Aperia names Fontaine Modification preferred installer

BURLINGAME, Calif. – After thousands of installations, Fontaine Modification has earned the title of preferred installer of Aperia Technologies’ Halo Tire Inflator and Halo Connect technology.

The company will provide installation services for customers across North America.

“Fontaine Modification has installed the Halo Tire Inflator on thousands of vehicles over the past two years,” said Josh Carter, CEO of Aperia Technologies. “This expanded agreement allows fleets to have our full product suite installed via Fontaine’s impressive network.”

“As a company dedicated to fleet efficiency and environmentally sustainable fleet management, we are pleased to support installation of Halo and Halo Connect as the leading tire inflation solutions for tractors and trailers in North America,” added Jamil Young, president, Fontaine Modification’s medium and heavy truck operations division.

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Cummins unveils 2021 engine lineup

COLUMBUS, Ind. – Cummins has unveiled its 2021 X12 and X15 engine lineup, expanding the use of several features that have been limited to X15 Efficiency Series engines.

Fuel economy and oil drain intervals are experiencing a boost as well.

“Both the X15 and X12 share a market-leading 75,000-mile (120,000-km) interval for trucks getting seven or more miles per gallon (33.6 L/100 km),” said John Malina, executive director – sales for Cummins North American engine business, during a press briefing.

“Many customers of the X15 Performance Series will also see extended intervals in 2021. We’ve increased the oil change interval by 10,000 miles (16,000 km) for customers getting six to seven miles per gallon (39.2-33.6 L/100 km), as well as those getting five to six miles per gallon (47-39.2 L/100 km).”

The longer drain intervals largely come courtesy of the data collected through earlier oil analyses efforts, and the confidence the data brings.

The Cummins Oil Guard oil analysis program can even see trucks reach up to 100,000 miles (160,000 km) before needing an oil change, when using approved lubricants.

Added fuel economy

Specific fuel economy is admittedly tough to target, given the varied applications for these engines. But the X15 Efficiency Series enjoys 3.5% better fuel economy compared to its 2019 predecessor, said Nick Roth, director – national accounts.

Engine buyers who need more than 500 hp will see a 2% fuel economy boost in the X15 Performance Series, while base hardware changes in the X12 will see fuel economy increase 2.5% there. Compared to the ISX12, the latest X12 will see 8.5% better fuel economy, Roth said.

“For customer with older equipment, most product improvements within the same system architecture can be retrofitted for the best-possible trade-in value.”

Added engine performance

New EX ratings available for the X12 engines in linehaul and regional applications will include features that had been limited on the X15 – including on-ramp boost (a Cummins exclusive), predictive engine braking, predictive gear shifting, and dynamic power, said RaNae Isaak, powertrain and total cost of ownership consultancy leader.

Locating ramps using GPS signals, on-ramp boost trades off fuel economy in the name of maximum torque and a performance-focused shift schedule before hitting the highway itself.

Predictive engine braking can engage engine brakes to maintain speed, and predictive gear shifting matches the gear for the terrain ahead. Dynamic power, meanwhile, adjusts torque so lighter vehicles can operate like their heavier counterparts on grades, improving fuel savings for those who haul varying or diminishing loads.

“The previous adaptive features that required a unique engine calibration will be automatically enabled for the X12 EX ratings, so fleets will have access to additional efficiency-focused features like Smart Coast and Smart Torque 2 by default. Customers will still have access to these features in non-EX ratings. They simply can enable them after delivery,” Isaak said.

A new web-based tool known as Power Spec Web can be used to spec’ powertrains on the front end, adjust select features, and analyze driver performance through a reporting function. In the past, such reports required a PC-based software tool.

“A website with a URL location is a lot easier than someone downloading software,” she said.

More than skin deep

“When you look at the engines, you might notice some slight external modifications, but the bulk of what’s changed was internal components,” said Kris Ptasznik, heavy-duty on-highway product manager.

And changes to the X12 were still achieved while maintaining a 2,050 lb. weight.

