Don’t send an editor to do a fleetman’s job

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About once every three full moons, someone asks us, “Why don’t you guys do test-drive articles, like some of the other trucking magazines?”

I find such test-drive articles amusing. Surely, lots of fleet operators will rush to buy a new truck because a magazine editor enthused that, “It pulled really great up those hills!” The short answer is, we’re magazine editors. We don’t specify or maintain trucks for a living. Like Dirty Harry, we know our limitations.

That’s why, when we want to evaluate a truck, we assemble a team of fleetmen to do it. We report their findings, not ours.

Here’s how “Product Evaluations” work: We choose a team of fleet operators based on their experience with the type of vehicle being evaluated. The evaluation is based on a driving session and design assessment, which typically involves some disassembly and performance of selected maintenance procedures.

Evaluators look for things you’d look for: quality of build; component accessibility; perceived durability; ergonomics; ease of entry and egress; visibility; ride comfort; and maneuverability, to name a few.

The session concludes with a roundtable discussion among evaluators and manufacturer’s representative(s). CCJ editors record the proceedings with photos and notes, and the resulting article reveals the positive and negative findings of professionals.

Consider the following excerpts taken from another magazine’s test drive and CCJ’s Product Evaluation of the same vehicle.

Other magazine: “With the windows open, there seemed to be a little too much engine noise getting into the cab.” Don’t worry, the editor found a solution to this upsetting condition. “Everything quietened up [sic] once the windows were closed.” He also complained that “the floor-mounted PTO controls could have been better placed.”

Apparently, no one told the editor that PTO controls are hung on by a dealer or body-builder and can be placed anywhere the operator wants them.

CCJ: When CCJ evaluators find fault with something, it’s because they’ve seen it before, and it cost them money. For example, “Evaluators didn’t care for the replaceable, compressor-mounted air filter. It’s not likely to be replaced, they said, and it’s easy for moisture to get in.” This comes from guys who’ve shelled out good bucks to replace compressors.

Other magazine: “Overall hood tilt is 78 degrees, more than sufficient to check the oil dipstick and coolant