheel will offer you more flexibility for your operation by making it easier for your truck to haul different trailers with varying weight characteristics.
    • Aerodynamic fairings. “They make a truck much more fuel-efficient, lowering operating costs,” Civitts says. “Plus, your trucks become eligible for EPA SmartWay certification, which may be required by your customers.”
    You also need to pay close attention to the type of engine and emissions control system in a used truck as well, he stresses. “If the truck is equipped with a diesel particulate filter, check its current condition and whether it has been cleaned at regular intervals,” Civitts notes. “Even if you won’t be operating your used truck in California, consider choosing used trucks that meet California Air Resources Board requirements over ones that don’t.”

    Until recently, the model year was the main factor in establishing the value of a used truck and that made sense as truck components were fairly similar from year to year, Civitts says. Thus, the older the truck, the greater its maintenance needs, he explains, so a newer used truck was almost always worth more than an older one. But that’s not always true anymore.

    “That’s changed in the last few years, as mileage has become the most important indicator of a used truck’s value,” Civitts points out. “Thanks to new emissions equipment, different model-year trucks are not quite comparable. Today, the first question you should ask about a used truck is, ‘What’s the mileage?’”

    Obviously, the most desirable, highest value used trucks will have 300,000 to 400,000 mi. on them, while lower value but still desirable trucks will show 400,000 to 500,000 mi. on the odometer. It’s really up to the fleet as to what it is comfortable with both from an equipment and financial standpoint.

    Telematics may transform trucking’s view of trailers
    Technology is changing the way the industry views trailers, from deployment to useful life. “We view remote asset management as becoming more critical to the operational and financial success of trucking companies,” explains Henry Popplewell, general manager and senior vice president for trailer telematics provider SkyBitz.

    “Through remote asset tracking, trailers are deployed where they need to be and available assets are quickly identified, which helps lower costs by eliminating out-of-route miles, and fewer miles driven translate into fuel savings,” he points out.

    “Enabling visibility of trailers, shipping containers, and cargo while on the move…improves customer satisfaction, just-in-time logistics, and dispatch operations,” Popplewell adds. “In effect, trailer tracking and remote asset management makes the truck and fleet smarter.”

    Those are just some of the reasons why global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan believes the next five years will see immense change and growth within the commercial semi-trailer market in North America.

    “The proliferation of advanced semi-trailer technologies will be driven by three crucial factors: strengthening of the regulatory environment, rising fuel prices, and an aging trailer population,” notes Wallace Lau, a research analyst with the firm. “Fleets are looking towards advanced trailer technologies to enhance and optimize fleet productivity through the usage of telematics, safety systems, trailer aerodynamics, and chassis systems.”

    SkyBitz’s Popplewell adds that telematics can play a role in the trailer maintenance arena, pointing out that his firm’s system can provide tire pressure monitoring for lowering maintenance costs. “This helps lower tire cost per mile and avoid costly blowouts or run flats,” he explains.

    The ability to retrofit such technology onto existing trailers is also expected to become a hot topic. Frost & Sullivan’s Lau says that due to the recessionary environment over the past four years, fleets have postponed new equipment purchases—extending the average age of semi-trailers to almost 8.5 years compared to under 6 years before the recession hit.

    “In turn, this has created a backlog of demand for replacement, as fleets now need new equipment and advanced technology,” he stresses. He adds that the North American semi-trailer market saw strong demand in 2012 with about 248,000 units produced, a 31,000-unit increase from 2011.
    Frost & Sullivan also projects that advanced trailer technologies, everything from aerodynamic devices to safety and telematics systems, will help boost total market revenues for such items from $2.04 billion in 2011 to some $3 billion by 2018.

    “Yet with increasing competition, all of these technologies have and continue to compete for the purchase dollars of fleet managers, which leads to certain segments growing at the expense of others,” Lau cautions.

    The second big trend Popplewell sees is that trucking and logistics companies and shippers will look at the delivery of data seamlessly, including data gleaned from trailers.

    “Shippers will want access to the same set of information that the logistics or trucking company has today,” Popplewell notes. “Integrating all the various sources of data into logistics enterprise resource planning systems will create a seamless and more impactful experience.”

    In order to maximize the potential of remote asset management, trucking companies must move beyond simply collecting data on resource visibility to using it to optimize operational planning and processes.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker-May 2013

    May 06, 2013
    Durango Transfer and Storage, Durango CO
  • Business of Trucking: Mapping a growth plan

    May 06, 2013
    Here are some hard facts about trailers: There are about 5.6 million semi-trailers registered in the United States, a nearly 2 to 1 ratio of trailers to tractors. (About 3.1 million tractors are registered in the U.S.). Around 90% of the trucking companies in the U.S. have fewer than six trucks.
  • Cover Story: Getting lighter and slicker

    May 06, 2013
    by Wendy Leavitt, Editor

    It’s the golden age of innovation for trailers


    wendyIt is not an exaggeration to say that trailer innovation appears to be in a golden age. New trailer models, new and redesigned components and systems, new materials, enhanced aerodynamics, and new technologies are rolling out at an amazing pace and the customer is the clear beneficiary.

    A number of the new trailers making their debut this spring are for specialty applications. If you haul agricultural products, for instance, Trail King introduced a new continuous belt super hi-lite rolled side ag trailer (ASHR-C) in March for carriers that move feed, seed, fertilizer, and other ag-related products. It features a continuous 48-in., 2-ply SBR rubber belt driven by a dual- reduction planetary gearbox with heavy-duty roller chain and steel Z-Bar support.

    Trail King says the con­tinuous belt design was engineered to deliver fast, horizontal discharge of the load and hopper clean-out in one revolution or less. It also reduces the risk of cross-contamination between loads. The trailer is available in capacities ranging from 55-105 cu. yds. and in overall lengths of 43-53 ft.

    Truckers moving natural gas also have a new line of trailers to consider. This April, Westmor Industries introduced its line of Proliner Transport Trailers specifically designed for the LNG industry. The cryogenic tank, with a volume of 12,860 gals., is designed to keep the fuel in its liquid form until the time of dispensing, thanks to a controlled temperature range of 100 deg. F to -360 deg. F.

    Rogers Brothers Corp. introduced a special 55-ton platform deck trailer designed for a Buffalo, NY, company that hauls construction equipment. According to Rogers Brothers, the trailer can handle a load concentrated on any 13 ft. of the 25-ft. platform deck.

    The adjustable deck height is standard at 18 in. fully loaded. The trailer features Rogers’ “CobraNeck” detachable gooseneck design, which adjusts for various ground clearance positions and is adaptable to multiple fifth wheel heights.

    To meet the needs of carriers that must comply with 43-ft. kingpin laws, Talbert Manufacturing also rolled out a new model, the 5051 50-ton traveling axle trailer. It is especially suited to companies that do towing and recovery, move rental equipment or run small to midsized construction firms, Talbert says. The 5051 has a six-degree load angle and an overall length of 51 ft. It also features a 15,000-lb. planetary winch for faster loading speeds.

    Components & systems
    Great Dane Trailers featured four newly redesigned trailers at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show. Showcased innovations included Great Dane’s CorroGuard anti-corrosion coating, its newest EnduroGuard rear frame assembly, and patented ThermoGuard reefer lining package enhanced with a subpan to extend thermo protection throughout the trailer’s floor.

    One of the most innovative new trailer systems comes out of Great Britain. The Cambridge Vehicle Dynamics Consortium (CVDC) recently introduced its “Path Following Steering System,” designed to enable trailers to accurately follow the trajectory of the tractor thereby reducing tail-swing and cut-in.

    The system incorporates lightweight electrohydraulic actuators engineered to control the steering of each axle on the semi-trailer. A computer monitors data from sensors on the vehicle and controls the actuators to enable the trailer to more precisely follow the path of the fifth wheel. According to the company, on-highway, real-world testing is scheduled to begin by the middle of this year.

    “This makes these vehicles both safer and, operationally, much more efficient and effective,” notes David Cebon, professor of mechanical engineering at Cambridge University and director of CVDC. “Quite apart from the substantial safety benefits this system brings, it offers hugely increased maneuverability in confined spaces, allowing trailers to be accurately steered in both forward and reverse gears.”

    According to Cebon, the steering system also “significantly” increases tire life, thanks to reductions in the lateral forces on conventional trailers. With any luck, the U.S. market will also find this technology commercially available soon.

    Closer to home and more immediately available, Meritor Wabco unveiled a new version of its Roll Stability Support (RSS) system this spring designed to provide the benefits of both ABS and trailer-stability control in a single unit that also links with trailer components. Dubbed the RSS 1M, the new system is based on the earlier RSS 2M system widely deployed by tanker fleets. It features an auto-lift axle control and access to tire inflation data.

    The auto-lift system is designed to automatically raise and lower the lift axle based on the load of the trailer, allowing for improved fuel economy and reduced tire wear. The tire inflation data management system monitors tires and broadcasts an alert in the event of tire pressure loss.

    With the RSS 1M introduction, flatbed operations, refrigerated carriers and livestock haulers can now have access to these same auto-lift axle control and tire inflation data capabilities as well. Retrofit kits for the RSS 1M are also available to support air and spring suspension systems on fleets of any size.
    Hendrickson introduced a new zero-maintenance damping (ZMD) ride technology for trailers at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The new air spring, available exclusively through Hendrickson on select Vantraax integrated air slider models, eliminates the need for shock absorbers entirely to reduce maintenance costs and improve ride. What’s more, this solution is designed to provide constant damping over the life of the spring, without the performance deterioration that is typical of shock absorbers.

    The new spring system also features chain down-stops to replace the rebound limiter function traditionally performed by the shock absorber. According to Hendrickson, these heavy-duty down-stops provide maximum durability and also offer protection for trailers being loaded onto rail freight cars.
    Watson & Chalin also selected the Mid-America Trucking Show to debut a new line of trailer suspensions. They will be available in capacities of up to 25,000 lbs., with N or P spindles and with 12.25- to 18-in. drum or disc brakes. The suspensions will also be offered in various wall thicknesses, as well as with fully dressed wheel-end packages.

    The innovation wave has reached trailer lighting as well. Optronics International introduced new LED clearance/marker lamps at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The Uni-Lite LEDs with “GloLight” optics are visually distinctive from other LED lamps because their lenses disperse light waves in a unique way that gives them a smooth, brightly glowing appearance, according to the company.

    “The GloLight optical technology is so different, it’s patentable,” noted Marcus Hester, director of sales and marketing for Optronics, at the product launch. “The new version of our Uni-Lite represents just one of 35 new GloLight products Optronics has in its pipeline.”

    The 12-volt Uni-Lite clearance/marker lamps come in red and amber (single-function red MCL121RB, single-function amber MCL121AB, dual-function red MCL121R9B, and dual-function three-lamp cluster red MCL122RK3B). They are available in P2- and PC-rated versions, enabling them to meet the photometric requirements for a full range of applications. Lenses and housings are constructed of polycarbonate material to make them waterproof, and Optronics gives them a lifetime warranty.

    Materials & processes
    Trailer makers have a long history of innovation, especially when it comes to materials and improved processes—and 2013 appears to be no exception.
    Havco Wood Products, for example, is now producing its third generation of composite dry van trailer floors made of oak laminated with a high-strength, glass fiber-reinforced sheet. Called Fusion Floor, this latest generation product was introduced in April. The company says it is 20% stronger than the first-generation composite floor (rated up to 35,000 lbs.), yet it is still lighter and even more durable.

    Utility Trailer Manufacturing re­cently released a video about the company’s proprietary, foam-in-place insulation process for its 3000R reefer trailer. According to the company, the process fully insulates the entire trailer without foam voids, creating a 360-deg. continuous high-pressure foam envelope that completely insulates the floor, walls and roof of the trailer.

    “We’ve developed this unique foam-in-place insulation process as a means to achieve the greatest thermal efficiency possible,” notes Larry Roland, director of marketing for Utility. “We are the only trailer manufacturer that utilizes this process.”

    trailer skirtAerodynamics
    For decades, most of the work undertaken to reduce aerodynamic drag was focused on tractors, not trailers, beginning with sloping hoods and smoothing airflow around the sides and over the top of the truck, then reducing turbulence between the tractor and trailer. Now the attention has shifted to improving the aerodynamics of trailers. This change in emphasis has been triggered in part by the need to reduce fuel costs and by California’s new requirement that 53-ft. or longer trailers be equipped with EPA SmartWay-verified aerodynamic devices.

    SmartTruck, for example, displayed a new low-profile version of its trailer side fairing system at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The company says its new side fairings, with a 1-in. profile versus the former 1.75-in. version, can provide a 0.5% improvement in fuel economy compared to its previous model. Pair it with SmartTruck’s Under Tray aerodynamic system and the fuel savings improvements can go as high as 10.5%, it notes.

    Thanks to the narrower dimensions, the new SmartTruck side fairings can fit both dry van and reefer trailers and mesh with corrugated trailer panels. The new design also provides better swing clearance for trailer doors.

    In March, Utility Trailer introduced the Utility Side Skirt (USS) 120A-4, the company’s newest advanced aerodynamic side skirt design, which has been verified by EPA SmartWay to achieve a greater than 5% fuel savings. The USS-120A-4 features greater ground clearance to reduce impact damage and a galvanized, high-tensile steel bracing system engineered to allow the side skirt to flex inward and outward. If the skirting is bent, it can even be pounded back into shape.

    The new side skirt is available now as a factory- or dealer-installed option for new Utility trailers or as a retrofit for existing trailers through Utility’s Aftermarket Dept. The company offers a five-year warranty on this patented skirting design.

    During the 2013 Technology and Maintenance Council’s annual meeting this spring, DieselMeisers announced that its Kodiak AirPlow and Kodiak Bumper Bullet aero­dynamic devices are now in full production. They complement the company’s existing Kodiak AeroCurtain trailer side skirt.

