Live from Louisville (with daily updates)

– See below for updates
It’s an annual rite of spring. Here I am plucking away at my keyboard from a hotel in Louisville, Ky., home to the Mid-America Trucking Show. By all counts, this year’s show will be a tad subdued compared to previous versions. Some major OEMs (Peterbilt and Kenworth) will be absent and I’ve heard others have downsized their displays.
But Mid-America remains North America’s largest trucking trade show, and it’s a must-attend event for us, since most manufacturers use the show as a platform from which to launch new products. The first event on the press itinerary is a demonstration at a nearby Cummins distributor. That’s all I know about that, but we’ll be reporting on it shortly after it concludes on
As always, we’ll be filing stories over the next few days from Louisville. As in past years, we’ll tag them ‘MATS Report’ for easy identification. And the May issues of Truck News and Truck West will include full coverage of the show’s highlights.
I really enjoy the Mid-America Trucking Show. There, I said it! I think I may be in the minority among my peers, since journalists are typically run pretty ragged during the show’s three main days. But I always look forward to it, especially since there’s no shortage of news to report from here and it’s a great chance to catch up with folks from the industry, some of whom you only see once a year.
One of the highlights for me is the drive – that’s right, I drive the 10 hours from Toronto. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, but it’s actually a nice, low-stress trip. I remember a couple years ago when I was making the drive, I got a call from editorial director Lou Smyrlis who was flying down. He was stranded at the Cincinnati airport and there were no more flights out until the next day. I just happened to be driving through Cincinnati, so I made a short detour to the airport and picked him up. It goes to show that air travel is far from certain these days, and I’d rather travel at my own pace in the comfort of a rental car – this time a racing red Dodge Charger (that’s sure to catch the attention of border guards on the way back).
This year’s drive down was uneventful, except for coming upon the burnt out shell of a Peterbilt on the highway north of Louisville. The fire apparently occurred shortly before I happened along, and northbound lanes of I-71 were completely closed. I hope the driver is alright.
Last night I went out to an “authentic barbecue pit” for a Louisville specialty – a pulled pork sandwich.
Well, that’s about it for now. Lou and I will be doing our best to keep you up to date over the next few days through both the blog and the Headline News section of the site. Be sure to check back often!
Volvo says it’s done with active re-gens
Volvo made the impressive announcement this morning it will no longer have to actively regenerate its diesel particulate filters (DPF) when it adds SCR to its 2010 engines. In millions of miles of real-world testing, the company has noted that all DPF regeneration is conducted passively. That’s significant, because each active regeneration requires a dose of fuel.
Volvo continues to emphasize the importance it places on safety. The company presented a brand new Volvo VN tractor to the ATA’s America’s Road Team crew. It’s a program similar to the OTA’s Road Knights. They’ll use the tractor to help spread the word about highway safety.
Volvo also introduced its own version of Bendix Wingman, which it’s calling Volvo Enhanced Cruise.
Volvo ATA ART tractor.jpg
– Nice ride! Members of America’s Road Team have a new ride, courtesy of Volvo.
SCR stakeholders hold morning pow-wow
EPA2010 technologies continue to be the hot topic of discussion here at Mid-America. This morning, executives from each of the engine manufacturers that will use SCR (Daimler, Cummins, Mack and Volvo) held an ‘SCR Summit’ along with a few members from the supplier community. Noticeably absent was Navistar, which is the lone wolf in the EGR-only camp.
The engine execs showed complete solidarity in their positions that SCR is far and away the best solution for 2010. TA and Pilot truck stop chains were also present on the panel and assured the media they’d have DEF available at the pump in advance of Jan. 1.
Per Carlsson, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America, had perhaps the most pointed remarks.
“It strikes me as I sit here that even though we represent a very significant percentage of the world’s heavy-duty engine and truck production, we must not be very good leaders. And the thousands of engineers working for us around the globe must not be very bright. Because we’ve selected SCR for EPA2010. And according to the sole adopter of massive EGR, we’ve all made the wrong choice. This will certainly come as a surprise to the many customers around the world who are already using SCR.”
Check back at later for a full report from the Summit.
Thermo King revamps straight truck reefer line
Thermo King introduced its all-new T-Series line of reefers for straight trucks this morning. The company claims the new series is 50% quieter, offers a 10% improvement in fuel economy and has 10% greater capacity than its predecessors.
