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Will TMC Be Back?

TORONTO, Ont. - The Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) appears ready to return north of the border in 2004, following its first official foray into Canada.Officials announced plans for the retur...

TORONTO, Ont. – The Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) appears ready to return north of the border in 2004, following its first official foray into Canada.

Officials announced plans for the return while about 200 maintenance professionals were still attending the group’s first Canadian conference and trade show, held last month alongside the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention.

“There’s no other organization like this in which you bring together fleets and manufacturers and technology suppliers,” said TMC executive director Carl Kirk to delegates.

While it hasn’t had an official Canadian presence, the reach of this technical arm of the American Trucking Associations has long been felt. The group’s “Recommended Practices” for equipment maintenance are followed in shops across the country, and it has also invested in Canadian-made projects, including research into rear under-ride guards.

The group also influences U.S. technical standards, which are often mirrored by Transport Canada. It was TMC, for instance, that convinced American regulators to drop requirements for dedicated power, a separate ground and the early introduction of an in-cab warning light when ABS was first mandated in the late 1990s. That essentially removed the need for a second electrical connector between tractors and trailers, and paved the way for the PLC for trucks standard that feeds data along through J560 pigtails.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, are often squeezed into following the group’s de-facto standards for such things as communication protocols, leading to shop tools that can be used on more than one brand of equipment.

But the TMC’s influence is most impressively measured by its size. Members represent 1.3 million trailers, 750,000 straight trucks and 600,000 Class 8 tractors, or a third of the rolling stock on U.S. highways.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long, long time,” said Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley, noting that Kirk had first approached him two years ago with the idea of a Canadian conference. “I hope it’s something we can build upon.”

Here are just a few highlights of what came out of this year’s first TMC meeting in Toronto:

Chassis additions to be re-tested

An Original Equipment Manufacturer’s chassis is often no more than a building block for a working truck. “Intermediate manufacturers” add everything from lift axles to dump boxes in the transformation of these wheeled frames.

But new federal rules are beginning to force those who do the work to ensure that the final products still comply with manufacturing standards for everything from brake performance to lighting. While OEMs have always made such guarantees about their chassis designs, all bets are off once someone changes a wheelbase or adds an axle to increase the GVWR.

Since Feb. 13, 2003, Transport Canada has officially required intermediate manufacturers to test and re-certify altered equipment. But while hundreds of companies make such changes, only 60 have earned the right to add a related National Safety Mark, which includes a maple leaf and a registration number at its centre.

Common changes can have wide implications for components that come attached to a chassis. An additional axle adding 10,000 kg to a truck’s GVWR, for example, can strain brake systems designed for what an OEM expected to be a lighter truck. Several related equipment upgrades might be needed to meet standards for brake performance and timing.

While a 16-cfm compressor might supply 85 to 100 psi of air within 15 to 18 seconds (comfortably within a regulated 25-second limit), a 12-cfm compressor attached to a bare chassis might have to struggle for 27 seconds to supply the altered equipment. Larger air reservoirs might be needed to hold 12 times the air required for a service brake application. And 3030 spring brake chambers could have to be upgraded to 3036 models to ensure brakes are capable of holding heavier equipment on a 20 per cent grade.

“These are amended federal regulations that will change the way vocational vehicles come to market,” Canadian Truck Equipment Association (CTEA) executive director Al Tucker said during the TMC meeting in Toronto.

“We’re raising the bar considerably.”

Shops aren’t required to conduct tests right away, but they have to register their intent to improve practices in the future, and file the necessary paperwork with Transport Canada.

Tucker hopes provincial licensing offices will require related compliance stickers by next year, meaning that altered trucks without the stickers inside cab doors could be left without licence plates. Insurers may also begin looking at intermediate manufacturers to ensure they have the ability to test their work, he said.

Still, enforcement is being phased in, Tucker said. “If they’d taken any other position, the majority of the industry would be shut down.”

A little pull

If you’re looking to drain water out of your air system, a little patience might be a good thing.

“You will not get the moisture out of trucks by pulling on the lanyards for 10 seconds … it needs to be (drained) down to 10 psi,” said Jim LeClaire, national accounts manager for Horton.

Still, fleets need to play their part if they expect drivers to ensure that the air is dry, he adds. Lanyards should be in good repair, and air dryer filters should be changed every fall. At least one fleet rewards drivers with $5 if there’s less than a cup of water in the air system when a truck undergoes scheduled maintenance, he notes.

A little less chicken?

Might the days of chicken lights be numbered?

Tucker thinks manufacturers might soon have to think twice before adding an array of additional lights to new trucks.

“NHTSA is looking at a standard that additional lighting not required by the act is not being allowed anymore,” he said.

Suffocating succotash!

When the snowflakes begin to fall in Canada, you can usually count on two things to come out of the garage: Christmas lights and winter fronts. But the improper use of the blanket-like rad covers could actually cause engine components to overheat in sub-zero temperatures, said Jim LeClaire, Horton’s national accounts manager.

