Fueling frustrations

Stan Norris stands at the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, Pa., with about 75 other truckers, who brought their rigs without trailers into downtown Harrisburg for a morning rally to protest the cost of diesel, one of a handful of rallies held by drivers in the past couple of weeks.

Dozens of West Virginia truckers – estimates of the numbers varied widely, from 60 to 200 – convoyed to the state capitol of Charleston on April 4 in hopes of telling Gov. Joe Manchin about the hardships of high diesel prices.

Manchin wasn’t in to greet members of what truckers had called the Hillbilly Express, but an aide did speak with them.

Outside South Carolina’s capitol of Columbia, a couple dozen truckers protested April 4, while in Georgia, truckers continued to slow business at the Port of Savannah by parking their trucks.

There had been talk on the CBs and Internet of a nationwide April 1 strike, but other dates in April were also mentioned. It wasn’t clear at press time how long the protest would continue. With diesel just under or over $4 per gallon nationwide, some owner-operators shut down, but it is unclear how many and for how long. No single organization seems to be in charge, and the specific goals, other than protest, are unclear.

On April 1, near Florida’s Port of Tampa, more than 50 trucks parked in protest. About 25 truckers parked along Expressway 83 in Alamo, Texas. About 30 truckers gathered outside Jackson, Miss., for a convoy to Atlanta.

Some truckers demonstrated April 1 by simply slowing down. On the New Jersey Turnpike, trucks clogged lanes at slow speeds, while another group of truckers rallied outside the Vince Lombardi Service Area in Ridgefield, near the George Washington Bridge. Trucks also slowed traffic on the Stevenson Expressway in Chicago.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association reported receiving hundreds of calls from truckers in the past two weeks concerning a shutdown. OOIDA has cautioned that even in the 1970s, when nearly all truckers participated in strikes, the action did nothing to lower fuel prices.

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The American Trucking Associations has sent letters to federal officials, including President Bush and the U.S. Department of Energy, urging them to help bring fuel prices down. Actions the ATA advocates include:

  • Releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as was done during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-’91 and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
  • Establishing a national diesel fuel standard.
  • Requiring speed limiters set at 68 mph or lower on all new trucks.
  • Suspending the collection of the 12 percent federal excise tax on fleet purchases of auxiliary power units.
  • Requiring states to grant a weight exemption for APUs, as has been recommended but not required by the Bush administration.

Also April 1, coincidentally, the U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming had representatives from the five largest oil companies at a hearing to probe the causes and solutions of U.S. oil dependence.
– Jill Dunn

Industry Forecasts Record Fuel Bill
The American Trucking Associations announced March 17 that it projects a record high diesel fuel bill for the trucking industry in 2008: $135 billion, a $22 billion increase over 2007.

The announcement was made hours before the U.S. Department of Energy announced the fourth record national average diesel price in as many weeks.

The trucking industry is experiencing the highest prolonged fuel prices in history, said Bill Graves, ATA president. Historically, fuel has represented the second-highest operating expense for motor carriers, accounting for as much as 25 percent of total operating costs, but for some carriers, fuel is beginning to surpass labor as their largest expense.

“The trucking industry is making great strides in its efforts to reduce overall fuel consumption,” Graves said. “But an affordable supply of diesel fuel is imperative to keep our trucks moving. There is little to suggest that fuel prices will decline any time soon. Yet every day, ATA hears new stories from its members about how escalating fuel prices are hurting their businesses and affecting their livelihood.”

The cost to fill the fuel tanks on a typical tractor-trailer has increased 116 percent, or $615, in just five years. Because trucks haul 70 percent of all freight tonnage, rising fuel costs have the potential to increase the cost of everything transported by truck, including food, retail items and manufactured goods.

ATA has called upon Congress and the Bush administration to increase refining capacity and drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the outer continental shelf.

