CALGARY, Alta. – Just one year ago the trucking industry was anticipating, with much apprehension, the introduction of a new generation of heavy-duty truck engines. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required engine-builders to reduce emissions substantially, but of course fleets made it clear they wouldn’t tolerate a dip in performance.
With the odds stacked against them, most engine manufacturers opted to adopt cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) to reduce emissions. Caterpillar on the other hand carved a different path opting for its own ACERT technology, which is still in the process of being fully launched (see the article on the Caterpillar technology on page 64).
With the exception of Cat’s ACERT engine, the other manufacturers have been pumping their EGR-equipped engines into the marketplace for a year now. In the months leading up to October 2002, there were still many unanswered questions: How much will fuel economy be compromised ? Will there be costly breakdowns and reliability issues? Will soot build-up in the engine oil necessitate more frequent oil changes? Will there be a decrease in torque or power?
One year after the introduction of the EPA ’02 compliant engines, Truck News set out to find the answers to these questions.
Detroit Diesel has sold 19,000 Series 60 EGR-equipped engines over the course of the past year and it continues to build them at a rate of about 140 per day.
Tom Freiwald, senior vice-president of marketing with Detroit Diesel, says customer feedback so far has been extremely positive.
“Fleets are giving the engines really high marks for performance,” says Freiwald. “There have not been a lot of reliability issues.”
Detroit’s 60-series EGR engine is no more difficult to maintain than its predecessor and concerns about soot build-up in the engine oil have not materialized, he says.
Some fleets have experienced fuel degradation, but Freiwald says it has been minimal.
“The big question mark everyone was talking about last year was fuel economy and it was an interesting phenomenon we went through,” says Freiwald.
Some customers initially experienced worse fuel degradation than expected, but that was because of the harsh winter, according to Freiwald. But the fuel mileage improved this past summer as the engines got broken in and began burning summer fuel, he says. (In fact, the mileage this past summer improved to be nearly as good as it was with the pre-EPA-approved engines, Freiwald says.)
“Now the fuel economy results that are coming into us from our bigger fleets are all less than three per cent difference (compared to pre-02 engines),” he says.
Like some other manufacturers, Detroit Diesel used a Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT), which ensures there’s enough pressure in the exhaust system to force the exhaust through the transfer pipe and back to the intake manifold. The VGT’s electronics precisely match the turbochargers’ performance to the operating conditions, which has resulted in better fuel efficiency than originally expected. Freiwald likens the VGT to a 20-speed bicycle, compared to a one-speed bike that would represent a traditional turbo.
“Drivers are leaving the transmissions in a higher gear and letting the engine pull down further towards peak torque before they shift. The engine feels so strong because of the instant reaction of the Variable Geometry Turbocharger,” explains Freiwald. “That’s inherently good for fuel economy.”
So even if fuel economy has been somewhat compromised, Detroit Diesel customers are still very happy with the new product, insists Freiwald.
Volvo has also been receiving rave reviews for its D12, says Jim Fancher, marketing product manager for powertrains, vocational products, with Volvo Trucks North America.
“So far the engines have been working just fine,” he says. “Customers are very pleased with it at this point. They see no difference in operation from the seat, and in fact we’ve had a number of comments that the engine appears to be stronger and has better pulling power than the pre-’02 engines that they’ve operated.”
Extended drain intervals have been maintained in the EPA ’02-compliant D12 and there’s no increased maintenance required, says Fancher.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few minor glitches to contend with, he admits.
“Whenever you introduce a new product, you’re going to have things occur that you didn’t plan on, so we’re going through the growing pains of releasing a new product,” he says.
Fancher says some Volvo customers have reported getting fuel mileage that matches what they attained with the pre-’02 engines. Others have noticed a very slight drop in fuel economy.
Volvo has enhanced its chassis to better accommodate the new EGR-equipped engines, and help offset any fuel degradation.
“We not only optimized the engine, but we also optimized the installation,” explains Fancher. “We were able to redirect and channel our fresh airflow under the hood much better.”
The redesigned chassis now has two fresh air intakes and some aerodynamic enhancements that go a long way towards compensating for any fuel degradation suffered by the engine itself, he says. And Fancher vows the D12 will only get better.
“Once it hits the market, we’re not done working on it. We’re going to keep fine-tuning it and tweaking it and making it better,” he says. “We foresee this engine getting better as we get more information and more time on the engine.”
Since the Cummins ISX EGR-equipped engine was introduced last year, it has accumulated nearly a billion miles.
Customers have been reporting a one to five per cent loss in fuel economy – exactly what Cummins predicted – says Cliff Putterill, heavy-duty automotive marketing product leader for the company.
“We’ve been exactly on target right from the very beginning with our predicted fuel economy,” says Putterill. “What we tried to do, even though it wasn’t the best news…we tried to be as up front and honest as possible and not try to mislead anybody as to what our product was capable or not capable of doing.”
Putterill says Cummins has been pleasantly surprised that concerns about soot buildup in the oil failed to materialize.
The ISX can still run 525,000 miles between oil changes, he says, and with the exception of a VG filter, there are no additional components that need to be maintained. That filter, which filters the air travelling to the VGT, only needs replacing once every 250,000 miles, so it’s not a big issue for customers, says Putterill.
