Industry News

Caterpillar is developing two heavy-duty automatic transmissions to match with its on-road vocational truck engines.

Caterpillar will begin production of the torque-converter-type CX31 and CX35 transmissions this year, with availability in 2006.

The CX31 has six forward speeds and one reverse, while the CX35 has eight forward speeds and a reverse. Both have lockup torque converters and electronic controls.

The CX31 matches with C11 engines up to 370 hp, C13 engines up to 430 hp, and C15 engines up to 500 hp and 1,650 lb.-ft. of torque. The CX35 matches with C15 engines up to 625 hp and 2,050 lb.-ft. of torque.

The transmissions are “based on proven technology from Caterpillar articulated trucks,” the company says, but the transmissions will be new models, extensively redesigned.

“When packaged with a Cat on-highway engine, these transmissions will give vocational truck customers the option for one source for a fully integrated powertrain, which means product support is greatly simplified,” says Gerry Shaheen, Caterpillar Group president.

The CX31 offers three possible power takeoff locations with a rear option providing up to 200 hp. The CX35 provides four possible PTO locations, including two optional rear PTOs with up to 200 hp each.

Additional features include hydraulic braking retarders and either a transmission-mounted or remote-mounted oil filter.

International Truck and Engine will enter the Class 8 engine market with products in the 11- to 13-liter range starting in fall 2007.

The engines will be available only in International trucks, but “we’ll continue to offer Cummins and Caterpillar engines as well,” says Roy Wiley, a company spokesman.

International also is expected to continue collaborating with Cummins on engine components.

The new engines, which will use exhaust gas recirculation emission technology, are the first fruits of an agreement announced Dec. 6 between International and a German company, MAN Nutzfahrzeuge.

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International and MAN are collaborating on engine and truck design and manufacturing, Wiley says.

The U.S. House of Representatives last month passed a mandatory truckload fuel surcharge as part of the major highway bill (H.R. 3) working its way through Congress. The House previously has passed a mandatory surcharge, but only as Congress was about to adjourn and when there was virtually no hope of final passage. This time, however, the provision is part of legislation that eventually will be signed into law by President Bush.

If the Senate does not adopt the measure in its version, the surcharge will be subject to negotiation among House and Senate legislators, who must agree on a single version of the highway bill.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has pushed for a federally mandated fuel surcharge for years, said Todd Spencer, OOIDA vice president. He noted that OOIDA was formed more than 30 years ago in response to rising fuel prices that put economic stress on independent truckers.

“Between 2000 and 2001, a quarter of a million trucks were repossessed, and this was directly attributable to their owners’ inability to cover the cost of fuel,” Spencer said.

The legislation requires any carrier, broker or freight forwarder using fuel it didn’t pay for to pass along the fuel surcharge to the person responsible for paying for fuel.

The surcharge at a minimum would be the amount of the “increased cost of fuel,” which is determined by subtracting a “benchmark price” from the current diesel fuel price and multiplying the difference by the number of gallons of diesel fuel used in the transportation.

The initial benchmark price would be $1.10, and it would be subject to an annual adjustment based on the percentage change in the previous calendar year’s Annual Truckload Producer Price Index.

The “current diesel price” is defined as the latest weekly average on-highway retail price posted by the Energy Information Administration for the Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) or sub-district where a shipment is physically tendered to the motor carrier, broker or freight forwarder.

Based on EIA’s averages posted March 14, the per-gallon surcharge – if it were in effect today – would range between $1.03 in the Gulf Coast PADD to more than $1.34 in the West Coast PADD.

Truckers News editors received a Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for the May 2004 cover story, “The High Price of Idling.” The honor for Best Single Article within the magazine’s category was presented at a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

The article was written by Senior Editor Sean Kelley. It was edited by Randy Grider, John Latta and Kristin Walters and designed by Richard Street.

Truckers News’ sister publication, Overdrive, was one of three finalists in its class for Best How-to Article. The entry was its August 2004 cover story, “Self-Help Toolbox.”

The $284 billion highway spending bill passed March 10 by the U.S. House included an amendment that would make permanent the agricultural exemption to the federal hours of service regulations, but not an amendment that would limit the imposition of tolls on interstate highways.