    The AirPlow installs on the underside of the trailer in front of the tandem axles to reduce the aerodynamic drag caused by the axles, while smoothing airflow and stabilizing the trailer in crosswinds, according to DieselMeisers. The Bumper Bullet mounts horizontally along the forward-facing side of the trailer’s rear under-ride bar to reduce the drag caused by the bumper and to straighten and smooth the turbulent airflow coming off of the trailer tires.

    AIRCRAFT INFLUENCE
    Both of the new devices borrow their shape from the leading edge of an aircraft wing. The company expects the new systems to deliver “significant fuel savings, improved road handling stability, and CARB/EPA SmartWay compliance.”

    Sustainable Aerodynamic Concepts announced this spring that its Aerosmart trailer skirt has received certification from the EPA SmartWay program. The skirt is made with materials reclaimed from donated, scrapped semi-trailers. According to the company, the result is a lightweight and durable aluminum skirt that is more affordable for customers, thanks to the use of reclaimed materials.

    Sustainable Aerodynamic Concepts is something of an innovation in and of itself. It is a nonprofit program created to help keep military veterans enrolled in school. The trailer skirt is manufactured entirely by military veterans participating in the transition program.

    BetterTrucker.com chose the Mid-America Trucking Show to introduce its new Super-Skirt System this March. The relatively low-cost system (priced at under $1,000) features a modular design comprised of 2-ft.-long interlocking panels that can accommodate various trailer lengths.

    The Super-Skirt has no cross member braces either, replacing them with built-in stanchion support structures to secure every panel onto the trailer I-beams via galvanized bolts. Panels also feature a rigid dimensional shape designed to maintain directional control of the air flow to reduce surface drag and prevent wind from slipping under the trailer. Aft-facing safety reflectors are intended to provide additional visibility and safety for passing vehicles.

    In January, Freight Wing also debuted a new trailer side skirt, the AeroFlex Composite, which it notes has been SAE/TMC tested to improve fuel economy by up to 7.45%. The skirts are SmartWay-verified. The new model features the same geometry as the earlier AeroFlex DMP and delivers the same fuel savings; it is just constructed differently. According to the company, customers can expect an ROI in as little as 50,000 mi. of trailer utilization.
    ATDynamics, which first released its TrailerTail rear drag reduction system in 2008, also made an announcement this April. It will be launching the TrailerTail Eco50, a European version of the system. Distribution will begin in the United Kingdom.

    So what can you expect to see next from trailer makers and their industry partners? The Dept. of Energy’s Super Truck project offers a glimpse forward.

    In fact, it might more properly be called the Super Truck and Trailer project because it is providing an arena for manufacturers to work together to create the most efficient tractor-trailer combination possible by looking at the truck and trailer as a single unit. Virtually nothing is left off the table, from aerodynamics to new materials and new technologies. This no-holds-barred approach to innovation undertaken by cross-functional teams may produce the most innovative trailer ever.
  • Editor's Page: Trucker of the Year

    May 06, 2013
    These days, it takes a lot of commitment, time and all-too-precious dollars to be successful as an independent operator or small trucking business. That’s why American Trucker and WIX Filters have teamed up to create a new award for the often-overlooked, yet hard-working-as-ever small operators in the trucking industry.
  • Editor's Page: Finding drivers

    Apr 01, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    seanSolving the growing shortage of truck drivers these days has become a complicated and serious problem for the U.S. One study reports that we could experience a shortage of some 200,000 drivers by 2022.

    Low pay is part of the problem, as evidenced by 2011 Dept. of Labor figures that noted the average starting pay for a TL driver is just a shade over $39,000. This is certainly not the kind of income that can stand alone to support a family of four these days.

    During a conference call organized by Wall Street investment firm Stifel Nicolaus back in March, Gordon Klemp, president and founder of the National Transportation Institute, touched on some other issues fueling the shortage. These include generous unemployment benefits (99 weeks), currently available to Americans, combined with a burgeoning “underground economy” that provides tax-free income resulting from part-time work mowing lawns, plowing snow, etc.; stricter driver hiring criteria (relating to health, safety record, substance abuse history, etc.); intrusion of technology into the cab, which has the net effect of pushing away drivers who are uncomfortable with the “big brother” effect; and expansion of private fleets, which offer more regular routes, more home time, and greater annual compensation.

    In short, finding and keeping drivers is becoming a more difficult issue for trucking firms to deal with.
  • Business of Trucking: Preventing downtime

    Apr 01, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    All trucks and trailers have maintenance requirements that can’t be neglected. If they are, there’s a significant price to pay for that neglect. The truck’s owner is ultimately responsible for overseeing that necessary maintenance is completed. There are financial consequences to be paid if this is ignored.

    Murphy’s Law would suggest that if a truck is going to break down, it will take place in the most inconvenient location and at an inopportune time financially. Add to this the consequences of violating CSA rules and it’s easy to see how important it is to properly maintain a truck and/or trailer.

    Number one on the list of things to do is the careful selection of who performs your preventive maintenance (PM). While many smaller carriers depend on a diesel mechanic shop or OEM dealer to handle maintenance and repairs, there are micro-carrier owners who will, for the sake of saving a few dollars, do their own maintenance. And while this does have some advantages, it also has one very large disadvantage: Only one set of eyes is looking over a very important piece of equipment.

    I’m not suggesting you stop doing your own maintenance, as it has much value for you, the owner, if done correctly. But it is recommended you develop a relationship with a diesel repair shop or OEM that can act as your second set of eyes. Have them do your quarterly inspections and from time to time, have them do a complete PM in which the mechanic changes the oil, lubes the truck, and inspects and adjusts the brakes, tires and electrical system.

    By carefully choosing the right technician for preventive maintenance and inspections, you will eliminate hours of aggravation resulting from expensive roadside downtime.

    How should you go about finding and selecting the best mechanic for your operation? Your first concern should be quality of service—not price. Locate a diesel mechanic with ASE (Automotive Services Excellence) certification, one who has a thorough knowledge of your particular truck and engine model. This individual should know every repair that’s ever occurred on your truck. You should be able to consult the mechanic from the road for his advice and the best course of action to take. Can the repair wait? Can the truck be driven back to the repair shop? Does the truck need to be inspected and repaired immediately, out on the road?

    This technician should be located within a few miles of your main location, making it convenient to follow the preventive maintenance schedule and all inspections and repairs.

    All of this necessary downtime is easily coordinated with home time or when your driver is coming through. But again, the quality of the work performed must take order of importance over location and price.

    As you search for your mechanical expert, keep these guidelines in mind:
    • Is the shop updating skills on a regular basis through OEM service and maintenance updates and memorandum?
    • Does the shop have a continuing education schedule with all the different OEMs represented?
    • Is there a certification or testing program in place to verify a technician’s skill level?
    • Does the shop maintain or have immediate access to parts for your particular truck make and model?
    • Does the shop have the correct OEM-required tools for repairs?
    • Are you able to communicate with the shop?
    • Does the shop work with you and your schedule to keep interruptions to you and your customers at a minimum?
    • Does the shop foreman look out for your best interests by looking for the lowest possible cost with the best results?
    The second important consideration is having the correct inspection program in place so items needing repair are discovered and repaired before they become more costly. This requires coordination between the driver of the truck, the technician and the truck’s owner. All three need to be in the loop at all times.

    Of the three, the most important is the driver (or drivers) operating the truck on a daily basis. Each driver in your fleet must be continuously vigilant: looking, listening and listing everything observed concerning the mechanical condition of the truck and trailer. Any strange sound should be listed on the daily inspection notebook. Any unusual aberration in the handling behavior of the truck should be noted, including odd odors, emissions or fluid leaks.

    This continuous inspection needs to occur every moment of the day, from the pretrip inspection to the post-trip inspection. It needs to include a walkaround every time the driver gets out of the truck, as well as an inspection while fueling.

    Drivers need to check running lights, brakes, tires, wheels, airlines, electrical lines, drips and look for liquids in places where they shouldn’t be. All driver observations must be noted and communicated to both the mechanic and vehicle owner. The driver becomes the technician’s eyes and ears and thus can nip in the bud any mechanical problems before they become unscheduled downtime on the road.

    There are financial benefits from effective inspection and preventive maintenance as well:
    • Reduces unscheduled downtime.
    • Allows flexibility in scheduling the truck for service, thereby increasing revenue and cash flow by eliminating lost or delayed loads.
    • Helps maintain value in the truck at trade-in or resale.
    • Improves your carrier’s CSA BASICs score with zero violation roadside inspections.
    Don’t let unscheduled downtime caused by an avoidable repair ruin a shipper’s day—and your contract with them. Take control of your equipment maintenance and repair and you’ll reduce costs and increase your revenue.


    Contact Tim Brady at tbrady@writeuptheroad.com or call 731-749-8567. Join Brady in the Trucking Business Community at www.truckersu.com.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker- April 2013

    Apr 01, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    wheelsWheel-Wheels

    Key players: The Petty brothers, Raymond, Tim and Kenneth
    In Business:
    Location:

    In many small towns across America, the spirit of being an entrepreneur gets passed down from generation to generation. In the case of Wheel-Wheels, that spirit is evident even in its name: That’s what the Petty brothers, Raymond, Tim and Kenneth, yelled as little boys when they spotted one of the 18-wheelers their truck mechanic grandfather worked on. Those boys grew up to run Wheel-Wheels Trucking, a small trucking company.

    What is the primary focus of your business?
    Our focus is to make a living and be independent.

    How is maintenance handled?
    We do 80% of our maintenance ourselves and 20% of it is jobbed out. All of our major repairs are jobbed out.

    What are three challenges you face with your maintenance program? How do you resolve each of these?
    Three challenges we face are cost, yard checks and driver checks. We resolve these by budgeting; we go behind the drivers in the yard to double-check, and we hold regular drivers’ meetings pressing the issue of checking the trucks.

    How do you handle the maintenance on your trucks and/or trailers to minimize downtime? What are your mileage/time intervals on preventive maintenance?

    We do 30,000-mi. checks on trailers or preventive maintenance every three months. We also do oil changes once a month on average, plus regular checks in the yard when they come in. We service each truck every 12,000 to 15,000 mi.

    Do you stock any parts for your trucks or purchase as needed? If you stock parts, which ones?
    Tires, brakes, lights, seals, oil and lubricants are kept on hand, with other parts purchased on an as-needed basis.

    When does the company determine it’s time to replace a truck or trailer?
    When the cost of the repair is more than the truck is worth, then we replace it.

    What are your specifications for your trucks?
    Older, pre-emissions trucks.

    Are you able to find these on the used market? Or do you purchase used and customize them to your specs?
    Yes—sometimes. Wheel-Wheels has specific trucks that meet strict California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards, and we lease CARB-complaint trailers with all the SmartWay technology. These make all of our runs to the West Coast.

    How do you ensure good mileage from tires?
    We watch the air pressure and shocks closely and keep trailer loads light.

    What programs do you have in place to ensure compliance for your trucks and or trailers?
    We have regular drivers’ meetings, and we’ll put trucks out of service, even over small things. We’ll also fix the problem immediately.

  • Cover story: New shop tools and products

    Apr 01, 2013
    Whether you have one truck or five, you know that maintenance is crucial to keeping your vehicles on the road and making money. Even if you use an outside maintenance provider, there is some work that you undoubtedly will handle yourself.

    To help you achieve your maintenance goals, American Trucker has put together this special collection of newly introduced tools, equipment, support systems, and services aimed at creating a better shop for your fleet. Whether it’s a simple device for speeding up a common chore or a new generation of advanced diagnostics, you’re bound to find something that’s just right for bringing improvement to your fleet maintenance program.

    Cordless tool line
    Promising the power of a pneumatic in a cordless configuration, Ingersoll Rand offers a line of professional tools utilizing 20-volt lithium-ion batteries.
    The IQV20 Series is said to last longer between charges. The tool line includes the W7150 ½-in., high-torque Impactool; the W5130 3/8-in. 20V mid-torque Impactool; and the L5110 LED task light.

    The W7150 rates best in its class for power-to-size ratio with 1,100 lbs.-ft of torque and 780 lbs.-ft. of reverse torque, the company said. It is 9.4 in. from tip to tail and weighs 6.8 lbs. The tool includes a chemical-resistant, patent-pending metal reinforced housing that gives it maximum durability. The design helps reduce fatigue.

    The W5130 is modeled after the W7150, offering the same performance and durability, with even more versatility and accessibility for tighter work spaces. Measuring 6.6 in. from tip to tail, the W5130 combines its 190 lbs.-ft. of torque and small size to accomplish everything from brake repairs to drivetrain jobs with maximum power.

    The L5110 light casts 180 lumens and lasts up to 20,000 hours.www.ingersollrand.com

    doorHeavy-duty overhead door
    The Powerhouse Rubber Door from Rytec Doors is designed with heavy-duty construction and high-quality materials for a strong and lasting door enclosure.

    Created without wear parts, the “self-resetting,” high-speed rubber door utilizes Rytec’s “release & restore” system to withstand damage and reset at the push of a button. Its ¼-in.-thick SBR panels provide stability and performance, the company said.

    A direct-drive, variable-speed motor provides soft starting and stopping and reduces wear and tear. Patent-pending Ry-Tension side columns create a tight seal along the full height of the door, while a bottom loop seal compresses to form a tight seal along the bottom of the door.

    The door is operated by the company’s System 4 controller, which enables precise positioning, infinite speed adjustments, and total control of all door functions.  www.rytecdoors.com

    Battery tutorials
    In addition to producing deep-cycle batteries, Trojan Battery also offers a video tutorial series to help maintain those batteries.

    The “Trojan Tips” series provides in-depth information on a variety of battery topics such as deep-cycle battery technologies, maintenance practices, charging procedures, and safety when handling batteries.

    Currently, there are 12 videos on the company’s website located under the “tech support” tab; just click on “battery maintenance.” www.trojanbattery.com

    Wheel remover
    Kiene Diesel Accessories now offers an “extender” adapter for its K-1350 wheel grabber. The extender allows a technician to safely remove wheels from vehicles on a floor lift.