According to U.S. Geological Survey estimates, the refuge may contain 10 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply 100 percent of U.S. demand for 18 months.
– From Staff Reports

Truckers’ Seat-Belt Use Sets Record
The number of truckers buckling their seat belts jumped dramatically in 2007 to a record level of 65 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The results were the findings of the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, DOT said. A 2003 survey found that only 48 percent of truck drivers used seat belts; in 2006, the figure improved to 59 percent.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters credited the improvement in part to a seat-belt coalition established in 2003 and a 2007 public-service announcement starring NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace.

“Though we’ve made great strides, we won’t rest until 100 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers wear a seat belt 100 percent of the time,” Peters said.

“The results from this newest survey illustrate the growing commitment to safety and saving lives among our drivers, and we at ATA are pleased our efforts have had some effect on that increase,” said Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and chief executive officer.

“However, safety belts are still not being worn often enough,” Graves said. “Increasing safety belt use within the trucking industry is a high-priority issue for ATA. We still lag behind the overall driving population in frequency of safety belt use.”

Currently, 82 percent of passenger-vehicle drivers wear seat belts, according to the DOT.

Seat-belt use was greater (69 percent) in states with primary seat-belt laws, meaning police are empowered to pull and ticket drivers for no offense other than seat-belt violations, than in states with secondary seat-belt laws (59 percent), meaning police can ticket drivers for seat-belt violations only after pulling them for something else.

Company drivers were more likely (67 percent) to regularly wear seat belts than owner-operators (56 percent).
– From Staff Reports

ATTS Rolls Again in 2008
America’s Traveling Truck Show returns to truckstops around the country beginning this month.

ATTS will again bring vendors and trucking professionals together in locations convenient to truckers. The show will offer music and entertainment, and on display will be new and used Class 8 trucks for sale; show trucks; new engines from major engine manufacturers; new components, such as seats, suspensions and braking systems; products and services; and employment opportunities at selected locations.

Attendees who have a CDL and register at one of this year’s eight shows are automatically entered to win the 2008 Trucker’s Dream Package, which includes two tickets to a NASCAR race, two cold pit passes, and airfare and hotel accommodations for two.

The winner’s name is drawn by Boeder and Associates, an independent firm, after the last show. For official rules, call ATTS at (800) 633-5953, and ask for Vickie McCutchen.

2008 Show Dates:

  • May 20-22, Petro Stopping Center, Joplin, Mo.
  • June 3-5, Petro Stopping Center, Rochelle, Ill.
  • June 10-12, Petro Stopping Center, Scranton, Pa.
  • June 17-19, Lee Hi Travel Plaza, Lexington, Va.
  • Sept. 9-11, Petro Stopping Center, Sturtevant, Wis.
  • Sept. 16-18, Bosselman Travel Center, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Sept. 25-27, Bosselman Travel Center, Grand Island, Neb.
  • Oct. 1-3, Little America Truck Stop-Ambest, Little America, Wyo.

– Kristin Walters

Editor’s note: The following news and product releases were announced at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Additional new products from the show will appear in future issues.

Mack Unveils Pinnacle Rawhide Edition, Titan Tractor
Mack introduced its Pinnacle Rawhide Edition, building on its Pinnacle Axle Forward model with an updated exterior and a new level of interior comfort.

Target markets are fleets concerned about “driver recruitment and retention, as well as discerning owner-operators,” said Jerry Warmkessel, Mack Trucks marketing manager of highway products.

The truck is available in three cab configurations: 60- and 70-in. midrise sleepers, plus daycab. Features include a “Texas-style” chrome bumper, stainless-steel cab and sleeper skirts, forward-mounted dual 7-in. bullhorn exhaust stacks, a 13-in. stainless steel exterior sunvisor and four chrome air horns.

The interior has button-tuck Ultraleather and two-tone embroidered seats. The brushed nickel dash features Mack’s Co-Pilot driver display; the leather-grip steering wheel includes chromed spokes.

Mack also introduced its Titan heavy transport, heavy construction tractor to the trucking industry during the show, calling it “the most powerful Class 8 truck in the industry.” The company previously rolled out the Titan to vocational customers during the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2008 Exposition in Las Vegas.

Powered by the all-new MP10, a 16-liter diesel engine with a top rating of 605 hp and 2,060 lb.-ft. of torque, the truck is designed “for any application that requires brute strength performance,” said Warmkessel.

