Overdrive Staff | March 01, 2010

Paccar recently completed its 71st year of profitability and has paid cash dividends every year since 1941, Pigott said. “When markets are booming, every company looks good. But when you turn the lights off, only a few are still shining and that’s Paccar.”

When Paccar realized the economy was slipping into a recession, the company made some “challenging decisions,” Pigott said. Those included closing down factories, reducing the company’s head count by 40 percent, going “line-by-line” through the capital budget and working with suppliers. “You have to align your business with the recession,” he said. “Every year we go in focusing: We’re going to make money. Let’s figure out how we’re going to do that.”

— Linda Longton

SuperTruck draws Navistar attention

A smoke stream glides over a Navistar ProStar and trailer during Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory testing at the NASA Ames Center in California.

At the March 25-27 Mid-America Trucking Show, Navistar will display a prototype of a system that will move the fifth wheel to adjust the gap between the back of the truck cab and the trailer to optimize aerodynamics.

This project is among other SuperTruck research that Navistar and other truck and engine makers are working on. The SuperTruck projects are receiving $115 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding.

Ron Schoon, the truck maker’s chief aerodynamics engineer, said the “radical” system would slide the trailer back and forth to minimize airflow at highway speeds. The system would operate independently of the driver but react almost instantly in an emergency.

“The key is safety,” Schoon said. “We’re testing exactly how far the device can move before its locking feature engages. Depending on your configuration and how your trailer is loaded, it will always run as close to the [truck] as possible.”

Schoon said Navistar is talking with fifth wheel makers and may partner with a company to hasten the product’s development.

Navistar has been testing for the last 15 months aerodynamic devices attached to a 53-foot trailer behind one of its ProStar tractors at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., the truck maker announced.

NASA’s Ames and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are conducting the tests under a $2 million U.S. Department of Energy grant with the purpose of increasing fuel efficiency by more closely integrating the tractor with the trailer.

In another DOE project, Navistar was awarded $37.3 million in matching funds over five years to develop systems to increase heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency by 50 percent.

Advanced Transit Dynamics, trailer manufacturer Wabash National, Swift Transportation, Safeway and a tire maker are collaborating on the project.

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