First of two articles
On April 25, Indiana state trooper Andrew Winzenread was struck and killed by a truck that jackknifed on I-74 about eight miles from Greensburg. After an investigation by state police, the incident was ruled accidental, and no criminal charges were filed against the driver.
However, police decided to take a chance and try a unique investigative tool -- one never used before -- that may forever change the way law enforcement does its job and the way trucking firms run their businesses.
Armed with a court-ordered subpoena, Indiana State Police, working through the California Highway Patrol (CHP), asked for and received satellite records from San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc. showing the location of their customer's GPS-equipped trucks within a 20-mile radius of the accident.
The police motives were well-intentioned. "If we ever got to the point in our investigation where we were desperate to find witnesses to the accident, we would use the records," said accident reconstructionist sergeant Dan Goris.
The results were less than perfect, according to Goris. Investigators received five pages of computer readouts containing 40 entries each, for a total of 200 truck locations. He notes that the records contained lots of useless entries, including a local fleet whose vehicles were parked on its premises, trucks idling at a nearby truckstop, and trucks traveling on I-65, which was inside the 20-mile radius but nowhere near the incident. The police made the decision to get the records shortly after the accident -- even though it wasn't clear that they were needed -- because they realized they might not be available weeks later.
Few people in the trucking industry are aware of this incident. In fact, only those companies whose trucks' locations were given to police were notified. A Qualcomm official said that while carriers "own" the data, the company keeps it for 14 days and is obligated to respond to requests for information if accompanied by a court order. Qualcomm cooperated with CHP's request, but sent a letter to trucking firms whose truck locations were to be turned over the following day to CHP.
For the fleets involved, this incident took on a greater dimension several months later. On August 15, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued its Policy on the Use of Advanced Information Technology to regional directors. This policy allows FHWA auditors to require carriers to provide electronic records to support driver logbook claims in showing compliance with the hours-of-service rules.
This policy so enraged some carriers that many have been holding strategy meetings to decide on a course of action in response to what they believe is an unreasonable and unfair intrusion into their privacy.
Why are fleets so concerned? Mainly, they are worried about over-aggressive enforcement by DOT. Carriers say there will always be discrepancies between electronic records and those kept by people. They worry that DOT could use these records to fine and punish carriers unfairly.
"Many of the tanker people are expressing concern," says Cliff Harvison, president of National Tank Truck Carriers. "If the government checks electronic records against logging records, there will always be differences. We're dealing with people who make mistakes. Innocent mistakes. If the government wants to find a problem, it can."
Harvison notes that even trivial discrepancies can be blown out of proportion. For example, a truck driver may see a sign for a town and write that in his logbook. The satellite record may show a slightly different latitude and longitude than the town center. Carriers believe that these kinds of discrepancies will put them on the defensive, i.e., in the position of explaining them to an examiner, and that they could spend lots of time doing so.
Don Orr, president of Roberson Transportation, Champaign, Ill., believes that DOT's interest in using electronic records for safety compliance penalizes those carriers that embrace new technology. "We will be held to a higher standard than carriers that don't use technology," he says.
Almost to a person, trucking industry executives say they have no problem with GPS records used in specific cases, such as studying the records of a particular truck in an accident. However, they all fear wholesale and unbridled use of satellite information.
Release me Before adjourning for the year, Congress approved a $9.7-billion compromise measure that would keep highway programs funded through March. Congressional failure to reauthorize the nation's highway program had threatened to bring truck and bus safety enforcement efforts in many states to a stop. Congress will pick up the debate next year where it left off.
Carey out With his election as president of the Teamsters voided by the courts last summer, Ron Carey has now been barred from running for re-election by a court-appointed union monitor. Kenneth Conboy ruled last month that Carey was unfit to stand for office in new court-ordered elections because he helped divert union funds to his election campaign war chest.
A fine experience DOT has announced that John E. Hoth, owner of Cedar Rapids-based Shuttle Service Xpress (SSX), and six SSX drivers were indicted on conspiracy and false statement charges arising from alleged falsification of records and violations of federal safety regulations. Each count is a felony offense carrying a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, with a $250,000 fine for individual defendants and a $500,000 fine for the company.
