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Overdrive Staff | October 01, 2010

Study: Engine problems worsen

Heavy-truck owners report almost twice as many problems with 2004 and newer engines compared to engines built earlier.

Problem rates for heavy-duty truck engines manufactured with emissions controls implemented in 2004 and 2007 are nearly twice as high, on average, as rates for engines built prior to these emission changes, says research firm J.D. Power and Associates.

Its 2010 U.S. Heavy-Duty Truck Engine and Transmission Study finds that 51 percent of owners of one-year-old heavy-duty truck engines in 2010 report experiencing a problem. However, prior to the changes in emissions standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 26 percent of owners of two-year-old truck engines experienced a problem.

“Clearly, the emissions requirements have put a burden on engine manufacturers, and the result is that today’s engines – although environmentally improved – are more problematic,” said Todd Markusic, senior director of the commercial vehicle practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

“Given the quality issues that arose from the last emission standards redesign in 2007, the new emissions standards in 2010 will no doubt create another challenge for engine manufacturers, but those that best handle the integration of these new standards will have a competitive advantage.”

The study also finds that the number of engine problems increases by 55 percent, on average, after 50,000 miles of usage – up to 80.5 problems per 100 vehicles from 51.9. As a result, satisfaction with engines decreases after 50,000 miles.

The most-commonly reported engine problems are issues with electronic control module calibration (cited by 14 percent of owners) and exhaust gas recirculation valve (13 percent).

Now in its 14th year, the study measures customer satisfaction with engines and transmissions in one-year-old Class 8 trucks. The study was conducted in February and March.

— Staff reports



FedEx Ground wins key case

FedEx Ground won a victory applicable to its other class action cases when a federal judge ruled the company’s owner-operators in Kansas are not employees.

Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana ruled in favor of the Tennessee-based company. The right of a company to control an employee’s work is key in common law, he said.

“If several other factors weighed strongly in favor of employee status, the right to control analysis, standing alone, might not be enough under these facts to establish independent contractor status,” Miller wrote. “But many of the other factors also point to independent contractor status, and when viewing all the various factors together, the court finds that the drivers are independent contractors as a matter of law.”

While some facts point to FedEx’s right to control, “they don’t raise to the level of control necessary to show employee status,” he said.

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