Industry News

CARRIER EXECUTIVES WARY OF 2007 ENGINES, NEW FUEL
A panel of four fleet executives said they don’t plan to be among the first buyers of 2007 engines, but engine manufacturers later said their products will be well-tested and should present fewer problems than the 2002 engines did.

The panel was part of the BIO 2005 event sponsored by Randall Publishing, publisher of Overdrive, at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

The four expressed worries about the purchase and maintenance cost of the new engines and the cost and availability of the ultra-low-sulfur diesel that is mandated to enter production in 2006. The executives said they plan to buy enough trucks before 2007 to cover expected growth in 2007.

“Let someone else play with the toys,” said Duke Drinkard, vice president of maintenance at Southeastern Freight Lines.

Steve Duley, vice president of purchasing at Schneider National, said he can afford to buy cautiously because 80 percent of Schneider’s trucks will be less than 3 years old in 2007.

Unexpected freight demand could force more of a buy, said Ron Szapacs, maintenance specialist for Air Products & Chemicals.

“The fleets represented at the panel are concerned about any type of change that’s coming at them,” said Greg Gauger, director of Caterpillar’s on-highway power systems, after the show. “That’s understandable. But we believe we’ll still have a million-mile engine in 2007, and we collect more evidence of that every day.”

All fleet customers have qualms and questions about 2007, “but I don’t think they’re going to be as reluctant to buy ’07 engines as they were ’02,” said Mark Bara, senior vice president for on-highway sales at Detroit Diesel. “By the end of this year, we’ll have 50 trucks running with ’07 engines to demonstrate reliability, performance, fuel economy.”

“There are always those who want to say the sky is falling, but the sky is not falling,” said Cummins spokeswoman Cyndi Nigh. “We are ready for ’07. Our ’07 architecture is the same proven technology we used in our October ’02 engines.”

All four panelists agreed that engine makers so far have offered no purchase incentives sufficient to change their minds about not buying 2007 products. They also expressed little optimism that a federal tax incentive to buy the engines would materialize.

“We’d certainly welcome anything,” said Marty Fletcher, director of technology and training at U.S. Xpress, but he expects nothing as significant as, for example, the lifting of the federal excise tax.
ANDY DUNCAN


VOLVO UNVEILS NEW VT880
Volvo showed its new owner-operator truck, the VT 880, to the public for the first time at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

Volvo’s new 16-liter D16 engine will be available in that truck, as well as in the company’s VNL daycab and the VNL 430, 630, 670 and 780 sleeper cab tractors. The big engine, rated from 500 hp to 625 hp, is targeted at premium line-haul fleets and heavy truckload applications.

Orders for the D16-equipped tractors will be taken starting in June, and production will begin in August.

The company also announced that its Volvo Enhanced Stability Control, an advanced vehicle stability system made by Bendix, will become standard on VN and VT trucks beginning this summer.

Volvo also announced for the VT 880 a Platinum Coverage that the company called the longest basic warranty in North America: three years/600,000 miles or 10,800 operating hours, whichever comes first. Other coverage includes six years/1 million miles on the cab structure, six years/750,000 miles on the frame rail and crossmembers, and eight years/1 million miles on internal cab corrosion. The warranty will also provide replacement engines and a dedicated toll-free hot line and even will fly in technicians to help with warranty repairs.
JOHN LATTA


KENWORTH ANNOUNCES 2006 MODELS
Kenworth launched its 2006 models for Class 8 T600, T800, W900 and C500 tractors at the Mid-America Trucking Show, and a lot of former options are now standard features.

“To enhance ergonomics, the standard lighting is now better than any prior combination of optional lighting,” said Mike Dozier, Kenworth’s chief engineer. Driver and passenger seats both have dome lights and task lights mounted over the door. There’s a dome light on the rear headliner, and under-dash, red-lens lighting reduces floor glare.

A new speedometer and tachometer cluster is accompanied by standard 2-inch diameter gauges with chrome bezels. Also standard are an outside temperature gauge, engine hour meter, odometer and trip odometer. The dash features new lighting to make gauges easier to see at night and also comes with larger rocker switches and five pre-wired spare switches.

