Governing speeds

The American Trucking Associations today filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require that newly built large trucks be equipped with tamper-resistant speed limiters that would govern top speed at 68 mph.

The association also asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to enforce the 68 mph maximum. The petition came as no surprise, as ATA’s board of directors had approved the action earlier.

Although ATA says limiting the speed of trucks will produce safety benefits, the organization’s broader objective is to highlight the speed issue for all highway users. “We believe this goes a long way toward a national dialogue on excessive speed,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, in announcing the petition at a Washington, D.C., press conference.

In a prepared statement released just prior to ATA’s announcement, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association claimed that ATA wants to use this concession as a bargaining chip. “These petitions are intended to be a Trojan horse for the true objectives of big trucking companies – doing away with current truck size and weight restrictions as well as increasing their importation of cheap, less-qualified foreign drivers,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “Reduced speed promotes safety only if all vehicles are moving at those same reduced speeds.”

Graves says ATA’s proposal is consistent with its policy supporting a national speed limit of 65 mph. The 68 mph limit provides a cushion allowing for safe passing, according to the ATA. In addition, many carriers already govern their trucks, with a majority limiting speed to 68 mph or below. In addition to safety improvements, the ATA says that carriers that govern their trucks at 68 mph cite savings in fuel consumption, liability costs and equipment wear and tear.

Mac McCormick, CEO of Best Way Express and ATA’s first vice chairman, says the proposal isn’t uniformly popular, “but it’s the right thing to do.” McCormick adds that a speed limiter was needed to level the playing field. “If a guy speeds, that’s a competitive advantage, in my mind, at the expense of the traveling public.”

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ATA’s petitions follow an earlier petition submitted to FMCSA by the safety advocacy group Road Safe America and major trucking companies. Although that petition also proposed a 68 mph limit, it would require all engines be equipped with electronic control modules that stop at 68 mph. Governors became standard equipment on Class 7 and 8 trucks in 1991.

Graves says ATA is not supporting that approach because focusing on newly manufactured equipment will make the controversial proposal more acceptable to the broadest constituency. Also, because any qualified technician could change the settings on today’s ECMs, a new tamper-proof chip is needed to make the speed limiter meaningful, ATA says.
Avery Vise

Interstate Oases Move Step Closer to Reality
The Federal Highway Administration published its final notice on the Interstate Oasis Program without specifying the number of truck parking spaces necessary to qualify.

Instead, states will determine the number of necessary spaces based on the rest-area guidelines of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
The program will direct travelers to “interstate oases” within three miles of an exit. Such oases must have restrooms, drinking water, round-the-clock staffing, food, fuel and oil, as well as free, well-lighted parking.

“These additional facilities will help guarantee continued access to safe truck parking for long-haul truck drivers,” said Lisa Mullings, president of NATSO, the national trade association representing truckstops and travel plazas, which strongly endorsed the program.

States can designate private facilities as oases in areas where publicly owned rest areas do not offer truck parking, and two or more adjacent businesses can qualify as a single oasis. In recent years, states have had to close some publicly funded rest areas because of funding shortages.

“The Interstate Oasis Program creates a winning situation for all. When state officials choose to close a rest area, this program offers them a virtually no-cost approach for continuing to meet the needs of the highway traveler,” said Mullings.

On its website, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association criticized the program, saying it promotes private facilities at the expense of public ones.
Jill Dunn and Randy Grider

Incoming ATA Chairman Dies in Plane Crash
Clarence James “Mac” McCormick III, the founder of Bestway Express who was slated to become chairman of the American Trucking Associations at next week’s annual meeting in Dallas, was killed in a private plane crash near Lawrenceville, Ill., Oct. 26.

According to the Vincennes Sun-Commercial newspaper in McCormick’s hometown in Indiana, McCormick’s plane disappeared Thursday night on approach at the local airport. The wreckage was found at about 10 a.m. Friday morning about two miles north of the airport.