The truck is tall, with a long hood and high ground clearance. The cab is set high in a classic “heavy haul” position to ensure driver visibility. Titan touts lots of chrome, including a large grill surround featuring four inches of chromed cast aluminum and Mack’s new twin cowl-mounted “Growler” air intakes.

The MP10 is matched to Mack’s T300ES series 10-, 13- and 18-speed transmissions with triple countershaft performance. Eaton transmissions are available as options. Titan rides on Mack’s Cornerstone chassis, offered in three frame rail thicknesses – 8, 9.5 and 11 millimeters.

Customers may preorder the Titan now, with production to begin in November.
– Linda Longton

Kenworth Offers New Suspensions, Other Upgrades
Kenworth revealed new front and rear suspensions for its heavy- and medium-duty truck models.
The AG130 is a front-axle air spring suspension. The AG400L is a tandem rear suspension using a trailing arm design. The AG210L single-axle rear suspension is for Kenworth’s Class 6 and Class 7 conventionals.

The AG130 features a four-bag air spring configuration, compared to the typical two. “Four air bags help reduce road inputs and vibration to provide the best riding suspension we’ve ever offered,” said Mike Dozier, Kenworth chief engineer. “Drivers will definitely feel the difference. Roll stiffness is also improved to provide better handling and road feel.”

Lighter by 20 pounds than traditional 12,000-lb. taperleaf front-end suspensions, the disc brake-compatible AG130 will be available in 12,000- and 13,200-lb. ratings for the Kenworth T660, T800 and T2000 Class 8 models.

“We designed and tested the AG130 to handle the high torque braking demands of disc brakes,” Dozier said. “The new suspension system is a perfect spec to improve ride and performance for long-haul applications.”

The disc brake-compatible AG400L is a 40,000-lb. highway rear suspension system for Kenworth T660, T800, T2000 and W900 Class 8 models. The four-bag suspension supports fifth-wheel heights as low as 42 inches, has fewer parts and eliminates axle seat welding, the company said.

The AG210L, a two-bag version of the AG400L, is a 21,000-lb. rear suspension for the Kenworth T370 and T270.

Kenworth also announced a new driver information center on its Class 8 models designed to provide instant trip access information for miles per gallon, engine and idle hours, idle percentage and optimum rpm range. A “sweet spot indicator” offers visual cues when the optimum rpm is reached, while a bar graph displays current mpg against trip average mpg, the company said.

Kenworth also announced a new state-of-the-art dash for the T2000 model tractor that’s more ergonomic and visually appealing and also is easier to service, according to the company. A new speedometer and tachometer cluster features large 2-inch diameter gauges with chrome bezels, an engine hour meter, odometer, trip odometer and outside temperature gauge. “The new dash design makes it much easier to check gauges and warning lights with LED back-lighting in the face plate and pointers, while dash rocker switches contain LED indicator lights,” Dozier said.

The system is supported by the Kenworth Electronic Service Analyst, a computerized diagnostics tool designed to enable technicians to quickly troubleshoot dashboard electronics.

In other news, Kenworth announced:

  • Its Clean Power no-idle system will become a factory-installed option for new W900s and T800s equipped with the 72-inch AeroCab sleeper. Among the system’s benefits, according to Kenworth, are warranty coverage and full compliance with California Air Resources Board idling regulations that went into effect Jan. 1 for sleeper trucks with 2007 and later model engines. Kenworth Clean Power uses dedicated, advanced deep-cycle batteries that power a thermal storage cooler with 21,000 BTUs of cooling capacity, according to the company; the system has the capability to provide engine-off cooling and heating, plus 120-volt power for hotel loads.
  • It has introduced new finish trim accents for cabs and sleepers on its Class 8 and medium-duty conventional models. The new seat insert material, Marathon, includes a stain-resistant treatment and will be available as the standard for Kenworth’s Air-Cushion Plus, Air-Cushion Premium Plus and Steel Tool Box Plus proprietary seats, and for sofa beds in Kenworth’s 86-inch AeroCab and 72-inch AeroCab Aerodyne sleepers. Kenworth will incorporate new wood finish trim accents, Trust Walnut, on the instrument panel, header, doors and sleeper cabinets on Diamond and Diamond VIT interiors.
  • It will begin full production of medium-duty diesel-electric hybrid trucks this summer. Kenworth offers the fuel-efficient hybrid option on its new T270 Class 6 and T370 Class 7 conventional models. Kenworth’s goal is to enhance fuel economy by up to 30 percent in pickup-and-delivery applications and up to 50 percent in utility operations.
  • An expansion of its production plant in Chillicothe, Ohio, has added 105,000 square feet to the facility, increasing build capacity by 50 percent. The plant, Kenworth’s largest, has produced more than 300,000 trucks since it was opened in 1974.