“Our order board has shown that customers have become more and more confident as more of these engines get into the marketplace,” he adds.
Cummins employees are calling the ISX EGR engine one of the company’s most successful product launches ever, says Putterill.
Much of the concern in the months leading up to the launch of the cleaner-burning engines was unwarranted, says David McKenna, product manager for Mack engines.
“A lot of the concerns were unfounded because of all the complexities of the engine,” he says. “That tended to scare people, much like when we got into electronics in the beginning.”
Mack customers have reported fuel mileage losses of between zero and 3.5 per cent – slightly less than the company had forecast, McKenna says.
“We expected it to be somewhere between three and five per cent, but we never expected it to be any better than about three per cent,” says McKenna. “We have a bunch of customers that are experiencing equal fuel economy (compared to pre-02 engines).”
One hundred per cent of Mack’s production in the past year has been EPA ’02-compliant, McKenna points out.
He admits, however, the new engines do result in a slightly higher amount of soot in the oil.
“Any time you recycle exhaust gas, you’re going to have soot,” he says. “But overall, we’re very pleased.”
Not surprisingly, each of the manufacturers are extremely pleased with the performance of
their respective engines to date. But what do the fleets that use them have to say? We asked several large carriers to grade the new engines. It’s worth pointing out that this is not a scientific survey by any means. Most of the EGR engines gracing the stables of Canadian carriers are still in their infancy, so while an early synopsis of their performance is helpful, it’s still too early to determine how these engines will fare down the road.
Around this time last year, Schneider National was among the most vocal critics of the new family of engines being introduced to the market. In fact, the fleet went on the record saying it would purchase used equipment until the ’02 engines had a chance to prove themselves.
Last October, Steve Duley, director of equipment purchasing and disposal with Schneider, told Truck News that it would be the end of the second or third quarter of 2003 before the company made any high-volume purchases.
But as the end of the third quarter rolled around, Schneider had logged more than two million miles on EGR powerplants – primarily Detroit’s Series 60.
“The fuel economy has been within the range of degradation that was predicted,” says Duley. “The reliability issues have been pretty minor to date. It’s too early to say how the maintenance is going to be as the trucks get older, but so far they’ve been alright.”
Still, Duley says it’s too early to know for sure how reliable the new engines will be.
“You usually buy these things to operate a million miles but in one year, even with a double team, you’ve only gone through about 20 per cent of its life, so it’s kind of early to say what the performance is going to be like as they age,” he says.
While the increased cost of the engines coupled with the decreased fuel mileage, tempt Duley to give a D grade to the ’02 engines, he’s willing to give a better mark due to overall performance and driver acceptance.
Overall Grade: B
Jon Sigurdson of Bison Transport says his fleet has been operating EGR engines in earnest since January.
“They’re performing a little better than we expected, so we’re happy with that,” he says.
However, in an industry with slim profit margins, any compromise in fuel economy is hard to swallow.
“We’d always like them to be better, obviously. We’d like fuel economy to be better but we’re not disappointed with them,” says Sigurdson.
Bison started out testing a small group of EGR powerplants and has tried engines from various manufacturers to see which ones deliver the best overall performance.
Overall Grade: B-
Ed Roeder, fleet maintenance manager for Muir’s Cartage, knows the importance of spec’ing the right equipment.
At this year’s Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar he was named Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year.
So it’s little wonder he’s been scrutinizing the company’s 15 EGR powerplants extra closely.
“We’ve had no mechanical issues, no different than what we’ve had with normal engines,” he says. “We’ve had one or two with programming hiccups that were taken care of right away, but other than that, nothing.”
Roeder says it’s been difficult to pinpoint the exact fuel degradation since the EGR engines boast more horsepower than Muir’s previous engines.
But he is confident: “We haven’t lost a whole lot.”
Five of Muir’s EGR engines have 50,000 miles on them while the other 10 have just 15,000 miles to date. So, given the fact the engines are so young, Roeder is resisting the urge to award them a grade of A.
Overall Grade: B
Steve Haus of Erb Transport says that his company’s EGR engines have performed “not too bad so far.”
The fleet has only had the EGR engines in its stable for about four months, so it’s still too early to get an accurate reading on fuel efficiency and reliability, he says.
Haus has noticed a slight loss in fuel economy, but he says “I don’t put a whole lot of credence into that until we get 150,000 or 200,000 kilometres on them.”
Erb did experience some difficulties with leaks in the EGR system, but those glitches aside, the engines have performed well so far, says Haus.
Overall Grade: C
Yanke Group of Companies
Russel Marcoux, chief executive officer of the Yanke Group of Companies, says he’s pleased so far with the performance of the fleet’s 20-30 EGR powerplants.
“We’ve had no mechanical problems that I’m aware of, but there’s a noticeable decrease in fuel performance,” says Marcoux. Yanke has noticed fuel degradation of about two-tenths of a mile per gallon.
“I drove the truck as well and it is a very responsive engine,” says the CEO. “It’s very snappy and overall acceptance has been pretty positive.”
Marcoux prefaced his rating by saying “It has to be pretty exceptional before anything would ever get an A from me.” But he says in comparison to what the company was expecting, it has been pleasantly surprised.
Overall Grade: B+ n
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