“We’ve improved engine breathing, increased (the) compression ratio, and reduced friction losses through modified ring packs, to improve overall efficiency. We also offer an optional longer fuel filter that extends maintenance intervals to match market-leading oil drain intervals already available with the 2020 X12,” Ptasznik said.

The EX ratings for the X12 come to the engine courtesy of an updated ECM.

There’s also an option to reduce engine noise at idle with the help of an air compressor resonator, which has traditionally been limited to the X15.

Some of the updates to the X15 Performance Series were targeted for overseas customers, but buyers in North America will benefit as well. A larger thrust bearing, for example, means added durability for everyone, even though it’s largely needed to address particularly challenging road conditions in other regions.

“There’s no sense carrying two different base hardwares just to make that happen,” Ptasznik said.

Engineers are leveraging the engine’s EGR flow to help with engine braking, and like the X12 this powerplant will come with the new ECM and Cummins Acumen connectivity module that offers software updates, diagnostics, and Connected Advisor tools.

“We improved the air handling system for better compression ignition and engine efficiency. At the same time, we focused on reducing parasitics and frictional losses by improving the power cylinder, reducing the water pump speed, and resizing some critical components,” Ptasznik said.

Engine noise is also reduced at idle, while engine shutdown is enhanced as well, Cummins says.

Select powertrain features like Smart Coast, predictive cruise control, and a predictive road speed governor also come to X15 engines above 500 hp.

Power to come

While many power-related discussions currently focus on the future of battery-electric and fuel cell technologies, the manufacturer still sees a clear path for diesel.

“The mass customer in heavy-duty North America will continue to need a differentiated diesel that operates in their duty cycles and applications,” said Brett Merritt, vice-president of Cummins’ on-highway engine business.

The company challenged industry norms around diesel engines a century ago, unveiled natural gas engines in the 1960s, and 10-15 years later offered hybrid options, he said.

But it’s not stopping there. Five years ago it unveiled battery-electric systems, and hydrogen fuel cells are coming in the next few years.

“We think fuel cell will be a real option, particularly in certain applications,” Merritt said, referring to transit buses and heavy-duty trucks among them. The heavy-duty trucks to come late next year will plant some of the early seeds for such systems, he said.

“Electric, for a linehaul application, is not very good. How do you charge it, how do you possibly have that many batteries?”

The diesel power offerings must continue to evolve as well, as engineers explore the needs of 2024 emissions targets.

The challenges there will go beyond the lower NOx levels, Merritt said, referring to issues like warranty considerations that need to be addressed.

“We’ll have a full suite a products,” he promised.

“We’re in the market. Stay tuned.”

Full production of the 2021 product lineup begins Jan. 1.

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ECONOMIC WATCH: Renewed fleet confidence fueling stronger Class 8 truck demand

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Fleet confidence has returned in the form of strengthening Class 8 truck orders, which surged in September to 32,000 units according to preliminary data from FTR.

That’s the highest total since October 2018, up 55% from August and 160% year-over-year, FTR reported.

Orders come from both replacement and expansion demand, according to the industry forecaster.

“The Class 8 truck market continues to recover faster and better than expected. This strong order volume suggests fleets believe there will be steady freight growth going forward. Rates have improved, so carriers have the cash, and now they also have the confidence. When you combine those two factors, orders tend to surge,” said Don Ake, vice-president of commercial vehicles.

“There was considerable pent-up demand in the market, as orders sank in the March to May time period. So, trucks that would have normally been ordered then, are being ordered now, since much of the risk has passed. The order volume is very close to August’s trailer orders; therefore, it appears that the fleets took care of their trailer needs first, and then caught up to the truck side in September.

“Ordering for 2021 deliveries will begin in earnest this month, so the industry has solid momentum going into the fall ordering season. This is still a risk-filled environment, with some of that uncertainty having intensified recently. But many fleets are focused on future business prospects and are willing to assume the short-term risks for long-term gains.”

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Bendix takes over brake joint venture with Dana

ELYRIA, Ohio – Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems has bought Dana out of their Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake (BSFB) joint venture.

Dana had controlled a 20% interest in the joint venture.