    The Kiene wheel grabber is used for removing seized wheels from heavy-duty tractors, trailers and buses, as well as Ford Super Duty vehicles. It aids in the removal of even the most stubborn seized wheels. With the “extender” in place, the vehicle does not have to be taken off the lift to remove a seized wheel.  www.kienediesel.com

    Aftermarket app
    Dana Holding Corp. has released its first iPad application for aftermarket customers. The free app provides product and service information and is available for download from the iTunes App Store by searching “Spicer for iPad.”

    According to Dana, the app features calculators, a literature library, and an easy-to-use graphic interface. A driveline angle calculator helps determine the appropriate driveline angle in order to ensure performance, safety, and proper driveline functionality. www.dana.com

    Lift alternatives
    Rotary Lift has updated its Mod30 inground lift with two new saddle adapters and other design updates to offer greater clearance and flexibility, the company said.

    The Mod30 uses either two or three hydraulic posts to lift vehicles. A new lower-profile version of Rotary Lift’s patented universal saddle adapter for the front post offers the same reach as the standard saddle while providing greater clearance between the lift and the truck.

    For the rear post, the company is now offering a “six-pack” adapter featuring six receptacles that can hold multiple inserts that swivel 360 deg. as well as slide left and right to allow users to lift the vehicle at recommended spots.

    Technicians can operate the Mod30 while standing at an upright control console, which also provides lift status, operation and maintenance information, online training guides, and programmable wheelbase settings to save technicians time.

    A complete line of parallelogram lifts has capacities up to 100,000 lbs. and platform lengths from 26 to 48 ft. long. All are now available with a wash bay lift package that is said to maximize available bay space and improve product life. www.rotarylift.com

    Acid spill neutralization kit
    The Pig battery acid spill kit from New Pig Corp. offers everything needed to safely neutralize, contain and clean up a battery acid spill quickly.

    Available in see-thru bins for quick inventory inspections, the kit contains Pig socks, loose absorbents, and wipers formulated specifically for neutralizing and cleaning up battery acid. Personal protection equipment and a full face shield is also included. The kit features built-in handles for “grab-and-go” spill response. It mounts easily to a wall or can fit onto most shelves.  www.newpig.com

    Webb Wheel gets social
    To increase the ease with which its customers can locate information, Webb Wheel Aftermarket has added Android and BlackBerry Playbook apps to its social media offerings. The company can now be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and by downloading the Webb iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry Playbook applications.

    Through these media sources, commercial vehicle operators, maintenance personnel, and parts distributors can easily view current procedural information, part number interchanges and specifications, and a growing library of technician training tools, all of which can be helpful to their operation.

    Webb is a manufacturer of wheel end components with expertise and data concerning the spec’ing and maintaining of hubs, drums and rotors for medium and heavy trucks, trailers and buses.  www.webbwheel.com

    Cleaning tools
    Cleaning the most common electrical connectors and connections is easier, thanks to a new terminal maintenance set from IPA Tools. The set contains the tools needed to clean and maintain connections and connectors used in applications that include Deutsch, Cannon, 7 round pin trailer harnesses, weather packs, bullet connectors, and common ABS sensor and power connectors.

    Included in the set are two sizes of flat male and female terminal cleaners and two gold 7 round pin socket harness cleaners.  www.ipatools.com

    Safety paint
    To help keep work environments safe and bright, PlastiKote offers its reformulated premium fluorescent line of aerosol paints. The paints come with

    PlastiKote’s “twist and spray” technology, which features a twist and lock cap to make spray painting easier.
    The paints come in stop light red (FL-6), go green (FL-7), pink (FL-8), caution orange (FL-9), and yellow (FL-10). They are available for safety markings, warning signs and other high-visibility applications.  www.plastikote.com

    Service tools
    Over time, dual steel wheels absorb a lot of debris, road salts, and other chemicals from the nation’s roadways. The result is oftentimes a rusted and bonded condition. The dual wheel separator from Ken-Tool is designed to eliminate the pounding and prying necessary to separate the duals.
    Ideal for use on nearly any dual steel wheel truck, bus or van, the separator slips between the frozen wheels and uses the power of a screw-driven pusher to force them apart, the company said.

    The innovative pusher is ball bearing-driven for near-zero turning resistance, and its one-piece design ensures that it won’t fall apart during use. It is heat-treated for long-lasting strength and durability.

    Tool components, which have a black oxide or bright nickel-plated finish for rust and corrosion resistance, are laser-etched for easy identification. The forcing screw, pushers and pullers have powerful 11/8 in. diameter x 11 threads for years of reliable service, Ken-Tool said.

    A new tire bar from Ken-Tool is said to offer improved strength over previous models in a lightweight design. The T45AS Super Duty Tubeless Truck Tire Iron is 52-in. long and utilizes a 7/8-in. shaft for strength and durability. It has 40% greater leverage than the T45A and the T45AC models. www.kentool.com

    Next Step troubleshooting
    Noregon Systems has added critical updates to its JPRO Commercial Fleet Diagnostics solution. The updated version is available to current JPRO license holders with an active support agreement.

    It includes expanded coverage for Haldex ABS, enhanced graphical gauges on the key data points and data monitor screens, new wizard for easy initial setup of JPRO Fleet Diagnostics, and links to contact Noregon support or sales from within the application. The new Next Step service information module, which is also included, provides direct navigation to service information.

    JPRO Next Step automatically ties diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) to repair information. Once a DTC is found, technicians click on the Next Step logo (located on the JPRO launch bar within the home screen) and a new window opens containing service information associated with the specific DTC. The information displayed includes Mitchell 1’s Repair-Connect.net trouble­shooting data. www.jprofleetproducts.com

    Lens restoration
    Automotive International offers a lens restoration kit that is said to restore headlights in about 30 minutes.

    The ValuGard Nite Brite system is a three-step process. First, a technician cleans the lens and then wet sands the surface using 600 grit and then 1,000 grit paper.

    Following a cleaning, the U.V. protector spray is applied. The protectant is 60% solid content, making it durable and resistant to both U.V. rays and road debris. The final step is to cure the coating with the special curing lamp.

    “Headlight lens damage takes place gradually and . . . often the driver doesn’t notice how much illumination they have lost,” said Tim Brune, the company’s technical director. www.valugard.net

    Extra protection
    Galeton’s new maX HD gloves feature neo­prene and rubber protection points at the knuckle and palm for extra protection and lower risk of impact injuries. Spandex finger crotches provide ease of movement and ventilation. The gloves also come with a terry brow-wipe and adjustable cinch strap wrist. www.galeton.com

    Refrigeration check
    A programming tool from Thermo King is designed to help technicians improve diagnostic speed and accuracy when servicing the Thermo King Precedent transport refrigeration unit.

    ThermoServ includes an updated user interface that is easier to navigate and offers an intuitive design for quick and easy learning, the company said. A direct connection to the refrigeration unit provides faster speeds than series connections and uses standard USB cables.

    Thermo­Serv combines both the function of the Wintrac reporting-based utility program for data loggers and Thermo King OptiSet+, an automatic temperature profile configuration utility, in a single tool for simplicity and consistency.

    According to Thermo King, enhanced data analysis capabilities allow users to easily refine data by type, quickly search for specific error code or conditions, and customize graphs to show exact time periods or conditions. Integrated help files eliminate the need for a paper manual. www.thermoking.com

    Battery status monitor
    Phillips Industries has unveiled the next generation of its V-Check battery status indicator. The device provides an immediate signal of available battery power.

    The V-Check II digitally monitors the state of power for any battery, particularly liftgate batteries, to ensure all work can be performed, Phillips said. If a signal of less than optimum power is displayed, the battery can be charged before a situation occurs where battery power is required but not available.

    The V-Check II features a large display surface for the digital readout of the battery state of charge.  Both the voltage measurement and percentage of battery life remaining appear every 15 seconds. The Go/No-Go LED light feature instantly shows if the battery is ready to complete the day’s work.

    Green indicates available power of 12.6V to greater than 15V; yellow indicates power between 12.4V and 12.5V; and red indicates power below 12.3V.   www.phillipsind.com

    Lighting catalog
    Grote Industries’ 244-page lighting systems catalog includes information not always found in conventional parts listing materials.

    “We know that to stay current, a printed catalog needs to be produced to harmonize with and link to information found on websites and other media platforms,” said Tom Draper, marketing manager. “We feel it’s important to provide solutions that go beyond specific products in order to help distributors and fleets realize productivity and profitability solutions that go beyond hardware solutions.”

    The catalog includes product lines and retains much of the material and format of its previous versions but adds QR codes.   www.grote.com

    Adjustable pole
    The TPM-12 telescoping light pole from Larson Electronics is an industrial-grade product designed to make it easy to position shop lighting. It can be permanently attached to walls, supports and flat surfaces. The adjustable light pole provides a highly convenient method of mounting lighting, speakers, and similar devices, and elevating them up to 12 ft. in height. www.magnalight.com

    Heaters brochure
    The Racor Div. of Parker Hannifin Corp. has published a brochure on heaters for fuel and coolant applications. According to the company, all diesel fuels (other than #1 diesel) contain dissolved waxes. At cold temperatures wax crystallizes, leading to fuel gelling and filter plugging. These changes greatly reduce fuel flow, adversely affecting the operability of vehicles. It is necessary to utilize an efficient fuel heating system for all cold weather applications. The brochure details a number of heater types that combat this.  www.parker.com/racor

    parts counterParts counter

    Lista International’s modular “issue counter” maximizes usable storage and workspace and is designed for quick-moving items within a maintenance shop or repair operation.

    The counter is configured with Lista’s modular, high-density drawer and shelf storage cabinets, and can be paired with butcher block, steel or plastic laminate countertops. The cabinets provide clean, safe storage for a diverse array of items of different sizes and shapes such as hardware, tools and repair parts while allowing easy and fast retrieval, the company said. There is ample space on top for computer workstations, reference materials, and parts.

    When the drawers are closed, the handles are flush with the cabinet housing so nothing protrudes to snag clothing. Drawers feature either a 440- or 165-lb. load capacity (depending on drawer size), are available in six different full sidewall heights for maximum cubic storage capacity, and have 100% full extension.  www.listaintl.com

    Diagnostic tool charging
    Snap-on Diagnostics has released a new docking station that can keep its popular diagnostics tool charged at all times. The Verus Pro docking and charging station allows technicians to leave their Verus Pro diagnostic tool on the work bench where it can charge for the next use.

    “The new Verus Pro docking and charging station is designed for simple drop-in docking, making for fast grab-and-go portability,” said Mark Schaefer, director of marketing, Snap-on Diagnostics.

    With a 15-pin video connector, technicians can hook up to their external big-screen monitor to display Verus Pro results, the company said. A built-in USB hub connects up to four devices, and the multi-position stand allows for easy storage.
    www.snapon.com

    Tow attachment
    Maintenance technicians routinely work on tractors and trailers that may need to be towed around the property or into the shop. Tow Your Own is a company dedicated to making that job easier.

    The company’s Model 10 and Model 20 all-purpose fifth wheel wreckers add versatility to its portable towing systems. The system gives the user a flip-down 2x2-in. receiver hitch that allows for additional towing options and attachments. Users can now tow with pintle hook, hitch pin, ball or virtually any attachment system that can install into a 2x2-in. hitch.
    www.towyourown.com

    Brake diagnostics
    Diagnostic coverage of antilock brake systems (ABS) is now available in the ProLink iQ and Pocket iQ handheld diagnostic devices from Nexiq Technologies. With the introduction of the ABS Suite, the ProLink iQ is now a full-service brake scan tool, providing connectivity to tractors and trailers utilizing the SAE J1587 proto­col. The complete ABS kit comes with a J560 PLC seven-way adapter (also available separately) that allows direct connection to a trailer without the tractor. With access to an array of tests, techs can quickly obtain a diagnosis of brake systems.
    www.nexiq.com

    Welding system
    Miller Electric Mfg. offers the Millermatic 350P aluminum MIG welder. The unit includes a dedicated aluminum welding power source with a true torque push-pull design, electronic wire spool brake, trigger schedule select, and synergic capabilities in both MIG and pulsed MIG settings.

    Its design gives the operator the ability to tailor the arc to the weld by adjusting machine performance at the point-of-use, eliminating concerns over wire feed consistency.
    www.millerwelds.com
  • Editor's Page: Misplaced Blame

    Mar 04, 2013
    Sean Kilcarr muses about crashes...
  • Business of Trucking: Building profit one-by-one

    Mar 04, 2013
    Proper people skills can increase morale and profitability
  • Cover story: Big brother or big help?

    Mar 04, 2013
    Traditionally unpopular with drivers, EOBRs are starting to gain acceptance
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker March 2013

    Mar 04, 2013
    Legacy is a specialized supply chain logistics and transportation company offering a single-source solution through a dedicated fleet.
  • Editor's Page: State of safety

    Feb 06, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    If you think there are already too many traffic laws on the books, think again. At least one group firmly believes there aren’t nearly enough—and it’s out to convince governors and state legislators across the U.S. to pick up the pace.

    “The traffic safety progress we’ve made since 2005 is at risk of being undone,” said Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, during a press event earlier this year. “Several states have been moving backwards and most states are not moving at all to enact lifesaving laws.”

    For example, she said, only 10 state highway safety laws were enacted in 2012, in contrast to 16 laws passed in 2011 and 22 laws passed in 2010.

    Why the fuss? Gillan said it’s simple. Preliminary National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data recorded the largest jump in traffic fatalities since 1975, a 7.1% increase in crash deaths during the first nine months of 2012 compared to the first nine months of 2011.

    Every year, she explained, about 33,000 people are killed and over 2 million more are injured in crashes—costing the U.S. some $230 billion every year.