– Randy Grider

Peterbilt Hybrid Production Begins This Summer
Full production of Peterbilt’s medium-duty hybrids will begin this summer at its manufacturing facility in Ste. Therese, Quebec.

Peterbilt’s Model 330 and Model 335 both feature Eaton Hybrid Power. In urban driving, the Model 330 provides up to a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy over traditional diesel trucks, said Landon Sproull, Peterbilt’s chief engineer. The Model 335 achieves 60 percent better fuel economy when configured for utility applications, Sproull said.

Both models are eligible for federal tax credits. The maximum $12,000 credit for Class 7 hybrids is available for the Model 335 in both utility-boom and pickup-and-delivery applications. A $6,000 credit, the maximum for Class 6 hybrids, is available for the Model 330.
Peterbilt also announced its plan for full production of the hybrid Model 320 Hydraulic Launch Assist vehicle in the fourth quarter of 2008. The low cab-forward vehicle, for vocational stop-and-go applications such as refuse collection, uses technology developed by Eaton exclusively for Paccar. The system captures the truck’s kinetic energy during braking to assist in launching and acceleration. Besides a significant improvement in fuel economy, the technology has the potential to cut necessary brake realignments in half, Peterbilt said.

Other Peterbilt announcements included:

  • A new proprietary front air leaf suspension, which the company said offers a 20 percent improvement in ride, while maintaining the roll stiffness and handling performance of a taperleaf suspension. It will be available on Peterbilt Models 384, 386, 388 and 389 in July, with full production this fall.
  • Peterbilt’s partnership with Westport Innovations to develop a natural gas version of its Model 386 for Wal-Mart. The units will feature the Cummins ISX engine rated at 400 to 450 horsepower and will meet 2008 EPA and CARB emission levels for soot and nitrous oxides, according to Peterbilt.
  • The Peterbilt ComfortClass system’s availability in 63-inch sleeper configurations beginning in June. A combination of batteries and a thermal storage cooler, ComfortClass provides heating, cooling and 110-volt electrical power without running the engine for up to 10 hours, the company said.
  • A new dash featuring an enhanced ergonomic instrumentation layout, enhanced visibility and Peterbilt navigation functionality that will be available for all medium-duty models in July.

– Linda Longton

Hijack Survivor Is Back on the Road Winner
On an overcast, blustery day at the Mid-America Trucking Show, the sun came out to greet Donald Turkelson of Battle Creek, Mich., moments before he was named the winner of Arrow Truck Sales’ Back on the Road 2008 contest, designed to help a deserving trucker in need of a job.

“Thank you kindly,” Turkelson told radio host Bill Mack upon learning he had won a 2005 Volvo VNL 670 tractor and a one-year work agreement with Heartland Express of North Liberty, Iowa, among other prizes.

A former chaplain, Turkelson retired from the U.S. Army at the rank of lieutenant colonel after 20 years’ service and became a trucker in January 1997, but his career as a company driver violently ended at 1:30 a.m. March 19, 2002, when he was shot in the left leg by a would-be hijacker in a company drop lot, just after hitching to a load of orange juice. The ski-mask-wearing assailant fled, and no one yet has been charged in the crime.

“I didn’t want him to have the control and the power to take my livelihood away from me,” Turkelson says of his assailant. But that’s just what happened, as Turkelson’s wound required surgery and extensive physical therapy. Since then, Turkelson has been a truck-driving instructor at Lansing Community College and pastored two small Methodist churches.

