TSQ (May 01, 2010)

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. -At the recent annual meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council, Navistar executive Jim Hebe proclaimed that the market for long-nose conventional trucks is “dead and gone.”

Citing concerns with fuel costs and vehicle depreciation, as well as an increase in intermodal shipments and shorter truck hauls, the outspoken senior vice-president of North American sales operations said that more aerodynamic rigs are likely the way of the future for the trucking industry. However, fans of the classic long-nose style say driver pride and comfort will still trump environmental and financial concerns. We stopped by the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ont. to see whether drivers think there is still a future for long-nose conventionals.

Iannick Pelletier, a driver with J.R. Denis out of Montreal, Que., says conventional rigs are more stable and classic than their aerodynamic counterparts and he questions the real benefit to fuel economy with rigs like the Cascadia and ProStar.

“When you put the fender in between the tractor and the trailer they say you’ll save one mile per gallon. If you add little wings on it, they say you will get one more mile per gallon. If you get better tires, the same. So everybody should do 13 miles per gallon, but nobody does. It’s the engine that does the good fuel economy. Aerodynamics help a little, but not that much.”

Jeff Cedine, a company driver with Celadon out of Indianapolis, Ind., was one of the few drivers to agree with Hebe, stating that the fuel mileage achieved with aerodynamic rigs can’t be ignored.

“There will probably be a small market (for long-nose) if they can afford it, but they would be wiser to go with something a little more fuel-efficient unless they are doing really heavy hauling; then it probably isn’t going to matter, so they might want the big powerful rigs then,” Cedine told Truck West.

Geoff Yates, a Cobourg, Ont.-based driver with 11 years under his belt, says that long-nose will continue to exist so long as pride exists with drivers and they’re willing to shell out the extra cash.

“The price of fuel makes a difference, but when you live in a truck for as long as these guys do, I think they’ll splurge and still keep with the bigger ones,” he said. “They’re making us haul heavier and heavier and we need the bigger motors and we need the bigger gears. The bigger the truck, the better.”

Kevin Wilkins, an owner/operator from Fenelon Falls, Ont., says he’s content with the mileage he’s currently getting out of his 379 Peterbilt, adding that the newer trucks are just too expensive for what drivers are earning.

“Our remuneration is so low that for us to go out and spend $140,000 for a new truck that isn’t as good as my old one is ridiculous. In order to justify that kind of an investment, we need an extra 60-70 cents per mile. I would rather sacrifice a mile to the gallon, which is all I’m doing at best, and have something that’s affordable and something I choose to drive,” he says. “Long-nose conventionals are nearing their end, but…I have no intentions of running a slippery truck ever. I will rebuild my Peterbilt 100 times before I’ll buy a truck like that.”

William Cook, a Lindsay, Ont.-based owner/operator, says he much prefers long-nose rigs like his Kenworth W900. “I run about high eight (mpg) and I pull heavy loads anywhere from 50,000 to 53,000 and I don’t have a problem with it. It doesn’t make a difference really about the aerodynamics on trucks because with what these new trucks are getting right now, I’ve got no motor.”

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