    We’ll see which governors and state legislators are convinced.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker-Buddy's Wrecker Service

    Feb 06, 2013
    by Tim Brady

    Buddy's Wrecker Service
    Owner:  Steve Sedberry
    In Business:  50 Years
    Location:  Union City TN

    Buddy's Wrecker is a family-owned, full-service tow operation and auto repair shop serving northwest Tennessee and southwest Kentucky.

    How is maintenance handled?
    We own our own shop so we do all maintenance and minor repairs in-house.

    How are major repairs handled?
    TriState International, a local International Truck dealership handles repairs.

    What are three challenges you face with your maintenance program?
    Being notified when a prob­lem exists, making sure it isn’t ignored, and then ensuring that it was correctly repaired so it doesn’t become a bigger problem down the road.

    How do you resolve each of these?
    The best means is through regular communications with our drivers. We make sure each of them performs pretrip and post-trip inspections and then look over each inspection on a daily basis to be sure any problem or potential problem is addressed.

    How do you ensure good mileage from tires?
    We keep tires properly inflated and rotated. It’s part of the pretrip inspection for each driver. It’s much easier to handle at our shop with cold tires than finding a problem on the road. And with a towing operation, tire maintenance and inspection is paramount as many of our trucks respond to accident scenes where crash debris is a major concern. This requires constant inspection of the area and tires by the driver.

    Do you stock any parts for your trucks, or purchase as needed?
    We stock mainly oil, filters and lights. We order all other parts as needed. We have several local parts vendors and dealerships that do an excellent job of keeping an inventory; if parts are not in stock, then the vendors can get them shipped to us overnight.

    How do you determine when it’s time to replace a truck?
    When reliability is fading. This is determined by tracking things like an increase in repair cost, a decrease in fuel mileage, and excessive downtime.

    What are your specifications for your trucks?
    For our towing applications, we like Miller Industries specs, because we put those units on our trucks. If we buy a used truck, we like to buy a complete unit.

    What programs do you have in place to ensure CSA compliance for your trucks and or trailers?
    We use Bullion Consulting in Obion, TN, to keep us up to par. The owner is a retired Tennessee commercial vehicle enforcement officer and CVSA Level 1 DOT inspector.

    What does your company do best?
    Through our constant upgrading of skills and state-of-the-art equipment, we’re experts at transporting disabled cars and trucks. Where we also shine is in recovery of vehicles of all sizes and shapes involved in traffic accidents. Our Mobile Crane Service utilizing our 40-ton rotator truck with heavy-duty underlift is called upon to assist local industry in the placement of machines and equipment. We also have a complete auto service and repair facility with ASE-certified technicians. But what we do best is take care of our customer’s needs.

    Editor’s note: “Spotlight on an American Trucker “ is a new monthly feature that aims to bring American Trucker’s readership to life by putting names and faces alongside successes.
  • Business of Trucking: Driving revenue

    Feb 06, 2013
    by Tim Brady

    Don’t fall into a trap of setting rates based only on miles driven


    There is a misnomer when it comes to any discussion about increasing a trucker’s revenue per mile. The fact of the matter is, what you make per mile in a trucking operation is of no importance.

    There’s a factor that makes this a moot discussion. You can control specific cost-per-mile items like reducing your use of fuel through different conservation measures such as idle reduction, rolling resistance, aerodynamics, and a comprehensive preventive maintenance program that nips any major repair in the bud before it becomes costly. But take note, while these are important in controlling expenses, all are per-mile costs that won’t increase your revenue per mile.

    There are other expenses that can’t be calculated per mile—and these are your fixed costs.

    Fixed costs, by their nature, are based on time. Most tractor and trailer lease or loan payments are based on per month, per quarter or annual payment schedules. The same can be said about office rent and other monthly, quarterly and annual expenses related to your trucking operation. While it’s possible to drill down expenses related to the rolling operation of a truck to a per-mile basis, it’s not possible to do the same with costs that are based on time.

    Fixed costs can be a bigger enemy to your profitability than rolling costs because fixed costs must be paid even when a truck is idle. If the truck is parked and not producing revenue, it still requires insurance, truck payments, registration, and other time-sensitive cash outlays to be paid. But operational costs such as fuel, maintenance, tires, and repairs only occur when a truck and/or trailer is moving.

    Many trucking companies will figure the revenue they need for a load based on a per-mile figure, which is calculated by adding all the costs (fixed and operational) over a period of time and then dividing that number by the number of miles their trucks traveled during the same period. They may also take only the operational cost of a truck (driver pay, per-mile fuel, tires, maintenance, repairs, truck payment, insurance, base plate and federal highway use tax [FHUT]) and divide that number by the miles the truck has traveled to arrive at a cost per mile. They then add a per-mile profit margin to arrive at a single rate per mile figure they’re going to charge their customers.

    There are several reasons this methodology doesn’t work.

    Rate building
    Let’s take a look at a formula that will explain this. We’ll assign the following costs to a theoretical truck to use in the formula:

    Fixed cost per day: $300

    This includes truck and trailer payment, insurance, base plates, and FHUT, along with expenses divided equally between all the trucks the trucking company owns such as office expenses and rent, office personnel salaries (including the owners), and any other shared fixed costs that are needed to operate the company. Total fixed expenses over one year are divided by 260 days (5 working days a week for a year). The vast majority of trucks don’t generate revenue for 365 straight days because of HOS restraints.

    Operational cost per mile: 10¢
    This includes tires, maintenance, and repairs of a specific truck. It’s best to look at what the total cost was for the previous 30 days, with any tire replacement or major repairs in excess of $500 amortizable for each truck’s anticipated life. For example, amortize $800 steer tires for 12 months to arrive at a cost of $66.67/month. Divide the total spent the previous month plus the amortized items by the odometer miles covered in that month to determine the cost per mile.

    Fuel cost per mile: 67¢
    For this formula we’ve priced the fuel at $4/gal. and based it on a truck getting 6 mpg. To calculate your fuel cost per mile, divide your truck’s mpg into 3,000 mi. to arrive at the gallons required. Multiply your total gallons by the current price per gallon for fuel. Take the total cost of the fuel and divide it by 3,000 mi. to arrive at your fuel cost per mile.

    Our cost per day is $300; our cost per mile is 10¢ plus 67¢, or 77¢ per mile total.

    Based on these figures, I’ve calculated the two scenarios (Example A and Example B) to indicate the wide range your cost per mile could be based on how many miles the truck travels in a day.

    As you can see from Example A, we’ve got a cost-per-mile range from $1.27 all the way up to $300.77. In other words, the fewer miles your truck travels, the higher the cost per mile.

    Let’s take this one step further. We know it’s not uncommon for a truck and driver to sit an extra day to get the next load or to have to carry a 1,000-mi. load over a three-day weekend. We’ll add one additional day to each of the distances to see how it impacts the per-mile cost (remember that the fixed cost per day of $300 is now doubled). This is reflected in Example B. Here, the cost per mile ranges from $1.77/mi. to $600.77/mi.

    As you can see, sitting to wait for a better paying load will increase your cost per mile very significantly.

    The bottom line? If you want to increase your revenue per mile, focus on the time it takes—not just the distance traveled.

    Contact Tim Brady at tbrady@writeuptheroad.com or call 731-749-8567. Join Brady in the Trucking Business Community at www.truckersu.com.
  • Cover Story: The road to greener trucks

    Feb 06, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr

    Vehicles changing to meet GHG/fuel efficiency regs


    Greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency have become as much a part of the lexicon of trucking as freight and rates. Yet, the impact these few simple words are having on the industry is indisputable. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued new regulations regarding heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas limits.


    To be phased in from 2014 through 2018, the regulations, at least the initial requirements, are being met with relative ease among manufacturers and suppliers. But with each successive year, the requirements get a little bit tougher, and that has truck manufacturers looking at any number of possibilities to help meet the standards. And while the regulations do not specify changes to aerodynamics, transmissions or oils, truck OEMs are leaving no stone unturned as they try to produce the ultimate fuel-efficient vehicle.

    What are the standards?
    EPA predicts the greenhouse gas/fuel economy rules will save the industry some $50 billion in fuel costs with diesel priced at $3.50/gal. Even with an $8 billion price tag to meet the requirements, EPA says the trucking industry should see a net gain of $42 billion.

    Under the GHG14 regulations, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 are projected to reduce oil consumption by 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas emissions by 270 million metric tons.

    But what are the rules, exactly? According to Byron Bunker, acting director for the compliance division of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, the rules actually mandate separate yet parallel efficiency improvements for engines and vehicles. EPA expects engine fuel efficiency to improve 3% in 2014 and a further 3% by 2017.

    The rules are based on the size and weight of the vehicle, meaning there are many different iterations of the regulations. In fact, the type of vehicle matters as well; within the Class 7 and 8 combination tractor category, the differences in expected emissions and fuel consumption change with the key attributes associated with the vehicles, such as GVWR, cab type, and roof height.

    Here are the basics:
    *Most, but not all, tractor-trailers will be required to achieve up to about a 20% reduction in fuel consumption and GHG emissions by model year 2018, saving up to 4 gals. of fuel for every 100 mi. traveled.
    *For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, separate standards are required for gasoline- and diesel-powered trucks. These vehicles will be required to achieve up to about a 15% reduction in fuel consumption and GHG emissions by model year 2018. Under the finalized standards, a typical gasoline- or diesel-powered heavy-duty pickup truck or van could save 1 gal. of fuel for every 100 mi. of travel.
    *Vocational vehicles, including delivery trucks, buses, and garbage trucks, will be required to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by about 10% by model year 2018. These trucks could save an average of 1 gal. of fuel for every 100 mi. of travel.

    Tractor-trailers and vocational vehicles must meet targets for gallons of fuel consumed and GHG emissions per ton-mile. This figure is calculated by dividing gallons of fuel consumed and grams of carbon dioxide emissions per mile by tons of freight hauled.

    Where to begin?
    On the vehicle side, fuel economy gains are expected to be derived from five main areas, says Bunker. These are aerodynamic improvements, reductions in tire rolling resistance, vehicle weight reductions, speed limiting technology, and reductions in engine idling. He stresses, however, that fleets will not be compelled to make any specific changes to engine, transmission, or axle specs.

    “We want fleets to maintain the ability to make spec’ing decisions based on their actual operations, not a national average standard,” he adds. “They need to be able to optimize their vehicles correctly.”

    Even with that flexibility, though, truck makers have their work cut out for them.

    Al Pearson, director of the vehicle test group for Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), notes that there are more than 50 low rolling resistance tire models available for steer axles, with another 50 available for drive axles.

    Pearson points out that the aerodynamic category alone is made up of five distinct “bins,” while Class 7 and 8 trucks will be broken down into nine separate categories for GHG/fuel efficiency designation.

    On top of that, the new rules task OEMs with determining the classification for each vehicle they build, be it a long-haul tractor-trailer, me­dium-duty truck, or vocational vehicle. While vocational trucks will have the most leeway in complying with the new rules, OEMs will be restricted to building 21,000 such units in a three-year period.

    Truck engine manufacturers must certify their products as well, but that certification is separate from the vehicles.

    One tool, many calculations
    The “certification process” revolves around OEMs being tasked to calculate and then certify the GHG emissions levels for each class of vehicle they build using a special greenhouse gas emissions model (GEM) tool developed by EPA to ensure manufacturers are building trucks on a yearly basis that emit no more than the GHG grams per ton-mile levels set for each vehicle classification.

    GEM is a free desktop computer application designed to use algorithms to gauge the GHG emissions (and thus fuel efficiency) produced by a slew of truck components, from tires and transmissions to engines.

    “Specs will need to be extracted exactly as ordered and plugged into the GEM tool, so we’re going to need an automated documentation system to do it,” says DTNA’s Pearson. “It shows how complex calculating all of this is going to be.”

    Initially, items such as low-rolling resistance tires and aerodynamic fairings will go a long way to meeting the regulations. As the regulations stiffen over the years, though, more work will need to be done. That’s why manufacturers are looking at every aspect of the vehicle to see where efficiencies can be achieved.

    Engines, too, must meet greenhouse gas standards. Detroit has achieved early certification of its entire 2014 engine lineup.

    “It is our goal to pace the industry in emissions compliance and fuel efficiency. Early submissions for GHG14 engine compliance is evidence of this strategy for the updated family of Detroit engines,” says Brad Williamson, manager of engine and component marketing for DTNA. “The Detroit brand is synonymous with power and efficiency, and our enhanced engine lineup builds on our tradition of providing our customers with the best performing products in the market today while meeting the emissions regulations.”

    MINOR CHANGES
    Cummins has also achieved early certification of its ISX15 and ISX12 powerplants.

    “Cummins 2013 truck engines will deliver better fuel economy with no major hardware changes,” says Jeff Jones, Cummins vice president of sales and market communications. “The certification of the ISX15 demonstrates Cummins’ commitment to deliver products that exceed both environmental and customer requirements.”

    Jones points out that the ISX15 will achieve up to 2% improved fuel economy over the current product with only minor changes, most related to calibrations.

    Transmissions are another area where work is being done to improve fuel efficiency. Again, while not directly specified by NHTSA and EPA, many manufacturers see more efficient transmissions as part of the solution.

    Mack Trucks’ mDrive and Volvo Trucks’ I-Shift transmissions are among those on the market that seek to maximize fuel efficiency by keeping rpm in the engine’s “sweet spot” as much as possible. Eaton’s UltraShift and UltraShift Plus and Allison Transmission’s new TC10 TS are other options that operate with the same goal in mind.

    Detroit is launching the DT12 this year, a transmission designed as part of an overall powertrain package aimed at improving fuel economy. The DT12 smoothes out torque inputs to protect the driveline and gives the driver a choice between economy and performance driving characteristics.

    THE FUTURE
    Allison, Dana Holding Corp. and Fallbrook Technologies are working to bring a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the trucking market before the end of this decade, a transmission designed to boost fuel economy and vehicle efficiency while significantly reducing weight. The companies will use Fallbrook’s NuVinci CVT design.

