To complicate matters further, 2002 was when Knight switched from the N14 to the ISX engine platform. Unfortunately for both companies, the 2002 testing uncovered problems that continued to be issues after the engines had gone into production. "After '02, we did see our share of little glitches that occurred," Williams says. "A lot of them were electrical; a lot were EGR valves that we had issues with."
PERFORMANCE & RELIABILITY
For the 2007 engine test, there was no retrofitting involved. "This truck was engineered with the engine, instead of having a retrofit situation where you had to weld a bunch of parts together," Williams says. "So, we've got a current chassis, we've got a current cooling package, we've got the aftertreatment and the engine all combined in a package that should be the same as the package that comes out in 2007.
"There are two things in particular that Volvo has done to their chassis," he continues. "Number one is they've opened up the airflow. In other words, they've widened the opening where airflow comes in. It's a slightly larger front grille; you'd never even notice the difference. And number two, they've got a wider radiator. My understanding is that that's going to be a common solution among the OEMs."
Since June, 2005, that truck has been making a regular run between Phoenix and Long Beach, CA, filling up with ULSD at a British Petroleum facility in Long Beach. The ISX 400ST 1450/1650 engine, mated to an Eaton 10-speed transmission, has a somewhat higher rating than Knight's current trucks. The new CJ-4 engine oil is being supplied by Cummins.
According to Williams, Knight has been concentrating on questions of performance and reliability with the new engine, and, after over a year, the test results for both are almost consistently positive.
"We've gotten very actively involved in understanding what it is, and what it isn't," Williams says of the test. "We've tried it, we've tested it, and at this point we're not afraid of it."
The '07 engine is essentially a "refined" 2002 ISX, Williams explains. "They've moved the EGR valve to the cool side of the engine, which, they're anticipating, should virtually eliminate failures. Other than that, you've got a few little things here and there, but essentially you're talking about aftertreatment. And with the aftertreatment, there's not a whole lot of moving parts, so we didn't anticipate a lot of problems."
THE TEST ROUTE
The test route between Phoenix and Long Beach, a straight shot through the desert on I-10, is not necessarily typical of the routes Knight's trucks traditionally run. Nonetheless, it is a busy shipping lane for the company, and it allows them access to the BP ULSD supply in California, and lets them bring the truck back home for regular check-ups.
"The availability (of ULSD) has been spotty," Williams admits. "There's really only been one company producing it, prior to the recent date the refineries all had to start making it. So we were limited to finding a site where British Petroleum could supply us with fuel, and we found one right outside of Long Beach. As far as cost is concerned, it's fluctuated with the market. It's been a little bit above the normal price of diesel fuel. Where it ends up I can't tell you at this point. I would anticipate it being between five and 20 cents above what fuel is selling for today. It's been a little volatile."
After over a year, and 150,000 miles of testing, does Williams have concerns about the diesel particulate filter?
"If it works as advertised, then no, I don't believe there's much reason to be concerned," he says. "We still have some questions about how (cleaning the DPF) is going to be done, how long that's going to take, whether there's going to be a core return program or whether you wait for it to be cleaned. But those are things that are probably two years away."
Williams, does, however, have some concerns about the engines.
"The technology is something we're comfortable with. The price is a different issue," he says. "If anything, that is the issue that would be holding us up. But the technology itself is something we've gotten very involved with, and as we've done that we've gotten very comfortable with it."