Tried and True

How to keep trucks soldiering on for thirty years.

"So, to save money, they told us, 'Don't get a new one,'" he says. "The old one didn't really cost us all that much over the years, but it's starting to catch up now. For only having a supposed life-expectancy of 10 years, we got 20 years out of it—that's pretty good.

"I wouldn't mind seeing a seven year trade-in cycle, like some municipalities do, but as you can see, it seems we're on a kind of a 20 year cycle," he says with a hearty laugh.


Through sheer luck, Wohlfeil has managed to avoid purchasing any trucks with 2007 diesel engines, and you won't hear him complaining about it...

"The budget was made out before the 2007 ultra-low sulfur fuel mandate, and the only thing that was in the 2007 budget was the sweeper," he explains. "Once I heard about the 2007 engines, and after talking to a lot of salesmen, a lot of them said that if I could get anything okayed and ordered before January 1st, 2007—even if it's in the 2007 budget—I'd get a 2006 engine in it, even though I won't have to pay 'til I take delivery in 2007, and I'll be saving quite a bit of money on the engine alone. So I took that approach, and my director said, 'Let's get it ordered.'"

In the meantime, Wohlfeil and his mechanic attended a presentation on 2007 engines and emissions requirements that was put on by International Truck & Engine, and he came home with new concerns about the size and location of the aftertreatment devices.

"I don't know where these body companies are going to mount their wing plows or anything, because it looks like everything is used up," he says. "It looks awful; it's going to be a mess."

On the positive side, Wohlfeil's expereince with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) has been trouble-free so far.

"We have our own fuel tanks here, and we have been getting ULSD since October 1st, and so far we've had no troubles with any of the diesels," he says.

"There's some concern that on the older diesels some of the O-rings might be rotting out, and everything I've heard from dealers and seminars is that you're going to be changing fuel filters a lot more because of the new fuel," he continues. "I told my mechanic he'd better have several filters on hand, not just one spare, because we don't know when this might hit. Since October, we've gone through 8,000 gallons of fuel, and we haven't had any problems."


Of course, time doesn't stand completely still, even in Oconomowoc. Wohlfeil does have to replace trucks sometime, and he is budgeting for two replacements for his one-ton dumps in the 2008 fiscal year.

"We do try to project out into the future," he says. "My little one-ton dump trucks that I've got, they're a '76 and a '79. I have those in the budget for replacement in 2008, finally. They actually get used a lot more than the bigger single-axles. Those are on the road every day, all summer long."

When those new 2008s arrive, who will drive them? Some of the city drivers are anxious to move up to a newer vehicle, but some, it turns out, are perfectly content to drive their 20 year-old trucks for as long as they can.

"The drivers do complain about (driving such old trucks), but they have no choice," Wohlfeil shrugs. "When I do get a newer truck, it will go to the guy who has the oldest truck. I try to rotate it around, to keep everybody happy.

"Sometimes," he says, "we'll get a new truck in and I'll ask a driver if he wants it and he'll say, 'No, I want to keep the old truck.' Then I'll go down the line until I get a taker. Some of them love their old trucks! I asked one of the guys once if he wanted a new truck, and he said, 'I don't know. Are the seats the same?' I said, 'I don't know!' He said, 'Well, I like the way I sit in the old one.' 'Then you can keep the old truck,' I said!"


And so it goes. Wohlfeil and his mechanic keep changing the oil, fabricating obsolete parts, watching the rust and soldiering on with their 20 year-old trucks.

All in all, Wohlfeil doesn't seem to have many concerns. The biggest maintenance issues he deals with are the occasional transmission or rear axle rebuild, and the rare snapped axle. He can only recall two instances in his 30-plus years when the fleet has needed an engine rebuilt, and both those times the engines were shipped out to an outside rebuilding service.

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