Kenworth engineers reduced interior noise 20 percent. Other changes include a new pedal package and a soft door pad that has been put through a 150,000-cycle door-slam test. The map pocket in the door supported more than 400 pounds during load testing.
JOHN LATTA


WESTERN STAR TOUTS SALES, UPGRADES
Western Star experienced significant growth in 2004, building more than 4,200 trucks, an increase of 1,000 units from 2003, the company announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show. Also, “we saw an increase in the number of proprietary MBE4000 engines purchased,” said John Merrifield, senior vice president for sales and marketing.

The company also added 36 dealer locations last year, bringing its total to 330 in North America.

The company updated its LowMax chassis package to include lowered front and rear suspensions, horizontal exhaust availability and forward-mounted 23-inch fuel tanks. The LowMax is also now available in a daycab.

The company is also adding insulation to all its cab and sleeper models later this year, launching an all-wheel drive option for its 6900 XD Twin-steer, and restyling its 4900 SA hood with 109 inches from bumper to back of cab.
SEAN KELLEY


CATERPILLAR TO STICK WITH ACERT
Caterpillar will use its existing ACERT technology to comply with 2007 emission requirements, company officials announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Cat’s ’07 plan will combine ACERT with closed crankcase ventilation, a diesel particulate matter filter system with active regeneration, and a combustion process enhanced with clean gas induction. Engines with 500 hp or less will need one particulate filter, while engines with more than 500 hp will need two.

Clean gas induction focuses on NOx reduction by drawing clean, inert gas from below the particulate filter, cooling it and putting it into the air intake system.

Caterpillar’s MorElectric system, meanwhile, will offer customers fuel-saving alternatives to idling, using the same technology that is advancing the development of hybrid automobiles.

The system replaces the alternator with a 7,300-watt generator, which provides heating, ventilation and air conditioning when hooked to an auxiliary power unit or shore power. Caterpillar said its auxiliary power unit cuts fuel consumption while idling to about 0.2 gallons an hour, while its shore power system improves total fuel economy by 10 percent.

Caterpillar also said its two on-highway automatic transmissions, designed for vocational applications, will be available in 2006.
RANDY GRIDER


CUMMINS OUTLINES PLANS TO MEET 2007 EMISSIONS
Cummins says it is prepared to meet the emission challenge of 2007 with the same essential technology it used to meet less stringent regulations in 2002.

The company’s ISX engine will meet the new standard by integrating the Cummins Particulate Filter with current exhaust gas recirculation engine technology.

The particulate filter, made by Cummins subsidiary Fleetguard, will reduce particulate matter emissions by 90 percent from current levels – provided refiners can deliver low-sulfur fuel to the market by 2007.

Petroleum manufacturers now say low-sulfur fuel may have more parts per million of sulfur when it reaches the market, having been mixed with older fuel as it travels through pipelines, than the 15 ppm they agreed to produce by 2006. Cummins expects the government to hold the oil industry to its promises, said Joe Loughrey, president of Cummins’ engine business.

Cummins officials said that in all the 2002 engines the company has torn down, power cylinder components showed only 20 percent to 25 percent wear after 600,000 miles, while rods and main bearings were expected to have 50 percent life remaining.
ANDY HARALDSON


JUDGE ALLOWS SUIT OVER DRIVERS’ WORK HISTORIES
A federal judge will allow the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to move forward in its class-action suit against USIS Commercial Services, formerly known as DAC Services.

OOIDA charges that the Oklahoma-based company, which collects the employment histories of hundreds of thousands of truck drivers, distributes inaccurate information that drivers have no opportunity to correct.

USIS did not comment on the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn, based in Denver, ruled March 7 that OOIDA may seek damages, costs and – if willful violations are proven – punitive damages for alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

However, OOIDA may not seek “equitable relief,” such as a share of any profits judged to be ill-gotten, or an injunction to prevent the company from distributing the employment histories, Blackburn ruled.
JILL DUNN


MIAMI, TERMINAL DROP SUITS AGAINST OWNER-OPERATORS
Miami-Dade County and Universal Terminal have withdrawn lawsuits against Miami port owner-operators whose protest shut down Miami’s port this past summer.

