Bouncing Back
After three “terrible years” of heavy-duty sales, “we are at the beginning of a very strong recovery,” Rainer Schmueckle, president and CEO of Freightliner LLC Group, told trade journalists at the 33rd annual Mid-America Trucking Show in March. “We have the most optimistic outlook we’ve had in several years,” he said, citing strong freight demand and a projected 4 percent U.S. economic growth in 2004.

Referring to the company’s previous tactics to grow market share, Schmueckle said Freightliner has “departed from the role of being the industry’s chief discounter. We will not make that mistake again. We intend to maintain pricing discipline.”

Freightliner, like other truck makers, is seeing strong Class 8 orders, driven not only by big line-haul operations, but also medium- and small-fleet customers, he said. He forecasted 2004 NAFTA sales of 220,000 Class 8 vehicles, an increase of 20 percent over 2003.

Peterbilt officials were just as enthusiastic about the next three quarters.

“We had extremely strong orders in January,” said Peterbilt General Manager and Paccar Vice President Dan Sobic. “We anticipate 2004 to continue on this upward trend. We estimate Class 8 truck production for the year will be between 210,000 and 220,000 units in North America.”

Sobic said some of the factors that have spawned a brighter outlook include more financing companies returning to the industry, insurance premiums stabilizing, freight tonnage trending upward and customers becoming more confident with ’02 emission engines.

Kenworth echoed the enthusiasm of its sister company, Peterbilt. “During 2004, the industry’s Class 8 retail sales will be about 220,000 units in the U.S. and Canada, with Class 7 retail sales about 85,000 units,” said Bob Christensen, Kenworth general manager and PACCAR vice president.

“We think growth over last year will come due to several factors: Low interest rates continue to drive construction, and auto production remains high; the impact of clean air and vehicle safety legislation will drive customer purchase cycles in the next few years; freight tonnage is expected to grow in 2004; and the hours-of-service regulations have not negatively impacted purchases and in some cases are favorably impacting our business.”

Volvo Trucks North America officials said they also expect increased sales in 2004. Volvo’s orders began picking up in the last quarter of 2003, said Scott Kress, senior vice president of sales and marketing. That trend should continue this year because of a “tremendous pent-up demand from fleets” that have not replaced trucks in recent years.

The rebound also brings a challenge of managing production and customer acceptance of new technology as the stricter 2007 emissions approach, said Peter Karlsten, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Trucks North America. Volvo plans to have fleets testing its engines well in advance to “take away all uncertainties.”

Mack Trucks leaders expressed “cautious enthusiasm” about the coming year.

“The market is coming back strong,” said Paul Vikner, Mack president and CEO. “Our March order intake is very strong, and we don’t anticipate it falling off yet.” Despite the optimism, Vikner said the company is taking a conservative approach to meeting the increased demand.

“We could take the production rate up quite a bit higher,” he said. “We could hire people, train people and make other investments. I think that at some point you have to factor those issues over the sustainability of the demand.”

International Truck and Engine Corp., historically conservative in its forecasts, estimates North American heavy-duty sales to be about 208,000 units, while sales of Class 6-7 medium trucks are projected at 93,000 units. Dan Ustian, president and CEO of parent company Navistar, recently announced plans to grow to a $15 billion company within the next eight to 10 years.
– Randy Grider, Linda Longton, Sean Kelley, Max Heine


FYI
Tonnage Increases
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.8 percent to 154.9 in February, the national association for the trucking industry reported. The increase followed a decrease of 2.3 percent in January. The February reading was the second highest level ever, below only the 155.8 registered in December. The index was 100 in 1993, its base year.

Leadership Change
William Fay has stepped down as president and chief executive officer of NATSO, the trade organization representing truckstops. Lisa Mullings, who had served as vice president of public affairs and counsel, has assumed his duties as acting president. NATSO Chairman Roger Cole announced that Fay, who had been president and CEO since January 2003, and NATSO “have mutually agreed to sever their relationship effective April 1.”

