IN PRINT — Top 10 products of 2016

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Here we go again. Another year finished and another chance to head way out on a limb and name 10 products that I think are especially worthy of note from 2016. It’s an entirely subjective review, of course, and you may well disagree with every last one of them. So be it.

My shortlist was three times as long, not surprisingly. To make things a little easier I’ve ruled out, as usual, whole trucks and trailers and other products that may have been announced but weren’t actually available in 2016. That left out some cool machinery from Freightliner and International, among others. Given the profusion of products in the realm of electronic logs and fleet management software, I felt I had to leave that one alone as well. I could have filled my entire list and still left out some good ones, so I opted to ignore it entirely.

With one exception, that being the unique True Fuel fuel-optimization tool from Vnomics in Rochester, New York. Now a more-developed but simple standalone product, it was formerly a component of the company’s telematics platform – and it began with a military application created at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In that context its purpose was data analysis to resolve a serious challenge, namely helping soldiers in bad-guy country understand and deal with a broken-down tank or truck, miles away from “the shop” and often in real jeopardy. The modern solider is apparently much like many modern truck drivers – increasingly less mechanically inclined.

By all accounts it can make a difference in fleets large and small with -minimal cost and heartburn, so it seems to me that this one merits mention at the top of my list for its potential to save fuel. Otherwise I’m listing my Top 10 in alphabetical order by -manufacturer’s name.

True Fuel from Vnomics

Vnomics, an advanced analytics outfit, says its patented, standalone True Fuel system “significantly” improves fuel economy through real-time driver coaching and precise, comprehensive fuel-use analytics for fleet managers.

How about a 400% return on investment by way of fuel economy gains within a year? That’s the claim, according to company Chief Executive Officer Alan Farnsworth, backed up by real on-the-road experience.

True Fuel can be used by any fleet, regardless of its size or telematics platform. It’s been proven to provide a 3-10% fleet-wide fuel saving on several thousand vehicles. And it’s easy to install the little black box at the heart of things. Think 10 minutes.

It precisely monitors each vehicle’s actual fuel usage in real time and compares it to the calculated maximum achievable fuel economy for that vehicle under its current operating conditions. The system calculates that maximum by analyzing the truck’s spec’ in detail, while accounting for terrain and load size trip by trip. It automatically establishes best potential fuel usage.

 It then lets drivers know when they’re off the mark by way of subtle audio alerts for improper shifting, speeding, and idling, which signal only when not optimizing fuel consumption. That’s a gentle coaching tool.

True Fuel produces a fair and balanced scorecard for drivers, detailing the fuel-loss factors they can control. Comparing drivers – and their trucks – becomes dead easy because the results are specific to a given rig and its pilot at a given time.

Managers can use True Fuel’s web portal to access comprehensive fuel-related analytics and summaries to gain instant insights into causes of wasted fuel – for the entire fleet and for specific vehicles and drivers. It provides a solid basis for incentive programs.

It’s offered on a monthly subscription basis.

Border crossing driver training

CarriersEdge, which offers several online safety and compliance training tools, employs its interactive learning approach in new Border Crossing/Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) courses for drivers. The courses cover security and threat awareness, security inspections, and successful border crossing.

The new border crossing courses explain security inspections, procedures, and issues to minimize a driver’s chances of facing long delays.

C-TPAT/PIP (Partners in Protection) Security and Threat Awareness covers five main areas where possible security issues can arise, including at the terminal, before the trip, on the road, during a stop, and during a delivery. It includes such topics as how to recognize suspicious behavior, communication practices, and how to handle a hijacking.

Anti-seize cotter pin

A small item here, but a pain-saver. Cotter Pin Solutions offers what it calls, with good reason, the “revolutionary” anti-seize cotter pin designed specifically to prevent a clevis pin from “welding” itself to a slack adjuster. It’s a serious maintenance issue requiring significant maintenance time for removal and it often results in damage to the slack adjuster.

This cotter pin eliminates brake binding and loss of brake force that’s the direct result of seized clevis pins. With every brake application, the unique design holds the pin through a portion of the brake stroke, forcing the slack adjuster bushing to rotate around the clevis pin. The result is a free-moving clevis pin.

If a truck is parked for long periods of time, the clevis pin tends to seize to the slack adjuster bushing. With this new cotter pin installed, during the first few brake applications the coil spring will load because of the clevis being seized to the slack adjuster. When the brakes are released, the loaded coil spring will release a rotating force on the clevis pin to eventually break it free from the slack adjuster.

Detroit’s DD5 engine

Daimler Trucks North America started production of its new four-cylinder Detroit DD5 engine in the Freightliner M2 106 last fall. A six-cylinder DD8 will arrive in 2018.

