industry articles

Renewable diesel — an advanced fuel option that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the same specifications as petroleum diesel — can be added to existing fuel truck systems to help lower a fleet’s carbon footprint. As a drop-in fuel that can be used in place of ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), renewable diesel is helping bridge the gap as the trucking industry moves toward zero-emission vehicles without extra equipment or infrastructure cost related to battery-electric vehicles.

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Reducing emissions is a top priority among federal and state lawmakers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a new deadline — Feb. 1 — for state departments of transportation to establish transportation-related emission-reduction goals.

The federal government has also announced more than $27 billion in federal funding to help states reach their targets, including $5 billion to build out an electric vehicle charging network, $2.5 billion to deploy electric vehicle charging and hydrogen, propane and natural gas fueling infrastructure, and $400 million to reduce truck idling and emissions at ports.

The new requirements and funding are among several regulatory initiatives designed to improve sustainability, which is also taking on greater importance as customer, consumer and investor interest in companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals increases.

Fleets can reduce emissions in several ways, including turning to late-model equipment, deploying electric vehicles and using renewable diesel fuel.

Late-Model Equipment: Late-model equipment with significant fuel economy improvements, reducing emissions. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s 2022 Annual Fleet Fuel Study found that fuel efficiency for all heavy-duty Class 8 combination vehicles went from 5.97 to 6.24 mpg during the last three years.

Vehicle Selection: Spec’ing the right vehicle for the application improves efficiency and fuel economy while also reducing operating costs and the risk of mechanical failures. Different fleets have different needs, and a cross-country vehicle, for example, is spec’ed very differently than a tractor used in regional applications.

Aerodynamic Devices: Installing EPA-verified aerodynamic devices on tractors and trailers can save fuel by minimizing aerodynamic drag and maintaining smoother airflow. Technologies include side skirts (a pair of panels affixed to the lower side edges of a trailer) and trailer tails, both of which reduce drag.

Auxiliary Power Units: Auxiliary power units (APUs) reduce the need for idling, allowing fleets to reduce fuel costs, increase engine life and improve driver comfort. Fleets can choose either an electric APU that runs on batteries or a diesel-powered APU that runs on a small diesel engine that burns a small amount of fuel per hour. APUs could range from $8,500 to $12,500, but that cost is recouped in fuel savings over about two and a half years.

Preventive Maintenance: Preventive maintenance helps keep the tractor operating at peak performance, which has a direct impact on fuel economy. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency reported that fleets can achieve fuel savings between 5% and 10% through preventive maintenance.

Electric Vehicle Solutions: Penske has built and operates North America’s first heavy-duty EV charging network, and there are multiple paths to EV adoption. These include Class 8 trucks and light- and medium-duty equipment. Penske Truck Leasing offerings include the Freightliner eCascadia (class 8), Freightliner eM2 (class 6 and 7), Volvo VNR electric tractor (class 8), International® eMV™ (class 6 and 7), Ford E-Transit (Class 2), Orange EV e-Triever electric terminal truck (class 8 yard tractor), Freightliner Custom Chassis MT50e walk-in (class 5 and 6), and XOS walk-in (class 6).

Renewable Diesel Fuel: Renewable diesel fuel is a cleaner option that performs identically to ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) but has a well-to-wheel differential of 60% to 90%+ in greenhouse gas. Renewable diesel reduces particulate matter by more than 40%, carbon monoxide by more than 25%, total hydrocarbons by more than 20%, NOx by 10%, and lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 90%. Penske offers renewable diesel fuel at several locations on the West Coast.

Fleets are increasingly expected to be able to quantify their emission reduction efforts. Penske Truck Leasing has solutions, including an emissions calculator, to help fleets calculate savings and track results. Associates will also work with fleets to find the ideal equipment for their needs and test new technologies.

In trucking, uptime is critical, and no one wants to experience unscheduled maintenance, especially if it occurs while a driver is on the road. Unfortunately, mechanical failures happen, and when they do, keeping drivers and maintenance technicians providing emergency roadside services safe is the top priority.