Hold everything Included in the 1998 appropriations measure for the labor department is language that would bar OSHA's ergonomics regulations until at least next October. Although the agency will not be able to issue regulations governing repetitive stress, it can work on proposals and voluntary guidelines.
Clean Web site To open the channels of communication and educate fleet owners about alternative-fuel developments, the Dept. of Energy has developed a new Web site: www.afdc.doe.gov. DOT issues safety regs
The Federal Highway Administration on November 6 published a revised motor carrier safety rating system that looks remarkably similar to the policy it replaces. The new methodology was in response to a federal court ruling that its procedures for assigning safety ratings was adopted without proper public notice and comment rulemaking.
At issue is how FHWA determines the three safety ratings of motor carriers: satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory.
days to improve an unsatisfactory or conditional rating or offer additional material to OMC inspectors showing that their rating was unwarranted.
FHWA has changed the rating process to incorporate a carrier's recordable accident rate. For the most part, the system has evaluated only preventable accidents. Under the new rating process, an urban carrier (one operating within a 100-mi. radius) with a recordable accident rate over 1.7 accidents per million miles (approximately twice the 1994-96 average of 0.839 accidents per million miles) will receive an unsatisfactory rating. All other carriers with a recordable accident rate greater than 1.5 accidents per million miles (about double the 1994-96 average of 0.747) will receive an unsatisfactory rating.
FHWA will evaluate the possibility of setting different accident-rate thresholds for different types of transportation.
The new procedures were barely published when it was again challenged in court by the American Trucking Associations. ATA officials contend that the new rule fails to limit the rating criteria to properly defined accident rates, out of service rates and serious driver violations. In essence, ATA officials believe that safety ratings should not be based solely on hours of service rules because these rules are flawed. In addition, ATA lawyers contend that the new rule fails to mandate random sampling of driver records. This, they say, would ensure that a carrier's safety rating is a true representation of their everyday safety record instead of being based on paperwork violations.
ATA's court appeal does not stop the FHWA from implementing its new rules. FHWA officials would not comment on the issue because of the ongoing litigation.
In a move to help bring more value to its customer base beyond product and repair, Cummins Engine Co. has rolled out a new revolving line of credit designed to make it easier for owners of small fleets to purchase parts and service sold by authorized Cummins dealers and distributors. Called Business First, the service includes engine and non-engine related needs.
Small fleets and owner-operators own an estimated 1.5-million engines built before 1988, according to Cummins estimates. "These are the engines that are consuming parts and need service today," said Amy Adams, market manager, aftermarket information services.
"Business First will help cash-constrained customers afford genuine parts and services," she said. The service can be used to purchase parts, repairs, service, and maintenance.
Business First is a private branded, revolving line of credit with no annual fee and no finance charge, providing the balance is paid in full. Credit requirements are more flexible than for many traditional credit cards.
It generally takes less than 30 minutes for an application to be approved, and the service can be used immediately. The only restriction is that the fleet owner must have at least one Cummins-powered unit.
Fleets can request additional credit cards at no extra charge; purchase authorization restrictions can be placed on the account.
According to the World Resources Institute, industrialized nations must achieve a 35% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions just to maintain current levels of greenhouse gases for the next 10 years. Representatives of 150 countries convened in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month to negotiate a treaty addressing this issue. Their goal is to take the first steps in stabilizing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions around the world, and thus begin to manage the phenomenon of global warming.
Virtually everyone at this fall's Tokyo Motor Show realized the terrific pressure such predictions -- if they're accurate -- put on the climate-treaty negotiators, as well as automobile and truck makers.
Aware that their approaches to the issue of global warming would come under close scrutiny, commercial vehicle exhibitors spotlighted their latest strategies for reducing CO2. Not surprisingly, their methods can be utilized at minimal cost.
Kazuhira Seki, president of Isuzu Motors Ltd., emphasized the environmentally friendly aspects of the diesel technology under development at Isuzu. "Diesel engines can provide local solutions," he stated. "They emit 35% less CO2 than comparable gasoline engines."
Seki pointed out that Isuzu has already made big strides in reducing NOx and particulate emissions. "With our new Dynamic diesels, or 'Dds,' we will save more fuel, and that will directly reduce the rate of CO2 emissions from truck exhaust pipes."
