Miners’ Canaries

Rolf Lockwood

Several themes run through almost any conversation about 2010 engines these days, and mostly they represent good news.

Fuel economy is better, first of all. No severe mechanical or electronic issues are being encountered, if any. Engine makers are truly bending over backwards to service their customers. Drivers either don’t notice the difference in engines or else they say the new ones are mighty quiet. Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) availability is an issue for some.

And the most common observation? It’s still too early to know anything about 2010 engines in a truly conclusive way, and that’s especially so in Canada where fleets are small, relative to the U.S., and just don’t absorb as many new trucks at a time. So we spoke with quite a few American operators in putting this informal survey together.

Some owners want another month, some another year, before casting their vote on ‘010s. Some, for that matter, just haven’t bought any yet.

That said, there are those who are already convinced that their new diesels are just fine and nobody seems to be frowning the way so many did at this same point in the 2002/04 and 2007 emissions regimes. All in all, the only real downsides are the added cost and weight, though those aren’t small deals.

Itamar Levine, director of maintenance at Bison Transport in Winnipeg, figures the cumulative weight gain over the last four years is about 1,500 lb. He’s adding the APUs they began installing a few years back to avoid idling, the extra weight of 2007 engines, and now the additional weight of the ‘010 motors.


The "too early" idea is indeed a common theme. Almost all the carriers we spoke to, Canadians and Americans alike, remain cautious about concluding anything in terms of fuel efficiency. Some declined to comment at all.

Con-way Truckload‘s Randy Cornell, vice president of maintenance, is in that camp. While the fleet has taken delivery of 216 MaxxForce-powered International tractors and 230 Kenworths with MX motors since September of 2010, he wants 12 months worth of data to really understand what’s going on.

Bison runs 184 2010 engines. It’s early,
but the launch has been smooth

Many fleets didn’t take delivery of any new trucks at all last year, and among those who did, the additions often didn’t happen until the fourth quarter or even later. That means the most senior of those trucks might only have 25,000-35,000 miles on the clock, if that. A common story, we found.

When we spoke with Wendell Erb, general manager of the Erb Group in southwestern Ontario, in early March, he laughed and said it was a little premature to comment.

"We just got our first 2010 International trucks with MaxxForce 13 engines two weeks ago," he said. Five of his owner-operators are also running new MaxxForce 13s and another has a little more experience with a Detroit Diesel DD15. Too early to tell.


One interesting tale involves Denis Martin, director of maintenance at LTL carrier Pitt Ohio in Pittsburgh, PA. Decidedly unhappy with 2007-spec engines in general — he has 72 of them representing four different engine makers in his 650-tractor fleet — he was very "apprehensive" about trying ‘010s. So he took just one last fall, a Mack with an MP7 engine.

"The ’07s had us deeply concerned," Martin explains. "With the ‘010s we only put our toe in the water with one tractor at first.

"We worked a deal with Mack so that we had one ‘010 to take a good look at and then move on from there. Now we have 21 of them, and those next 20 have been running for a couple of months. The first one has about 80,000 miles on it, the others about 22,000 miles on average."

Martin has also added five Freightliner Cascadia tractors sporting Detroit Diesel DD13 motors, which also have relatively low miles on them.

And is he happy? Yep.

"When we moved into 2004 emissions, it was really a tough go. It got worse when we moved into ’07s," he says. "But the 2010s, even though it’s a little premature to say too much about these products, they’ve been outstanding compared to the ’07s. I think, from a reliability standpoint, that we’re back to pre-2004 emission days. These engines are pretty solid."

Itamar Levine has similar things to say about rampant problems with ’07 emissions technology, across several engine brands in his experience, and also about the relative quality of the newest diesels.

Bison has 184 SCR-engined trucks all told, the first 50 acquired in Q2 2010, mostly Volvos with D13 engines and some Freightliners with DD15s. He has since added many more, including 25 DD13s and most recently 40 Kenworth T700s with MX 12.9-liter motors. He’s not yet ready to talk about fuel economy numbers.

"There have been some glitches with the ‘010s," he says, "but really nothing monumental. We had some issues with electronics right out of the box last year, with some DEF sensors and some ECM programming. But most of those have been resolved.

"The ’07 launch and the ‘010 launch, they’re light years apart as far as downtime goes, as far as reliability," he says.

Another happy camper is Stotesbury Transfer, an operation with just 25 trucks in total. It’s a specialized bulk-liquid carrier — milk and food oils for the most part — based very near Kitchener Kenworth, just west of Toronto. That proximity made it a good candidate to be a development fleet for the Paccar MX engine.

Stotesbury had two MX test engines for a year or so in Kenworth T800 highway tractors pulling tanks with gross weights of up to 140,000 lb on hauls as long as 500 to 600 miles. Those two engines were pulled and sent back for testing at the end of last year, replaced by production motors. Stotesbury has also added a pair of MX-powered T800 day cabs for regional milk runs grossing 115,000 lb.