The pickup-and-delivery world is the company’s first -market target with the 5.1-liter DD5, which shares some design -principles and elements with its larger DD13, DD15, and DD16 brethren. DD5 customers will get the Detroit Connect Virtual Technician remote diagnostics system

For short-haul pickup-and-delivery applications, buyers will enjoy extended oil and fuel-filter change intervals up to 45,000 miles (72,420 kilometers). For severe-duty work that will drop to a still-respectable 35,000 miles (56,325 kilometers), and for easier highway work it will rise to 50,000 miles (80,470 kilometers).

The engine comes with a three-year/250,000-mile (400,000-kilometer) engine and aftertreatment system warranty.

It will first be offered in two ratings – 210 horsepower and 575 lb-ft of torque, and another at 230/660. Testing, says Detroit, has proven that the DD5 will provide fuel efficiency that’s 3% better than the closest competitor.

Ford’s newest diesel

Ford’s new 6.7L Powerstroke V-8 diesel for 2017 F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks has a B10 life of 500,000 miles (800,000 kilometers). That means 90% of the engines should reach that -mileage without removing cylinder heads or -dropping the oil pan to reach internal components.

Ford pairs the engine with its TorqShift HD 6-speed -automatic transmission.

The V-8 diesel is offered in three power ratings, including 270 horsepower and 675 lb-ft of torque, as well as 300/700 and 330/725. The B10 rating is based on the 330-horsepower version.

Yoke-mount trailer suspension

Ingersoll Axles introduced what it calls North America’s first and only fully integrated “yoke mount” trailer suspension. Up to three times stronger than leading competitors, it fits all disc brake sizes as well as drum brakes, the company says.

The disc-brake version uses the standard trailer frame and fully protects air chambers via full ground clearance. Capacity is 25,000 pounds.

It’s for use in lowboy and drop deck trailers, plus auto haulers and other specialty applications, with available ride heights up to 12 inches.

With no U-bolts, you get a fully wrapped axle connection that uses off-the-shelf components like air springs, shocks, and pivot connection. 

Back-of-cab Auxiliary Power Unit

The Idle Free Series 4000 electric Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) from Phillips and Temro sits behind the cab rather than on the truck’s rails. 

Like the company’s original APU, this new model captures and stores energy from the truck’s alternator in independent AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) batteries. This energy is then -converted into power for cooling and electrification.

Idle Free’s unique Reefer Link technology converts -energy produced by the refrigeration unit for driver comfort – meaning unlimited run time of the A/C and heater as well as -providing electrical power for items such as TVs, microwaves, and computers. 

Affordable air disc brake

SAF-Holland introduced the P89 air disc brake and the premium P89 Plus last year. The base-model P89 will work on any axles in the company’s range of air and mechanical suspensions. But the key is its “significantly lower price point than previous generation air disc brake systems.”

That’s about $900 (US $700) per axle over the price of drums, which is half or less than what the price for air discs has been, with sizeable service savings on top.

The P89 uses the “veteran” SAF SBS 2220 caliper and 430–millimeter-diameter vented rotor. The dual-piston caliper is said to apply a more even pressure pattern across the brake lining than competitive single-piston designs. The 45–millimeter-thick rotor provides 30% more wear volume than competitive designs, says SAF-Holland. It’s backed by a five-year warranty.

The P89 Plus costs about the same as current and competitive trailer air discs, but it does claim to provide a significant reduction in the total cost of ownership. It comes standard with a seven-year warranty, with a maintenance-free bearing system that uses large 89-millimeter front and rear bearings, individually sealed and lubricated with high-temperature long-life grease.

Both P89 brakes are available on the SAF CBX – air-ride and ULX spring-ride suspensions. 

Air brake training

From Technical Training Services, the Air Brake Interactive Quick Study TT program covers tractor-trailer air brake -systems. There’s also a straight truck offering, Quick Study ST, popular with municipal fleets and fire departments.

Designed as self-study programs, they use detailed visuals and voice-narrated, multimedia air-brake circuit and component animations. They allow users to see, hear, and learn how a typical air brake system functions, how to conduct air-system inspections quickly and effectively, and perform simple but effective functional tests and daily routine maintenance.

There’s no reading required, the company emphasizes. The program is designed for drivers, driver trainers, mechanics, -service trainers, parts counter personnel, and fleet managers. 

VelociCare monitors onboard tech

Velociti’s VelociCare remotely monitors onboard technologies like Electronic Logging Devices and proactively ensures they run as designed.

Today there can be a gap between a failure and when it’s reported by drivers or noticed by maintenance teams. That may be OK with an optional system, but not with mission-critical devices. The company estimates about 10-20% of systems need to be serviced in a given year.

VelociCare’s turnkey solution provides spare parts, system upgrades, user training, and project management for dozens of systems – ranging from Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to reefer monitors. On an average day, it has about 300 technicians working in the U.S. and 20 in Canada.

If an intermittent problem or outright failure is noticed, VelociCare will first try to fix the issue remotely. Then it might contact the technology provider for information on issues like firmware upgrades. If those fail to fix thing, a technician is -dispatched. Fleets can access an online portal to track the status of open repair tickets.

It’s offered for $4-8 (US $3-6) per truck per month.

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

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