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Snow, ice and freezing temperatures can increase the risk of downtime for all diesel vehicles if the equipment and fuel that power them aren’t properly maintained. Breakdowns can result in delayed drivers, missed deliveries and poor customer service.

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New regulations affecting fleet operations are increasing, and carriers must comply with existing requirements while keeping up with the latest changes. The federal government and some states are creating stricter emissions requirements. California often takes the lead at the state level, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted several measures that are being introduced or implemented in other states.

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Fleets are using technology to improve truck driver safety and shape driver habits. Onboard safety technology improves safety and can increase efficiency, reduce liability and cut costs – but fleets need to gain driver acceptance of any new solutions.

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Inspectors often focus on wheel ends, which include the wheels, rims, hubs and tires on a commercial motor vehicle. Wheel-end components support the heavy loads carried by commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), maintain stability and control, and are critical for braking.

Violations involving wheel-end components historically account for about one quarter of the vehicle out-of-service violations discovered during inspection blitzes, such as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck.

“Wheel ends contain numerous moving parts, whether it is the brake system, the bearings or the hubs, that can leak, wear or seize due to lack of preventive maintenance. Wheel end systems require routine daily pre- and post-trip inspections, and a sound maintenance program is key to reducing breakdowns,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering for Penske Truck Leasing.

Wheel-end failures may lead to a catastrophic crash. “When a wheel end component fails and you have a wheel run-off situation, major damage could result,” Hough said, adding that wheel-end fires often result from brake system air leaks that prevent the brakes from completely releasing.

Completing pre- and post-trip inspections is one of the best things drivers can do to help prevent issues. “Check the wheel-end brake system for air leaks, lubricant leaks, proper adjustment, etc., and when defects are discovered, write them up and have them addressed by a qualified technician before you dispatch the unit,” Hough said.

Wheel seals, lube levels, lug nuts and brake components are among items that should be inspected daily, Hough said. Drivers’ observations during the inspection are the first step in detecting a wheel-end problem.

CVSA has said that drivers may also find abnormal or uneven tire wear, see or smell smoking or extremely hot hubcaps (too hot to touch), notice smoke from a wheel end, or feel wheel vibration, wobble or noise. Increased stopping distance or decreased braking power, abnormal side pull when braking, wheel lock-up and skidding are all signs that wheel ends may need maintenance or replacement.

During the inspection of wheel ends on a commercial motor vehicle, inspectors will:

  • Check for cracks or unseated locking rings, studs or clamps
  • Check for bent, cracked or broken rims on the inside and outside wheel rims
  • Check for loose, broken, missing or damaged wheel fasteners and elongated stud holes
  • Check spoke wheels for cracks across spokes and in the web area or slippage in the clamp areas
  • Check the hub for lubricant leaks, missing caps or plugs
  • Check the inner wheel seal for leaks
  • Check the tire and valve stem for leaks
  • Check for improper inflation, cuts and bulges on all tires, including the inside tire on a dual set
  • Check for regrooved tires on steering axle
  • Check tread wear and measure major tread groove depth
  • Inspect the sidewall for improper repairs, such as tire plugs
  • Check for exposed fabric or cord
  • Check for tire contact with any part of the vehicle or another tire
  • Check for markings on the tire that would exclude its use on a steering axle
  • Check for debris between the tires
  • Check for tires touching one another or any part

Hough added that drivers and technicians also need to be careful not to over-torque lug nuts; over-torquing will stretch the studs. “Once a wheel stud is stretched, the stud will never maintain the correct torque,” he said.

The residual damage from over-torquing a lug nut could take months to develop, but eventually will cause problems. “A bolt/stud acts as a tension/clamping device when torqued properly. If over-torqued, it loses the ability to maintain the correct clamping force,” Hough said.

Wheel-end components are essential to safety, and properly maintaining and inspecting wheel ends, which include the wheels, rims, hubs and tires on a commercial motor vehicle, is essential for over-the-road performance.