All four engines are rated at 485 hp and 1,650 lb ft of torque. The new production engines are better, says Bruce Stotesbury, but even the test engines presented no huge problems.

"We’re basically just talking sensors that in some cases weren’t performing quite up to snuff," he explains.

"The performance of the engines has been good, and we’ve gone nowhere but up in terms of fuel efficiency [compared to pre-2007 engines]… There’s nothing startling here but we’re real comfortable with the MX because it does well in terms of weight vs. performance. It’s a nice weight/horsepower ratio for the tanker business."


Fuel economy has indeed improved, or at least we think it has. It appears that a three-to five-percent improvement over 2007 diesels can be found — though not always — less the consumption of DEF in the case of engines using SCR. DEF-usage rates range from two to three percent, it appears.

In fact, a comment we heard a few times is that these new diesels are taking their owners back to the sort of fuel economy enjoyed with 2004 or even pre-2004 engines.

Stotesbury Transfer is happy with its
2010, Paccar MX-powered T800 Kenworth

Pitt Ohio’s Denis Martin sees things that way, saying they lost 8/10ths of a mile per gallon with the 72 ’07 motors he has in the fleet.

"We’re getting better fuel economy with the ‘010 Macks than with our 2004 models. The only offset that would put you almost even with ’04s is when you roll in the SCR part of the equation and the costs associated with that. If you back that out, you’re back to those same numbers… Plus we’re running the cleanest engines out there, which we’re pretty proud of."

Martin says, by the way, that his Mack MP7s and the Detroit DD13s are pretty much equal in these terms. "They go toe to toe," he says. "You couldn’t tell one from the other."

Pre-2007 fuel economy is also enjoyed by one of the most buttoned-down fleets in the U.S., that run by Meijer Inc., the superstore chain based in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Dave Hoover manages the fleet of 150 tractors that serve 200-plus stores in five midwestern states. And despite his operation’s small size, Hoover is amongst the most experienced of all when it comes to 2010 engines. He has 75 2010 Freightliner tractors with Detroit DD13 power, and another 30 are on order. An early adopter and a development fleet, Meijer took its first group of DD13s back in November of 2009, working closely with Detroit Diesel headquartered nearby.

"We have five 2010 engines with over 150,000 miles, as high as 170,000, and it looks like another eight are over 100,000 miles," Hoover said, looking over his records as we spoke. "It looks like 8.3 ­million miles in total with 2010 engines. We’ve got some good numbers and experience now.

"Fuel economy [on the ‘010s] is consistent with our previous pre-2007s, which were mostly Cummins in Volvo tractors," he reports. "Overall we’re doing slightly better than those last models."

Saskatchewan’s Yanke Group, is also happy on the fuel front, according to Alan Klassen, director of fleet assets and maintenance. He’s running 40 2010 Volvo VNL670 tractors with 405-hp Volvo D13 motors.

"As for our 2010 emission engines, we’re quite early into this technology with 40 trucks ranging from 20,000 km to 120,000 km. Thus far we have appreciated a 4.5-percent miles-per-gallon gain with a 3.3-percent DEF usage," Klassen says. "We certainly expect to continue to have better MPG and also expect that DEF usage will come down with warmer weather.

"We’re expecting, but again too early to really tell, to get better life on components such as belt tensioners, fan hubs, etc., as the heat under the hood has been decreased. We are also expecting better reliability out of these engines and thus far have had no significant concerns that we won’t."


Yes, to get this subject out of the way early, we did speak to one fleet with a driver-related DEF disaster. Only one, mind you, but that particular outfit suffered two separate instances of drivers pouring the magic fluid into the truck’s fuel tank. The fix cost the better part of $1,000 per, sad to say, but the pragmatic boss took the blame. A training failure, he concluded.

Otherwise, DEF doesn’t seem to be a source of confusion for drivers at large, nor is it an issue for fleets running regionally or terminal to terminal. Overall, the situation isn’t bad though there are only a little more than 100 truckstops with DEF pumps at present.

"The biggest issue we face today would be supply of DEF in bulk at the Canadian fuel stops," says Yanke’s Alan Klassen. "Currently we’re tasked with supplying the 10-liter jugs to our operators, which takes up space in the bunk, freezes in winter, and is more money. There are several bulk fills in the U.S. so it’s not as big an issue there."

Bison’s Levine has 330-gal totes installed in heated sheds, each holding three totes, at his seven terminals, and drivers on longer hauls also carry jugs on board. Still, they sometimes need to buy DEF on the road.

"Canada is where the challenge is," he says, "but the challenge isn’t in finding DEF. Most truckstops in Canada have it, but not in bulk. They have it in smaller jugs where you’re paying an arm and a leg."
So, all in all, while things aren’t perfect on the 2010 front, things have gone pretty smoothly. So far.

All the truck operators we spoke to are pleased at this point, whether their engines have turned 15,000 or 150,000 km. But almost every one of them suggested we talk again in a year or two when they’ve had the chance — or maybe the courage — to analyze the reams of data they’re collecting. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.

Rolf Lockwood

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

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