    “We’re exploring exclusively producing transmission components under this agreement,” says Roger Wood, Dana president & CEO. “We expect it will take two to three years to optimize the technology and then ramp up to full-scale manufacturing.”

    William Klehm III, chairman & CEO of Fallbrook, says the key to the company’s NuVinci CVT design is the use of what he calls “balls and discs” to replace the gears used in a traditional transmission. Tilting the balls changes their contact diameters and varies the speed ratio, thus providing what Klehm says is “an unlimited number of gear ratios” to optimize engine efficiency, thus improving fuel economy.

    “It also means the transmission is less complex, scales and packages more easily, and costs less to manufacture—all while achieving optimum performance,” he notes.

    The regulations are having an indirect effect on oil as well, a study notes. Frost & Sullivan’s Sandeep Kar, global director of commercial vehicle research, and Wallace Lau, truck research analyst, say that to boost engine efficiency and thus fuel economy, a switch to much lower viscosity formulations must take place over the next six years.

    Research by both Kar and Lau indicates that 5W-40 and 5W-30, even so-called “zero weight” oil blends of 0W-20 and 0W-30, are being developed for medium- and heavy-duty truck engines in an attempt to generate the fuel savings necessary to meet federal fuel economy rules. However, Lau stresses that the challenge for such “low” and “no weight” oils will be to maintain engine protection properties as well as temperature handling characteristics.

    Battling the heat
    “Right now, one of the issues with low viscosity oils is that they do not apply well in warmer regions of North America,” Lau points out. “Yet [diesel] fuel costs across all of the U.S. and Canada are predicted to only keep rising, so fleets want the fuel-saving advantage of a low viscosity fluid. Our fleet-focused research indicates steadily rising interest in advanced engine oils, which is already translating to rising aftermarket demand for synthetics and semi-synthetics.”

    The desire for oil that helps improve fuel economy is evidenced by the process already underway to develop a new oil category. This was started by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the governing body that oversees oil and other petroleum classifications, along with truck makers and engine manufacturers. Currently called Proposed Category 11 (PC-11), this new category will likely include two different oils for fleets: a fuel-efficient, low-viscosity version to meet the demands of 2014 and newer engines, and one that is backwards-compatible for older powerplants.

    Slated to debut in January 2016, the lower viscosity oil that will be required to help new engines meet federal fuel economy standards may not be suitable for older engines, according to Dan Arcy, global OEM technical manager for Shell Lubricants.

    BAD MIX FOR CARRIERS
    One drawback to this development is that companies with a mix of older and newer equipment may be saddled with using different oils.
    In addition to the new viscosity characteristics, PC-11 will include a number of updated or new specifications and tests required by recent changes in engine technology and materials. Arcy says the new tests should result in improvements in oxidation and shear stability, aeration reduction, scuffing and adhesion wear, and biodiesel compatibility.

    With all the moving parts that continue to be shuffled around to meet ever-changing regulations, the result can sometimes be growing confusion among truck buyers. Along with all the changes happening to meet the greenhouse gas/fuel efficiency regulations, trucks and tractors will continue to see advances in aerodynamics and weight reductions, to name just two.

    As part of that, engines will see additional changes in terms of size and power density, according to a survey by Frost & Sullivan. The firm projects that the average displacement for Class 8 truck engines in the U.S. is going to shrink anywhere from 2% to 3% by 2018 as OEMs and fleets alike seek ways to improve fuel economy and payload capacity simultaneously for tractor-trailers.

    However, Kar says the power density of Class 8 engines will actually increase significantly—some 6% to 8%—over the next six years even as they shrink in size, providing in many cases an opportunity, in his words, for fleets “to have their cake and eat it too.”

    “What we’re finding is that criteria such as total cost of operation [TCO] are becoming more important to fleets in the face of rising fuel prices,” Kar says. “The upfront purchase price and total lifecycle costs of smaller engines are lower, while fuel economy is better.”

    The key is that power isn’t necessarily lost in the transition to smaller engines anymore, he explains, meaning fleets don’t necessarily have to sacrifice performance to gain a better TCO position. And it’s the ability to retain power density that’s getting more fleets to consider “downsizing” their truck engines, Kar says.

    RISING PRICES, RISING PROFITS

    Based on its research, Frost & Sullivan projects that average Class 8 truck engine displacement will fall to between 13.4L and 13.7L by 2018, down from an average range of 13.7L to 14.1L back in 2011. Conversely, average horsepower will climb to between 425 and 540 by 2018, compared to a range of 400 to 520 back in 2011. Torque will also jump as well, increasing to between 1,300 and 1,750 lbs.-ft. on average compared to between 1,250 and 1,650 lbs.-ft. averaged in 2011.

    The end result? While truck buyers can expect to see an increase in sticker prices due to the technological improvements to meet new regulations, the overall drop in fuel costs is predicted to offset that, leaving truckers to run rigs that are more efficient, cleaner and profitable.

  • Prediction Time

    Jan 18, 2013
    by Sean Killcar, Edtior

    Here we are at the start of another year for the trucking community—a year packed with potential. So what are the early portents for 2013? Rather than muddy the prognostication waters with my own poor predictive abilities, we’ve asked Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at global consulting firm IHS, for his “big picture” perspective.

    “The dynamics for a gradually accelerating U.S. recovery are already in place,” he says. “The balance of forces affecting U.S. consumer spending have turned positive. Housing is finally showing signs of life and can be expected to keep improving over the next year. As global growth begins to reaccelerate (albeit gradually), exports will follow suit.”

    Assuming the thorny issue of deficit/debt reduction is resolved, he thinks U.S. businesses are likely to spend and hire more in 2013. “This means growth will average around 2%,” he says.

    According to Behravesh, inflation will remain tame. “Soft growth, large output gaps, and high unemployment rates in the past couple of years have significantly reduced price pressures, with the rate of inflation down between 2011 and 2012 in all but one region,” he explains. “This benign state of affairs is likely to continue through 2013.”

    That’s a pretty good outlook if you ask me.
  • A quiet path to success

    Jan 18, 2013
    by Tim Brady, Business Editor

    While I can’t speak for everyone, I can say the one lesson repeated more times than any other when I was a child was: “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. He meant for you to listen twice as much as you talk.” We have survived an election year in which that advice seemed to be practiced very little, so it’s a good time to bring that subject up as we continue to rebound from the Great Recession.

    Listening is a virtue that can be utilized by those who lead to really understand the right direction in which to take your trucking business. Let’s review a few scenarios that demonstrate the importance of listening.

    In recruiting and hiring drivers for your operation, listening becomes extremely important as you determine if the driver will be a good fit for your company and how it operates. You need to know things about the potential hire beyond if he/she will pass a drug test, has a clean DMV record, and has the experience to do the job you and your customers require.

    *What are his/her current financial obligations? Will the real pay this trucker receives actually cover the financial needs of his/her family?

    *What are the personal relationship needs and/or requirements this person expects that might require specific home time? Will you be able to provide this to the trucker?

    *How well will this person integrate into your dispatch system? Is he/she used to a single way of dispatch? Does he/she focus only on the rate per mile and ignore the overall revenue in evaluation of a load? How does this work with your system?

    Based on just this example, it’s easy to see there are many questions and concerns that need to be addressed. Follow-up conversations based upon the answers each applicant provides are also necessary; otherwise, it’s very possible to miss the important details. A trucker may have experience and a clean record, but that doesn’t immediately qualify him or her as a match for your operation. It’s listening to the details and letting prospective drivers talk that will provide the answers needed.

    Customers
    The next scenario has to do with customers, including shippers, receivers and freight brokers. Listening and then verifying in writing the wants and needs of the businesses and individuals for whom you haul freight is what will set you apart from your competition. Here are a few examples to help you start your customer listening list:

    *Listen for opportunities. Not every customer or broker is going to tell you what their needs are when it comes to freight hauling services. It’s up to you to ‘have your ear to the road,’ so to speak.

    *Listen for all the details and ask questions to fill in the holes on what the customer requires, what he needs, and what he wants on every load. There’s no such thing as too much information when you need to provide top-notch customer service.

    *Listen to the customer. What services are required, and which of those services are not currently being provided?

    *Listen to the conversations of those involved in the load-handling process. Is there an additional opportunity being discussed? Is there going to be a slowdown with the freight they’re offering you? Is there talk of a strike or other event that could affect your freight?

    Again, the more you listen, the more information you glean about your customer and the greater your ability becomes to service their needs.

    Vendors
    The final example deals with your vendors, those companies and individuals you depend upon for everything from vehicle maintenance and repair, to the phone service provider, to the tire guy, Internet service provider, insurance agent, factoring company, accountant, etc.
    Each one of these individuals and companies is, or should be, an expert in their field. You must engage these experts and glean knowledge and insight from them, incorporating what you learn into your own operations to improve your business. You hired them for good reason; make sure you listen to their advice.
    Your final listening post is staying aware of what’s happening in your world. And, of course, it’s just as important to keep tabs on local, state, regional, national and international events, which could impact your business.

    DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW
    The biggest mistake many business people make is listening to a single source or outlet for news. This isn’t about finding the source with which you can agree, or hear only the information you want to hear. It’s about finding the information that will affect your business—like it or not.

    Don’t just look at trucking publications; look at the information from the perspective of the broker and shipper. Look for different takes on how a new regulation will impact not just trucking, but how it will affect customers, shippers, brokers and even the policing agencies.

    A good example is the volatility of fuel prices. One recent news story discussed what the net results would be if fuel went to $7/gal. An intriguing hypothesis suggested that at that price, it would no longer be cost-effective for manufacturers to produce items overseas, so they’d move operations back to North America by the thousands.

    How would this impact your business if it occurred? If you hauled containers from ports, it would be different than if you operated from the factories to distribution centers or stores in Middle America.

    It all comes down to listening for the details and making sure you have all the necessary information by asking the correct questions. Then you will be better informed to make profitable decisions.
  • Spotlight on an American Trucker

    Jan 18, 2013
    by Tim Brady

    Editor's note: "Spotlight on an American Trucker" is a new monthly feature that aims to bring American Trucker's readership to life by putting names and faces alongside successes.

    X-Treme Trucking
    Owner:  Travis Nelson
    In business:  Five years
    Location:  Green Bay, WI
    Website:  www.xtremetrucking.com

    What is the primary focus of your business?
    We develop and create solutions for the transportation industry. I have a team whose passion is transportation, from my drivers to our logistics team. I built this from one truck, with the foundation of becoming the go-to carrier in transportation, specializing in open deck freight: flatbeds, step decks, RGNs. Our main goal is “customers’ success delivered.” We treat internal and external employees and contractors with honesty, respect and kindness.

    How is maintenance handled?
    We just purchased an office location with full shop accessibility, and we use several OEM dealerships in the area to keep our equipment top-notch. We strongly enforce safety and CSA maintenance. Our trucks are federally inspected every quarter, not just once per year as required.

    How are major repairs handled?
    Major repairs are usually jobbed out to OEM facilities that can offer warranty [service]. If that truck leaves and breaks down 500 mi. from home, we know an OEM dealership has access to thousands of in-network repair facilities to honor the work.

    What three challenges do you face with your maintenance program? How do you resolve each?
    The first is price. Shop hourly rates are about $105/hr. in my region. We definitely negotiate pricing, and work with a few shops to reduce costs.

    Second is finding technicians. They are hard to find today so shops can have very limited time available for unscheduled repairs. Sometimes a shop can be backed up a week or more. We build strong relationships with them, and plan repairs in advance [when possible].

    The final challenge is driver awareness. We constantly keep drivers trained to spot maintenance issues. They use this equipment daily, and if they cannot properly report a defect or federal violation, we’re failing as a team. It’s too late when a truck is broken down, or sitting out of service at a scale or port of entry. We do whatever we can to ensure communication and education, from driver to technician.

    What are your mileage/time intervals on preventive maintenance?
    It’s 10,000 mi. for oil and 20,000 mi. for grease. We test rear end fluids as well as engine (fluids). Every truck is different, so taking an ‘average lifecycle’ doesn’t make sense to me. On some trucks a part may last 50,000 mi.; on another, 30,000 mi. We really focus on the preventive maintenance and care of each unit.

    What does your company do best?
    Deliver on our promise. It’s so easy for every company to promise ‘the best, safest, on-time, efficient transportation,’ but with so many that promise this, the facts state exactly the opposite.

    We send our CSA safety scores to our customers. We back our promises with facts and guarantees. Our team has passion for transportation; we make sure we have the right people on the team, and eliminate the wrong people. We deliver our customers success. We understand this, we get this, we promise this.
  • Eye on Costs

    Jan 18, 2013
    by Sean Kilcarr and David Cullen

    It should come as no surprise to anyone in trucking that equipment costs a lot more today than it did ten or even five years ago. Driven in the past by federal emissions control limits mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the potential for even more sticker price hikes, caused this time by new fuel economy regulations, remain on the horizon.

    Keith Klein, executive vice president & COO of Transport America, notes that the base price of the Class 8 tractors used in his company’s fleet increased $25,000 between 2004 and 2010. Andy Stopka, vice president-maintenance for Nationa­Lease, notes that the cost of vehicles has risen almost 50% in the past decade.

    As a result, truckers large and small are intensifying their cost-control efforts to help mitigate such steep upfront price tag hikes and also to reduce lifecycle costs.

    “Almost without exception, and even though initial price is always a factor, most fleets say they base their purchasing on total cost of ownership (TCO),” says Steve Gilligan, Navistar’s vice president-product marketing.

    TCO includes initial price, operating costs, and resale value but also the cost of financing and its availability, he explains.

    “Those factors can change based on the size of the purchase, the type of specs chosen, and the fleet’s historic relationship with the OEM,” Gilligan notes. “And there’s no OEM that can provide the lowest TCO for the variables of every given fleet every time. If one of us had a lock on this, the others would be out of business.”

    Gilligan adds that all OEMs are probably correct in their spec recommendations if a trucker takes advantage of all the recommendations made—but not every one does.