TCA President
The Truckload Carriers Association board of directors on March 14 ratified the selection of Chris Burruss as the new president of the association. Burruss, who was serving as president of the Tennessee Trucking Association at the time of the appointment, said he will complete some unfinished business at TTA before moving to TCA full time.

Ol’ Blue Donation
Michelin continued its support of Ol’ Blue, USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to large vehicle safety, with a contribution of $25,000 at the Mid-America Trucking Show. An Ol’ Blue traffic safety awareness program stops at schools nationwide, educating students and reinforcing ideas about the importance of large vehicle safety. In addition, Ol’ Blue, USA, conducts simulated truck inspections at trade shows and truckstops.

IdleAire Award
The Environmental Protection Agency awarded IdleAire with the agency’s Clean Air Excellence Award. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based company was one of only 13 entities in the nation to receive the award. The IdleAire system provides 110-volt electrical shore power outlets inside and outside the cab, filtered central heating and air conditioning, a Pentium-speed computer with color touch screen, high speed wired and wireless Internet/e-mail, free local phone service, satellite television, movies on demand, Ethernet and wireless Internet access, and online, interactive driver training.

Gotta Cool Rig?
BFGoodrich Commercial Truck Tires is searching for distinctive owner-operator rigs in North America for the Cool Rigs 2004 and 2005 Calendar Contest. The company will choose 60 first place winners who will receive a duffel bag, a travel thermos and a Mag-Lite. The finalists will be narrowed to six grand-prize winners, who will receive 10 free BFGoodrich truck tires. Winners will have their rig, biography and personal photo featured in the 2004 and 2005 Cool Rigs Calendar. More information is available at www.coolrigscontest.com.

New Love’s
Love’s Roseburg, Ore., Travel Stop has opened on Interstate 5 at Exit 119. Roseburg is Love’s 95th Travel Stop, and it is the first of 13 new Travel Stops scheduled to open in 2004. Future locations include openings in Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Virginia, Indiana, Florida and Kentucky.

Large Order
Kenworth Truck Company announced that Interstate Equipment Leasing will supply 3,000 new Kenworth trucks in the next three years for use in Swift Transportation’s owner-operator fleet.


TSA Delays Fingerprint Background Check Until 2005
The deadline for states to collect fingerprints of hazmat truckers and provide them to the FBI has been extended to Jan. 31.

Many state agencies protested when the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced plans for states to begin collecting fingerprints and supplying them to the FBI. The FBI would handle fingerprint-based background checks on the nation’s estimated 1 million hazmat truckers. That proposal also required a name-based background check on these drivers to guard against potential terrorist acts.

The original deadline for states to supply the fingerprints was Nov. 3, 2003. Trucking, law enforcement and state motor vehicle departments asked federal agencies to delay that deadline because of time and cost issues.

TSA then extended that deadline to April 1, 2004. States were also allowed until then to apply for an extension that, at that time, would have extended the deadline until Dec. 1, 2004.

The agency stated that the recent extension was granted to allow states additional “time to make the significant changes to their existing commercial driver safety and testing programs.”

The USA Patriot Act requires background checks for all drivers who apply for, renew or transfer a hazmat endorsement. TSA will notify states of the results of the background checks so that state agencies can issue or deny hazmat endorsements. This act makes the TSA responsible for collecting and transmitting fingerprints and other information from applicants for hazmat endorsements to the FBI.

Drivers denied a hazmat endorsement can appeal on the basis of mistaken identity or incorrect court records. Drivers must renew a hazmat endorsement every five years, although a state may require more frequent renewals.
– Jill Dunn


Schneider Driver Named Goodyear Highway Hero
Derrick Harris was named the 2003 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The three other finalists were David Dunham, Joe Sines and Anne Spriggs.

Harris, of Hopewell, Va., a driver for Schneider National Carriers, noticed a person who had been set on fire near the side of the road. He stopped, grabbed a blanket and cooler of water and extinguished the fire by wrapping the person in the blanket, then soaked it with water for more comfort for the victim. Though the victim suffered burns over 60 percent of his body, Harris’ quick actions helped save his life, and information he provided police helped them find a suspect.