The first of the models will be shipped beginning in August with the remainder of the line rolled out gradually over the following six months. The new reefers feature in-mold colour, a sleek, durable skin and a honeycomb grille that optimizes air flow through the condenser coil, the company pointed out.
As a bonus, a Hybrid SmartPower version of the new reefers can eliminate emissions altogether and cut fuel consumption by 40-60%. The reefer gets its juice from the truck’s hybrid system and can operate exclusively by battery for about 10 minutes before the reefer’s engine will need to restart. When the wheels are moving, it can operate off the hybrid system indefinitely.
– The new T-Series reefer unit, unveiled just hours ago at MATS
Who’s that nut on the motorcycle?
I just had to show this picture. You’ve gotta love the people who develop new technologies for the trucking industry. They take a lot of pride in their work and they also have a ton of faith in their products.
Take for instance Fred Andersky of Bendix. That’s him on the motorcycle, cutting off a tractor-trailer equipped with the new Wingman system. He then proceeded to apply the brakes! Cameras inside the truck’s cab showed the brake pedal in real-time, and there wasn’t a foot to be seen!
The tractor-trailer brought itself to a stop without any driver intervention and Fred survived to attend another Mid-America. You may remember Fred from this episode of our WebTV show Transportation Matters.
Mack RSA ACC -- motorcyclist hi-rez.jpg
– Fred Andersky of Bendix has a lot of faith in the company’s engineers.
Mack’s ready for 2010
In addition to announcing the availability of Wingman, Mack Trucks also took the opportunity to emphasize its readiness for EPA2010. The always colourful Dave McKenna debunked some SCR ‘myths’ and showed some customer testimonials from those who’ve been fortunate enough to test the new equipment in their day-to-day operations.
McKenna also took the chance to insinuate Navistar’s EGR-only approach has its flaws – most notably, its need to use credits to gain EPA compliance.
“One has to remember, when the credits are gone, then what?” he asked.
I’m not sure it’s fair to chastise Navistar over its use of credits at the outset of 2010. Other manufacturers may also use credit, even if they’re using SCR. Cummins, for instance, admitted last night it will use credits on certain engines as part of its own roll-out strategy. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a credit program that has the blessing of EPA. Having said all that, McKenna does have a good point – credits won’t last forever, so hopefully for its sake, Navistar’s reliance on credits won’t be a long-term strategy.
McKenna also noted Mack’s SCR system will differ from Cummins, in that it will use an iron zeolite catalyst material. Cummins is keen on a new copper zeolite catalyst material that it says delivers even better fuel economy.
Finally, McKenna also took aim at claims the fuel savings achieved through the use of SCR will be nullified by the added cost of diesel exhaust fluid. He showed some charts that suggest SCR-equipped trucks will save about US$1,650 per year over trucks using only EGR based on diesel prices of $2.42/gallon and DEF prices of $2.28/gallon. This overall cost-of-ownership debate isn’t going away soon.
New Alcoa wheel lighter and brighter
Alcoa unveiled a new wheel it says is 2 lbs lighter than its predecessor and six times brighter than its competitors. The LvL ONE wheel was designed using a new proprietary process, according to the company. Two pounds may not seem like a significant weight savings, but over an entire tractor-trailer combination, the weight reduction totals 36 lbs. If you are comparing it to steel wheels, the weight savings is a more substantial 650 lbs. (Sorry, no pictures at this time – but I can tell you it looked pretty sharp).
Bendix introduces Wingman
Bendix had a lot to talk about at this morning’s press conference, which is refreshing given the downright depressing state of the industry. The company’s president, Joe McAleese is usually able to work a sports metaphor into his words, and this year was no exception. A big-time Steelers fan, he noted how the team didn’t stop working to improve itself during the team’s ‘dark years.’ It was rewarded this year with a Super Bowl victory. McAleese said Bendix is taking a similar approach, and continuing to expand during the downturn so it’s well-positioned to capitalize on the recovery.
Highlighting Bendix’s announcements was the introduction of Bendix Wingman ACB (Active Cruise with Braking). The system offers active braking interventions when required to avoid a rear-end collision.
The Wingman system is fully-integrated into the truck’s dash, the company pointed out, differentiating it from other systems on the market. It’s designed to be used with Bendix’s full-stability system. Later in the day, Mack Trucks announced it is the first OEM to offer the system, which it has named ‘Mack Road Stability Advantage by Bendix with Adaptive Cruise Control.’ Now that’s a mouthful. Let’s just call it Wingman!