    “It’s also important to have a strong relationship with the OEM and your dealer so sales personnel have the opportunity to develop a proposal that meets the trucker’s needs—and there may be something new available that will positively affect their operating costs,” he adds. “But ultimately, the buyer has to decide what will work best in his operation.”

    MAKING CHOICES
    That decision is going to become that much more critical over the next five years, points out Nationa­Lease’s Stopka, as new fuel economy standards developed jointly by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will require heavy trucks manufactured between 2014 and 2018 to reduce fuel consumption between 7% and 20%, while cutting emissions by 270 metric tons.

    While the EPA predicts that the resulting fuel savings will more than compensate truck operators for the higher costs of trucks equipped to meet the new standards, Stopka says the question truck-makers face is how to achieve such an ambitious objective in a realistic, cost-effective manner.

    “With other factors driving up the cost of running a trucking company—the cost of new equipment has risen almost 50% in the past 10 years, for example—everyone is searching for ways to improve efficiency, increase mpg, and boost profitability,” he explains.

    Stopka believes there are several basic ways carriers can accomplish those goals:
       *Increase efficiency of truck utilization. This can range from identifying the optimal fleet composition to standardizing specifications for increased fuel economy.
       *Making maintenance facilities more efficient. With the goal of getting trucks in and out of the shop as quickly as possible and back on the road earning money, truckers are turning to programs such as vendor managed inventory systems and continually educating technicians on the latest technology.
       *Taking advantage of extended warranties. Extended warranties let truckers enjoy the benefits of a standard warranty over a longer period of time following new equipment purchases, with the end result the optimization of equipment performance.
       *Using technology designed to increase mpg. More trucking firms are adding features to their trucks such as wind deflectors, side skirts, and even aerodynamic wheel covers designed to cut fuel consumption by several percent.
       *Choosing wide-based tires. Payload for trucks using wide-based tires used in a tractor-trailer combination can improve by some 1,000 lbs., which to a fuel hauler can mean a much higher profit margin. These tires also expose more of the brake drum, enabling brakes to stay cooler and last longer.

    Global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan projects that, in keeping with this efficiency thinking, commercial vehicle engines are going to shrink in size.
    According to a recent report by the firm, the average displacement for Class 8 truck engines in the U.S. is going to shrink anywhere from 2 to 3% by 2018 as OEMs and truckers alike seek ways to improve fuel economy and payload capacity simultaneously for tractor-trailers.

    Sandeep Kar, global director of commercial vehicle research for Frost & Sullivan, stresses that the power density of Class 8 engines will actually increase significantly—some 6 to 8%—over the next five years even as they shrink in size, providing in many cases an opportunity, in his words, for truckers “to have their cake and eat it too.”

    “What we’re finding is that criteria such as TCO are becoming more important to fleets in the face of rising fuel prices,” Kar explains. “The upfront purchase price and total lifecycle costs of smaller engines are lower, while fuel economy is better.”

    RETAINING POWER

    The key, however, is that power isn’t necessarily lost in the transition to smaller engines anymore, he explains, meaning truckers don’t necessarily have to sacrifice performance to gain a better TCO position. And it’s the ability to retain power density that’s getting more fleets to consider downsizing their truck engines, he says.

    Based on its research, Frost & Sullivan projects that average Class 8 truck engine displacement will fall to between 13.4L and 13.7L by 2018, down from an average range of 13.7L to 14.1L back in 2011. Conversely, average horsepower will climb to between 425 and 540 by 2018, compared to a range of 400 to 520 back in 2011. Torque will also jump as well, increasing to between 1,300 and 1,750 lbs.-ft. on average compared to between the 1,250 and 1,650 lbs.-ft. average in 2011.

    As a result of all those and other factors, Frost & Sullivan predicts that by 2018 the makeup of the Class 8 engine market will be very different from 2011. The firm sees 14L to 16L engine market share shrinking down to 42% from 56% in the Class 8 market, and 12L to 14L models jumping to 40% market share from 35%, followed by a steep market share rise for 11L to 12L engines to 15% from 3%.

    That doesn’t come as a surprise to Bill Kozek, general manager of Peterbilt Motors Co. and vice president of its parent firm Paccar.

    “The more fuel-efficient choice of a 13L engine is now getting the same value on the used market as a 15L, and today’s 13L can do everything that a 15L does but is lighter in weight,” he says. “Truckers can control how efficiently they operate by spec’ing trucks for saving on operating costs as well as for residual value.”

    Preston Feight, assistant general manager-sales & marketing for Kenworth Truck Co., agrees with Kozek’s view on engine downsizing.
    “Key areas, although all specs are important, to look at closely include fuel-saving specs, bearing in mind fuel is the largest truck ownership cost,” he explains.

    CUSTOMER USAGE
    “Customer usage—the operating specifics—is the variable driving specs, so we offer a range of products to meet their needs,” Feight explains. “We are seeing some movement from 15L to 13L engines, with choice depending on how much weight savings the truck customer needs. Our 13L covers the vast majority of 80,000-lb. over-the-road tractor applications.”

    By 2018, Frost & Sullivan also expects 11L and smaller engines will be used more widely by fleets, especially those operating “Baby 8” or natural gas-powered trucks, and thus claim 2% share of the Class 8 engine market in 2018.

    Yet Kar stresses that the long haul Class 8 segment will continue to remain dominated by 14L to 16L engines as those models offer the best power rating and optimized performance metrics.

    “Sales of those larger displacement engines will be aided by a strong used-truck market, where 15L engines in particular are attracting higher valuations,” Kar notes.
    That being said, though, he points out that length of hauls will continue to shrink in the future and that will aid in the proliferation of downsized engines in the Class 8 segment.

    TCO FOCUS
    Focusing on TCO—a metric that includes not only initial purchase price and residual value, but also “hard” costs such as fuel and maintenance and “soft” costs such as optional safety and driver-comfort features—will be the major strategic initiative truckers will need to focus on to truly control equipment costs, notes T.J. Reed, director of product marketing for Freightliner Trucks.

    “[Truckers] may start out looking to get the lowest truck purchase price, but they tend to end up [buying] on the total cost of truck ownership,” he explains. “As an OEM, we work to present truck buyers with real-world examples with bona-fide results of how various spec choices and modular packages will deliver the lowest TCO in a given trucking operation.”

    Reed says concerns over fuel costs are a “huge factor currently” that drive truckers to examine TCO when they spec and purchase trucks. He points out that to address this, Freightliner has developed modular fuel-efficient spec packages that might include aerodynamic devices, a specific transmission and other equipment that when integrated together delivers a 5% to 6% mpg improvement.

    “Spec trade-offs must be weighed individually as every operation is different,” Reed says. “For example, if a [business] is seeking maximum fuel efficiency, a lot of questions need to be considered, such as operating speed, whether it runs coast-to-coast or regionally, and the terrain encountered, to determine which specs and options will pay back the most over time.”

    Residual value is another key factor in building a low TCO truck, though Reed cautions that spec’ing with an eye on the return gained at resale will result in a higher upfront price for a new truck.

    David McKenna, director of powertrain sales & marketing for Mack Trucks, adds that length of ownership offers another wrinkle fleets need to consider in their long-term equipment cost-control plans.

    “Typically, the trucker who accumulates a very high number of miles annually and trades in trucks in 30 months usually considers capital costs first and operating expenses a close second,” he says. “The only time that a customer [of this description] will agree to pay a premium for a truck is when that model is demonstrably better than that of the competition.”

    PROPER NUMBERS
    McKenna notes that a fleet operating trucks about 100,000 mi. per year will look more closely at the operating costs as these costs will be amortized over a longer period of time.

    One thing Frank Bio, Volvo Trucks’ product manager, points to is the correct use of metrics on the front end in order to achieve the desired TCO savings.

    “For example, a [trucker] may not be using the right figures to measure fuel economy, such as including the fuel consumed by idling,” he says. “When it gets down to a ‘commodity buy,’ the truck buyer is not fully considering operating costs—and will not get the full value of all the OEM can do to help.”

    On another track, he notes that fleets often also do not see the full cost of accidents and so may miss out on how they can mitigate accident costs via safety options.

    “Getting the lowest TCO comes down to really focusing on what the specific customer needs and matching that with products and services from our portfolio,” Bio explains.

    “Smart managers are collaborating with partner companies that have deep and diverse expertise in all aspects of transportation,” adds NationaLease’s Stopka. When it comes to improving a fleet’s overall mpg, a partner can make knowledgeable recommendations regarding fleet specs, equipment choices and route optimization, even if leasing and rental options may make good business sense, he says.

    “In the best partnerships, all eyes stay on the bottom line with the ultimate goal of putting the most fuel- and cost-efficient truck on the road,” Stopka explains.


    Controlling trailer costs: new vs. used
    When it comes to trailers, Jeff Weber, vice president-sales & marketing for Ervin Equipment, says one way to control costs is for fleets to re-examine whether to buy new or used models.

    “Naturally, there are strong benefits to purchasing both new and used trailers,” he explains. “Overall, new trailers offer the longest life as well as the luxury of having a trailer that has the exact specifications to fit an operator’s needs. But they also carry the highest outright cost and require a significant amount of time to manufacture.”

    Used trailers, by contrast, often have near immediate availability; since they are less expensive, carriers can purchase more trailers with less capital.

    “Realistically speaking, truck owners are not always able to afford a brand-new fleet of trailers,” Weber notes. “In these cases, they often wait for another company to trade in its fleet after the typical five to seven years of use. This way, the companies taking on second ownership can keep capital expenditures low and still have a product with plenty of life remaining.”

    Of course, as trailers age, working parts become worn after years of use, which drives up the cost of ownership. Weber says that used trailers should last up to 10 years and as long as 15, depending on how they have been maintained.

    “Many fleet managers only want to keep a trailer until it reaches the 10-year mark as after that, the cost of ownership is bound to rise,” he explains. “Most don’t want the burden of costly repairs, especially on a trailer that’s a decade old.”

    When a trailer starts pushing beyond a manager’s limits for continued use, tire life can come into play as well, says Weber.

    U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) regulations specify the minimum requirement for tread depth on a trailer is 2/32 in., though most long-haul trailers should have a tread depth more in the range of 6/32 in. if snow is a concern, or 4/32 in. in the rain, he points out.

    Before putting any money into new tires, though, look closely at how much longer that trailer should conceivably be kept in the fleet, notes Weber. Still, an older trailer—even one at the 10-year point—can still serve several purposes, he emphasizes.

    “Often, aged trailers get demoted from over-the-road transport to use for cartage and warehousing purposes,” Weber explains. “Although these trailers still need to be DOT-approved, a new trailer is not necessary for companies looking to cart products shorter distances from the factory to a warehousing facility. During this phase of the trailer’s life, it generally travels less than 100 mi. at once or stays within a company’s site.”
  • Readers Rigs Grand Champion 2012

    Dec 11, 2012
    by Sean Kilcarr, Editor

    It’s not easy for American Trucker’s editorial staff to pick a single truck from all the sweet iron chronicled in our Readers’ Rigs section month after month and declare it the “best of the best” for the year.

    And while Larry and Jeanette Pruitt’s 2007 Mack tractor might not be an old school classic or covered in chrome and bling, a certain special “something” kept bringing our team of judges back to it.

    For starters, it’s a truck dedicated to two of Larry Pruitt’s passions: firefighting, which is something he’s done since age 15, and truck driving. Both Larry’s father and father-in-law were truckers, so it seemed to be a natural second job for him when not donning his heavy rubber boots and gear to battle blazes. “Indeed, I used to ride with my dad a little when I was a kid,” Pruitt told American Trucker.

    When he got a paid firefighting job in St. Louis 20 years ago, he settled into a “split routine” of sorts: 48 hours on duty as a fireman, followed by four days off —days when he jumped behind the wheel of a dump truck to haul topsoil. A Mack truck fan, Pruitt eventually turned in his dump truck for a highway tractor so he could pull tankers for his father-in-law’s (now brother-in-law’s) business.

    A few years back, Pruitt recalled seeing a 2007 Rawhide model Mack Pinnacle tractor operated by Circuit City in his rearview mirror. “‘Man,’ I said to myself, ‘what a sharp-looking truck!’” Pruitt related.

    As it happened, he got his hands on that very same unit when Circuit City went belly up and the tractor ended up at a Mack dealer he knew in St. Louis.
    Originally, he felt a fresh coat of paint and little touches of chrome would be all that he’d need. But a spur-of-the-moment entry into the Truckers Jamboree held at the Iowa 80 Truckstop—where his Mack won a prize—encouraged him to turn things up a notch … or five.

    “I have two antique Mack trucks and the first thing I told myself was that I needed a theme for this one and that I should stick with that theme,” Pruitt said. “For me, it was a no-brainer to go with the firefighter theme.”

    Pruitt took a year getting the paint color and graphics just right, adding a firefighting “bulldog” in full regalia not just on the hood but on the gearshift as well. The best part, Pruitt said, are the awards he’s received for all the work he’s put into his Mack.

    “I remember sitting on an overturned bucket with a cup of tea at about 3 a.m. after polishing [the truck] for what seemed like forever. I kept telling myself, ‘I’d better win something for all this work or I’ll have to seriously rethink what I’m doing here,’” he recalled. “Now, I just laugh at myself for thinking that.”
  • Editor's Page: Positive Energy

    Dec 04, 2012
    by Sean Kilcarr, Editor

    Imagine for a moment that the U.S. replaces Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. Think about that for a minute. Not only would the U.S. be able to fulfill its own petroleum needs, but it could export tons of the black stuff for top dollar. That vision could become a reality sooner than we think if a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) is anywhere close to accurate.

    According to one of the scenarios within the group’s 2012 edition of its annual World Energy Outlook, by around 2020, the U.S. should become the largest global oil producer—overtaking Saudi Arabia.

