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Has OPSEU changed the biz forever?

The engines are coming! The engines are coming!While I am in no way meaning this as a warning to the industry, it seems many fleets - across North America - are hearing this rallying cry of late. From...


The engines are coming! The engines are coming!

While I am in no way meaning this as a warning to the industry, it seems many fleets – across North America – are hearing this rallying cry of late. From what a few little birds have been telling me, truck order boards are filling up around the industry.

Even though the eternal optimist in me would love to simply say, “Great, the industry is leveling off,” that really isn’t the case. This is in fact a false over-correction as the truck world readies for the 10/02 emissions deadline.

Truck buyers everywhere are nervously placing orders for equipment with the current engine configurations still in use. This wave has grown out of some interpretations of the latest EPA estimates on the full life cycle cost of an engine – from spec to trade-in – which may soon jump by as much as $14,000.

Having recently attended the Mid-America Trucking Show, most manufacturers peg the costs to the customer at far lower amounts.

Unfortunately, that message has fallen on at least a few deaf ears out there and the ‘pre-buy’ bonanza is a rockin’. And I say ‘unfortunately,’ in this case with the overall economy in mind. An artificial sales spike can only serve to put stress on the still-fragile recovery.

Manufacturers forced to undergo massive human resources-related booms and busts within a six-month span would do little for investor confidence. From there consumers’ wallets and purses are just a domino’s-drop away.

While this would be terrible, I wonder if a provincial work stoppage in Ontario might not change the fate of at least one region’s fleets even more radically.

The Ontario Public Services Employees’ Union has been on strike for almost a month as I write this and, depending on whom you talk to, sales in the region are down. Many folks aren’t buying equipment for fear of licensing and IRP hiccups. Same can be said of hirings. If you can’t get an abstract from the prospective employee’s previous employer, where else can you turn with the province unavailable?

As I say, it depends which dealer you ask because some aren’t experiencing any dip and are already feeling the pre-buy crush.

So the question left to ponder is this: Will the Ontario fleets ignoring the risks associated with growing during the OPSEU strike be at an advantage or a disadvantage after October rolls around?

And if the economy does slow and freight belts again tighten, who will be better equipped to stay afloat in the troubled waters? Will it be those running older versions of today’s engines or their competitors running the next generation, ultra-enviro-friendly, oft-EGR-equipped powerplants of tomorrow?

What have heavy-handed EPA regulations and the OPSEU strike done to the landscape of the Ontario fleet world three to five years from now?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

I wanted to take some of this space to make a personal announcement, too. Over the past year and a bit, several of my columns have made reference to an unnamed girlfriend. Well, her name is Jugjit More and she’s no longer just my girlfriend.

She has accepted my proposal of marriage, making me the happiest man on Earth, and by the time you read this she will have left Manitoba and we’ll be living together in Ontario.

As word has spread through the industry’s massive grapevine, we have received a number of congratulatory phone calls and emails.

We both wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all very much for your caring friendship and unending support.

John Curran can be reached by phone at 416-442-2091 or by email at jcurran@trucknews.com.

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