Crisis Averted

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


Drake is certain of one thing: His company will not be purchasing a DPF cleaning machine. Who does he think will buy them? “The engine dealer, or the truck dealer,” he replies. “It’s not going to be us.”

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

After a year’s hiatus, Drake is ready to start ordering new trucks again, for delivery in January. The time seems right: The 2007 engines have proven themselves, and the truck OEMs are offering him irresistible incentives.

“I think everybody knows that production levels are at an all-time low for Class-8 trucks,” Drake says, “so you can pretty much order them today and have them in 15 or 20 days.

“Today we’re going to pay less for trucks than we paid five years ago,” he goes on. “I don’t know how it works, but that’s the way it is. I’m sure it’s just based on supply and demand: Five years ago, there was a huge demand for trucks because of the pre-buy and all the worries about emissions. Today, because the demand is not there, and OEMs need the business, the price is down. But, that’s our situation; it’s going to be different for other carriers.”

Exactly what Drake will be buying, however, is still uncertain. He had been working with a few OEMs to spec’ his 2008 purchases, then when the spec’s were all but finalized, he threw them out.

Why throw out all that work? Was Drake just out of practice from not having spec’ed a new truck for over a year? No, he simply took a look at some of the 2006 trucks with Cat ACERT engines in his fleet that were consistently getting 7.5 and 7.6 miles per gallon, and he decided he wanted more.

“I challenged a couple OEMs we’re working with to give me an eight miles per gallon truck,” he says. “I called them all on Friday and I said, ‘Throw out all the spec’s we’ve working on and bring a truck over next week—I want an eight mile per gallon truck, that’s what this fleet wants.’

“So we started all over again yesterday,” he says. “Eight miles per gallon is attainable; it’s not something that’s way out there that we’ll never reach. We might have to do things a little differently; we might have to run them slower and educate the drivers, but look at the price of crude oil: $85 a barrel yesterday, what’s it going to be today?”

LOOKING AHEAD

And what’s it going to be in 2010? That’s when truck and engine builders will face another round of strict EPA diesel emission restrictions that will stretch the limits of the industry once again. Will Duplainville Transport be ready? Will anyone be?

“2010 is going to be a whole different playing field,” Drake says, admitting that at that point he may have to look at every engine on the market. “The OEMs are starting to align themselves with their own engine product lines. Everybody’s headed in that direction, and for good reason; to try to keep everything under their control.”

“If you’re a truck OEM and you build your own engine, pretty soon you’re going to have your own transmission line, and you’re going to be able to control what that truck does so much better,” he says. “You’ll be able to put it out there and say, ‘We know this truck is going to be able to get 7.5 miles per gallon’—it’s not going to be looking at a spec’ sheet here and a spec’ sheet here and trying to marry all the components together. I think that’s the way the OEMs really want to go, with their own product. Overall, that’s a positive thing for the market.”

And, who knows, maybe new trucks will be even cheaper for a fleet like Duplainville in 2010 than they are today.

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