Bendix says it will immediately incorporate the wheel-end business and change the name to Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems effective Jan. 1, 2021.

The JV has been in place since June 30, 2004.

“This change is a natural next step in our business growth in North America and around the globe. It comes as Knorr-Bremse and our North American-associated company, Bendix, continue to pursue our strategic agenda to further strengthen our position as global market leader in the commercial vehicle wheel-end brake business,” said Dr. Peter Laier, member of the executive board of Knorr-Bremse AG responsible for the Commercial Vehicle Systems division. “Knorr-Bremse and Bendix are uniquely qualified to carry the wheel-end business forward as a part of our focus on enhanced traffic safety on the roads in North America and around the world.”

Mike Hawthorne, president and CEO of Bendix, added, “Bendix and Dana have enjoyed a strong and vibrant partnership as we have successfully guided the strategic path of the joint venture for the past 16 years. Now we look forward to continuing that relationship as we undertake other joint projects and initiatives. As it was with the formation of BSFB, there are considerable mutual benefits when industry leaders collaborate; we anticipate the future will hold exciting opportunities for both of our companies.”

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Pilot program could see 18-year-old truck drivers cleared for interstate trips

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. regulators are taking a key step toward a pilot program that would see truck drivers as young as 18 operating commercial motor vehicles for interstate commerce.

While CDL holders under the age of 21 can drive trucks in 49 states and the District of Columbia, their trips between jurisdictions are restricted. For example, the younger drivers can complete a trip between Houston and El Paso, Texas, but not complete an extended journey across several states.

Public comments about the proposal are now being collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The pilot project would be limited to 18-20-year-old CDL holders taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and subsequent 280-hour apprenticeship program established by an employer, or 19-20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated in intrastate commerce for at least one year and 40,000 km. Participants wouldn’t be allowed to operate vehicles transporting passengers, haul hazardous materials, or operate special configurations.

The idea was first proposed in May 2019, as regulators began to ask questions about the required training, qualifications, driving limitations, insurance, and vehicle safety systems, among other topics.

“This is a significant step toward improving safety on our nation’s roads, setting a standard for these drivers that is well beyond what 49 states currently require,” American Trucking Associations (ATA) president and CEO Chris Spear said on Friday in a bulletin for members.

“The pilot program would require drivers to meet safety and skill requirements far and above current standards.”

They won’t be the first young drivers cleared for interstate commerce. The latest proposal builds on a similar project unveiled in July 2018, which involves 18-to-20-year-olds who completed heavy vehicle training while in the U.S. military.

Research by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration supports the idea that younger drivers can be safe. In the years 2012-17 studied for Traffic Safety Facts: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data, male drivers from 16-20 had a lower involvement in fatal crashes than those from the ages of 21-24. However, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) look at 2017 data found that drivers aged 18-19 were 2.3 times more likely than those 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.

Interest in allowing younger drivers hasn’t been limited to the U.S.

Quebec has trained hundreds of youth in pilot projects of its own, and is currently preparing legislation that will allow truck drivers as young as 18. That legislation is expected to come into effect this fall.

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Trimble tool holds truckers accountable

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Collecting data is the easy part, but the information is useful only if we can analyze and make sense of it to reduce risks.

That was the message at a Trimble Transportation webinar Wednesday on using analytics to elevate driver compliance, safety and accountability. The session was held on the third day of Trimble’s virtual user conference.

Senior product manager Mike Soricelli said what matters is how can we turn the data into actionable items to increase safety.

“With many data points available, it can be difficult to determine what data is useful and how to confidently analyze it to make effective decisions,” he said.

Soricelli said Trimble’s Video Intelligence and Safety Analytics portal simplifies big data so fleets can properly coach and hold drivers accountable on speeding, behavior, hours-of-service (HoS) compliance and fatigue.

He said the platform has the ability to import various data inputs into an easy-to-read dashboard, making it simpler for fleets to identify potential risks, whether it is related to driver behavior or fatigue.

