Crisis Averted

EPA ‘07 engines turn out to be a lot less trouble than anticipated.


In 2004, John Drake of Duplainville Transport took a calculated risk with four of his Peterbilts. That’s when Drake, fleet manager for Duplainville, agreed to test four Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ’07 spec’ engines from Caterpillar in his fleet.

At the time, neither Drake nor anyone else knew what sorts of performance and reliability issues might come up when the new engines—with their higher underhood temperatures, hotter exhausts, and diesel particulate filters (DPF)—started putting miles the road. Now that he’s had time to evaluate the four engines in revenue-producing service, what’s Drake’s verdict? Full speed ahead!

TAKING THE TEST

Duplainville Transport is the shipping subsidiary of Sussex, WI-based commercial printer Quad/Graphics, operating 90 company trucks and a similar number of owner-operator units. With printing plants in Wisconsin, New York, West Virginia, Georgia and Oklahoma, the company racks up a lot of miles in both hot and cold climates, on daily and weekly long and short-haul runs, making it an ideal test fleet for engine manufacturer Caterpillar. Specifically, Cat wanted to test its clean gas induction (CGI) technology, which recirculates non-combustible exhaust gas after it has passed through the aftertreatment system, and puts it back into the combustion chamber.

That test was successful enough that Drake and Cat converted the four test trucks to full production engines last March, and those trucks have been operating successfully for over half a year now.

PRODUCTION MODE

“We’re really out of the test environment now and into the full production mode with the DPFs and new engines,” Drake says. “We were basically doing injector tests, that’s what the four engines were set up for. The CRS (Cat Regenerative System), the device after the turbo, is different, we’ve got the full DPFs on now, all the emissions devices; we didn’t have that on the first go-around.

“We had some wiring issues after Cat swung the engines and put on all the aftertreatment,” he explains. “Then the trucks had to go to Peterbilt to be retrofitted with ’07 upgrades: new radiators, engine mounts, they had a whole retrofit kit. It actually took 50 hours to put the retrofit kit in, to make sure that the chassis was up to ’07 engine spec’s.

“Since March, we’ve had no issues whatsoever with them,” he says. Even a fuel economy penalty of a tenth of a mile per gallon on the ’07 Cats has not concerned Drake, because he feels that most of the blame for that lies with the ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD). “With ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel, our whole fleet dropped a tenth of a mile,” he says.

A year ago, Drake stated that he wasn’t going to worry about fuel economy numbers until the four test trucks had passed the 80,000-mile break-in period, and they are just now nearing that mark. Does that cause Drake any anxiety?

“The trucks aren’t quite broken in, but I watch them,” he says. “I take a look at them every couple of weeks, and see how they’re doing. I haven’t really been talking to the drivers, because they haven’t been calling about anything, so no news is good news.”

AVAILABILITY & QUALITY

When the engine test started in 2005, Drake’s biggest concern was finding ready sources of ULSD for the four trucks being monitored. Today, availability isn’t an issue, says Drake, but quality is.

“It may vary from fleet to fleet, but what we’re finding is that the quality of the fuel is different on the East Coast or the South versus what we’re getting in the Midwest,” he explains. “We’re getting worse, and they’re getting better; it’s a quality issue.”

Drake tells of a time one of his trucks fueled up with ULSD at a truck stop in New Jersey, and burned 150 gallons of fuel in only 500 miles—that’s about 3.3 miles per gallon. Clearly unacceptable. “The fuel that he had put into the tanks was pretty much muddy brown, which means there was probably quite a bit of water in it,” Drake says.

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