September 2002

| October 07, 2002

USED-TRUCK RALLY AVOIDS EXTREMES

The introduction of low-emission engines, whose government-mandated Oct. 1 deadline is at hand, has neither virtually wiped out the inventory of used trucks nor pushed their values back to those of two or three years ago.

Some in the industry had expected a used-truck sellers’ market by this time, predicting fleets and owner-operators would snap up every available used and new truck with proven engines rather than take a chance on trucks with the more expensive new engines.

Used trucks, the values of which plunged by as much as 40 percent in 2001, staged a rally beginning in late January, according to used truck dealers and price trackers, and regained much of the value lost during the economic downturn.

While certain trucks are still popular with buyers, the Truck Blue Book’s Terry Williams says the rally is over and prices have stabilized or started down again. “Some dealers say they’re starting to see a slowdown in sales,” Williams says.

The reason? The economy, which began to recover this year, has faltered. Williams expects his publication to lower values by 3 percent to 5 percent in the year’s fourth quarter.

Some dealers expected large fleets that usually buy new to buy used trucks. Schneider National’s Chairman Don Schneider threatened to do that rather than buy new trucks with low-emissions engines. “But we haven’t found any (large) fleets that usually buy new, buying used,” Williams says. “It’s only the second tier of fleets that always buy used in the market. We couldn’t find anyone that would admit to it. We think it’s a lot of bluff.” Instead, those fleets are asking to extend their leases or are pushing out their trade cycle.

As for owner-operators, traditional models spec’d with lots of chrome and amenities are still attracting buyers, says Eddie Walker, president of the Used Truck Association and owner of Best Used Trucks in Fort Worth Texas.

“Truck values are going up right now, especially on owner-operator type trucks,” Walker says. “It doesn’t make any difference what brand.”

Walker says small fleets that formerly bought new are looking at used owner-operator models because they want to avoid new trucks with low-emission engines.

- Sean Kelley


EPA SETS ENGINE NON-COMPLIANCE FINES

Those engine makers who fail to meet tough new emission standards Oct. 1 will pay for it – a lot in some cases. The Environmental Protection Agency issued its final non-conformance penalty rule for heavy-duty diesel engine manufacturers Aug. 1, with fines ranging from several hundred dollars to more than $12,000.

Caterpillar said Aug. 2 that the penalties were higher than what was outlined in the U.S. Justice Department consent decree signed by engine makers four years ago. “The issue of penalties will now be resolved in the courts,” the company said in a prepared statement. “We will also have EPA-certified engines in October 2002, which will be essentially unchanged from our current industry-leading engines, but with reduced emissions.”

The stiff penalties apply to companies unable to produce engines that emit 2.5 grams or less of nitrogen oxides and other particulates. Under the 1998 agreement, Caterpillar, Cummins, International Truck and Engine Co., Detroit Diesel, Mack and Volvo pledged to speed up production of cleaner engines to Oct. 1, 2002.

Cummins and Mack have produced engines that the EPA says meets those standards. Other manufacturers say they expect to receive certification before Oct. 1. Caterpillar has said it will not meet the deadline, but it will have a fully compliant engine by January.

A Cat spokesman says the emissions from its engines certified for sale this fall will rate between 3 and 3.1 grams of NOx and other particulates. Under the EPA rule, it appears each engine will cost the manufacturer at least $3,600 in fines to produce. Cat has said these bridge engines will be priced competitively.

The fee schedule increases over time.

– Sean Kelley



AAA AGREES: CARS CAUSE MOST TRUCK WRECKS

AAA, the country’s largest association of motorists, has released a controversial report that says in the vast majority of fatal car-truck accidents, motorists – not truckers – were at fault.

The study, which looked at more than 10,000 fatal car-truck accidents occurring between 1995 and 1998, focused on the driver behaviors that contributed to the accident. The study found motorists commonly failed to stay in their lane, failed to yield right-of-way, drove too fast for conditions or in excess of speed limits, failed to obey traffic signs, lights and laws, and were inattentive.

Additionally, four other driver behaviors played a significant role in car-truck crashes: following improperly; driving with vision obscured by rain, snow, fog, sand or dust; fatigued driving; and improper lane changing.

This analysis also confirmed earlier studies that the actions of car drivers contribute more to fatal car-truck crashes than do the actions of truck drivers.

“These tragedies are completely preventable,” says J. Peter Kissinger, CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “By adjusting their driving style, motorists can safely and confidently share the road with large vehicles.”

The study was controversial because several former staffers of AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety told newspapers this year that the motorist advocate and travel group was trying to suppress the results that reflected poorly on its core membership. The association released the study in late July.