And speaking of fatigue, Soricelli said Trimble has partnered with Pulsar Informatics to deliver a fatigue monitoring and risk management solution.

He said Pulsar has done work for the U.S. space agency NASA, and also has a project going right now with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The FMCSA estimates that driver fatigue may be an associated factor in 13% of accidents involving commercial trucks.

“Eighteen hours without sleep is like having a blood alcohol content of 0.05. That is crazy when you think about it,” Soricelli said.

“So, when you think about the amount of time drivers spend on the road and how much sleep they are getting, fatigue definitely plays a significant factor into that driver behavior.”

The Trimble portal constantly monitors and updates driver fatigue, and that information is available in real time to carriers, he said.

The portal also offers a printable driver scorecard, which Soricelli said is a great way to establish key performance indicators.

The Trimble analytics tools are optional. They can be customized to fit the needs of all fleet sizes, Soricelli said.

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NATDA cancels Nashville trailer show

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Covid-19 has claimed yet another trucking industry event.

The North American Trailer Dealers Association (NATDA) said Friday it has been forced to cancel this year’s NATDA Trailer Show in Nashville, Tenn.

In its place, NATDA will launch a three-week virtual event starting Oct. 26, the group said.

“Unfortunately, recent developments, including bar and restaurant closures, state-to-state restrictions and citywide phase extensions, convinced us there’s no way to maintain our physical show during these incredibly unpredictable times,” said president Andy Ackerman.

“After speaking to hundreds of dealers, a strong majority felt they simply were not ready to venture to Nashville under the current circumstances.”

More information about the virtual show will be announced in the coming weeks, NATDA said.

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Don’t rule out clean diesel: DTF

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New-generation diesel-powered trucks are vital in achieving near-term climate and clean air goals, the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) said, in response to a 15-state mission to achieve 100% zero-emissions commercial truck sales by 2050.

“While the recently announced MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) takes a long view for commercial trucks in the region to be all electric, there are equally important proven and available near-term opportunities to advance progress for cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions right now,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the DTF.

“Rapidly accelerating the turnover of the existing fleet to the newest generation of diesel technology as well as expanding the use of low-carbon advanced biofuels can deliver benefits today, and should not be overlooked.”

The Forum points out diesel is the primary fuel choice for the trucking industry because it’s the most energy efficient internal combustion engine, has superior power density and driving range, is reliable and durable, and widely available fueling infrastructure already exists. The fuel can now deliver near-zero emissions.

“Since 2010, a new generation of diesel technology has become the standard for heavy-duty trucks, delivering reductions of 98% of emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions,” Schaeffer added. “Getting more of this generation of vehicle into the hands of truckers now will pay large benefits in terms of lower emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, particularly trucks operating in the most sensitive communities.”

The 15 MOU states and the District of Columbia, currently have a 43% penetration of the latest diesel engine technologies, the Forum pointed out, adding “57% are of an older generation that have higher emissions and lower fuel efficiency, making the opportunity for accelerating turnover substantial.”

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Werner founder, namesake easing out of leadership role

Leadership of one of the trucking industry’s leading companies is changing.

Saying, “There comes a moment when you know it’s just time to move on,” CL Werner, the man who founded what was to become Werner Enterprises, took a step toward easing out of his role on the company’s board of directors.

The company this week announced Werner stepped down as executive chairman, effective May 31. A statement from the company said he will continue to serve as chairman of the board of directors through the end of his current term, which ends in May of 2021. Werner is expected to become chairman emeritus then.

In connection with this transition, the board of directors appointed Derek Leathers, the current chief executive officer and president of the company, as a member and vice chairman. Werner recommended Leathers be named chairman of the board of directors, in addition to his roles as chief executive officer and president next May.

CL Werner founded the company in 1956 with one truck. Today the company has almost 11,000 drivers.

“All I ever wanted to do was drive a truck,” said the founder in a statement from the company. “As the first driver for our company, I know first-hand that professional drivers are, and have always been, the backbone of our country. America is witnessing that now more than ever.
“I’ve been proud to have created such a company. But my intent was nothing more than being able to drive a truck, provide exceptional service, meet good people, and hope I could convince the best of them to come to work for me … and it worked.