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Under the Department of Transportation's Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program, the Safety Measurement System quantifies the on-road safety performance of carriers and drivers to identify candidates for interventions. The system relies heavily on data from roadside inspections, so every vehicle and driver violation counts. Fortunately, proper maintenance and driver training can prevent nearly all of the most frequent violations private fleets receive.

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The strategic utilization of trailers provides a scalable solution that helps fleets meet shifting transportation capacity or storage needs without the long-term commitment and expenses associated with adding trucks or leasing warehouse space.

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Maintenance of Class 8 vehicles is central to ensuring reliable, safe equipment, but maintaining, diagnosing and repairing equipment is a complex process. Ongoing training is essential for maintenance technicians to stay current on changes in equipment technology, increase their skills and grow their careers.

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Driver shortage issues have diminished as capacity has fluctuated. However, the fundamentals behind the driver shortage have not disappeared, and it remains a top industry concern. The right equipment and technology can appeal to drivers and give fleets a competitive advantage when building and retaining their pool of drivers.

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Thorough pre- and post-trip inspections help drivers and carriers meet federal safety standards and improve safety — and the results of roadside inspections can hurt or help carriers' safety scores depending on what law enforcement finds.

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Operational costs within trucking can vary significantly from year to year and even region to region. The American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) 2023 Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking found that costs climbed to a new high in 2022 for the second year in a row, increasing by 21.3% over 2021 to $2.251 per mile. Costs surpassed $2 per mile for the first time since ATRI launched the report.

According to the report, “2022 broke the 2021 record for the costliest year to operate in the trucking industry – whether calculated with or without fuel.” The analysis is based on financial data from motor carriers of all sectors and fleet sizes. Carriers can use ATRI’s report as a benchmarking tool and glean insight into how to manage expenses.

The leading contributor to this increase again this year was fuel, which was 53.7% higher than in 2021. However, other line items also rose by double digits. Driver wages increased by 15.5% to $0.724 per mile, reflecting the ongoing industry effort to attract and retain drivers. Parts shortages and rising technician labor rates pushed repair and maintenance costs up 12% to $0.196 per mile. ATRI said atypical market conditions posed unique challenges for acquiring and maintaining equipment in 2022, so truck and trailer payments increased by 18.6%.

Even when fuel costs are removed, the marginal costs of trucking increased by 12%.

Costs per mile varied dramatically from region to region, with the highest coming out of the Southeast, where the marginal cost per mile was $2.303. It led all other regions in driver wages and benefits costs. In the Southwest, costs averaged $2.238, followed by the Northeast at $2.207. The cost per mile in the Midwest averaged $2.195, and the West’s average was $2.157.

Insurance costs were highest in the Southeast, where they were almost one cent per mile higher than the national average. Several of the most litigious states in the country are in the Southeast. The West had the highest fuel costs, and carriers in the Midwest spent the most per mile on truck and trailer payments as well as repair and maintenance. ATRI reported that insurance costs were highest in the Northeast, which contains both high crash rates and litigious states.

Driver wages and benefits costs both increased in 2022. Combined driver wages and benefits reached 93 cents per mile in 2022 for large carriers, up from 81 cents. For small carriers, driver wages and benefits costs averaged 81 cents per mile in 2022, up from 74 cents.

Also, many carriers offered bonuses to drivers in 2022. The average amount for safety bonuses decreased to $1,698 from $1,943 in 2021. However, starting bonuses averaged $2,373, up from $1,974, and retention bonuses increased to $1,272 from $1,055 in the last report.

ATRI also found that fleets continue to work to fill backhaul or deadhead miles to increase operational efficiency. In 2022, 15.4% of non-tanker carriers’ mileage was deadhead, on average, which is a slight increase from 2021’s 14.7% but better than 2020’s 17.2%.

Leases are one way for fleets to help control and manage expenses. Leases provide fixed, predictable monthly costs that fleets can use to plan in advance. Penske’s experts can work with potential customers on a cost-benefit analysis to identify the real ROI of a lease based on the fleet’s specific needs.

After several tumultuous years, the supply chain continues to improve, and shippers and carriers are getting back in sync, according to the 34th Annual State of Logistics Report. Even still, it remains important for those in the supply chain to focus on relationships, efficiency and resiliency amid rising costs and economic uncertainty.