The study also found that younger truck drivers were more likely than older truck drivers to follow improperly, speed and use alcohol or drugs. AAA recommends development of educational materials and simulators to better inform motorists of how to drive around big trucks.

- Sean Kelley


Looking for equipment? Whether it’s locating the right truck, checking the most recent prices or finding the best deals on parts, the Internet is more valuable than ever as a market source. The September Monthly Focus on eTrucker.com features stories that will help you navigate the online world to find good bargains.

FEWER TRUCK DEATHS, INJURIES IN FINAL STATS

Crashes involving tractor-trailers took fewer lives in 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Fatalities dropped to 5,082, down 200 from the previous year. Estimated statistics were released earlier by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration.

The latest numbers show declines in deaths of large truck occupants and injuries from crashes involving large trucks. Injuries declined 6.5 percent, while deaths of occupants declined 6.6 percent, according to the statistics.

Of the 5,082 deaths in wrecks involving big rigs, 697 were either driving the truck or were passengers in it. Most of those deaths, 437, occurred in single-vehicle accidents.

A copy of the full report can be found online at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. Click on “Crash Statistics.”

- Sean Kelley


DETROIT DIESEL FILES FOR EPA CERTIFICATION

Detroit Diesel Corp. last month filed applications with the Environmental Protection Agency for emissions certification of its Series 60 diesel engines beyond Oct. 1.

Although exhaust gas recirculation technology is new to the Series 60, it has been used on the Series 50 since 2000, noted John Morelli, vice president of the Series 60 Engine Program.

For the new engines, “not even one word in the warranty has changed,” Morelli said. Nor is there a change in the recommended oil drain interval, he said, because the soot concerns have not materialized. There is no change in the required maintenance schedule, and there are no additional parts subjected to maintenance requirements.

“As far as durability is concerned, we couldn’t be more pleased,” Morelli said. “The life of the piston ring is actually the key to long life, and we have now confirmed that ring face wear is 78 percent lower on the EGR engines when compared to our current engines.”

People who drive the EGR engines have found drivability, throttle response and engine braking performance to be excellent, Morelli said. The EGR engine weighs 25 pounds less than the current Series 60.

– avery vise


NEW KENWORTH DEALERSHIP

Inland Kenworth has opened a new facility in Tucson, Ariz., off I-10 at Exit 254 on the west side of the freeway. The facility has 28 service bays, including two drive-throughs with complete lube pits, and provides full alignment and electronic diagnostics. The dealership is open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. Its phone number is (520) 888-0028.



TOUGHER CDL REGS AT HAND

Changes to the rule governing commercial driver licenses, which go into effect Sept. 30, promise to make getting and keeping the credentials more difficult.

The changes allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration greater latitude in revoking licenses and disqualifying drivers. Under the changes, the FMCSA can disqualify CDL holders who violate drug- and alcohol-related traffic laws while operating an automobile; drive a truck after their CDL is revoked, suspended or canceled; or cause a fatality though negligent or criminal operation of a truck.

Other rule changes are to definitions. A serious traffic violation now includes drivers who fail to obtain a CDL but drive a truck anyway; who operate a truck without a CDL in the driver’s possession; and who operate a truck without the correct credentials for the vehicle being driven or type of cargo being transported.

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is one that allows the FMCSA’s chief safety officer to disqualify, CDL drivers who pose an imminent hazard. The rule defines that condition as one that presents a likelihood of serious injury or substantial danger.

The final rule requires that applicants obtaining, transferring or renewing a CDL tell the state driver-licensing agency where they previously held motor vehicle licenses. This enables the issuing agency to obtain a candidate’s complete driving record, and makes it more difficult for a driver to hold more than one license, which is illegal.

During the rulemaking process several truckers welcomed the changes. “I think the rules are great,” says Allan Nickoles, a trucker from Lecanto, Fla. But Nickoles asked why the FMCSA wasn’t expanding the CDL to cover drivers of RVs and pickup trucks that haul long trailers. “They need to be inspected and banned from the roads. They need CDLs if they are going to be that long.”

Trucker Mike Cardarelle of Fond du Lac, Wis., told the FMCSA that he thought the rule changes were unnecessary and discriminate against truckers. “What I do in my auto should not have anything to do with my safety record where I’m employed,” Cardelle says.

States can also be penalized under the new rule with funding restrictions if they haven’t substantially complied within three years.

– Sean Kelley



SIRIUS SAYS MORE FUNDING NEEDED

Sirius Satellite Radio, one of two satellite radio companies, told the Securities and Exchange Commission Aug. 13 it may have to file for bankruptcy unless it is able to raise funds.

However, bankruptcy is just one of many possibilities, says spokesman Jim Collins. “We have to say in (the filing) that if we can’t raise additional funds we may have to declare bankruptcy

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