“There comes a moment when you know it’s just time to move on. I’m in good health, and Werner has never been in a better position than it is today. So now is the time. I have the utmost confidence in Derek and his leadership team to continue to take Werner to the next level and beyond.”

In a statement on Werner’s website, Leathers said, “Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such foresight as CL has. He’s passionate about our company, our drivers, our associates, and life in general. There is no doubt he will stay committed to Werner’s success going forward.

“He put over 64 years of work into this company, and I appreciate the confidence he has in me and our leadership team going forward. We will continue to concentrate on the things that have made Werner great – being a driver-focused company, with core values that reflect who we are as we serve our customers.”

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Re-Opening Measures Positively Affect Truck Freight, Rates

With all 50 states relaxing COVID-19 shutdown orders to various extents, trucking shipments and rates are heading back up – but don’t expect a true recovery until 2021.

For the week of May 18-24, truckload markets continued to follow seasonal trends, and load-to-truck ratios on the DAT network continued to climb as a result, according to DAT Solutions. That put pressure on prices, which rose going into the long holiday weekend as more and more businesses reopen.

The number of posted loads actually dropped 16.5% during the week ending May 24, which includes the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, but truck posts fell 29%. Shippers and brokers paid a premium to secure capacity ahead of the holiday, DAT said.

“The demand for trucks has steadily increased throughout May, following seasonal trends that are typical for this time of year,” wrote Matt Sullivan on the DAT blog May 27.

“The upward trends offers plenty of reasons to be optimistic going forward. Last week saw some of the biggest increases since late March, with many shippers paying a premium to get freight moved ahead of the long Memorial Day weekend.”

National averages for van and flatbed rates are still below where they were in April, although refrigerated rates were up slightly, reported DAT.

  • Van: $1.57 per mile, 6 cents lower than the April average
  • Flatbed: $1.88 a mile, 6 cents lower than April
  • Reefer: $2.00 a mile, 7 cents higher than April

The rolling national average van, flatbed, and reefer rates were 6, 7, and 8 cents higher, respectively, on May 24 than they were on May 1. Rates are low but trending in the right direction.

There are still many markets where truckload supply outweighs demand, Sullivan said. Hot markets, on the other hand, included Atlanta, Memphis, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Ontario, California.

Look for 2021 rebound

ACT Research is predicting that the economy will transition from contraction to growth over the course of the third and fourth quarters. “Clearly the global economy does not have the luxury of waiting a year or two for a vaccine to be developed before the current solution itself becomes the greater risk,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT president and senior analyst. “Our forecast anticipates that the U.S. economy, as defined by GDP, will not return to its Q4’19 size until after 2021.”

It’s not easy to restart supply chains that were totally shut down due to the pandemic, Vieth said. “In the supply chains that support complex OEM-level assembly operations, from raw materials to finished goods, it is not just about opening one plant, but opening thousands of plants simultaneously, making tens of thousands of parts that go into those assemblies in an orchestrated fashion, all with new layers of safety and testing protocols in place.”

On top of that, he said, getting buyers to market is another challenge “when the economy has so recently cratered and going outside poses an existential risk.”

However, Vieth said, because the pre-COVID economy was “structurally sound… with strong Federal Reserve and Congressional support, and rising pent-up demand, there is a case to be made that the economy will respond strongly into 2021.”

Coyote Logistics is predicting a similar recovery. “Though we expect a steep drop once all Q2 numbers are in the books, we have likely already hit the bottom in Q2,” writes the third-party logistics provider in an article explaining its latest Coyote Curve forecast for the truckload market.

“We’ll see a slow recovery the rest of the year and then rocket into 2021,” with spot market truckload rates rising year over year in the first quarter of the year, said Chris Pickett, chief strategy officer of the third-party logistics provider and author of the Coyote Curve forecast, in a recent webinar. Coyote said it expects contract and spot rates to more or less converge from here, and an inflationary 2021 spot truckload environment (barring a major economic setback).

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