When pondering the future of the classic-styled, long-nose tractor, the famous Mark Twain line “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” springs to mind.
Not since the mandatory use of speed limiters has an issue inspired so much debate within the pages of Truck News as whether there’s a future for the long-nose, classic-styled tractor.
I, unlike boss Lou Smyrlis below, am reluctant to write the classic-styled tractor off for good. I think it will always have a place in Canada, although its place in the market is undeniably shrinking.
As Lou points out, forthcoming government-mandated fuel economy standards for heavy trucks will deal the long-nose conventional tractor another blow. But the passion owner/ operators have for this style of tractor runs deep, and as long as the appetite is there, truck makers will continue to build trucks to satisfy this demand.
Let’s not forget, while fuel is an owner/ operator’s biggest expense, it’s not always the be-all and end-all. In certain operations, most notably vocational applications, the fuel economy advantages of a so-called ‘slippery’ truck are negligible. How much fuel are you really going to save running an aerodynamic tractor in the northern Ontario bush or hauling rock in a B.C. quarry? There’s a reason those trucks don’t have side skirts and super-singles on them.
Also, let’s consider the private fleets that serve a dual purpose of promoting a brand while delivering product. I write about one such fleet, Sleeman Breweries, on pages 26-27 of this issue. Company founder and beer baron John Sleeman likes the traditional-styled tractors the fleet runs, and equipment spec’ing pro Dave Joyce says with its heavy weights and inner-city routes, the fleet wouldn’t save much fuel by converting to an aerodynamic-styled tractor. The Sleeman fleet of Western Star and Freightliner Classic tractors is averaging over 6 mpg under heavy load and mostly in the city, how much better would a Cascadia be under those same driving conditions?
Finally, Lou scoffs at the notion of using classic-styled trucks as bait to attract drivers when the driver shortage again rears its head, noting fleets that choose this tactic will be attracting the wrong types of drivers, those who value chrome over fuel efficiency.
I would counter that veteran drivers with an appreciation for classic-styled trucks and a genuine passion for trucks and for driving, as opposed to those who are simply driving as a means to an end, are just the types of drivers you want in your company. Classic-styled trucks don’t only appeal to cowboys, they also appeal to the experienced, long-time professional drivers who are the very soul of this industry.
I’m not for a second suggesting that fuel economy isn’t important and in many instances, you owe it to yourself to seriously consider spec’ing a fuel-efficient truck. Truck and engine manufacturers will all agree that fuel efficiency is the next battleground. However, there’s an image-conscious segment of the market that will still see value in the pride that’s associated with running a long-nose, classic-styled big rig and is prepared to pay a small premium for that luxury.
For the forseeable future, anyway, I think classic-styled Western Stars, Pete 379s and Kenworth W900s will continue to dominate the summer show’n’shines -and they won’t be relegated to competing in the antique categories.
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