CHATHAM, Ont. — In September, International Truck and Engine Corporation, hosted its first-ever International Heavy Truck Symposium and Ride & Drive at its Class 8 truck plant in Chatham, Ont.
More than 200 International dealers, customers and suppliers attended the two-day event to hear leading industry consultants and International experts speak about key industry concerns, such as driver retention and fuel economy. They also had the opportunity to experience first-hand, current products and solutions on a temporary track created on the runways of the Chatham Municipal Airport.
Dan Baker, an industry consultant from Texas, focused his remarks on driver retention. According to Baker, today’s long-haul drivers want more than just high wages. Like most Americans, they want to spend quality time with their families, they want respect and they want to be treated fairly. For the industry to move past the driver retention challenge, Baker argues, there needs to be a cultural shift in a lot of the trucking organizations. No longer can the payload be considered the most important part of the driver-payload combination, he says. He highlighted the fact that, as with most industries, employees don’t leave companies, they leave failed relationships. First and foremost, drivers need to be treated as people.
A comfortable cab environment is one thing that can help keep drivers happy. International’s manager of human factors and ergonomics from its body systems engineering unit, Lenora Hardee, shared some of the thinking that goes into truck ergonomics to achieve better driver comfort. She reassured skeptics that ergonomics is a viable and practiced concept. The objective is to create an environment that better matches the capacity and limitations of the driver to achieve natural positions and reach to actuate controls. Labeling and displays are assessed and designed to provide the driver greater ease to quickly read and understand them.
A big challenge today, Hardee explained, is the diverse physical size of the driver population. Various elements are taken into consideration, including height, weight and gender. She said seat travel, placement controls and comfortable access to the sleeper all need to be studied from the various perspectives of the diverse driver population, to arrive at trade-offs that best meet customer needs.
Another topic discussed was fuel economy, specifically linked to aerodynamic design. International’s chief engineer of aerodynamics, Ron Schoon explained the impact of aerodynamic drag on fuel economy.
“At 65 mph, aerodynamic drag represents 50 per cent of the truck’s fuel consumption, with rolling resistance contributing 32 per cent and powertrain efficiency 18 per cent.” He went on to explain the exponential increase in drag that occurs as speeds are increased, resulting in even greater fuel consumption.
According to Schoon, key truck design elements that International and other industry insiders are exploring to improve aerodynamic drag include air fairings to reduce drag upwards; side extenders to minimize the gap between tractor and trailer; chassis skirts around the battery box and fuel tanks; lower bumper to drag underneath the vehicle; and aerodynamic mirrors.
Finally, the Ride & Drive portion of the Symposium included several demonstrations, which took place at the Chatham Airport. Both International and competitor products were at the event for side-by-side comparisons and a maneuverability demonstration. One of the most-popular demos, was a stability presentation by one of the suppliers. An International 9200i transport truck, hauling 80,000 U.S. lbs. of liquid freight, was used to demonstrate an avoidance maneuver with and without the stability system engaged.
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