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Fleets detail emission-compliant engine experience

Feb. 5, 2008
They’re more costly to buy and operate and suffer significantly more downtime yet drivers love them. Many dub them “hot rods” for their quick-off-the-block acceleration coupled with nimble and responsive performance on the highway

ORLANDO: They’re more costly to buy and operate and suffer significantly more downtime yet drivers love them. Many dub them “hot rods” for their quick-off-the-block acceleration coupled with nimble and responsive performance on the highway. That sums up the verdict rendered for 2002, 2004, and 2007 emission-compliant engines and trucks according to three large fleets here at the Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting.

Dan Umphress, engineering managing director for LTL carrier FedEx Freight, Tom Newby, director of field maintenance for LTL carrier Old Dominion Freight Lines, and Steve Duley, vp of vehicle purchasing for truckload carrier Schneider National, all said that there’s been a steady improvement in engine performance through each emission standard, especially in terms of fuel economy.

Still, when measured against pre-emission regulation units, ’02, ’04, and ’07 engines all cost successively more through each model year, especially in terms of purchase price, maintenance, fuel economy penalties and downtime.

“Our standard power unit is a 4X2 non-sleeper tractor with a 13-liter engine,” said FedEx Freight’s Umphress. “The ’02 and ’04 engines added about $4,000 to the price of our tractors, with ’07 engines adding $7,000 per tractor. In the early days with ’02 engines, we suffered a 16% loss in fuel economy compared to pre-emission control models. But we reduced that to a 3% loss by re-calibrating them. The ’07 engines are within 3% of the fuel economy we’re now getting with our ’02 and ’04 models, which should improve as we fine-tune them. We expected worse, so that was a surprise to us.”

Schneider’s Duley reported that maintenance costs and downtime both sharply increased for all of the carrier’s emission-compliant trucks, which are comprised largely of Freightliner models along with some International and Peterbilt units. Schneider estimates that maintenance costs compared to pre-emission models are 62.8% higher for ’04 and younger engines, 18.2% higher for engines built in the ’05 and ‘06 model years, and 282% higher for ’07 engines. Downtime for all the emission-compliant trucks has increased 20%, with towing up 15%, relative to the rest of the fleet.

In terms of fuel economy, Duley said ’04 and younger engines suffer a 4% loss, which shrinks to 3% for ’05 and ’06 models, then climbs to 5% for ’07 engines. With diesel fuel priced at $3 a gallon, it costs Schneider an extra $2,200, $1,700, and $2,800 respectively in fuel per year per tractor equipped with those emission-compliant models, he said.

Duley added that roughly 2% of the fuel economy loss in ’07 engines comes from more frequent than expected regeneration of the diesel particulate filter (DPF), which Schneider hopes to adjust going forward, and noted that the ’07 models weigh 350 lbs. more than their predecessors.

In terms of the total cost of emission compliance, Duley said Schneider is paying 6.7 to 8.2 cents per mile more since October 2002 to buy, operate, and maintain its trucks, along with paying a higher price for ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel.

Despite all the cost increases, all three carriers noted they are seeing some silver linings in the adoption of emission-compliant equipment.

“The best thing is that it’s brought back personalized communication between the fleet and the truck and engine manufacturers,” said Old Dominion’s Newby. “We now have a dedicated contact person at the OEMs to handle our needs. It’s creating a great opportunity between manufacturers and fleets to regain that personal connection. The communication we have now is the best I’ve ever seen.”

And all three stressed that their drivers really like the new emission-complaint trucks. “They call them ‘hot rods’ because they accelerate so fast,” said FedEx’s Umphress. “And acceleration improved regardless of the type of turbocharger system used, be it turbo compounding or variable geometry turbos.”

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