“Mac was a tireless ambassador for the trucking industry,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “This is truly an enormous loss. Our hearts go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Current ATA Chairman Pat Quinn, co-chairman of U.S. Xpress, called McCormick’s death “a devastating loss. He was more than a rising star in the industry. He was also a great friend.”

“My prayers are with Mac’s family during their time of grief,” said John Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “As a fellow pilot, Mac and I shared a love for flying. In Indiana, we worked on commercial vehicle safety issues for more than 15 years.” Before joining FMCSA in 2003, Hill had worked with the Indiana State Police for nearly 30 years.

“Mac was a forward thinker; someone who was always looking to make things better,” Hill said. “I know his passion for life and dedication will be sorely missed but I want to continue to build on his commitment to improving the safety of our national transportation system.” Just a week ago, McCormick joined Hill at the National Press Club in Washington to advocate greater adoption of safety technology in trucks.

McCormick started Bestway Express in Vincennes in 1981 with four trucks. The company now operates a regional and dedicated fleet of more than 400 trucks, as well as warehousing and logistics services.

McCormick also is a past chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association and the Indiana Motor Truck Association. He also has chaired Truck PAC, ATA’s political action committee, and ATA’s Labor and Human Resources Committee. McCormick graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in business administration.
Avery Vise

J.D. Power Survey: Engine Satisfaction Down Among Customers
A customer survey indicates that owners of 2004-model trucks report significantly more engine complaints and poorer mileage than 2003-model owners did the year before.

There was a bright spot for Caterpillar owners, however: For the sixth year, a Caterpillar engine ranked highest in the vocational segment.

As Class 8 truck makers use new emissions technologies to meet new federal standards, satisfaction has dropped, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Heavy-Duty Truck Engine/ Transmission Study, released Oct. 5.

Among owners of 2004 models, the average number of reported engine problems increased to 74 problems per 100 vehicles. Last year, the same survey of 2003 owners averaged 46 engine problems per 100.

Problems should decline gradually with upcoming model years, said Brian Etchells, J.D. Power senior manager in the commercial vehicle group.

“In the 2005 study, there was a greater mix of manufacturers using old- and new-technology engines, so we’re just now starting to see the overall impact of the emission regulations,” Etchells said. “As we see more new engines, we see the problems increase.”

The survey of 2,529 primary maintainers of 2004-year trucks measured customer satisfaction in engine quality, engine performance, engine cost of ownership and engine warranty.

Of these four areas, customers were least happy with ownership costs, especially in routine engine maintenance costs and fuel efficiency. Reported fuel consumption was 5.72 mpg in the 2006 survey, compared to 5.91 mpg in 2005 and 6.04 mpg in 2004.

The Caterpillar C-12 ranked highest among vocational heavy-duty truck engine models, performing particularly well in three of the four factors that determine overall satisfaction: engine quality, performance and cost of ownership. The runner-up was another Caterpillar engine, the C-15.

Among non-vocational trucks, no one OEM was represented enough for J.D. Power to name a leader in customer satisfaction. The respondents owned Freightliner, International, Kenworth, Mack, Peterbilt, Sterling, Volvo and Western Star trucks.
Jill Dunn

International to Build New Heavy-Duty Engines at Alabama Plant
International Truck and Engine Corp. will produce its new line of Class 8 “big-bore” diesel engines at a new facility to be built near its assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala.

The new plant will begin full production of the MaxxForce 11 and MaxxForce 13 engines in spring 2008 and will employ an expected 175 workers. Until then, the engines will be partially assembled in Germany and finished and trimmed in Huntsville.

“This is going to help us lead the way into the market for clean diesel engines,” said International Engine Group President Jack Allen.

The 700,000-square-foot Huntsville plant currently employs 575 people and produces V-6 and V-8 engines for International trucks and Ford trucks and vans.

The new inline 6-cylinder engines, which debuted at the 2006 Mid-America Trucking Show, will use compacted graphite iron, a stronger, lighter material that will improve fuel economy and reduce noise, the company said.

