Regulatory challenges


If you ask David Bylenga, executive vice president of Star Truck Rentals, what keeps him up at night, his answer is both swift and to the point. “Have we made the right decisions going forward?” he says. “Are we specifying the equipment that meets our customer's needs today and on a long-term basis?”

Even more to the point, Bylenga says that his concerns recently are most often focused on engines, especially as the fleet fields what he sees are yet to be proven 2010 emissions-compliant designs. “For Class 6, 7 and 8 tractors and trucks, we've been primarily buying Cummins ISX, B and C models,” he relates, “although we've been sticking our toe in the water with other engine makes. The SCR engines in our operation have not had any issues so far and DEF availability hasn't been a problem; however, we do have some long-term maintenance concerns.”

Admittedly, Bylenga is not an advocate of emissions regulations, but only because he feels that “the government has asked too much too fast of the industry. They're forcing manufacturers to develop technology faster than end users can digest it,” he says.

Economic issues also impact Star's equipment decisions. “While we'd prefer growth to come from our long-term full-service business,” Bylenga says, “our daily rental operation is a beneficiary of the slow recovery we're seeing, and that's where we've been investing in new equipment more heavily for the past two years.

“At the same time,” Bylenga continues, “in daily rental we will often be dealing with someone who is not an experienced driver, and that significantly increases the potential for a costly breakdown due to driver error. If a vehicle is in the shop for unnecessary repairs, it's not on the road where we and the customer are both making money.”

To address this particular challenge, Star has been a longtime proponent of automated transmissions. The company recently ordered 15 Freightliner 26-ft. trucks specified with Eaton UltraShift HV medium-duty transmissions for its daily rental fleet. The UltraShift HV is a fully automated gearbox for Class 6 and 7 vehicles powered by diesel engines in the 195 to 260 hp. range.

“The UltraShift HV transmission is perfect for our rental fleet because it makes shifting decisions for less experienced drivers,” Bylenga says.

Lonnie Vis, maintenance director at Star Truck Rentals, says a big reason why the fleet is spec'ing Eaton's automated transmissions is the customer support it has been getting from the manufacturer. “They've stood behind their products and have been very proactive in working with us and our customers to understand the characteristics and capabilities of automated transmissions.”

Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Star fields about 1,500 power units at 17 facilities in Michigan and Indiana, and is a NationaLease affiliate. Believed to have been founded as Star Baggage Co. in the 1860s, the company has been owned and operated by the Bylenga family since 1916.

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