The suits were withdrawn after a blue-ribbon commission investigated port complaints and sided with the truckers.

Tomas Regalado, the Miami City Commission chairman, led a hearing where the owner-operators told of skyrocketing diesel prices, unsafe chassis and extensive wait times without compensation. They also stated they were forced to haul overloaded containers.

About 500 of the truckers were represented by the non-profit Support Trucking Group, and many are Cuban immigrants. The truckers had documented years of attempts to solve the problems.

The commission noted truckers’ low compensation and recommended that all parties in the shipping industry consider reclassifying owner-operators as employees instead of contractors, which would allow collective bargaining for higher pay and better benefits.

At the press conference announcing the report, Regalado called the truckers “scapegoats of a broken system” and said, “We want to apply maximum pressure on the county, the port and the terminal operators to correct the problems we have found before this coming summer.”
JILL DUNN


TOP TRUCKER BUDDY DRIVERS RECOGNIZED
Twelve Trucker Buddy drivers or teams were recognized during the Mid-America Trucking Show for work with their classrooms. Each receives $300 cash, $200 in Trucker Buddy merchandise, a personalized jacket from MultiMedia, a Koolatron cooler, an IdleAire adaptor and a Cross Country USA game for classroom use. Honored were:

  • Jerry and Ann Rierson, who drive for Richard Childress Racing.
  • Tim Maryniak, who drives for Roadway Express.
  • Russ Dougherty, who drives for Johnsrud Transport.
  • Kathy Notz, who drives team with her husband, Jay, for NEW.
  • Ray Nations, who drives for Mayflower Transit.
  • Fred Steudle, who drives for Heyl Truck Line.
  • Patricia Ramsey, who drives for FedEx Ground.
  • The late Doug Holtzman, who drove for Wal-Mart.
  • Anthony Slauenwhite, who drives for GTL Transportation.
  • Gary and Pauline Nelson, who are leased to Robert Transport.
  • Dan Green, who drives for FFE.
  • Randy Kelley, who drives for Central Refrigerated Services.

ANDY DUNCAN


AUTOMATING THE PRE-TRIP INSPECTION
International Truck and Engine is developing a system by which drivers can check from inside the cab all points for a pre-trip inspection.

The company already offers a limited “Lamp Check” version that blinks all exterior lights so that they can be checked quickly by one person, said Francisco Guiterrez, an International technician.

The full system will eventually have sensors to read all pre-trip points, such as oil level, air brake pressure and coolant level, Guiterrez said. The system uses the sensors, software embedded in the engine control module and a small message panel on the dash to provide information on each point and flag areas that need attention.

The system creates a computer file, including a minute-by-minute log of each step, for every inspection. With telematics, that information could be transmitted to a fleet’s headquarters, ensuring not only that the inspections get done but that problem areas are addressed, Guiterrez said.
Max Heine


PARTIES AGREE ON INTERMODAL MAINTENANCE
The American Trucking Associations and intermodal equipment providers have agreed on federal legislation that would establish requirements for chassis maintenance.

ATA announced that its Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference had reached consensus with the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association and the Association of American Railroads on sharing responsibility for maintenance, repair and inspection of intermodal equipment.

On March 15, U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., introduced the Intermodal Equipment Safety and Responsibility Act of 2005, which was sent to the transportation committee. Brown sponsored similar legislation in 2003.

HB 1296 would make the “equipment controller” liable for all violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations, unless the violations are caused by a motor carrier or driver through negligence or willful misconduct.
JILL DUNN


SENATORS HEAR PLEA FOR ON-BOARD RECORDERS
U.S. Senate members heard testimony that if electronic on-board recording devices are not eventually required, stronger deterrents will be necessary to deter flagrant hours-of-service violations.

Kenneth Mead, U.S. Transportation Department inspector general, testified April 5 before the Senate Commerce Committee on transportation safety programs. “We have conducted criminal investigations of egregious cases in which trucking company officials have been prosecuted for systematically forcing their drivers to drive well in excess of the limits,” Mead testified.