“If the past years have taught us anything, it is that uncertainty is now a near constant in the global economy, and the smartest way to respond in good times is to gather resources for when conditions suddenly shift again,” according to the report, entitled The Great Reset.

The Annual State of Logistics Report is produced for the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) by the global consulting firm Kearney and presented by Penske Logistics.

In 2022, the market swung back sharply in shippers’ favor, and supply and demand largely rebalanced across all transit modes. However, Balika Sonthalia, a partner with A.T. Kearney and co-author of the report, said it is important for companies to take steps to remain the shipper of choice because the pendulum will eventually swing. “We’ve seen this before, and carriers will remember how you treated them,” she said.

Sonthalia added that third-party logistics providers are continuing to provide valuable guidance to shippers. Before the pandemic, logistics was often considered a side function, but it has continued to gain attention and is now widely seen as a strategic differentiator. “Companies look at 3PLs less for pointed solutions and more for strategic partnerships to run certain flows soup to nuts,” she said.

Overall Costs and Trucking Capacity

Those partnerships are increasingly important as companies work to manage costs and capacity. Costs have increased, with overall U.S. business logistics costs rising 19.6% to $2.3 trillion in 2022, compared to $1.85 trillion last year, representing 9.1% of the national GDP — the highest percentage of GDP ever. It also marks a 46% USBLC increase between 2020 and 2022.

Plus, transportation costs reached $1.39 trillion, up from $1.3 trillion in 2021. Road freight, the most significant segment of U.S. logistics expenditure, increased to $896 billion from $844.5 billion in 2021.

Road freight saw little change in overall demand, but capacity increased throughout 2022. Sonthalia said the dry and load-to-truck ratio — a figure calculated by dividing the total loads by the number of available trucks — is at the lowest it has been since June 2020, which is a signal of the level of capacity available in the market.

As a result of shifts in capacity supply and demand, there was a greater spread between spot and dry rates than in previous years, according to the report. From January 2022 to January 2023, the spot rate dropped 23%. The changing dynamics caused shippers to seek a new balance among dedicated, private and one-way services.

Resiliency and Near Shoring

Sonthalia said costs have always been a factor in supply chains, but resilience has become a top priority, which is leading to more diversification and reshoring. “I think we’ll see more diversification by volumes. As that happens, your origin for shipments changes, and there is an entire ripple effect,” she said, adding that U.S. companies have been moving supply chains closer to home. The report noted that American imports of Mexican manufactured goods grew 26% last year.

Visibility is an essential tool when increasing resilience, Sonthalia said, explaining that having visibility into inventory lets shippers make strategic decisions to pivot quickly if a disruption occurs. Technology can provide the necessary visibility to increase resiliency while helping reduce costs.

According to the report, 3PLs are investing heavily in their technology offerings, with respondents reporting that 96% of 3PLs have migrated to the cloud compared to 86% of shippers, and 80% of 3PLs are investing in Internet of Things technology compared to 77% of shippers.

Other Key Findings:

  • E-commerce sales remain strong. In 2022, the U.S. e-commerce market grew by 8% to $1.03 trillion compared to $871 billion in 2021, constituting 14.5% of the entire U.S. retail market.
  • U.S. parcel market costs increased by 4.7% compared to 2021.
  • Motor carrier costs grew 6.1% year over year. The report noted that carrier margins were threatened by low rates and higher resource costs.
  • Class 1 railroad costs increased 17.6% year-over-year. Railroads saw operating income increase by 8% and total revenue increase by 14%. However, rising costs undermined operating ratios, and the sector suffered from service-related issues, ongoing congestion and high-profile derailments.
  • Air freight costs increased by 1.7%. Worldwide air cargo revenue is projected to reach approximately $150 billion in 2023, 25% below 2022 but still 50% higher than the pre-COVID revenue figures from 2019.
  • Domestic water costs increased by 18.4%. Major ocean liners saw combined global operating profits of $215 billion in 2022, but the trend has lost steam, and 2023 profits are projected at $43 billion, an 80% year-over-year decrease.

