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It’s time to face reality

A couple of months ago I took on the difficult issue of the future of the long-nose conventional in our industry. Picking up on the remarks of Navistar executive Jim Hebe that long and tall is "dead a...




A couple of months ago I took on the difficult issue of the future of the long-nose conventional in our industry. Picking up on the remarks of Navistar executive Jim Hebe that long and tall is “dead and gone,” I commented that, although I appreciated the remark would raise more than a few eyebrows among drivers and owner/ operators who still love their longnose conventionals, the only thing I found shocking about it was that it has taken the industry this long to come to such a conclusion.

I argued that trucking is an industry that operates on thin margins with fuel being one of the most volatile and damaging costs. Yet the long-nose conventional is the biggest fuel guzzler around. (Yes, an experienced driver can squeeze some arguably decent mileage out of a long-nose but how much better would he do driving an aerodynamic design?)

Well, sure enough my remarks resulted in a wave of protest from truckers who like life with their long-nose conventionals just fine, thank you. Seasoned veterans equated the classic-style truck with pride for their job and threatened to toss away their keys if the longnose conventional was no longer available. Others argued that the longer wheelbase made for a safer design. A teenager with trucking in his blood, wrote to tell me he’s looking forward to getting his Class 1 licence and stepping foot into a big old long-nose Peterbilt. “There’s something about those trucks that makes me and all kinds of people stare when one drives by,” he wrote. Some were so ticked off with my remarks they were just plain nasty in their comments, like this one: “So now you’re onto hating long-nose conventionals? Why don’t you just admit you hate trucking, period?”

Writing about this industry has provided me with a very good living for two decades now and actually it’s because I love what I do, and because I have a great deal of respect for this industry and the many people who make it what it is, that I’m not just telling you what you want to hear. The reality is that trucking is a business; and driving truck is a profession. A business needs to be profitable and cost-efficient or it won’t survive. A professional engaged in business needs to make sound business decisions or be replaced by others who do.

On our cover this month we include a story about US President Barack Obama announcing that heavy truck manufacturers will have to meet minimum fuel economy standards, beginning with the 2014 model year.

It’s expected fuel economy will be required to improve by up to 25% by 2018 under the impending rules. The Canadian government will follow suit, hopefully with regulations tailored to the unique characteristics of our industry.

Likely the rules will be imposed on the OEMs, who already believe such fuel economy goals will require not only the current aerodynamic designs but likely making some of the currently optional equipment standard spec’.

Will such legislation spell the end of the classic-styled, long and tall tractor? I’ll let Mack and Volvo CEO Denny Slagle speak to the issue this time: “That could be a casualty of what we’re talking about,” Slagle acknowledged shortly after the White House announcement.

Folks, I get it that the long-nose has been a long-loved industry icon. But it’s an icon from an era whose time has come and gone. If you can’t see that, time may pass you by.

-Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at lou@TransportationMedia.ca.You can also follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/LouSmyrlis.


Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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