After testing a truck fully equipped with an ’07 engine and aftertreatment system, Steve Haus has concluded that the new technology won’t affect the operations of his fleet—The Erb Group, a refrigerated carrier based in Canada—much at all.
“Yes, it’ll be more expensive, but from our test experience, it’ll do what it needs to do,” Haus, corporate fleet manager for Erb, told FleetOwner. “The truck we tested turned out to be very reliable. We expected glitches with the new technology but that didn’t happen. It performed better than expected.”
With 550 company trucks—almost all 9000 series International-brand tractors with a few straight trucks—100 owner-operators, and 10 terminals, Erb delivers perishable and frozen goods across the U.S. and Canada on a variety of regional and longhaul routes.
After Erb agreed to test one of International Truck & Engine Corp.’s ’07 engine and aftertreatment packages, the company received a prototype unit built in late 2005 and quickly put it to work. Haus put one of his best drivers, Ronnie Kerr, behind the wheel running a route from south central Ontario to Western Canada and back--a run that puts 6,000 to 7,000 miles on the truck in two weeks. After nearly 12 months of testing, the truck accumulated 100,000 miles in all weather conditions.
“Ronnie was game for it. He enjoyed the opportunity and provided us with good feedback, but it wasn’t easy,” said Haus, noting that Kerr has been with Erb for four years. “Ronnie spent six to eight weeks at a stretch in this bare-bones truck. He came out of a fully-loaded 9900 highway tractor to operate this one, which was very plain inside.”
After each a six- to eight-week shift, International sent up an engineering team from its Fort Wayne, IN, research facility to take the vehicle to a local dealer for a week of intensive study. After receiving any required maintenance, the OEM placed the unit back in service with Erb.
“The truck itself handled very well, with much better visibility and reduced cab sway than our current models,” Haus said. “In terms of the ’07 components, we don’t see it as a big glitch. I think we’ll be able to deal with it.”
Other fleets are reporting similar results, although most carriers testing ’07 engines and aftertreatment systems have signed confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from talking to the media about their experiences.
Schneider National said it didn't get the full 18-month testing period it wanted for the three different ’07 engine brands its got on the road. The company told investment firm Bear Sterns that none of its ’07 test engines have accumulated more than 50,000 miles, so it’s it's too early to draw firm conclusions.
Schneider did note that feedback from drivers has been very positive in terms of “responsiveness.” In addition, the carrier reports overall fuel economy reductions of 1% to 3%, primarily due to the lower energy content of the ULSD fuel, not the extra emissions control technology added to the '07 engines.
The one area that concerns Erb’s Haus is the electronic sensor package in the truck’s diesel particulate filter (DPF). At times, those harnesses will be exposed to 800 to 1,200º F exhaust heat due to the need for “active regeneration” to burn out the soot that can accumulate in the filter.
“We have to assume the long-term durability of those harnesses is unknown,” he said. “And if we have a sensor wiring failure, will that shut us down?” Aside from that issue, we don’t see anything else to be a major problem. Our truck has seen virtually every weather event known to man running up here and everything tested well.
“Sure, there will be a learning curve in terms of maintenance, but that’s what we do every day here in fleet management,” Haus continued. “As long as we have enough supply of ULSD for our new trucks, we don’t expect any major problems from what we’ve seen.”