This past fall I had the opportunity to tour the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. In one of the buildings, a famous five-word naval phrase was written on the wall in huge letters – “Don’t Give Up The Ship!” In the trucking industry, our ships are our trucks, and many times we want to give up on these newer trucks because of EGR-DPF and DEF problems. We know these emission systems are problematic, and the failure rate has been catastrophic.
In an effort to find ways to correct these shortcomings, the engineering staff at Pittsburgh Power was recently given a challenge to improve on the response, power, drivability and emissions on the 2010 and newer ISX Cummins engine equipped with EGR-DPF and DEF. They took the challenge and not only succeeded, but did one better – they came up with a maintenance program for the emissions systems on the Cummins and Detroit engines that just may very well eliminate most of the aforementioned problems with these engines. Time will tell, but it shouldn’t take long (we’ll know by the time summer rolls around if the problems decrease with the EGR, DPF and DEF systems on our test trucks).
Remember, “Don’t Give Up the Ship!” My belief is that we should stay with the variable geometry turbochargers and develop better means of combustion, along with increased air and exhaust flow. The trailer is 65% or more of the drag on a tractor trailer combination, and when we went from a 96-inch wide van trailer to 102-inches, a great loss of fuel mileage occurred (upwards of .5 mpg). The trucking industry has a bad habit of increasing the size of the trailer to satisfy the shipper, with no regard to fuel mileage, and never an increase in freight rates. That has always amazed me – do more work for less money. The next time you visit with your lawyer, dentist, accountant or doctor (or anyone else who calls themselves a Professional), see if they will do more work for less pay.
Have you ever got a warranty from these “Professionals”? I recently had skin cancer removed from my hand. The doctor didn’t take enough the first time, so I had to go back. I was in the doctor’s room for six minutes and the charge was $200, which my health insurance refused to pay because it was the second time for the same spot – so I had to pay the bill, because there is NO WARRANTY with these people. How many times can a dentist repair the same tooth and continue to charge you for it?
I have been in the trucking industry for 48 years and I feel we are all professionals – so why do WE continue to do more work for less money? Back in those early days, trailers were 38 and 40 feet long and 96 inches wide, and we got along just fine. Whose bright idea was it to make the trailers longer, wider, and harder on fuel, and then charge less to pull them? I’ve always been told we have to give the shippers what they want. Well, if you want more, you must pay more! That is my complaint for the month, which has been festering for years. Now, let’s get back to the trailers.
I have contacted an engineering company that is trying to get 9 miles per gallon from a tractor trailer with the use of aerodynamics. That is not good enough. We know of many trucks that are already getting 9 or more miles per gallon (actually, the realistic average is 8 to 8.3 mpg – to get 9 or more mpg consistently is very difficult, as the wind and weather plays a huge role). We at Pittsburgh Power have many ideas of how to improve the aerodynamics of the trailer, however it takes money to implement these ideas. Everything we have developed for improvement of the tractor over the past 39 years has come from within, and I think it’s time a government-funded organization or a large company that owns many trailers step up to the plate and work with us.
Walmart came out with a concept truck (see photo) a few years ago, and their goal was to get 14 mpg. Well, where is it? The problem with large organizations or companies is committees – people that have trouble making decisions and commitments can hide in a committee and the answer can always be, “We need more time and testing.” Let’s build it now and allow a few great owner operators to test it. We’ll know within two weeks if we have something.
Those of you reading this article that work for the government (and I know you read these), a large company such as Walmart, or a large trucking company, let’s get together and build the ultimate tractor trailer combination. We’ll work together to increase fuel mileage and decrease pollution, and you will be amazed as to what we can do in just four to six months.
Great ideas and products come from people with a gifted mind, and those of us who have a mind that never sleeps. Right now it’s 3:30 am on Sunday morning – Super Bowl Sunday, February 07, 2016 – and I’m pounding on the keys of this computer. In fact, most of my articles are written around this time, as my mind will only sleep for maybe four hours at a time. I sleep best in a two-part day, so the 14-hour rule that you owner operators have to live by would not work for me. Thomas Edison had the same problem – his saying was, “A man should be able to work when he is awake and sleep when he is tired.” Isn’t it amazing that the greatest inventor the world has ever known would not be able to work as a truck driver today because of the current log book rules!
Let’s build some great tractor trailer combinations and save our planet and its precious fuel resources. Cleaning up emissions is good, but increasing your truck’s miles-per-gallon will accomplish a lot more in regards to actually improving the overall situation. What good does it do to clean up your exhaust if it comes at the cost of 1-2 mpg of efficiency? Let’s start looking to solve this problem in a sensible and pragmatic way, and get it out of the bureaucratic quagmire our government has put it in! If you have any comments or questions, as always, I can be reached at Pittsburgh Power Inc. in Saxonburg, PA by calling (724) 360-4080.