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June 16, 2010 Vol. 6, No. 12

Am I unreasonable to want this industry’s technological development to be driven by engineering innovation and customer desire on their own?

Can we tolerate the endless intervention by government in determining how we move forward?

The answer to both questions is surely ‘no’ but I’m afraid it’s a forlorn hope to think things will change.

The latest insult to our collective intelligence and ability is a memo signed by President Obama last month. In it, he directed the Environmental Protection Agency to come up with standards on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, starting with the 2014 model year. It’s reckless in my opinion, the latter of those two objectives being essentially impossible.

How, I ask, is it even slightly realistic to think that a standard can be created that will cover every conceivable combination of truck and trailer and load and terrain and weather and all the other factors that influence fuel consumption? It’s ridiculous. A looming nightmare for regulators, in fact, and I can envision a situation where some trucks will effectively be square pegs being shoved into round holes — and actually do worse on the fuel-efficiency front than they would without the regulatory interference.

Think it through with me here. We’ve got, say, a standard five-axle dry-van rig bought to haul boxes of breakfast cereal or some such load on linehaul routes around Florida or maybe southern Manitoba and into North Dakota. Light loads, flat terrain, decent roads, and a reasonable expectation of maybe 10 mpg in the right driving hands. Ah, but then there’s the reality of those prairie headwinds. In that case, better call it 8 mpg.

The expectation is that a straight miles-per-gallon standard won’t be employed, for obvious reasons, rather we’ll have a slightly more precise variation on the ton-per-mile theme — work performed per unit of fuel consumed. Fine, but how can that accommodate my simple Florida-vs-Manitoba comparison? It can’t.

Now, maybe the guy spec’ing the Canadian truck would add 50 hp to the mix, but that’s not a given.

Anyway, that’s just a tiny, simple example of the limitless possible variations on just one linehaul theme. Now, what do you do with vocational trucks that don’t haul any freight at all? The tow truck, the utility’s bucket truck, the garbage packer.

This is just nuts.

SPEAKING OF REFUSE HAULERS, I had a look at a pair of Peterbilt Model 320 garbage trucks last week, which support my point about engineering innovation and imaginative customers moving us forward. After I moderated a discussion of current and coming heavy-duty technologies at the Green Fleet Expo here in Toronto, I had a wander around the small but interesting outdoor display area. I had a mission.

Sitting there proudly were two Model 320 hydraulic hybrids that I wanted to look at, one owned by the City of Toronto, the other by the City of Hamilton. Chris Hill, who runs the Hamilton fleet very effectively, didn’t have time to get city colours applied to the truck before he proudly showed it off at the conference. He has a twin to that truck coming any day now. Drew Shintani runs the Toronto fleet, which is also very enterprising in green terms, and he’s had his Pete for a couple of months now, though not long enough to do any serious assessments. It’s pictured here.

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

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