In my 14 years covering the Canadian trucking industry, I can’t ever remember being so busy. And trust me, after the dark months of 2009, when I experienced what not being busy felt like, I welcome the pace. These are really exciting times for the trucking industry, especially if, like me, you are a fan of equipment and technology. Has there ever been so much innovation? I recall the boom period of truck sales in 2006, when fleets were buying trucks like mad but then, it was out of fear as much as prosperity.
They were trying to get ahead of the great unknowns associated with the EPA07 emissions standards. There was a lot of new product to write about and report on during that time period, but again the OEs were faced primarily with meeting the aggressive new emissions targets placed before them by the EPA.
This time it’s different. With no looming emissions standard, OEMs finally have the time and the R&D resources to invest into improving their existing vehicles or developing new ones rather than simply focusing all their capital and effort on reducing what comes out of the smokestack. Some would argue this is how it should have been all along, and that the improved fuel efficiency that would be achieved at the behest of customers would eventually result in the lower emissions the government was looking for.Well there’s no going back now, so we should be looking ahead to the future and what it might bring. When I do so, I like what I see. I see continuous improvement, especially as it relates to fuel economy.
I’ve been logging some miles this summer in the newest trucks and they are fantastic vehicles, with ever-improving fuel economy. Truck makers that have built their most fuel-efficient trucks ever, have already found ways to improve upon them. I’m talking about the Peterbilt 579, which now with its EPIQ package is about 10% more fuel-efficient than last year’s model, or the Kenworth T680, which is now available in an Advantage configuration with similar fuel economy gains. The industry-leading Freightliner Cascadia gave way to the Cascadia Evolution, which offers significantly improved fuel mileage. Volvo is touting big gains with its 2016 model year VNs and Mack has come out with new engines and ratings that will reduce operating costs. International has a bounce in its step having slashed its losses and with Cummins back in the fold, appears to be headed in the right direction.
The level of collaboration between OEMs and suppliers is unprecedented, with powertrains being optimized to deliver the best possible performance.
Reliability issues associated with previous EPA emissions standards seem to have been largely ironed out, and advances in remote diagnostics are reducing downtime when problems do occur. Whether you’re a driver, an owner/operator or a fleet owner, the trucks available to you today are the best they’ve ever been. Now if government would just stay out of our way, I see nothing but good things and continuous improvements ahead.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies