Some of the most severe Class 8 vehicle malfunctions, such as truck fires, brake failures and defective tires, can be prevented through regular, thorough fleet maintenance services. That not only improves vehicle uptime but also reduces the risk of costly crashes, large-scale equipment failure and roadside violations under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

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The cost of operating a Class 8 truck has increased, averaging $1.69 per mile in 2017, up 6% over the previous year. On a time-oriented basis, the average cost per hour for motor carriers increased to $66.65 in 2017 from $63.66 in 2016. Cost increases were broad-based in 2017, with growth in nearly every major line item over the year.

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Cold temperatures, snow, ice and road debris can create challenges for Class 8 tractors and trailers during the winter months, and improperly maintained trucks run a higher risk of breakdowns. Downtime can result in missed delivery windows and poor service.

Proper pre- and post-trip inspections along with regular preventive maintenance can keep equipment running and there are certain components that often require extra care. Penske takes several steps to ensure uptime as temperatures drop, including treating fuel with winter additives to maintain vehicles’ performance and having technicians check specific components.

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Developments in electric Class 8 trucks have dominated the conversation on alternative fuels, but compressed natural gas (CNG) remains a leader in the alternative fuels category. The fuel remains a reliable alternative for certain applications and can help private fleets meet their environmental and financial goals.

"Because the attention is on electric, compressed natural gas hasn't been on people's minds, but it is there for use cases where it makes sense," said Paul Rosa, senior vice president of procurement and fleet planning at Penske Truck Leasing. "If CNG made sense for you before, it will make sense for you both now and in the future."

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The latest autonomous technology available in Class 8 trucks is expected to support truck drivers instead of replacing them. Truck platooning technology, which utilizes a lead truck driven by a human that is then linked to two or more vehicles, is expected to be the most widely used autonomous technology.

That is according to a workforce study from the American Center for Mobility, which was led by Michigan State University and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

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Fleets have data coming at them from multiple sources, including electronic logging devices and the engine.

When managed properly, information can be used to improve operations and increase efficiency. Otherwise, the vast amount of data can be overwhelming to private fleets.

“You have to be wary of paralysis by analysis,” said Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing.

Fortunately, Penske Truck Leasing can help private fleets monitor and organize data to make it accessible and usable.

ELD Data

Electronic logging devices became mandatory in 2017, and data obtained from the devices can help private fleets become more efficient and improve safety. Fleets could use data to examine the productivity of individual drivers and make decisions regarding their loads.

In addition, ELDs could make it easier to track miles traveled in each state. ELDs could also change conversations with shippers by making it easier to identify which shippers are detaining drivers and drive discussions regarding loading and unloading.

Engine Communications

Live diagnostic reporting systems have a number of benefits for carriers, including minimizing delays associated with breakdowns and reducing the risk of CSA violations. But unless the systems are managed properly, carriers may be overwhelmed with fault codes that leave them with more questions than answers.

“There are so many fault codes. You need to work with an OEM to determine which codes are important,” Hasinec said.

Penske Truck Leasing has taken more than 1,000 fault codes and categorized them into red, yellow and green to help technicians, carriers and drivers understand which codes require immediate attention.

For private fleets, the important element is to be able to decipher what the fault codes mean. “If you have identified what is important, you can manage a phone call from the driver to let them know not to worry about it, write the code up that night or pull over at the first safe opportunity,” Hasinec said, adding that Penske has identified 12 critical codes.

Penske can also analyze fault codes and adjust preventive maintenance schedules if certain items are failing prematurely. This minimizes the risk of an over-the-road failure and increases a vehicle’s uptime.

Financial Information

Full-service leases through Penske Truck Leasing can help consolidate information, including billing and financial data, so it can be pulled up with the click of a mouse. Having the information in a central location makes it easier for chief financial officers to access the data when they need it.

Regulatory Compliance

Penske Truck Leasing compiles information related to regulatory compliance of Class 8 trucks and carefully tracks information related to maintenance. Proper maintenance not only minimizes the risk of roadside inspection violations but also ensures information on maintenance is readily available in the event of a Department of Transportation (DOT) audit. Penske can also assist with licensing, further reducing the regulatory burden on private fleets and improving record keeping as it applies to critical data.

March 2018

Emissions and safety equipment on new Class 8 tractor trailers continues to increase, which is adding to maintenance expenses and driving the total cost of ownership higher. Those increases, coupled with uncertainties surrounding the performance and maintenance needs of new tractors, is causing a growing number of fleets to lease equipment, said Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance support for Penske Truck Leasing.

"When somebody leases a truck with us, we’re giving them a cost per mile that is guaranteed," Hasinec said.

"We’re taking a big portion of that risk as the leasing company," Hasinec said. "It is our job to mitigate any increases in running costs."

Emissions Technology

The type and amount of emissions technology on new Class 8 tractors has increased steadily since 2004 due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. "When we had to buy EPA engines in 2007 and 2010, the first couple of years, just for the engine portion, went up several hundred percent from a running cost standpoint," Hasinec said.

Running costs haven’t increased as much with 2014 and 2017 engines, which had to meet stricter greenhouse gas emission standards, but there were hundreds of new fault codes and new technologies deployed on the platforms that have changed maintenance needs. "It makes it more complex to navigate," Hasinec said.

In addition, 2017 tractors have two new indicators, a diesel exhaust fluid quality sensor and a soot sensor. Some OEMs have added aerodynamic devices to improve fuel economy, which can also bring additional maintenance needs.

"If you don’t have the infrastructure, diagnostics, training and tooling to keep up with it, it is incredibly difficult to handle the maintenance," Hasinec said. "Fleets have told us that with this technology, the investment you have to make in diagnostics, tooling and training investment has become overwhelming."

Regulatory Requirements

Regulatory requirements have also continued to increase. Electronic logging devices became mandatory in late 2017 and electronic stability control systems were required on large trucks beginning in 2017. "There are a lot of moving parts with our customers saying, ‘I can’t navigate through this maze anymore,’" Hasinec said.

Even if new technology isn’t mandated, many fleets are implementing devices to improve safety, such as collision mitigation systems, in-dash cameras and adaptive cruise control.

Going forward, Hasinec expects to see mandates surrounding tire pressure monitoring systems and collision avoidance systems, which could create additional maintenance needs and additional training for technicians.

Because Penske Truck Leasing is focused on mitigating any increases in running costs, it works closely with original equipment manufacturers on new technologies and equipment deployments in advance. "We need to know what we need to focus on, whether it is tooling or training or working with other suppliers to know how that technology is going to work so you know what your options are," Hasinec said.

Hasinec sits on multiple customer councils and is engaged in the actual development of products as well as what OEMs are deploying. "I get a peek behind the curtain so to speak," he said, adding that the insight helps Penske provide the best solutions and long-term support for customers.

January 2018

Advances in trucking technology, automation and safety features are proving to be successful tools in attracting new drivers to the industry, which helps alleviate the driver shortage.

During a roundtable hosted by the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee on Capitol Hill, trucking company and equipment manufacturer executives told members of Congress that the industry has adopted driver-assist systems and Class 8 tractors with state-of-the-art communication, which is encouraging new drivers to enter the industry.

Susan Alt, senior vice president of public affairs with Volvo Group North America, told lawmakers the modernization of the industry is capturing younger drivers, improving operating conditions and increasing home time. “Some of the technology helps with better planning, better load optimization and better routing. These technologies are all about attracting the driver,” Alt said.

Private Fleets Focus on Safety, Experience Low Driver Turnover

Although driver turnover for the entire trucking industry remains high, private fleets experienced a turnover rate of 15.2 percent in 2017, the National Private Truck Council (NPTC) reported. Private fleets tend to emphasize safety, with many adopting safety technology voluntarily. According to NPTC’s benchmarking survey report, each safety technology covered in the report showed single-digit gains year over year.

The majority of private fleets, nearly 70 percent, have automatic transmissions. More than 60 percent monitor speeds. More than 50 percent have air disc brakes and electronic stability control; 40 percent have adaptive cruise control. More than 30 percent utilize lane departure warning systems and nearly 30 percent have collision warning systems. A smaller number, less than 10 percent, utilize backup cameras.

Penske Truck Leasing can work with customers to outline the safety technology that best meets their needs.

Penske Truck Leasing offers a variety of new technologies and safety systems, such as lane departure warning systems, electronic stability control, video monitoring systems, automatic braking and air disc brakes.

Available technologies include:

Collision Mitigation Technology

Collision mitigation systems come standard on Penske Truck Leasing’s rental tractors equipment. The latest versions of collision mitigation technology use a camera positioned on the front of the vehicle as well as radar. The two technologies work together and provide more active brake assistance and warnings, such as lane departure and blind spot detection. In the past, the systems relied solely on radar.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that this type of technology has the potential to prevent up to 63,000 truck-related accidents each year.

Lane Departure Warning Systems

A lane departure warning system is a mechanism designed to warn the driver when the vehicle begins to move out of its lane (unless a turn signal is on in that direction). According to the AAA study, lane departure warning systems could potentially avert up to 6,372 crashes, prevent 1,342 injuries and eliminate 115 deaths per year.

Electronic Stability Control

This technology works to minimize rollovers and crashes involving loss of control, which NHTSA said are responsible for 304 fatalities and 2,738 injuries on average each year. If the systems detect a vehicle is reaching its critical stability threshold, the technology kicks in and automatically reduces engine torque, applies the engine brake and activates the necessary wheel-end brakes, which reduces the likelihood of a rollover, jackknife or loss of control.

Video-based Onboard Safety Monitoring Systems

Designed to both monitor and improve the driving behavior of truck drivers, video monitoring systems can prevent as many as 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths each year, according to the AAA report. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that private fleets deploy video system recorder technology to monitor drivers, saying the systems are a proactive tool to identify and reduce risky driving behavior, such as speeding, distracted driving or drowsy driving. NTSB also said onboard video systems can provide valuable information for evaluating crashes. The systems can record video either continuously or as the result of a triggering event.

Automatic Braking

Automatic braking is safety technology that spontaneously activates the vehicle’s brake system when sensors monitor the presence of vehicles ahead and around the vehicle or detect any situation where there’s an impending collision. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, automatic braking, or brake assist, is an integral component of crash avoidance technology. AAA states that emergency braking can prevent up to 5,294 crashes, 2,753 injuries and 55 deaths per year.

Air Disc Brakes

Designed to improve the stopping distance of a vehicle, air disc brakes can prevent up to 2,411 crashes, 1,447 injuries and 37 deaths each year, according to the AAA study.

driver tech diagram

January 2018