“The CGI material is extremely strong, so we don’t have to make the walls as thick,” said Tim Shick, director of marketing. “We can cut weight without cutting strength. It’s the opposite – we add strength.”

International teamed with German diesel manufacturer MAN to create the engines.

“It brings our emissions technology to them and their ability to work with CGI to us,” Shick said.

“In my mind it will reset the standard in heavy-duty engines,” said Jacob Thomas, vice president of the Big Bore Business Unit. “That unprecedented quietness should be a clue to the superior quality we plan to achieve with this engine.”

The engines will be available beginning in fall 2007 in International ProStar line-haul tractors, International 8600 regional-haul tractors and International 7000 series severe service trucks.
Kristin Walters

Freightliner Says New Mercedes Engines Ready for 2007
When 2007 Mercedes-Benz truck engines go into production in January, prototypes will have accumulated more than 14.5 million miles of testing, 6 million on the heavy-duty MBE 4000 and 8.5 million on the medium-duty MBE 900.

Freightliner announced Oct. 20 that it is on schedule with the new engines. The first tests of those engines began in Michigan, Germany and Brazil more than two years ago, and Freightliner says the testing program is one of the most “aggressive and comprehensive” in its history.

“We began the 2007 engine development program earlier than previous engine launches,” said Dave Skupien, Freightliner program manager for MBE engines in NAFTA. “We dedicated more engineering resources and drove more miles to validate the engine design.”

So far 10.4 million miles have been put on 79 test engines. Last winter test trucks were sent to Finland and Minnesota for cold-weather testing that validated engine cold-start performance at 5 degrees Fahrenheit (unaided) and minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit (with grid heater). The engines also successfully regenerated the engine’s aftertreament systems in the extreme cold.

In August, the engines’ high ambient temperature cooling system was tested in the Nevada desert, and high-humidity HVAC testing was done in Texas. High-altitude testing done in Colorado showed the MBE 4000 is capable of delivering 90 percent of rated power at rated speed at 13,000 feet.

“We are really pleased with what we are now seeing regarding the performance of these two engines, specifically in the area of fuel economy and performance reliability,” said Larry Dutko, Freightliner EPA ’07 program manager.
John Latta

FYI | News Briefs
1,000th CAT Scale

On Oct. 10, CAT Scale opened its 1,000th location at the Kangaroo Express truckstop on U.S. Highway 70 and New Bern Road in Kinston, N.C. CAT Scale operates in 45 states and four Canadian provinces.

Fleets Make Forbes List
Forbes has named three ttrucking companies in its list of America’s 200 Best Small Companies, which includes companies with sales of $5 million to $750 million. Knight Transportation, based in Phoenix, ranked No. 82; Heartland Express of Iowa City, Iowa, ranked No. 123; and Marten Transport, a long-haul truckload carrier based in Mondovi, Wis., placed No. 141.

Truckers Ball
The second annual Truckers’ Charity Ball is Saturday, Feb. 17, in Scranton, Pa. The black-tie event, hosted by northeast Pennsylvania’s KnightTime radio show, will take place from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral. This year’s event includes a photography contest as well with cash prizes. For more information on the ball and the contest, call (877) 234-6362 or visit this site.

Dealership Relocates
Bruckner Truck Sales – a full service medium and heavy-duty truck dealership with parts, sales, and service for Mack, Volvo, GMC and Mitsubishi-Fuso trucks, as well as several brands of trailers – has relocated to a new 96,200-square-foot facility in Amarillo, Texas along I-40. It includes 22 service bays, lube bay, frame alignment machine, dynamometer, five-bay paint and body shop, two wash bays, 2,500-square-foot parts display area, driver’s lounge, laundry facilities.

Peterbilt Dealership
Palm Peterbilt-GMC Trucks has cut the ribbon on a new medium and heavy-duty truck dealership in Ft. Meyers, Fla., the company’s fourth location in the state.

The new facility will serve Southwest Florida with a complete sales, service and parts operation.