One example of a Dd is Isuzu's new light-duty 3-liter engine, which can be used to power the Rodeo SUV. "It provides up to 60% better fuel economy than the vehicle's current gasoline engine," Seki stated.
Fueled by a common rail system, the 3-liter utilizes Caterpillar Engine Div.'s compact HI90 hydraulically actuated, electronically controlled unit injectors. Common rail fueling is used in the U.S. on a few Caterpillar applications, as well as International's 7.3-liter V8. This approach to direct-injection fueling provides the high pressure necessary for extra-fine fuel atomization, regardless of engine speed. Cat and Isuzu have been working together since 1994 to develop common rail technology, said Seki. "The technology ... should make Isuzu vehicles, which are already among the most economical in their class, even more fuel-efficient."
At the Tokyo show, executives from American Isuzu Motors Inc. outlined some of the changes in store for '98 and '99 Isuzus sold in the U.S. Across-the-board changes include daytime running lights and longer-life braking systems. For model-year '98, the Class 6 and 7 FSR, FTR, and FVRs will receive minor engine modifications to meet '98 emissions standards; and the Class 3 NPR-EFIs will be getting heavier. The 13,250-lb.-GVW NPR-EFI will be raised to 14,050 lb.
Isuzu's Class 5 entrant, the 19,500-lb. FRR, will be given a partner in '99. The NQR will carry a 16,500-lb. rating. The Class 4 diesel-powered NPR will move up slightly in GVW in '99, from 14,250 to 14,500 lb. To give the heavier vehicle additional performance, a more fuel-efficient diesel will be introduced. The 4H engine will be rated at 142 hp. with a 5-speed transmission, and 175 hp. with the automatic. The 175-hp. 4H will also provide power for the new NQR.
As fleets gather in Guadalajara, spirits and truck sales climb.
Both Mexican fleets and their suppliers seem to be rebounding faster than anticipated from the country's 1994 currency devaluation and resulting financial crisis. Judging by the mood and activity at the Expo Transporte '97 truck show in Guadalajara in late October, 1998 should bring another year of gradual but solid growth to the country's trucking industry.
Going into 1997, forecasters expected the country's six truck manufacturers to sell 9,000 Class 6 through 8 vehicles. Instead, the year's total will exceed 16,500 units, according to Frederico Korte, general manager of Mercedes-Benz Mexico. Offering a full line of commercial vehicles that includes Freightliner's Business and Century Classes, MB Mexico will account for 6,500 of those medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
Joining Korte for a state of the industry press briefing in Guadalajara, Freightliner president and CEO Jim Hebe pointed out that the U.S., Canada, and Mexico NAFTA markets have become "a major contributor to the profits" of parent Daimler-Benz's commercial vehicle operations.
Predicting "a NAFTA assault" from Daimler's North American operations, Hebe added that there would be a continuing flow of new products from Freightliner and that MB Mexico would play a greater role in manufacturing those products.
Volvo Trucks, which has had only a small presence in Mexico up to this point, took advantage of the Guadalajara showcase to announce that it would begin selling its advanced VN Series in Mexico starting in 1998. The new tractor, which will be offered in both day cab and sleeper models, will be shipped from the U.S. to Mexico in kit form and assembled under contract by General Motors, according to Marc Gustafson, president of Volvo Trucks North America.
With its new Mexican manufacturing plant scheduled to open in Nuevo Leon next year, Navistar International showed a full lineup of commercial vehicles, including its 4700 Series truck and 9200 Series tractor, which are being introduced to Mexico as 1998 models. The company also announced the formation of a new financing arm that will offer Mexican fleets a complete range of purchasing and leasing options, including full-service leasing.
As the heavy-truck market-share leader, PACCAR's fully owned subsidiary Kenworth Mexicana also came to Guadalajara with its full line of Class 7 and 8 tractors and trucks, including the T300, T400, T600, and T800.
In response to customer feedback that emphasized the need to have the "right trailer in the right place at the right time," Transport International Pool (TIP) has expanded its service offerings and its geographical locations.
"The changes we've made and the services we've introduced began to take shape a little over two years ago when we embarked on a journey of reinvention," explains TIP president and CEO R. Todd Bradley.
