CFMS Shop Talk: Jury still out on 07 engines

by James Menzies

TORONTO, Ont. – The Shop Talk component of this year’s Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminars (CFMS) provided attendees with the chance to candidly discuss maintenance issues in an informal environment. Hosted by the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC), it was evident maintenance concerns south of the border mirror those here at home.

2007 engine performance

Everyone at CFMS was curious to hear first-hand reports on the performance of new 2007 engines. Unfortunately, virtually nobody in attendance has yet purchased any of the new engines so there was very little information to share.

Performance of the new engines is the industry’s “best kept secret,” according to TMC co-chairman, Darry Stuart. However, TMC was able to pass on some early feedback from its US members.

To date, the biggest surprise is that diesel particulate filter (DPF) re-generations are occurring far more frequently than expected, said Rob Braswell, technical director of TMC.

“We’re seeing re-generations every 25,000 miles instead of 50,000 miles,” Braswell said.

Other concerns have arisen about the intense heat created during re-generations – as much as 1,200 C. The high re-gen temperatures have actually melted the cowlings off some auxiliary power units, Braswell said.

Beyond that, 2007 engines appear to be operating relatively problem-free, according to Stuart. He told maintenance managers not to fear the new technology and pointed out DPFs have been widely used in transit applications for years.

“Fuel economy is pretty much the same,” according to US fleets running 07 engines, Stuart said.

Steven de Sousa of Mack Trucks provided some Canadian perspective, saying the rollout of 07 engines was delayed by the unavailability of ultra low-sulfur diesel.

“The fuel wasn’t ready when it was supposed to be,” he explained. However, now that the first 07 engines are on the road, de Sousa said it has been smooth sailing. He said heat issues during re-generations can be addressed by purchasing a diverter, which mixes cool air with the exhaust, bringing down overall exhaust temperatures.

He added the re-generation frequency is duty cycle-driven and that Mack is experiencing no fuel consumption degradation compared to 02-06 models.


Corrosion was another hot topic among maintenance professionals during Shop Talk. TMC representatives said fleets operating in the US are as concerned about road de-icers as their northern brethren.

“There are three different road cleaning chemicals used in the US and magnesium chloride is the worst,” said John Sullivan, Truck Committee Chairman of TMC. He said the sheet metal covering trailer doors is rusting away in just a few years when exposed to magnesium chloride.

One audience member from Canada Cartage said his company now spec’s trailers with galvanized cross-members. It costs about $800 per trailer but “it’s making a big difference in the appearance and longevity of our trailers,” he said.

The trucking industry in the US is pushing road works departments to find an alternative to the damaging magnesium chloride de-icers. However, Braswell said it may be an impossible war to win.

“Quite frankly, the stuff works good,” he admitted.

“It’s hard to fight safety,” added Sullivan, admitting an effort to ban the use of magnesium chloride could be viewed as anti-safety.

Until an alternative is discovered, Stuart suggested fleets adopt a truck wash budget, keep their equipment clean and spec’ wiring harnesses and other components that are the most resistant to corrosion.

Wheel separations

TMC members applauded the Ontario government for adopting some of the heftiest penalties for wheel-off incidents, admitting wheel separations continue to be a major problem for the industry.

Still, a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, said there is room for improvement. He pointed out Ontario suffers 60 to 90 wheel separations per year. TMC’s recommended practice for fleets is to re-torque wheels 50 to 100 miles after an install.

But Stuart said fleets should be re-torquing wheels during every single PM.

“This is one of the most important maintenance issues today,” Stuart said. Fines for a wheel-off incident in Ontario range from a minimum of $2,000 right up to $50,000.

Stuart said he’d welcome similar penalties in the US, noting most wheel separations occur due to bad maintenance practices.

Lifts or pits?

Maintenance managers also discussed the pros and cons of lifts and open pits in the shop.

There was near-unanimous agreement that lifts are the preferred system for technicians and also from a safety standpoint. Nearly all maintenance staff in attendance are operating lifts instead of open pits in their shops.

“We have both in our Winnipeg shop, but most of our technicians prefer the lifts,” said a Bison representative.

“I think lifts are more popular but they are costly,” said Stuart. “I think lifts are a better investment if you measure their value over time.”

Sullivan pointed out lifts can actually be cheaper if installed when a new building is being constructed. You also reduce the risk of a workplace injury if you eliminate open pits, he added.

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