"We have been testing with ultra low sulfur fuel from the beginning with our field units, so the data that we're getting back on those engines is as close to 2007 as we can get. In fact, as far as the engines are concerned, it is 2007—because we've been using the fuel and the fluids, and driving them just like they will be come January 1st," Phelps says.
Maintaining the Change
Since preparedness is the name of the game for '07—especially after the debacle of 2002—training has become a huge part of the overall program for the implementation of these new engines. CAT has taken a proactive approach to making sure the new elements to the engines don't come as a maintenance shock to technicians or OEMs.
"We've been doing some training with our service organization, our CAT dealerships, and our OEM partner dealerships for several months now," Phelps says. "The first wave of the training was online, which basically covered the systems of ACERT technology, and the components that will be part of the 2007 solution: the CGI and the diesel particulate filter, as well as the CAT regeneration system, our method to generate heat to regenerate the diesel particulate filter."
The next step of the training program, "Train the Trainer," involves the dissemination of this training throughout regional outlets. "We feel pretty good about the training on the people side of things," Phelps says. "We also have systems to be sure the parts that may be required to repair—if necessary—2007 engines, will be in place."
Does field tester Quad/Graphics feel as confident as CAT? Unfortunately, part of the experience is slightly lacking—Drake's maintenance shop doesn't do much heavy duty engine work, although he does assent that his oil changes have remained steady. "We're at 30,000 mile intervals, and we plan on staying there," he says. "We just made the switch to the new CJ-4 oil. We don't see any significant additional maintenance."
As for CAT's role in the maintenance end of things (Quad's engine work is done at CAT, or Fabco—one of the largest CAT dealers in North America), things seem to be running smoothly as far as the comprehensive establishment of CAT service networks. Still, CAT involved Quad in every technical element of repair when possible. "Were we fortunate enough that we could get the trucks back to Milwaukee, 90 percent of the time? Yeah, we were," Sondag says. "Those guys got a very good firsthand look at these engines in terms of maintenance."
Drake concurs. "The additional training we've needed, we've gotten from CAT. We have an extremely good working relationship, and our fleet supervisor in our shop is very familiar with the '07 engines, and he works with Fabco really well on them and can explain what's happening. Again, we take it right through Fabco for maintenance. Todd and I have a lot of dialogue back and forth on what's happening, what the truck is doing. It's a true partnership," he says.
Many of the engine manufacturers have been stressing issues relative to drivers in their marketing for 2007. Mostly it's been a matter of passive regeneration, and assuring operators that the process will not require any effort on the driver's part in order to initiate. Drake, instead, refers back to feedback he has been getting from his operators in terms of power-related issues.
"Any new engine has a little bit of a power loss, compared to an engine that is broken in, and we saw that same thing with these engines when they were new—we saw a little bit of a loss in power. They still pulled the hills," he says. "We run loaded to gross weight, probably 90 percent of the time. We test out at 80,000 (lbs.), and the drivers can pretty much tell, pulling Mt. Eagle; if the transmission downshifted once, they were happy. That's the point that we got to… We got them to where they needed to be. I want to say each one probably has 150,000 to 180,000 miles on them now, and they're going strong."
The Finish Line
So because of Quad's positive experience in their testing program with the new Caterpillar engine, Drake is the perfect candidate to sign the order form for new '07-spec trucks next year. How many will he purchase? "None," Drake says. "We positioned ourselves to buy zero trucks in '07."
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