Severe Class 8 truck sales are expected to continue to be steady. In CK Commercial Vehicle Research’s latest quarterly Fleet Sentiment, 76% of the responding fleet managers reported that the number of new trucks in 2016 will be about the same as was purchased this year. While most respondents are in the over-the-road trucking segment, producer fleet purchases should be similar in scale.
For producers, buying a new truck is more than a needed influx of new equipment to maintain business levels. Producer fleets are generally older than those of most trucking firms. The truck purchased in 2016 will probably be in service well into 2025. Fleet managers must consider all aspects of the purchase when specifying new trucks, including driver retention.
Trucking Efficiency, an initiative created by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency and the Carbon War Room, plans to help fleets double their efficiency in the next decade. The group provides confidence reports and workshops, eliminating barriers to information, demand, and supply.
The initiative provides information on a wide range of issues fleet managers should consider in the purchase process. These issues include idle reduction, chassis, tires and rolling resistance, powertrain, and operational practices.
One powertrain technology that is gaining acceptance as a method operational efficiency is the purchase of automated manual transmissions. Automated manual transmissions combine electronic controls with the mechanical operation of a manual transmission to facilitate automatic gear shifting. The unit’s operation is very similar to a car’s automatic transmission.
In 2014, Trucking Efficiency gathered independent trucking industry experts who prepared a Confidence Report: Electronically Controlled Transmissions. The experts concluded that electronically controlled transmissions offer a good business case for adoption due to fuel savings, driver safety benefits, and driver recruitment and retention. The experts reported that electronically controlled transmissions are “ready for prime time.”
Initially developed for over-road trucking fleets, some electronically controlled transmission manufacturers are beginning to focus on the construction industry. Eaton recently has added two new optional features designed to enhance low-speed maneuverability. Urge to Move allows the truck to automatically start moving when the transmission is in gear and after the driver releases the service brake. When engaged, the truck creeps forward at a constant speed at engine idle without the driver pushing on the accelerator. Blended Pedal, the second option, allows the driver to directly control clutch engagement at engine idle through accelerator positioning allowing movement at varying speeds.