Whenever I walk away from a meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council, I feel refreshed, knowing I got the straight skinny from some of the sharpest fleet operators in the country. Make that the world.
For example, at this winter’s Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, five fleetmen, currently running ’02 engines from Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack and Volvo, gave their candid assessment of the new engines’ performance so far. Except for Caterpillar, the engines are all equipped with cooled exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR).
Sam Kennedy, chief maintenance officer, D.M. Bowman, Williamsport, Md., made an amusing observation. He compared buying an ’02 engine with getting a new hound dog that costs more and eats more, but can’t tree any bigger raccoons than the old dog could.
Kennedy reported good acceptance from drivers with the fleet’s new Mack engines, which they found quieter than the old ones, but he noted a 4.5 percent decrease in fuel economy. He also revealed a surprising maintenance issue related to high underhood temperatures – the windshield fluid has been boiling in its reservoirs.
Joe Stianche, fleet manager, Sanderson Farms, Laurel, Miss., said that for about 30,000 miles the fleet has been running 12 ’02 Cat “bridge” engines. These are the non-’02-compliant engines Cat has been offering pending the certification and launch of its Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology, or ACERT, engines this year (see “Equipment & Maintenance,” page 66).
The good news, Stianche reported, is that they all started up, ran fine, and seemed familiar, save for the irregular exhaust routing. Also, drivers noted improved responsiveness. The bad news is that, for his linehaul trucks, fuel economy went from 6.43 mpg with his older engines to 5.95 mpg with the new ones – a decrease of about 7.5 percent. For his short-haul operation, mpg went from 5.79 to 4.59 – a decrease of about 14.5 percent.
Stianche added, however, that this is admittedly an unscientific, one-month versus one-year comparison, and additional time and changing weather conditions, could affect his findings.
Indeed, during a more recent conversation, Stianche told me that, while fuel economy numbers are still changing, he expects the new engines to suffer only a 3 to 5 percent disadvantage over a year-long period, compared to the pre-’02 Cats.
Jeff Philipot, director, maintenance, Kirk NationaLease, Sidney, Ohio, reported on 25 Cummins ISX EGR engines the fleet has run for about 25,000 miles since last December. He told meeting attendees that drivers like them, but fuel economy has gone from 6.5 mpg to 5.99, approximately an 8 percent difference. Dependability, he says, so far appears that it will be on a par with pre-’02 engines. No matter what, “you can’t avoid them forever,” he reasons.
Dwayne Haug, vice president, maintenance, Werner Enterprises, Omaha, has had experience with five pre-production 14L Detroits (70,000 to 80,000 miles), and five production units (35,000 to 40,000 miles) since October. He said driver acceptance is good, and the engines seem to spool up quickly. But fuel economy is down 5.5 to 6 percent, which is worse than he had expected, while the cost of the engines is higher. Maintenance intervals, he added, remain unchanged at 18,000 to 22,000 miles for now.
And Dennis Soch, fleet operations manager, Keebler Co., Elmhurst, Ill., reported on three of the company’s new Volvo engines. He cautioned that his data is incomplete, owing to the short time the engines have been in service. He added that driver acceptance has been good, and that fuel economy is slightly down, by 0.6 percent. He had not yet established maintenance intervals.
Soch later confided that since Keebler vehicles pull relatively light loads and run empty half the time, “we don’t face the fuel-economy challenges most of the other guys are up against.”
Werner’s Haug concluded that, given the experiences with ’02 engines so far, his concerns with even lower-emitting engines, due to arrive in 2007, are heightened dramatically. “’07 needs to have the complete attention of the industry,” he said.
For more on ’02 engines from the user’s perspective, look for CCJ’s July issue.