The full report is available to download here: https://www.penskelogistics.com/insights/industry-reports/state-of-logistics-report.

The use of in-cab safety technologies is becoming increasingly common among fleets, driving significant safety improvements.

The National Private Truck Council’s (NPTC) 2023 Benchmarking Report found that all respondents have deployed some type of onboard technology, including 97% that deploy onboard technology related to driver performance. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents reported adopting speed-monitoring devices, in-cab cameras, collision warnings, lane departure technology and automatic transmissions.

“Across the board, fleets report increasing the penetration of these active safety technologies, providing them with more tools to aggressively manage the safety side of the business,” the report stated.

The latest figures from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that large truck crashes declined by 2.5% in 2022 compared to 2021.

Similarly, the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) 2022 report, The Impact of Rising Insurance Costs on the Trucking Industry, found that 92% of all fleets participating in the survey have adopted new safety technology in the last three years. ATRI also found that 56% of carriers implemented three or more new safety technologies. Road-facing cameras were reported with the highest frequency (83%), followed by speed governors (46%), forward collision warnings (43%), adaptive cruise control (42%) and lane departure warnings (42%).

Within the NPTC report, most respondents (83%) reported using speed-monitoring technology, followed by automatic transmissions (79%), collision warning (76%), in-cab cameras (74%) and lane departure (73%).

Fleet Camera Usage

Cameras have been shown to improve driver coaching and reduce liability. ATRI’s report, Issues and Opportunities with Driver-Facing Cameras, found that the use of in-cab camera technologies in the trucking industry is dramatically increasing. Growth is especially high with road-facing cameras, which can capture safety event data that often exonerates drivers or allows parties to settle cases faster and at a lower cost.

However, driver-facing cameras (DFCs) are poorly utilized across the trucking industry. ATRI said that is often due to driver privacy concerns, confusion over video use, personal access and recording models, and concern that truck driver negligence, however subtle, will be highlighted.

ATRI found that drivers using driver-facing cameras rated the technology’s ability to improve safety at 2.6 out of 10, more than two times higher than drivers who have never used the technology. “Current experience with DFCs is one of the biggest factors leading to higher driver approval,” according to the report.

ATRI outlined 10 steps to greater acceptance of DFCs among drivers based on driver feedback as part of its report. The top suggestion was for fleets to view footage only after a crash for legal purposes and not for coaching or internal evaluations.

Other suggestions included keeping cameras off when the vehicle is not moving, only activating cameras with significant safety events, using recordings for coaching but not punitive means, and increasing communication around why they use cameras and who has access. ATRI noted that carriers could develop formal policies and agreements regarding who views the footage and under what circumstances to alleviate driver concerns.

Safety Technology Choices

Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske Truck Leasing, said adding cameras and other on-board safety technology is a customer decision, but Penske’s leasing team can offer input and help customers find the right safety solutions for their fleets and drivers. In addition to cameras, Penske can offer guidance on lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, electronic stability control, automatic braking, air disc brakes and more.

Active Safety Technologies Private Fleets are Using*

Speed Monitoring – 83%
Automatic Transmission – 79%
Collision Warning – 76%
In-cab Cameras – 74%
Lane Departure – 73%
Disc Brakes – 71%
Adaptive Cruise Control – 65%
Electronic Stability Control – 51%
Tire Inflation – 46%
Back-up Cameras – 18%

*Source: NPTC 2023 Benchmarking Survey

The brake system on a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) must perform constantly and under all conditions. While both air disc brakes and S-cam drum brakes can get the job done, many manufacturers have made air disc brakes standard and the adoption rate for air disc brakes is increasing.

“The biggest difference between air disc brakes and S-cam drum brakes is disc brakes have a shorter stopping distance and you eliminate several components, so there are less maintenance items on air disc brakes,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance at Penske Truck Leasing.

For example, air disc brakes do not need a slack adjuster, but S-cam brakes do. Kerri Wirachowsky, director of inspection programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), said brakes out of adjustment is the number one violation drivers receive.