Almost a third of viscous fan drive failures can be linked to the improper use of winter fronts, and the snug covers for your radiator can also cause aluminum charge air cooling systems to fail, he said. “A viscous drive will never lock up unless it fails … but you can literally overheat a viscous drive at -40 (Fahrenheit).”

Set-ups with a diamond-shaped opening at the centre of the grille, for example, can starve the drives of much-needed air. If your cab is cold, it might be better to investigate thermostats and heater cores rather than turning to a winter front, he added.

Liquid rust, coming your way

Road salt may help clear icy highways, but it comes at the cost of rusting equipment. And now something more corrosive may be emerging in the form of calcium chloride.

The liquid, already used by many jurisdictions to control everything from dust to icy roads, is being considered by a wider array of road crews.

Ontario’s Transport Ministry is among those looking at using it to “pre-wet” road salt – ensuring that applications don’t simply bounce into a ditch – or dumping the spray directly on ice-prone highways. Calcium chlorides can also be applied several hours before temperatures begin to freeze.

Maintenance managers, however, are beginning to see the material as liquid rust. During an open “Shop Talk” session the TMC’s Toronto meeting, the material was blamed for rusting brake shoes, fifth wheel couplers and fuel tanks. One operator suggested the liquid was eating through the lower right coolant pipes in his Freightliner Century Class trucks. While traditional road salt can be sprayed away with a power washer, calcium chloride seems to have to be wiped clean.

“Iowa University is going to be doing a study for us,” said Carl Kirk, executive director of the Technology and Maintenance Conference, “But I don’t know if the Colorado Department o
f Transportation will pay attention.”

Fleets can take proactive steps. Jim LeClaire, national accounts manager for Horton, suggested painting fuel tanks, and grounding as much to the chassis as possible. Rolf VanderZwaag of the Ontario Trucking Association mentioned protecting all electrical connectors with dielectric grease.

And one maintenance rep from the City of London, Ont. said his municipality has found success by spraying equipment with traditional rust-control undercoatings. “We use calcium chloride,” he added, referring to the municipality’s road crews. “It’s liquid rust.”

Leading trailers

It’s the perpetual trade-off in trailer designs: “I want these things built like a tank, but operational needs require these things to weigh as much as a tin can,” said Itamar Levine, Bison Transport’s director of maintenance.

Still, Levine is confident that Bison is spec’ing better trailers with a longer life thanks to a few special additions:

Hardwood floors have been replaced by aluminum floors with three nailing strips. “You can probably take 1,000 lb. out of the weight of the floor by going to an aluminum floor,” he said.

Aluminum wheels and hubs. The fleet has also shed problems associated with leaking wheel seals by switching to unitized wheel ends packed with grease.

Lighter trailer doors. Another 108 lb. has been saved by switching to rear doors made of honeycombed panels, rather than using traditional plywood and metal designs.

Tire pressure-monitoring systems. Low pressures are tire killers, and these help ensure early warnings of problems.

Brake stroke indicators. The indicators offer a quick check of brake adjustment, which is the most common out-of-service defect on the road.

Bolt-on bumpers. “We bent a lot of bumpers,” Levine said, referring to the decision to go with bolt-on designs. “It’s a matter of 10 minutes, bolt on and off … when you have the time, straighten it.”

LED lamps and sealed wiring harnesses. “Lighting five, six years ago was probably our biggest maintenance issue,” Levine said. “We literally don’t touch these things.”

Post ’02 engines

Fleets have generally accepted that cleaner-running engines – those built to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tightened emissions guidelines – will burn more fuel.

The extent of fuel consumption is the only matter of debate. While Winnipeg-based Bison Transport and New Hamburg, Ontario’s Erb Transport both have test fleets incorporating a variety of “post-’02” engines, they’ve respectively seen fuel increases of three and 13.4 per cent.

Bison, for that matter, managed to match its previous average of 7.5 to 8 mpg by introducing automated transmissions as a standard spec’.

“We didn’t see a lot of issues concerning downtime and reliability,” added Bison maintenance director Itamar Levine, in a presentation at the TMC meeting in Toronto.

“On the whole, drivers commented favourably on the response (and acceleration) of the variable geometry turbo-equipped engines.”

Still, there are some maintenance-related concerns.

“We’ve had some fuel system issues,” said Erb’s Glen Guthrie. Fuel pressures of 250 to 300 psi are blowing seals in fuel filters that have traditionally been fed at 60 psi. “It’s almost an epidemic with us.”

Carl Kirk, TMC executive director, added pressures of up to 25,000 psi have reportedly blown the tips off of injectors in new-model engines.

Erb is addressing some excessive exhaust smoke with changes to engine software; Bison is dealing with problem sensors and Exhaust Gas Re-circulation valves.

But both fleets are keeping a close eye on oil analyses.

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