    By 2030, North America as a whole is predicted to become a net oil exporter, thus switching the direction of the international oil trade towards Asia. Indeed, the IEA predicts that almost 90% of Middle Eastern oil exports will be heading to Asia by 2035. The end result is that the U.S., which currently imports around 20% of its total energy needs, will become all but self-sufficient in net terms.

    Yet while those regional dynamics change, global energy demand will push ever higher, growing by more than one-third by 2035, with China, India and the Middle East accounting for 60% of the growth.

    Just think about that for a minute. No longer will the U.S. be tied strategically to the Middle East.

    Gotta like the sound of that.
  • Business of Trucking: The Road Ahead

    Dec 04, 2012
    by Tim Brady, Editor

    End of the year is perfect time to review your business plan

    It’s that time of year. Do you know where your business is? If not already completed, it’s time for that inquisition as to where your business was a year ago, six months ago, and where it stands today. This is the only way you can determine its direction for the following year.

    Yes, this is the time for family, friends and holiday celebrations. Unless you have a definitive plan of action for your company for next year, however, the celebration may be very short-lived.

    Let’s examine the process of evaluating your company: revenue, costs, customers, vendors, employees, and contractors.

    Review and update your business plan. Many people think a business plan is a document required to obtain financing and attract investors. While that’s one purpose of a business plan, its most important purpose is as a road map with directions you can reference to move your company towards continuing profits. Review your plan annually at a minimum; evaluate whether the original plan is working; and make adjustments where needed to sustain and grow the operation.

    Not having a business plan—or not conducting a regular review of it—is like having a set of complicated directions to a delivery point and attempting to find it by relying on your memory. The chances of making a wrong turn and ending up someplace you hadn’t intended are increased substantially.

    Financials. Make sure your financial records are complete and organized, including your profit and loss statement, balance sheet, revenue statement, and cash flow statement. This allows you to check the financial health of your business. Did you achieve the revenue goals you established a year ago? At what rate did costs go up or down over the past year? Did your overall business improve or decline? Is there a pattern that can be discerned across your financials? Is this a positive or negative pattern? You’ll see a distinct picture develop from a study of these documents.

    Graphs of each of these documents will make it easier to decipher and distinguish patterns. You’ll more easily see when boom periods occurred and when low revenue times happened, and how they affected both profitability and costs during each of these periods.

    Operations. You most likely noticed some inefficiencies in your business from the financials review. What were the recurring problems that you encountered? Maybe your load finding process can be streamlined, or shippers’ and receivers’ loading/unloading can be streamlined. Maybe it’s time for defined freight lanes for each of your trucks. Analyze these weaknesses and develop a strategy for fixing them.

    Marketing and sales. Review your marketing plan. If your strategies aren’t working effectively, develop ideas to reach out to current customers while also finding and cultivating new ones. If you don’t have a marketing plan, make that a priority for the coming year.

    This is also a good time to review your sales strategy. Good customer relationships are important to your business. Know that 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers. Identify those customers and contact them. A freight broker is as much a customer as any direct shipper, so reach out to the brokers with which you have a strong business relationship. Send a personalized, hand-written holiday card to your most important customers. It’s a great way of saying “thank you” and builds customer loyalty.

    Employees and contractors. Evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of your employees and contractors over the last year.

    Did they achieve the goals you established for them? Did you receive favorable reports from shippers, receivers, freight brokers, or others they had contact with regarding your business? What was lacking in customer service that needs to be addressed? Did any of them shine in how they handled a difficult situation? Could this experience be used to teach others how to handle the next challenge?

    What was your employee turnover rate for the year? How does that compare with your driver turnover for the same period? What were the overriding reasons people gave for leaving? How can you address, reduce or eliminate these as reasons for drivers quitting?
    Which employees or contractors are the happiest with their jobs? Why are they pleased with their choice of employment? How can you encourage others to become a part of your team?

    Identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of your company is easy once you’ve answered these questions. You can then determine what is a threat to the business and where opportunities in the coming year may lie.

    Develop a strategy to minimize these weaknesses and threats so you can benefit from the strengths to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. From the strategy developed through the evaluation of critical business areas and goals, you can adjust, change, delete and improve the direction of your business plan.

    Managing a business is like helping an errant, rebellious teenager transition into adulthood. If the business is ignored, it’ll take on a mind of its own. The longer you delay taking control, the more control you’ll lose. The best way to move a teenager or business forward is to provide some freedom that allows each to take its own course but maintain the lines that help you keep it from going over the edge.

    With a pull here and a tug there, both will move forward: one towards adulthood and the other to profitability and sustainability.
  • Cover Story: Oil Change

    Dec 04, 2012
    by David Cullen, Contributing Editor

    Modern engines are pushing the need for more choices


    In just a few years’ time, the heavy-duty engine oil arena is very likely to get more complicated for truck owners—albeit for very good reasons. The release of a new American Petroleum Institute (API) service category for heavy-duty motor oil (such as the current CJ-4) always starts with a discussion by engine makers and lube formulators of a “Proposed Category” (PC).

    That’s not unusual. But this time around, the Proposed Category under discussion—PC-11—may well lead to the release of not one but two new API oil-service categories. To fully grasp what’s now driving heavy-duty engine oil development and thus PC-11, first look at the next wave of federal environmental rules for trucks. In a few years, truck OEMs in concert with engine makers will have to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and corresponding miles per gallon (mpg) increases for commercial vehicles that will go into effect in stages from 2014 to 2018.

    Truck and engine builders are expecting motor oil to help them hit those targets. That’s why they have petitioned API for new oil-service categories. If created out of PC-11, the new categories would supplant the current CJ-4 category and become available for licensing via API by oil formulators on Jan. 1, 2016.

    The entity charged with recommending whether to proceed with a new oil category is called the New Category Evaluation Team (NCET). It’s comprised of representatives from the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Assn. (EMA), API, and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) as well as members drawn from oil additive suppliers and industry testing labs.

    NCET must consider “all information being presented by engine makers to see how developing and releasing a new API category would affect the marketplace, other existing API categories and the environment,” advises Dan Arcy, global OEM technical manager for Shell Global Solutions and NCET chair. “The team must also consider the timing of the request, whether or not there are tests available [to prove it out], and if there is sufficient data to support changes in engine design.”

    NCET’s recommendation will either be a “yes” or a “no” by consensus. According to Arcy, a decision on whether or not PC-11 will be split into two proposed categories will likely not be formally made until sometime next year.

    If NCET does recommend proceeding, creation of the new category is taken up by the Heavy-Duty Oil Classification Panel of the American Society of Testing & Materials (ASTM). This panel is charged with setting limits and verifying testing for the development of API oil classifications. The technical specs are ultimately relayed to API for licensing.

    “PC-11 was launched to address the reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from truck engines [due to the GHG/MPG rules] and to help engines be more fuel-efficient,” says Arcy. “The PC-11 challenge will be to develop specs for engine lubes to meet the need to cut CO2 and provide a fuel-economy benefit while not compromising engine life and durability.”

    And that is such a tall order that EMA “recommended that PC-11 be split into two subcategories because of the desire to improve fuel efficiency while ensuring corresponding [protection] performance levels,” Arcy relates.

    If they come to fruition, each of these new categories would help engines meet the lower CO2 standards of the GHG/MPG rules. Now the kicker: The difference between the categories would center on their impact on fuel efficiency.

    Under the dual-oil scenario, the first new category would be formulated to “preserve the historical heavy-duty oil criteria [as represented by the current CJ-4 category] and be backward-compatible with existing on- and off-highway engines,” explains Arcy. While the second new category would also maintain engine durability, it would, in addition, deploy a lower-viscosity formula to significantly boost fuel efficiency compared to current CJ-4 15W-40 oils.
    oil drivers

    What’s more, according to Arcy, that second, fuel-efficient oil would provide only “limited backward-compatibility,” the actual scope of which would depend on OEM and engine maker requirements and vehicle applications.

    There are other drivers pushing the development of PC-11. “NCET wants to address changes in the hardware of engines manufactured since 2006 as well as deal with the obsolescence of many of the engine tests used to develop an oil-service category,” says Arcy. “It’s worth noting that by the time work is done on this new category or categories, 10 years will have elapsed since the last category [CJ-4] came out.”

    The lubrication engineer who has chaired the ASTM Heavy-Duty Oil Classification Panel for the last 25 years—during which time seven new oil-service categories have been introduced—is Jim McGeehan, global manager of diesel engine oil technology for Chevron Lubricants. He affirms that the stated goal of EMA to have two new categories in place for licensing in 2016 is “still the position today, and there is no indication they will change it.”

    DURABILITY MATTERS
    “Having [just] one oil that does it all is not feasible based on how the OEMs will specify their approvals,” McGeehan asserts. “For the off-road vehicle segment of customers, those OEMs have indicated today they want an oil that is backward-compatible with a normal oil film thickness for the upcoming new category; they are more interested in durability of their engines than fuel economy.

    “On-road vehicle OEMs are interested in trying to achieve the best fuel economy from their vehicles to meet upcoming federal regulations but also to support customers who are trying to minimize the impact of fuel costs,” he continues. “This means that an on-road customer may have a choice between normal film thickness or one that is thinner based on the fuel economy performance they are targeting.”

    McGeehan adds that it is also “possible that, after testing, on-highway vehicle manufacturers may decide the fuel economy oil is backward-compatible with their older vehicles. If so, then more fleets may adopt the maximum fuel economy formulation that has a thinner viscosity film to try and incrementally improve fuel economy performance and help lower their total cost of operation.”

    “The new fuel-efficient, heavy-duty engine oil will, by design, provide improvements in fuel economy,” remarks Victor Kersey, technical director for Valvoline Commercial Products. “The degree of improvement will be affected by engine make and model, driving conditions (both driver and duty cycle), and the oil’s ability to maintain fuel efficiency throughout the oil drain interval.

    “It will be less challenging to formulate two oils,” he continues. “One will be a fully backward-compatible product with possible traditional viscometrics, such as SAE 15W-40. The second will be a lower-viscosity oil providing fuel economy benefits. Backward-compatibility is unlikely for the 5W-30 lower-HTHS (high temperature/high shear) FE (fuel economy) version.”

    “I believe that the technology will exist to do both oil-service categories with the understanding that oil quality will be the driver as opposed to building an oil just to meet minimum specifications,” remarks Mark Betner, Citgo’s product manager-heavy-duty lubricants.

    (continue reading)
  • Cover Story: Oil Change page 2

    Dec 04, 2012
    Engine Issues
    Roll all the expectations together for what PC-11 will have to accomplish and the list of expected improvements to heavy-duty motor oil that Shell’s Arcy touts includes better oxidation stability, aeration, and shear stability; less adhesive wear or “scuffing”; and compatibility with engines running biodiesel blends.

    Along with helping meet GHG/MPG targets and continuing to protect engine life and durability, PC-11 will also need to consider concerns raised by engine makers regarding the interaction of motor oil and engine designs as well as the updating of the various engine tests deployed to prove out a new category.

    Kersey observes that the need for PC-11 is also driven by the “increased use of biodiesel fuel, engine oil foaming concerns, and improved protection from higher engine operating temperatures.” He says the upshot is “engine oil formulators will be facing several new oil performance tests with PC-11. These are likely to include new oxidation, ring wear, piston scuffing, oil aeration, and viscosity increase tests.”

    Chevron’s McGeehan says that some engine tests will be carried over from CJ-4 based on their “current robustness.” He also points out that several tests are being developed for this category along with corresponding test-limit recommendations. “An example of some of the possible new tests under development are the Mack T-13 and Daimler DD13 [Daimler OM 471], which are designed to measure wear and piston liner scuffing, respectively,” McGeehan notes. “However, these tests have not reached the point of development for inclusion into the category-testing program as of this date. The final decision...will be decided by June 2013.”

    Lower-viscosity oil grades will appear prominently on the table as PC-11 is investigated and presumably advances, whether to one or two new service categories.

    “Engine wear protection with fuel-efficient technology will be a goal [of PC-11],” relates Citgo’s Betner. “We have had fuel-efficient oil technology in the marketplace for some time, however, with excellent results in terms of engine life and engine wear protection.

    “There’s no mystery to fuel-efficient [oil] technology,” he continues. “Engine oil viscosity in diesel engines is the key driver to achieving fuel efficiency. If fuel economy is the main driver behind reducing CO2 per ton-mile, then the contribution of engine oil fuel efficiency will be the main component—and again, that will come through [lower] viscosity.

    “In my opinion,” Betner adds, “we have the capability and technology to deliver on both [fuel efficiency and engine protection]. It’s a matter of how well this [two-oil scenario] can be introduced to the industry.”

    According to Chevron’s McGeehan, moving to lower-viscosity oils “enables fuel economy improvements.” He says that today, 85% of the oils in the marketplace are SAE 15W-40 as API CJ-4 or CI-4 PLUS oils. “Chevron markets lower-viscosity grades, including SAE 5W-30, SAE 5W-40 and SAE 10W-30, that meet API CJ-4 and have fuel economy benefits over our primary SAE 15W-40 viscosity grade,” he notes.

    “Currently,” McGeehan adds, “the SAE 10W-30 grade is growing the fastest of all the grades because of its fuel economy benefit and the fact that engine manufacturers such as Volvo, Detroit Diesel and Cummins are now recommending this grade, particularly for 2013 engines, to meet the 2014 fuel economy standards.”

    Past Lesson
    Looking ahead at the challenge of bringing two oil formulations to market, Citgo’s Betner invokes a lesson from the past. “It was difficult for some fleet owners to depart from single-grade oils when SAE 15W-40 was introduced. Back in the early ’80s, after making a presentation to a large fleet in an attempt to explain how SAE 15W-40 could help, I was told that 15W-40 would never work in diesel engines. Thirty years later we know how that came out.”

    Valvoline’s Kersey says there is concern about the potential for confusion among customers. “The burden will be upon the industry to properly educate end users on viscosity grades, performance levels/API categories, backward-compatibility effects, durability concerns and fuel economy.”