“Generally, when a vehicle is put out of service for brakes being out of adjustment, it is because the automatic slack adjuster did not adjust correctly. It could be because it was not maintained or because it failed,” Hough said.

Additionally, air disc brakes don’t experience brake fade, or result in stopping power, after repeated use. At higher speeds, disc brakes have a better response at higher temperatures.

Initially, the adoption of air disc brakes was slower because they were more expensive and roadside service didn’t always have parts, Wirachowsky said. “As more and more get introduced into the market, the more the price comes down and the more familiar technicians get with them and can do roadside repair. I think over the course of time, we’re going to see more go that way,” Wirachowsky said.

Penske Truck Leasing made air disc brakes standard on tractors within its rental fleet in 2017, and Hough expects to see increased adoption on trailers as well. “Over time, as technology continues to improve and air disc brakes become more economical, which they are, we’ll probably see the industry transition to air disc brakes on trailers,” Hough said.

Brake Maintenance

When maintained and installed correctly, both brake types meet required safety standards, but maintenance is critical for all systems. Disc brakes are sometimes erroneously characterized as being maintenance free and they are not, and brake systems, whether they are disc brakes or drum brakes, require attention.

Hough said brakes must be checked at every preventive maintenance inspection and drivers should regularly check brakes during pre- and post-trip inspections. Plus, brakes need to be lubricated or greased at set intervals and slack adjusters on S-cam drum brakes have to be tested.

“During a PM inspection, we measure the applied brake stroke. With the foot pedal applied, we measure the total distance the slack adjuster is traveling so we know it is working correctly,” Hough said. “They’re dependable, but from time to time, one will fail.”

Hoses and tubing have been an important focus area for CVSA inspectors for several years because brake hose chafing is another common violation. “You could have belly hoses on the trailer that are rubbing or the gladhand hoses are too long and they rub on the catwalk,” Wirachowsky said. “That is what we look for, and drivers should be looking for that during their inspection.”

If a hose rubs up against something until it punctures the liner of the hose, it will leak air. “If it is leaking air, the brakes won’t work correctly,” Hough said, adding that some hoses are difficult for drivers to inspect during pre- and post-trip inspections. “That is why it is so important during a PM inspection to check for any type of chafing.”

Overall Safety

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) latest Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts report, the brake system was the third most cited vehicle-related factor in fatal commercial motor vehicle and passenger vehicle crashes, highlighting the critical safety role brakes play in transportation.

Additionally, brake-related violations accounted for eight out of the top 20 vehicle violations in 2022, according to FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System. Plus, brake-related violations make up the largest percentage of all out-of-service violations cited during roadside inspections, CVSA reported.

Additional Information

CVSA has several brake sources available:

    Daily pre- and post-trip inspections of tractors and trailers are legally required by the Department of Transportation and are a best practice to improve safety and reduce downtime. Drivers identify and report any defects or issues with the vehicle that could affect its safety or performance via Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs).

    “If a driver finds something in the pre- or post-trip, they shouldn’t delay getting it fixed or repaired,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance services at Penske Truck Leasing.

    Items related to safety, such as issues with tires, brakes or lights, need to be taken care of immediately, but some things may be able to wait until a more convenient time. “If it is a torn seat cushion, they can maybe ride that to the next PM, but the safety side has to be addressed as it happens,” Hough said.

    The key is sharing the information quickly with management or maintenance personnel so they can determine how to address needed repairs.

    Hough said drivers and carriers can share information with Penske’s shops in several ways. Drivers can submit paper DVIRs or electronic versions. “We have customers who use electronic DVIRs, and we partner with their telematics providers to get those,” he said, adding that Penske can also provide feedback electronically.

    Drivers can also share information via tablets within Penske’s shops. “When they come into our shop, if they have an issue, they can write it up electronically. We have podiums with iPads that automatically feed into our system of record to get the repair order,” Hough explained.

    Thorough Inspections

    Hough said drivers must do a comprehensive pre- and post-trip inspection to help avoid over-the-road failures. “A lot of issues could be taken care of upfront if proper pre- and post-trips are done consistently,” he said.