Log book and hours rules need strengthening because unscrupulous carriers and drivers view violations as “the cost of doing business,” he said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rescinded a proposal that would have required recorders as enforcement evidence. Since then, courts have ordered the agency to review that decision.

If the FMCSA doesn’t ultimately require the devices, agency officials should consider other strategies to decrease hours violations, Mead said.

As an example, Mead said the FMCSA should increase fines for a missing or incomplete log book to equal that for having a false log book. Another suggestion was to allow information from a carrier’s existing GPS or onboard recording device to check for hours violations during compliance audits.

The agency also needs to fortify state enforcement of laws barring Mexican trucks from illegal U.S. operation, Mead said.

In 2002, the FMCSA issued an interim final rule requiring state inspectors to place out of service any truck operating without authority or beyond the scope of its authority. Five states still need to adopt rules to enforce this.

Some states have adopted that rule but are not placing trucks out of service because the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s North American Inspection Standards out-of-service criteria do not include operating without authority.
JILL DUNN


HIGHWAY HEROES: ‘EACH IS A WINNER’
Groendyke driver Richard Dent of Diana, Texas, received Goodyear’s Highway Hero Award at the Mid-America Trucking Show. Dent was honored for saving three people trapped in a sinking car in a snake-infested Louisiana canal. Dent’s prizes were a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, a wall plaque and a Highway Hero ring.

The three finalists were Seneca Foods driver David Tucker of Island City, Ore., TMC driver José Ogas Jr. of Fayetteville, N.C., and Trans American driver Pat Foraker of Quaker City, Ohio. Each driver saved lives and prevented injury while risking his own life. “They go beyond the call of duty,” Goodyear’s Al Kohn said. “Each is truly a winner.”
ANDY HARALDSON


INTERNATIONAL 5900I OFFERS SLEEPER CAB, CAT ENGINE
International Truck and Engine has added a sleeper cab option to its 5900i Series.

The International 5900i is a classic long-nose truck. Its sleeper cab is 58 inches from ceiling to floor and 70 inches wide, with 18 inches between the driver and the steering wheel.

The cab also has a wraparound windshield and an optional larger rear window. Other features include wood grain dashboard and wing panel and an optional leather-wrapped wood grain steering wheel.

The sleeper option is not the only thing new to the International 5900i models in 2005.

“We are pleased to offer customers the opportunity to choose Caterpillar ACERT engines,” says Bill Sixsmith, an International marketing director.

International’s new Class 8 engines in the 11- to 13-liter range won’t be available until fall 2007.
LANCE ORR


DEPARTING FREIGHTLINER CEO REFLECTS ON FINANCIAL REBOUND
“We have come from being the biggest guy in the industry to being the biggest and one of the most profitable worldwide in truck building,” Rainer Schmueckle, Freightliner president and CEO, told Overdrive in an interview after the April 2 announcement that he will become chief operating officer of the Mercedes-Benz Car Group. “We have taken the company to a new, improved level.”

Freightliner’s new president and CEO will be Chris Patterson, previously the truck maker’s senior vice president for service and parts. Patterson also will take over Schmueckle’s title as head of Business Unit Trucks NAFTA, which includes all DaimlerChrysler’s heavy-truck holdings in North America – Freightliner, Sterling and Western Star – as well as Thomas Built Buses.

When Schmueckle took over the reins at Freightliner in 2001, the company was suffering serious financial woes. Later that year, he announced a turnaround plan to improve results by $850 million by 2004. The plan involved closing plants, reducing purchasing and materials costs, workforce reductions and changes in pricing and business practices, such as renegotiating the major buyback deals that created many of Freightliner’s financial problems.

By the end of 2003, the company had met virtually all its financial goals, a feat Schmueckle attributes to “the energy and emotion” of Freightliner employees. “Management can only do so much.”

Schmueckle describes renegotiating the guaranteed value commitments with major fleet customers as “psychologically one of the most difficult tasks” of the turnaround plan. However, “we realized soon enough that despite customers not being too happy asking for reconsideration, they understood our problem. My feeling is that we have done as good as we possibly could and our relationships [with customers] have not been impaired.”