New to the TIP portfolio are financial products such as FMV and TRAC leases, as well as SaleLeasback.
The company has added two new full-service branches and 17 agent sites, bringing the TIP family to 150 locations nationwide. In addition, the company has opened a centralized, automated customer service center to handle trailer rental reservations, emergency breakdown services, billing, and invoices.
On the intermodal front, TIP's recent consolidation with Genstar Container Corp.'s domestic container assets division and the purchase of Greenbrier Capital Corp. will boost to 75,500 the number of chassis, trailers, and domestic containers in the TIP pool.
Fontaine sets sights on market leadership.
In 1922, the philosopher and poet George Santayana extolled the virtues of "dreaming with one eye open" while writing his "Soliloquies in England."
Since taking over the reins of Fontaine Fifth Wheel three years ago, Ken Dickson has followed that elusive admonition of pragmatic visioning.
Dickson dares to dream. With his eyes closed, he envisions Fontaine as the world's leading producer of fifth wheels, an admittedly tall order. "We've got a long way to go," says Dickson, the president of the Birmingham, Ala.-based manufacturer. "But things are beginning to shape up."
Things are shaping up because Dickson, with his eyes wide open, sees the value in steering the company closer to the customer. "Our strategic direction is to provide value to our customers," he says. "Their success is our success."
Cozying up to the customer illuminated the operating challenges confronting fleets and provided insights as to how Fontaine might best respond.
The fleet push for less downtime, improved vehicle utilization, lower fixed costs, predictable maintenance, and longer service intervals has led Fontaine to increase the reliability and durability of the product on the front end and do a better job of supporting it on the back end.
Fontaine responded with the No-Slack II last year. To boost productivity, the new wheel reduces weight without sacrificing the load-bearing surface. An automatic secondary locking feature guards against accidental uncoupling and false coupling. This locking mechanism prevents any slack from creeping into the connection, eliminating the transfer of constant shock loads to the drivetrain. In addition, it helps reduce wear, thereby improving durability.
Proper coupling and uncoupling has become more complicated with the advent of high-roof sleepers and air farings that block the driver's view of the coupling process, according to the company's research. "That makes it incumbent upon us to provide as wide a target as possible, as well as evidence of definite coupling."
In response to the driver shortage issue, Fontaine is looking to make the job easier. The No-Slack II has a reduced pull force required for trailer uncoupling.
Armed with the information customers want in a fifth wheel, Fontaine's next challenge was to build it, deliver it, and support it in the most efficient way.
A push to modernize the company's three production facilities has led to a better utilization of resources, allowing the company to reduce manufacturing complexity and eliminate cost from the system, while at the same time improving service.
Focusing manufacturing capacity by product line combined with a heavy investment in product development in the company's three facilities -- Birmingham, Ala., Rocky Mount, N.C., and Matamoros, Mexico -- has helped reduce complexity and improve quality.
Closely related to the efforts to realign manufacturing capability is the Fontaine push into total quality management. The Birmingham plant was ISO-certified last year, while the Rocky Mount and Matamoros operations were certified earlier this year. Not content with that distinction, Dickson is pressing for the ultimate quality recognition -- QS 9000.
Meeting such criteria is no cakewalk. The ISO 9000 lists 140 commandments that manufacturers must adhere to. The QS 9000 process is even more prescriptive than that.
"The benefits of meeting this discipline are real," explains Dickson. Not only do the standards require customer involvement in design improvements, but the process results in more consistency in the production process, leading to a product of higher quality that meets the needs of the end users.
"We don't have great opportunities to take costs out of labor and steel," he says. "Going after quality is the right way to do business."
About Fontaine Founded in 1940, Fontaine Fifth Wheel was acquired in 1984 by the Marmon Group.
Marmon is a group of 60 independent manufacturing and service companies with worldwide revenues of $5.8 billion.
Fontaine Industries includes a group of five independent companies: Fontaine Fifth Wheel, Fontaine Truck Equipment Co., Fontaine Trailer Co., Fontaine Modification Co., and Marmon-Herrington Co.
Marmon's presence in the trucking industry also includes: Triangle Group and Detroit Steel Products, manufacturers of leaf springs; Webb Wheel Products, which produces hub and drum assemblies; and Perfection Hy-Test Co., which builds gears.