    Best practices include:

    • Walking around the tractor and visually inspecting the exterior components. Drivers should pay extra attention to tires, wheels, lights, mirrors, wipers and any visible signs of damage or wear
    • Opening the hood and checking the engine oil level, coolant level and power steering fluid levels. Other fluids to check include transmission, brake and windshield washer fluids
    • Inspecting the belts, hoses and wiring for any signs of damage or loose connections.
    • Verifying that the battery is securely mounted and terminals are clean
    • Checking the brake shoes/pads, brake lines and hydraulic brake fluid levels when applicable
    • Inspecting the tire tread depth, sidewalls and overall condition and ensuring proper inflation using a tire pressure gauge

    Regular PM Services

    A robust preventive maintenance program can help reduce the number of items drivers find. “There are so many aspects of the pre-trip inspection that are related to frequent and properly done PMs,” Hough said. “With our voice-activated PM system, our technicians can’t take shortcuts and they inspect every single item.”

    Summer has arrived and temperatures are heating up across the country, which means some components on Class 8 trucks need extra attention to prevent unscheduled maintenance or costly fixes down the line.

    “A lot of the maintenance is the same year-round, but there are certain maintenance items, especially the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system and tire pressure, that are important in the summer,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering at Penske Truck Leasing.

    Air Conditioning System Maintenance: Inspecting the HVAC system, including circulation air filters and ensuring the AC system is cooling as designed, is essential for driver comfort and safety, Hough said. Demands on air conditioners increase in summer months, and the units should be checked regularly. Technicians must ensure the engine fan/clutch is activated and properly engages when the A/C system is turned on. In addition, the A/C system typically interfaces with the vehicles’ electronic systems and controllers, which means that abnormal operation conditions within the A/C refrigerant subsystem could trigger fault codes that must be investigated, repaired and cleared before the vehicle is placed back into service. This is also a good time to service or replace the cabin filter.

    Truck Tire Maintenance: Proper summer tire pressures improve safety as well as tire life and fuel economy, and tires need special care when temperatures increase. “Maintaining correct tire pressure during the summer months will help reduce over-the-road-tire failures,” Hough said.

    Tires tend to run hotter and wear faster in warm weather, and the tire tread portion becomes softer in the summer months. That makes tires more susceptible to punctures from road debris.

    To help mitigate the risks tires face, tire inflation pressure needs to be checked with an accurate tire pressure gauge. Because tire pressure increases as temperatures rise, there is a risk of over-inflated tires in the summer. When air pressures are inaccurate, tires flex in ways they weren’t designed to, changing the shape of the tire’s footprint. That not only decreases fuel economy but also creates irregular wear patterns and reduced tread life. Also, underinflated tires build up excessive heat, potentially causing premature failure.

    Cooling and Electrical System Maintenance: During the summer, it’s critical to ensure a truck’s engine radiator, EGR coolers and transmission cooler operate properly to maintain the correct engine and transmission temperatures. Inadequate or improper service of cooling and electrical systems can lead to heat-related failures during hot weather. Penske checks cooling systems on every preventive maintenance (PM) inspection.

    Electronic component failures can be caused by damaged or missing heat guards, heat shields or heat deflectors, especially within those components found near the exhaust system after-treatment devices. Excessive heat can also melt or make the plastic electrical connectors brittle, leading to electrical malfunctions caused by poor connections at the electronic control units, sensors and solenoids that control various vehicle systems.

    APU Maintenance: Auxiliary power units (APUs) also require special attention during the summer. Diesel-powered APUs are like mini engines with belts, lines and AC compressors that should be checked. An electric, battery-powered APU is integrated with the cab air conditioning and should also be checked to ensure it functions properly.

    Refrigeration Unit Maintenance: Warm temperatures mean the reefer units on refrigerated trailers face higher demand. Carriers should inspect them regularly to ensure they run correctly as outdoor temperatures increase.

    Battery Maintenance: Battery maintenance is not seasonal; a solid, year-round battery maintenance program will pay dividends.