The father of two grown sons – Erik, an English teacher in Korea, and Stuart, an insurance agent in Washington, D.C. – Turkelson looks forward to taking his German shepherd, Shadow, back on the road with him. “I always wanted to be an owner-operator, but I just couldn’t get the numbers to work,” he says.

Besides the Heartland Express contract and the VNL 670 equipped with the Volvo Sentry satellite system, Michelin tires, Minimizer accessories and Dickinson Fleet Services detailing, Turkelson’s prizes include a three-year/300,000-mile warranty from National Truck Protection, a year’s membership in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a year’s business services from ATBS and a Dell laptop from Volvo.

Arrow spokeswoman Tricia Jaworski said a “substantial” number of truckers had entered the contest but declined to say how many. Mack said he had read a number of the contest entries: “Some are heartwarming, some are heartbreaking.”

“We are very excited to be able to make a difference for someone” by awarding “all the tools he will need to be successful during his first year back on the road,” said Carl Heikel, Arrow president and CEO.

Volvo is happy “to spread a little cheer and goodwill around the industry,” said Matt Kelly, Volvo Trucks North America marketing director. “Everyone needs a little helping hand now and again, and at the end of the day, we’ll be one driver closer to ending the driver shortage gap.”

“Owner-operators are the backbone of the industry,” said Steve Feldman of Heartland Express. “They always have been; they always will be.”

Mack called Back on the Road 2008 “one of the most giving, thoughtful events of all my years in broadcasting.” Well-wishers can follow Turkelson’s progress throughout the year via Mack’s XM Satellite Radio show and the website backontheroad2008.com.
– Andy Duncan

CARB Verifies Integrated Cummins APU
The Cummins ComfortGuard is the first diesel-fueled auxiliary power unit to be verified as compliant with the California Air Resources Board’s anti-idling regulations, Cummins announced.

CARB rules require that any diesel APU used on a truck with a 2007 or newer diesel engine be approved by the agency.

Cummins has sought CARB approval of its ComfortGuard system in two different configurations: a standalone particulate filter on the ComfortGuard APU, and a Cummins engine installation kit to route the ComfortGuard diesel exhaust gas into the Cummins Particulate Filter. So far, CARB has verified only the integrated kit for the ISX engine, but Cummins hopes to have approval for the standalone option soon. The company plans to begin production of both options by the end of June.

Cummins ComfortGuard APUs feature a two-cylinder low-emissions diesel engine and either a regenerative diesel particulate filter or an exhaust adapter kit for use with 2007 Cummins ISX engines. Equipped with a Cummins alternator, the APU produces 4,000 watts at 120 volts, the company says; it also produces up to 40 amps at 12 volts DC for charging the truck’s batteries and powering lights and fans. Cummins estimates an 18-month payback period for the ComfortGuard APU.

“Cummins is the only manufacturer with experience in the design and production of all the components in an APU – diesel engines, diesel exhaust aftertreatment systems, alternators and controls,” said Shawn Wasson, APU business leader for Cummins.

In other news, Cummins announced it had produced a driver training DVD and an audio CD to familiarize customers with its on-highway engines. The CD and DVD address such issues as fuel economy, Load-Based Speed Control and Gear-Down Protection, and the Cummins aftertreatment system.
– Avery Vise

Daimler Says SCR Is Effective and Safe
“No disaster is looming” with the introduction of SCR engine technology, said Mike Delaney, senior vice president of marketing for Daimler Trucks North America.

Delaney and other Daimler executives addressed skepticism raised by competitors over the company’s plans to use selective catalytic reduction to meet 2010 Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards. The company’s brands include Freightliner, Western Star, Sterling and engine maker Detroit Diesel.

Emissions reduction addresses both human stewardship and business needs, Delaney said, and SCR is best suited for both goals. “It flat-out needs to be done,” he said.

Citing respiratory health problems linked to diesel exhaust, Delaney said Daimler’s road-proven BlueTec SCR system would deliver on the responsibility to reduce total emissions “to the lowest possible level