Independent Shops: The Greater Good

The North American commercial vehicle supplier community leads the way in new safety, emissions reduction and fuel economy technologies. This is sort of a mixed bag of topics to lump together until you consider the two common threads: All three are better for the public and industry in terms of finance, health and sustainability; and all three are good business opportunities.

This is a great feat; to do something good for society, while doing much needed new business with new technology.

According to the DOT’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA, there are around 5,000 deaths per year occurring in large commercial vehicle related accidents. The industry has done a very good job of reducing the rate of deaths per vehicle population, but it is still 5,000 deaths; far too many.

Many solutions are available to reduce the number of deaths on the road. Drivers and fleets have taken this as a primary task through safe driving practices, maintenance of brake and other systems, and use of technology such as anti-lock brakes, automated-shift transmissions, conspicuity and others. A huge improvement in safety statistics can be made by employing new technology that is readily available through new vehicle sales and aftermarket parts and service.

  • Collision warning systems have millions of miles of proven performance and have yielded major reductions in side and rear collisions.
  • Lane departure warning systems are also a proven technology in the reduction of side collision and road-run-off accidents. Millions of miles of test data show major reductions in accidents.
  • Brake stroke monitoring systems are an electronic replacement for a driver or technician crawling under each of the truck’s axles and visually inspecting brake adjustment. These systems again have millions of miles of proven performance.
  • The common thread with the above three is that they all apply in either aftermarket or OEM installations. These are big opportunities to save lives and related expense for truck operators!
  • Available only on new vehicles, electronic stability control systems work with sensors on the truck to interface via an electronically-controlled air-brake system to mitigate out of control or even roll-over situations. Statistical data on millions of miles of operation and testing prove a major reduction in accidents related to these conditions.

The EPA 2004 and new 2007 engines have been a significant factor in the disruption of normal business practices for the industry in ‘06 and ‘07. The earlier, unvalidated fears of performance of new engines, fears of loss of fuel economy, and a much higher cost new truck seem to have passed with a few unexpected benefits.

Information from the Department of Energy shows that US commercial vehicles have reduced emissions of three major pollutants far greater than the passenger cars and light truck segments. In 1970 the carbon monoxide emissions of trucks were 13 percent of total CO, at 21.76 million tons. Today they are 5.3 percent of all CO emissions at 2.84 tons. NOX emissions are 1.7 million tons less than in 2000 and volatile organic compounds (VOC) or “soot” is down 85 percent since 1970.

Fleets, engine manufacturers, truck OEMs, oil companies, and component suppliers all worked together under onerous EPA regulations to outperform all other types of vehicles in emissions reductions. Truck dealers can sell and truck owners can buy these new vehicles, knowing they are buying better performance, no penalty in fuel economy and a cleaner environment. Drivers are vying for the chance to drive the “hot” new engine equipped trucks; the fuel mileage is close to the EPA 2004 engines, and is providing a new image of a green commercial vehicle industry. PM is critical to maintain this performance and is also a real opportunity for service providers.

Driven by fuel prices hovering around $4 per gallon, truck operators are searching for any way to further reduce fuel consumption. There are countless claims of fuel economics from various products, practices and even additives.

There is a smaller range of proven technologies that are gaining in popularity because of the fact that at $4 a gallon for diesel, a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption is a major cost savings. Aftermarket and OEM technologies like tire inflation and pressure monitoring systems, on-off fan clutches, auxiliary power units, battery powered HVAC systems, shore power systems and more are providing truck operators with much needed fuel savings. Simple math can use available data from the product and system manufacturers to quickly convince a truck operator to install these important products.

The silver, or in some cases “green,” lining to the cloud of the above conditions actually represents great business opportunities in our industry.