Dunham, of Fitchburg, Mass., pulled truck driver Azem Rizvanovic of Arizona from a burning truck. Rizvanovic fully recovered from the accident. Dunham, employed at the time of the rescue by Ronnie Dowdy Inc., now drives for U.S. Xpress.

Sines, of Horse Shoe Run, W.Va., a driver for Schneider National Carriers, used a pocketknife to cut the safety straps and free two young girls from the back seat of a badly wrecked van.

Spriggs, of Willow Springs, Mo., a driver for CRST, revived a 5-year-old girl who was unconscious and suffering from a grand mal seizure. Spriggs moved the girl’s tongue and administered CPR. After a few minutes, the girl was breathing, and an ambulance took her to a hospital.

“Stories like these make us all thankful that there are courageous individuals such as professional truck drivers on our roadways,” said Steve McClellan, Goodyear’s vice president for Commercial Tire Systems.
– Max Heine


Retired Trucker Claims $239 Million Jackpot
J.R. Triplett said after driving a truck 47 years, nothing much excited him, including claiming the second largest undivided jackpot in U.S. history – $239 million – on April Fool’s Day.

That must be true of the Winchester, Va., resident. He and his wife Peggy, jackpot co-winner, waited six weeks to claim the money. On Fox News television, a reporter asked the retired trucker, who appeared at the press conference with a toothpick in his mouth, what delayed him coming forward.

“We had to get our attorney to line all the ducks up in a row,” he responded.

J.R. Triplett had purchased five tickets Feb. 20. Early the following day, while watching television, he realized he had won. “I can remember numbers real well,” he said.
When he told his wife of 35 years that they won, he remembered her crying. “Then she got down on her knees and thanked the Lord,” he said.

He said on the television broadcast that he was uncertain how he would spend the winnings, but planned to remain in Winchester, buy real estate and “spend it wisely.”

Peggy Triplett had different plans. “I’m going to shop till I drop,” she said.

A lottery official who made the announcement said she had barely slept because the timing of the claim – April 1 – made her fear it was a hoax.

The winning numbers were 01-13-20-21-30 and the Mega Ball number 24. Triplett bought the ticket at a Red Apple store in Stephens City, a few miles from his home. Triplett had never been to that store before, but on the afternoon of the drawing, he decided to stop and buy tickets.
– Jill Dunn


Detroit Diesel Will Use EGR with Filters for ’07
Detroit Diesel Corp. has announced it will use exhaust gas recirculation and diesel particulate filters on its heavy-duty engines to meet 2007 federal emission requirements.
This approach will be used on the Series 60 and the Mercedes-Benz engines marketed by Detroit Diesel. It will also be used on a new engine scheduled for release in 2007 that the company is developing with parent company DaimlerChrysler.

Carsten Reinhardt, DDC president and CEO, said DDC will operate vehicles with 2007 engines before 2005.

“As part of the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world, Detroit Diesel was in a position to choose from a range of technologies, including selective catalytic reduction,” Reinhardt said. “While we believe SCR is a viable alternative for 2010, we ultimately selected EGR for 2007 because of the system’s greater familiarity with our customers and its ease of deployment.”

Caterpillar, Cummins and International have said they will meet 2007 requirements without using SCR. Low-sulfur diesel standards taking effect in 2006 will help engine makers achieve the 2007 standards.

DDC has built more than 40,000 Series 60 engines with EGR, and the 2004 Mercedes-Benz engines are also equipped with EGR.

EGR circulates cooled exhaust gas back into the engine air intake, which decreases combustion temperature and reduces the formation of nitrogen oxides, or NOx. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires NOx emissions to be cut by at last half and particulate matter to be reduced 90 percent by 2007.
– Jill Dunn


Cummins Says 2002 Engines Are Performing Well
Cummins said its late model engines that rely on exhaust gas recirculation to achieve lower federally-mandated emissions are performing well and meeting expectations. The company said it has 40,000 engines on the road in fleets and more than 2 billion miles of operation.

Although there have been snags, admitted Jeff Jones, vice president of sales and support, those problems have been minor. “The problems we’ve had

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