Relationships with Freightliner’s dealer network have also improved, Schmueckle says. After suffering “tremendous losses” throughout 2000 and 2001, “dealers have outpaced the industry in recent years as far as earnings growth.”

Schmueckle says he is leaving a company well-positioned to meet challenges. “Profitability is almost twice as high as in the last peak cycle,” he says, while first quarter revenue is up more than a third from a year ago.
LINDA LONGTON


U.S. SENATE PANEL STRIKES FUEL SURCHARGE FOR NOW
The mandatory fuel surcharge OK’d by the U.S. House in its highway bill is not part of the U.S. Senate version approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
The surcharge could reappear when the House and Senate work out differences in their respective bills.

Supported by the Truckload Carriers Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the surcharge is opposed by 22 business, shipping and transportation groups, including the American Trucking Associations and the Motor Freight Carriers Association.

It also is opposed by the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, who testified against it April 5. The House’s surcharge legislation “would insinuate government into commercial relationships in a way that is ill-advised,” Annette Sandberg told the Senate’s surface transportation subcommittee.

Sandberg also asked that the 2003 hours-of-service rule be made permanent, but with language that would allow FMCSA to revise it if necessary.
JILL DUNN


SHORT HAULS

UNOCAL was bought by ChevronTexaco in a deal valued at $18 billion. The combined companies will produce 3 million barrels of oil per day in 2006.

UNITED AUTO WORKERS members at the Volvo Trucks North America plant in Dublin, Va., ratified a three-year contract.

HURLING CONTAINERS of human waste out of vehicle windows now is punishable in Colorado by a $500 fine, thanks to a new “pee bomb” law.

IDLING during mandatory hours-of-service rest periods would be legalized by a bill introduced in the Texas House. If passed, the bill would take effect Sept. 1 and overrule the new 30-minute idling limit in eight counties.

BEGINNING IN 2008, U.S. citizens will be required to show their passports when returning from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but truckers who regularly cross the border will be able to show their Free and Secure Trade cards instead.

CUMMINS, cited as a world leader in emission reduction, placed first in Business Ethics magazine’s annual list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens. Sirius Satellite Radio was No. 21, XM Satellite Radio No. 44 and FedEx No. 70.

FEDEX placed No. 8 on Fortune magazine’s annual list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. UPS was No. 13, Caterpillar No. 37. J.B. Hunt and Pacer International also made the list. Rankings are based on ratings from competitors.

THE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES INDEX for freight increased to 130.9 in January, up from 128.4 in December. That’s the biggest one-month gain in the federal freight measurement since December 2003 and the biggest January year-to-year gain since 1998.


HIGHWAY HAPPENINGS

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. The district will plant weight sensors in the pavement of I-295 near the Anacostia Naval Station. Passing trucks automatically flagged as overweight will be directed to an off ramp for inspection. When the sensors will begin operation is unclear.

FLORIDA. Commercial trucks now are banned from the left lane of Florida’s Turnpike in Miami-Dade County between I-75 (Exit 39) and Caribbean Boulevard (Exit 12). The turnpike in that stretch has been widened to three lanes in each direction.

MARYLAND. The I-70 eastbound ramp to I-81 at Exit 26 near Hagerstown is closed this spring for construction.

ONTARIO. A fifth, truck-only lane for pre-approved carriers and drivers in the FAST program is being added to the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge north of Niagara Falls, with completion scheduled for December. Two new truck lanes already are open on Highway 405 west of the bridge.

PENNSYLVANIA. Work on I-80 just west of I-81 between mile markers 247 and 260 will reduce traffic occasionally to one lane in both directions through midsummer.

TENNESSEE. The interstate speed limit for commercial trucks is now 55 mph in Shelby County, which includes all Memphis interstates: I-40, I-55 and I-240.

VIRGINIA. Troopers are cracking down on speeding, tailgating and reckless driving on a crash-prone 11-mile stretch of I-95 north of Quantico. The Legislature has authorized fines up to $2,500.

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