Dash with Alerts & View_Mack Installation.JPG
– Here’s a WIngman system in action, fully-integrated into the Mack dash.
LED manufacturers take the spotlight
So far today, the ‘coolest’ new product announcements would have to be from LED light companies Grote and Truck-Lite.
Grote has come out with a line of paper thin LEDs which can be attached as strips to trailers or inside vehicles. They are flexible and can even be wrapped around corners, providing a ton of possibilities. Show truck owners will love what the company’s dubbing LightForm.
The strips are less than 1 mm thick – thinner than a penny. They’re about 2% the size of traditional LEDs and can offer simple peel-and-stick mounting. Pricing is supposedly going to be competitive with traditional LED lighting.
– The LED strips from Grote are completely flexible and paper thin.
And for its part, Truck-Lite has come out with what it’s calling the world’s first seven-inch LED headlight. Truck-Lite officials say it’s been used in the military and its illumination capabilities are such that soldiers have been able to identify roadside bombs at night.
The company compared the light to a traditional incandescent equivalent and yep, it sure is bright. It’s expensive too, though – $350 a piece, so you’re looking at $700 US to do both sides. But then, you’ll get all the advantages inherent with LEDs, including longer life, improved durability, better visibility, etc.
– Truck-Lite’s LED headlights provide improved visibility and durability, the company claims.
Cummins unveils 2010 engine lineup
Everyone has been saying they’re ready for 2010 – tonight Cummins backed it up with the introduction of its full 2010 engine lineup. The new engines will be on display at its booth here at the show, if you can make it to MATS in person.
Highlights included the ISX15, which will boast up to 600 hp with 2,050 lb.-ft. torque. When Cummins decided to abandon its plans to develop an EGR-only EPA2010 solution for heavy-duty engines in favour of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) last August, it also discovered that it could scrap plans for a 16-litre engine and achieve the same performance capabilities from a 15-litre offering. And this is it: The ISX15, which the company says will deliver better fuel economy, performance and reliability than today’s ISX engine.
The new offering combines Cummins XPI fuel system with a single overhead camshaft that provides what the company is dubbing an “industry-leading power-to-weight ratio among big bore engines.”
It’s also promising fuel economy gains of up to 5% compared to Cummins 07 engines. Furthermore, Cummins is promising fuel economy gains of 9% compared to the 2010 in-cylinder solution Cummins was previously pursuing. Hmmm…much more on that later.
But for now, the other highlight was the unveiling of an ISX11.9 engine, suited for vocational, day cab, LTL and regional applications. It shares many parts with its larger brother, but will offer horsepower ratings of up to 425 with up to 1,650 lb.-ft. of torque.
Not a lot will change on Cummins mid-range engine line. They’ll all use SCR, and that’s been the case since Cummins announced its 2010 emissions strategy back in 2007. Check back at for the full news report, to be posted soon!
Here it is, the 2010 Cummins ISX15
‘Road-ready’ electric commercial vehicle to be showcased at MATS
Electric Vehicles International (EVI) says it will be showcasing the first ever ‘road-ready’ electric commercial vehicle at the Mid-America Trucking Show this week. The Class 3-6 electric vehicles will be available for demonstrations at the show, the company reports.
Namely, the eviLightTruck and eviRoute 1500 will be on display. Both are already commercially available in the US. The trucks can be viewed at Booth #65216.
Michelin to raffle off set of X-Ones
Coming to the show? Michelin is raffling off a set of drive-axle X-One wide-base singles to one show visitor. Just show up at their booth and swipe your badge. You must have a CDL to qualify. The company will be making a live drawing at 12 p.m. Saturday. The wide-base tires will be mounted to new aluminum rims supplied by Alcoa. Michelin will be at Booth #18121.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • How, on a trucking site, what I ate for dinner attracted the first comment, I’ll never know. But I’ll go back to that place and post some more details later this week. It’s a mom-and-pop type place, and I would love to support them. A hearty meal and two Buds cost less than $12, so you can’t beat that. They even have their own BBQ sauce. For a side, I had the potato salad, and was told that it won an award for best potato salad in the county.
    As for the bourbon, I’ll try to relay some thoughts on that later in the week. It’s hard to beat Maker’s Mark, but that’s no secret.

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