movin’ on up

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When you think of industry trendsetters, it’s usually the mega-fleets that come to mind. But in Winnipeg, a small furniture delivery company is among the first trucking companies to deploy straight trucks with technologies such as EPA2010-compliant engine technology and UltraShift HV automated transmissions.

Two Amigos Moving and Storage operates about 17 straight trucks and six tractor-trailers units out of its Winnipeg location. The tractor-trailers perform long-distance household moves under the banner of Alero Moving and Storage while the straight trucks deliver furniture throughout the city of Winnipeg on behalf of furniture retailer The Brick. Fleet manager Brad Prociuk recently allowed me to spend some time with the company and take one of its new Kenworth T370s with EPA2010-compliant Paccar PX-6 engine and Eaton UltraShift HV transmission for a spin.

Prociuk is proud to be an early adopter of the new engine technology, but he’s equally impressed with the UltraShift HV, given the rigorous urban duty-cycles the trucks perform under.

“We were running standard transmissions for a long time, but no one wants to drive them the way you’re supposed to,” he said. “We’d go through so many clutches, it was unbelievable. I had a driver burn a clutch out in six months; (drivers) always wanted to start in third gear.”

Prociuk added the company has also run Allison automatics in its fleet, which is comprised mostly of Kenworths with a sprinkling of Internationals.

Two Amigos’ local delivery trucks are driven pretty hard. It’s just the nature of the business – they’re operated by employees who are movers first, drivers second. The truck is little more than a tool they use to perform their primary duty and that’s to deliver furniture on time. Two Amigos employees spend their mornings loading the trucks with as many as 16 deliveries before setting out to make drops over a six- to 12-hour shift. They’ll sometimes return to make a second trip with same-day delivery purchases.

When they’re on the road, the trucks get pushed hard. Two Amigos employee Cameron Quinn yielded the driver’s seat to me for a delivery during a recent visit to Winnipeg. The EPA2010 engine operated just like any other engine. Prociuk buys the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) from Custom Truck Sales, the PacLease agent that leased him the trucks, where it currently cost about $15 for 10 litres. The PX-6 offers all the torque and horsepower (260 hp) needed to bomb around the city all day.

The UltraShift HV was a nice transmission to operate. It doesn’t creep when you’re stopped at a red light like some automatics are wont to do. The transmission also helps slow the truck down when you let off the gas, so with some anticipatory driving techniques, you only need to touch the brake pedal to bring the truck to a complete stop. That’ll go a long way towards saving on brake maintenance, a benefit that will be enjoyed by Custom Truck Sales as much as the customer itself. Because Two Amigos’ Kenworths are on full-service leases, Custom Truck Sales has good reason to encourage the use of driver-friendly options like the UltraShift HV.

“They’ve got young drivers and probably some turnover as well, so they’re always bringing new guys in and controlling that is pretty hard on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly Whyte, PacLease service manager with Custom Truck Sales Lease and Rental says of Two Amigos. “If we can add components into the powertrain that take away the ability for a driver to cause abuse or to misuse the equipment, that’s a win-win for everybody.”

Two Amigos’ Kenworth T370s are the first that Custom Truck Sales has leased with the UltraShift HV. They’ve only been in service since June, but Whyte is confident maintenance savings will be realized.

“The exposure we’ve had so far is very positive,” he said. “I want to track some of the maintenance numbers down the road, but I know for sure we’re going to step up on our tire life and brakes and to me, the product has proven itself already.”

For leasing companies such as PacLease, charging customers for damage incurred by their drivers is always a thorny issue. One of the primary benefits of a full-service lease to the customer is avoiding unexpected costs. So obviously they’re not always happy when they receive a bill for damage.

“We don’t like billing anything back to our customers,” Whyte said. “But if it’s abuse, we have to.”

Two Amigos drivers have been receptive to the new technology, although they say it took a couple days to get used to the backing characteristics of the UltraShift HV. Because of the centrifugal clutch, backing can be finicky at first, but Quinn says the technique can be mastered over the course of a couple days’ work.

On the engine side, Prociuk said the EPA2010-compliant PX-6 is operating as expected and finding and replenishing diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) hasn’t been a problem. It’s always been available when he’s needed it, he says, and “it lasts quite a while.”

After watching as the Two Amigos pros loaded the truck to the roof in what could be described as a real-life version of Tetris, I climbed behind the wheel to make the first delivery run of the day. Our route took us through downtown Winnipeg where construction necessitated lots of starts and stops (a perfect environment to put the UltraShift HV through its paces) and then into a residential neighbourhood. I pulled the truck up to our destination on a quiet, narrow side street and jumped outside. Quinn, having just lugged a sofa and loveseat into the home (as I supervised – no heavy lifting for this guy), took a moment to assess my potential as a furniture delivery guy.

“You’d need to go a little faster,” he said, “but not too bad.”

And with that, I was relieved of my duties. Turns out my cautious driving style may not be conducive to success in the furniture delivery business. Glad I didn’t quit my day job. mt

James Menzies is the executive editor of sister publications Truck News and Truck West. He holds a commercial drivers’ licence and has test driven trucks all over Canada, the US, Asia and Europe. An award-winning writer, he has also co-authored a book about trucks from around the world. 

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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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  • Come on – those autoshift transmissions cannot compete with the Allison automatics. I call them ‘jerk-o-matics’. Driving a autoshift all day compared to an Allison – no competition on smothness and acceleration. I have tried both and the Allisn is hands down the transmission I would rather spend the day with.
    Was this article a commercial for Eaton?
    This magazine should do a head to head comparison – Allison vs the Eaton autoshift in a medium duty truck – get the drivers to tell you what they think after test driving both in real world driving in city traffic.