A couple weeks ago, I spent 12 hours in a truck making an LCV rounder from Moncton to Edmunston, N.B. Going out with a professional driver on a real-world run is something I do as often as I can, but still not often enough.
A ride-along is something everyone in the industry who is one step removed from the steering wheel should do on occasion. I learned or re-affirmed a few things on my drive. For starters, if you’re spec’ing trucks the same way you were 10 or 12 years ago, you’re doing it wrong. The spec’ing process has evolved drastically in recent years. A heavy-duty engine today can be configured 1,000 different ways and dialed in to optimize performance and fuel economy in the specific route and application you run for the specific payload you haul.
Also, never before have the various powertrain components been as well integrated and interconnected as they are today. It’s really a good time to revisit how you spec’ new equipment and to work closely with your engine and OEM representatives to ensure you’re getting the most out of your vehicles, as Armour Transport did with the vehicle I rode along in on our trip to Edmunston.
My second takeaway was that automation truly is king. I’ve driven enough trucks with automated transmissions and interviewed enough drivers – including old-school professionals who’ve worked a stick for decades – to conclude that automated transmissions are well-suited for the vast majority of applications out there. I can’t remember the last time I spoke to a driver who experienced one of today’s current-generation automated manual transmissions (AMTs) and pined for his old stickshift back.
I defy you to convince me otherwise. I don’t want to hear about the time you drove one of the original three-pedal AutoShifts or Freedomline transmissions and then swore off AMTs for good; I’m talking about current generation product such as the I-Shift, mDrive, DT12 or UltraShift Plus. There’s not much these transmissions can’t do and even long-time drivers who approach them with an open mind usually concur. AMTs have truly come of age.
Lastly, my ride reaffirmed something I already knew – that trucking is a damned tough job. The driver I rode along with, Dwayne Schurman of Armour Transport, put in a 12-hour day pulling double-53s, stopping at the switch yard to do the LCV shuffle: Drop the trailing trailer, disconnect the converter dolly, park the lead trailer, connect to a new lead trailer, reconnect the dolly and then slide it under a new ‘tail.’ All this in about 30 minutes on a frigid November night.
I was exhausted when we returned back to Armour’s yard around 2 a.m. – and not only because I haven’t seen 2 a.m. in several years. It wears a guy out – and I was just riding. And I got to go back to my comfy Marriott bed while Dwayne climbed into the bunk for his sleep, ready to repeat the entire process the next three nights. I couldn’t do what you guys (and gals) do. I want to thank Dwayne, the consummate professional for having me along for the ride. A 12-hour stint in the truck can be exhausting,but as I told Dwayne, it still beats a day in the office.