    “There are many challenges associated with a new category, especially one with the potential complexity of PC-11,” says Chevron’s McGeehan. “For example, the label must be very different for the [resulting] ‘SAE XW-30’ to prevent misapplication. The backward-compatible oil may be named API ‘CK-4’ and the maximum fuel economy formulation could go by another API designation, such as ‘API HD’ oil.”

    However the nomenclature is worked out, it will matter greatly to clearly communicate the difference between the two oil categories—if indeed there are two—to all users of heavy-duty engine oil come 2016.

    (Return to page one of Oil Change)
  • Cover Story: Tires- Rolling out more MPG

    Nov 06, 2012
    by David Cullen, Contributing Editor

    New federal rules pushing development  of more fuel-efficient tires and retreads


    Government forces bent on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial trucks through increased fuel efficiency are driving manufacturers of truck tires and retreads to build products that deliver the largest possible contribution to miles-per-gallon performance. That’s why tire and retread suppliers are all about closing what can be termed the mpg loop—the contribution rubber on the road makes to truck fuel efficiency, whether it’s as an original tire, a replacement tire, or as one or more retreads in fleet service.

    Among the first developments to accelerate the birth of more fuel-efficient tires and retreads was the GHG limits placed on certain highway tractors, which were put forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) back in 2008 and came into effect in 2010.
    CARB, by the way, estimates that by the close of 2020, its GHG reg will have saved truck operators “about $8.6 billion when diesel fuel consumption is reduced by as much as 750 million gals. in California and by 5 billion gals. across the nation.” And per CARB, that fuel-efficiency gain will come thanks to “improvements in tractor and trailer aerodynamics and the use of low rolling resistance tires.”

    Pressure point
    At pretty much the same time the CARB rule came about, mpg-savvy truck owners as well as those responding to environmentally conscious shippers began to increasingly seek out tires that met the fuel-consumption criteria required for verification by the voluntary SmartWay program launched by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Yet another mpg pressure point being applied to tires is the federal GHG rules that will begin to be imposed on commercial truck OEMs starting less than two years from now.

    And to be sure, the contribution retreads can make to closing the mpg loop has at last caught the spotlight in a big way. In June, as part of its SmartWay program, EPA started a fuel-efficiency verification program for “tire retread technologies for use on linehaul Class 8 trucks.”
    EPA states that the resulting verified “low rolling resistance retread products” will provide cuts in fuel consumption of at least 3% compared to the “most popular retreaded products now in use.”

    Retread suppliers must test their products and demonstrate they meet the required performance criteria to be listed by SmartWay as verified retreads. EPA notes that to obtain the minimum fuel-consumption reductions, “verified tires or retreads must be used on the drive and trailer positions, with EPA-verified steer tires, and all tires must be properly inflated according to the manufacturer’s specifications.”

    “The additional expansion of the voluntary SmartWay program plus the CARB and GHG rules for OEMs together are pointing the industry in the right direction for improved fuel efficiency,” contends Guy Walenga, director of engineering-commercial products & technologies for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “The goal, of course, is to reduce vehicle emissions for cleaner air and the side benefit is less fuel will get burned. It’s a win-win all around.”

    FAST TRACK

    Make no mistake, retread makers are making fast tracks to attain SmartWay verification. “We are in the testing phase of our fuel-saving products [for SmartWay verification] by one of the major EPA-approved U.S. testing labs,” relates Giampaolo Brioschi, product manager for retread supplier Marangoni.

    “As soon as we have the results, we will apply for the SmartWay approval,” he continues. “In our case, we have combined Marangoni’s splice-less Ringtread technology with advanced compounding and tread designs to maximize fuel efficiency while maintaining very long mileage and increasing reliability.”

    Continental Tire the Americas’ Commercial Vehicle Tire unit has already submitted two low rolling resistance retreads for SmartWay verification: the HDL Eco Plus ContiTread (drive-axle retread) and the HTL Eco Plus ContiTread (for trailers).

    “Because of the adoption of these standards by the SmartWay Transport Partnership, the importance of manufacturing retreaded truck tires that perform just as well as new products has been brought to the forefront,” says Paul Williams, Continental’s executive vice president for truck tires, the Americas.

    “Our ContiTreads have always been made with the same standards and tread patterns as our new tires, which are the largest number of products verified by SmartWay today for low rolling resistance,” he notes.

    Paul Crehan, Michelin’s product marketing director, says the company’s process to attain SmartWay verification of its retreads is under way and will result in the “approval [of] a wide range of our products.”

    Real opportunity

    “The SmartWay retread program is a real opportunity for the industry to close the loop on the mpg gains low rolling resistance tires and retreads deliver by ensuring fuel-efficient rubber is available throughout the product lifecycle,” says Bridge­stone’s Walenga.
    “Up until now,” he continues, “there’s not been a lot of emphasis on closing that loop in trucking, but having these targets out there will lead more fleets to consider retreads as a means of benefitting from fuel efficiency continuously.”

    Walenga says having the “EPA imprint” on retreads will get the attention of fleet owners who had “previously tended to give up on fuel efficiency once a tire was retreaded. In short, we’re very glad EPA has done this.”

    While Double Coin doesn’t yet supply retreads, Aaron Murphy, vice president of CMA, the North American subsidiary of Double Coin Holdings, is quick to point out that “once we enter into that segment of the business, which is in our strategic plan, we plan to provide verified-technology retreads that will be SmartWay-approved.”

    Roger Stansbie, Continental’s director of radial truck tire technologies-the Americas, reports that the impact of upcoming GHG rules on tires for truck OEMs will be “slightly kinder” than what SmartWay verification requires of new tires in terms of rolling-resistance levels.

    Regarding the GHG limits, Stansbie says that Continental is “already doing lots of testing with the OEMs and working on a new generation of tires” with the GHG rules in mind. “And the GHG specifics only suggest what the contribution of tires may be. But there’s the strong possibility that in the next five to 10 years, a 10 to 15% improvement in tire rolling resistance will be seen,” he predicts. “Keep in mind a 5% decrease in rolling resistance equals a 1% gain in fuel efficiency.”

    Stansbie adds that such a performance mark as 10 or 15% better “has not yet been stated by SmartWay, but it has been suggested.”

    Stansbie points out that, in general, the bigger challenge ahead for tire and retread makers is not what SmartWay, which is oriented toward long-haul trucking, or the federal GHG reg may require, but what must be done to reduce the rolling resistance of on/off-road tires.

    FINE-TUNING
    He says the upshot of the GHG impact is that OEMs “may ask us to fine-tune rolling resistance further” to improve the mpg performance of more truck types. “And because the rule kicks in for 2014 truck models, the OEMs will begin production next year and the tires will have to be ready for them,” Stansbie notes.

    “Yokohama has developed and produced fuel-efficient tires for years—from even before EPA and SmartWay became involved,” states Rick Phillips, Yokohama’s director of commercial sales. “This is something we continue to focus on. Every new commercial-tire product that we have on the drawing board has an eye on fuel efficiency, not only for our OEM partners, but also for our fleet partners who are dedicated to improving fuel efficiency.”

    click here to continue reading....
  • Cover Story: Tires- Rolling out more MPG - part 2

    Nov 06, 2012
    Cool-running
    He adds that the M157 also deploys a four steel-belt package to ensure uniform growth of the tread area. “This design reduces rolling resistance while also helping to reduce irregular wear; the result is an improvement in fuel mileage.”

    According to Tim Miller, Goodyear’s customer marketing manager-Commercial Tire Systems, other examples of mpg-oriented tires are within Goodyear’s Fuel Max line, including these models: G316 LHT, G572 LHD, G662 RSA, G305AT LHD, G392 SSD, and G394 SST. “Goodyear’s Fuel Max Technology incorporates cool-running compounds and construction to help reduce truck fuel consumption,” he remarks. “Goodyear also offers retreaded tires with Fuel Max Technology.”

    “Tires today are much more fuel-efficient than they were just a few years ago and as technology evolves, this will improve even further,” contends Yokohama’s Phillips.

    “Currently, tires actually play a relatively small role in fuel efficiency when compared to the engine and aerodynamics,” he adds. “But as vehicle manufacturers continue to improve on those factors, tires will play a larger role. So the engineering will continue to be a work in progress.”
    As to whether fleet owners should be concerned that the harder push now on for tire/retread mpg gains might lead to trade-offs in durability and retreadability, Double Coin’s Murphy says there’s no doubt that’s a consideration when any manufacturer modifies its products.

    “The durability/retreadability can’t suffer due to these mpg/GHG requirements or the overall tire costs to a fleet will increase,” he continues. “The key for us is to optimize all aspects of the tire’s functionality and performance so that the lifecycle costs of a Double Coin tire continue to be attractive to the end user.”

    TRADE-OFFS?
    Yokohama’s Phillips points out that “typically, fuel-efficient tires run cooler than non-fuel-efficient tires so the cooler operating temperature actually helps prevent casing fatigue. This in turn helps the retreadability and durability of the tire.
    “However,” he continues, “there are certainly other trade-offs for fuel efficiency. Fortunately, engineers have several ways to lower the rolling resistance in a tire. So depending on how the product is designed and manufactured, you may notice a little less mileage or a little less resistance to cuts and snags. The challenge is to utilize all the tire’s components in a way that deliver the expected fuel efficiency without compromising the total performance of the tire and its intended application.”

    Continental’s Stansbie recommends that tire buyers continue to “pay close attention to what tire makers offer to ensure expected tread life and retreadability within the parameters for low rolling resistance.”

    Phillips says Yokohama’s approach to the mpg/lifecycle trade-off is to “combine different elements of the tread, the rubber compound, the casing, and also the manufacturing process to deliver fuel efficiency as well as other performance standards.

    “A common way to lower rolling resistance is simply to shallow the tread design,” he adds. “However, we were able to design and produce the 703ZL drive tire at 32/32 [tread depth] with low enough rolling resistance to be verified by EPA as a fuel-efficient product. It’s currently the deepest tread depth on the EPA list of verified products.”

    POSITIVE UPSHOT
    Double Coin’s Murphy says the GHG rules being imposed on truck OEMs are creating further impetus for lowering the rolling resistance of tires. “Double Coin is not only now providing EPA SmartWay-verified tires for those users that participate in the program, but we’re also reviewing all tires in our lineup for rolling resistance. Our goal is to lower these values on core products such that we can assist OEMs to meet the new [GHG] guidelines.
    “Some products we supply already meet the [GHG] guidelines, and we’re continuing to work on others to reduce the rolling resistance,” he adds. “It’s an ongoing process that utilizes technology in tread patterns, casing components, rubber compounds, and a myriad of technical developments.”
    Michelin’s Crehan says that to meet the specifics of the federal GHG category for heavy-duty trucks, there are six approaches OEMs can access to meet the targets. These are aerodynamics, weight reduction, extended idle shutdown (such as via APUs), speed limiting, and drive- and steer-axle tires with low rolling resistance.

    “Selecting from these choices, the OEMs can make various adjustments to meet the heavy-duty GHG goals,” he explains. “For vocational trucks, though, only the steer and drive tires will matter, as those vehicles are not running fast nor do they have persons sleeping in them.”

    Crehan notes that Michelin’s “general position” on both the SmartWay program and the CARB and GHG rules is positive. “Environmental sustainability and fuel efficiency are the targets and that is being well communicated to the trucking marketplace.”

    Closing the loop
    Bridgestone’s Walenga reports that the tire maker has been working with truck OEMs it supplies for the past three to four months to get them the tire data they will need for their GHG calculations.

    “The way it’s working is that if an OEM expects to use a particular tire on a certain truck, they need average rolling resistance quotients from us,” he explains. “And they need that data for each and every tire model they will buy. As it happens, our line of tires that are SmartWay-verified will handle most of the expected truck applications under the GHG rules.”

    Along with his contention that the advent of SmartWay-verified retreads will help close the mpg loop, Walenga says the positive upshot of the GHG rule will be “more fleets ending up with more fuel-efficient tires on their new trucks. From there, more fuel-efficient tires will get out into the marketplace. And fleets will be wise to buy replacement tires and/or retreads that are fuel-efficient to keep the mpg gains going for them.”

    “In the replacement market,” he continues, “there are many applications where the need for verified technology is not mandatory due to applications or other requirements. I will say that both power unit and trailer OEMs are focusing heavily on the SmartWay-verified technology products at this time. Fleets and other end users seem to be turning towards products that can help their bottom line and lower costs.”

    NO COMPROMISE
    Yokohama’s Phillips says that fuel-efficient tires have “absolutely” become a de facto standard spec at many fleets. He says the truck’s application helps determine the need for fuel efficiency, “but for most linehaul and many regional operations, fuel efficiency plays a major role.”
    “There’s always a risk involved when buyers feel forced to do something,” Michelin’s Crehan observes of the impact of the CARB and GHG rules on fleets. “But to be sure, a balanced approach is being taken by tire makers.”

    He says it’s Michelin’s view that “no compromise in tire performance is required to meet the new rules” and that fleet owners should have “no inherent concerns around performance” about the tires they will be getting.

    “That being said,” Crehan cautions, “it will still be important for fleets to work with their [dealers] to spec trucks—including their tires—correctly for the best performance in their given application. Plenty of fleets already approach fuel-efficient tires as de facto specs,” he advises. Yet others do not view them that way.

    “Per CARB, fleets operating in California will need SmartWay-verified tires and others will need them if required by certain [green-conscious] customers and, of course, new trucks starting in 2014 will come with low-GHG tires,” notes Crehan.

    “To be sure, the awareness of the effect tires have on fuel consumption is becoming more clear,” he adds. “Still, right now, there are many fleet managers who can ‘see’ their tread wear—but not the impact tires have on their fuel costs.”

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  • September Cover Story: Making the CNG choice

    Sep 06, 2012
    Asking the right questions up front is mission critical.
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Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.. Check back often for Sean's take on the trucking industry, in his award-winning blog, Trucks at Work.

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