Trucking groups lobbied Congress in support of an amendment that would allow only temporary interstate tolls, and those only on newly constructed lanes, built to relieve congestion, that drivers could choose to avoid. But that amendment failed.

The farm amendment provides a comprehensive definition of agricultural commodities, including livestock, milk, poultry and poultry feed, to eliminate confusion about what hauls are exempt.

The funding bill faces an uncertain future. It must be reconciled with a Senate measure that will include as much as $70 billion more in funding and may ultimately be vetoed by the president.

The Freightliner family is making major moves in Michigan. The company announced Feb. 23 that it would expand Detroit Diesel’s Redford plant and move the headquarters of Sterling and Western Star trucks to that same location.

Detroit Diesel will spend $275 million to expand and upgrade its plant. Sterling and Western Star Trucks will move from Willoughby, Ohio, to the Redford campus. The manufacturing plants for those two truck lines will remain in St. Thomas, Ontario, and Portland, Ore., respectively.

Sterling and Western Star are owned by Freightliner; Freightliner and Detroit Diesel are owned by DaimlerChrysler, which like other major players in the industry has moved toward vertical integration of its operations in recent years.

The Redford facility will be a central location “where leading commercial vehicle components will be designed, developed, tested and produced,” said Rainer Schmueckle, Freightliner president and CEO.

The 3.2-million-square-foot plant will produce Detroit Diesel’s new heavy-duty engine as well as the medium-duty MBE 900 engine currently made only in Germany. Both engines will come off the Redford assembly line in 2007 and will comply with federal emission standards that take effect that year.

Veteran trucker and diesel engine tester Brian O’Leary was named the 2004 Company Equipment Driver of the Year in the competition sponsored by the Truckload Carriers Association and Truckers News.

O’Leary, who drives for Western Distributing Co., has a career that spans more than 30 years and includes more than 3.5 million miles without an accident, ticket or hours of service violation. He has also been instrumental in the development of several Caterpillar engine models as a test driver.

Other finalists for Company Equipment Driver of the Year include:

  • Richard Downin, D.M. Bowman.
  • Darrell Hand, O&S Trucking.
  • Robert Hagen, Challenger Motor Freight.
  • Ruppert “Rudy” Stevens, Epes Transport System.

The 23rd annual Rotella SuperRigs Truck Beauty Contest will be June 9-11 at the 75 Chrome Shop in Wildwood, Fla., at Exit 329 off I-75. Eighteen working trucks will win awards and divide $10,000 in cash and prizes. Twelve trucks will appear on the 2006 calendar.

On-site registration is free. Judging takes about 20 minutes, and contestants need not be present to win.

Each entrant will receive one gallon of Shell Rotella T SAE15W-40 Multigrade Engine Oil, one gallon of Shell Rotella ELC Extended Life Coolant/Antifreeze, a tube of Shell Retinax LC grease and a Rotella SuperRigs hat and T-shirt.

For Paccar, maker of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks, 2004 was the best year ever for income. It wasn’t bad for Volvo, either.

Truck makers rode a resurgent trucking industry last year and say 2005 is shaping up to be just as solid. For 2004, Paccar’s net income rose 72 percent over 2003. “Paccar had the best year in its history, exceeding its previous annual net income record,” said Mark Pigott, chairman and chief executive officer.

Paccar estimates retail sales of Class 8 trucks in U.S. and Canada will increase 15 percent to 270,000-280,000 units in 2005.

Volvo Trucks has high expectations in 2005 as well, after a 52 percent increase in sales in 2004. The truck maker delivered 26,035 trucks in 2004, an increase the company attributes to high freight demand and carriers’ need to upgrade their fleets. The company also had record sales globally.

“I am delighted with last year’s results,” said Staffan Jufors, Volvo Trucks president and CEO. “The forecasts for both Europe and North America indicate a positive trend over the coming year.”

A blue ribbon commission’s report sympathizes with the grievances of owner-operators working Miami’s port, and its recommendations include reclassifying these truckers as employees.