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January 4, 2012 Vol. 8, No. 1

First off, let me wish you all a productive and prosperous new year. A happy one too, of course. Wish I could tell you what sort of year it's going to be, but Santa failed yet again to deliver a crystal ball to the tree in our front room.

There are those who claim the world will end in 2012, as I'm sure you've heard. It's unlikely to happen, and I'd certainly rather it didn't. Too much left to write. Too much innovation yet to come.

There's actually one striking piece of innovation that I might have written about in my last newsletter but didn't. In that one I looked at 10 products that I'd first seen in 2011, things that I thought could make a difference because they did something especially well. Obviously it was tough to get down to just 10 of them, and frankly there could have been 100 worthy choices.

One reader wrote to ask why I didn't include a particularly striking trailer out of Quebec. While he had a point, I also had a ready explanation: I'd first seen it in 2010 at the Truck World show in Toronto. But I suppose that's a bit of a technicality because it wasn't on the market until last year, formally launched at last fall's American Trucking Associations conference in Grapevine, Texas. So I'm renaming my 'Top 10 Picks' the 'Top 11 of 2011'. And here's the extra one, a deserving nominee...

ALUTREC'S 'CAPACITY' FLATBED really is a pretty remarkable piece of work, the world's first aluminum 'monocoque' trailer. That means it's all of a piece -- no parallel beams, no crossmembers, no flooring planks. It doesn't so much have a frame as a 'hull'. And rather than hanging boxes and racks off the trailer sides, the company incorporated a slide-out drawer compartment at the rear for the straps and wheel chocks and stuff that such boxes usually carry.

Five years in development, it's said to be 1500 lb lighter then the company's standard trailer and, at just 6950 lb, Alutrec says it's 2500 lb less than the average aluminum trailer in its category. An international patent is pending.

With its aerodynamic design, thanks to an uncluttered underbelly, and its low weight, Alutrec says the trailer can save quite a bit of fuel. It says SAE-regimen tests performed by F.P. Innovations on its Quebec test track confirmed fuel savings of between 6 and 9%.

The Capacity may be light, but the company says its structural resistance is increased by 900%. The trailer's concentrated load rating has remained a comfortable 60,000 lb in 4 ft.

Another key feature is the lower deck -- by 7.5 in. -- resulting in increased payload height. An additional benefit there is a lower centre of gravity and thus a reduced rollover risk.

On the service front, all air and electrical wiring is routed and secured inside the hull, which should mean maintenance savings. Plus, Alutrec says the Capacity has an astonishing 1000 fewer parts than a traditional trailer.

This is no local-welding-shop design. Alutrec has been around for the better part of two decades and its partners in the development of the Capacity trailer are Alcoa Canada, Laval University, the University of Québec at Chicoutimi, the Centre de Technologies de L’aluminium, and the Centre Québécois de Recherche et de Dévelopement de L’Aluminium.

I'll try to find out how the Capacity is doing in real day-to-day service and will report some time in the next few weeks.

A ROLL-STABILITY MANDATE is something else I expect to be reporting on before too long. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal to require stability control systems on tractors moved a step closer when it was sent over to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final vetting in mid-December. First, we'll just see a technology standard. As we reported last month, that will likely appear before the end of February.

By all accounts, we're just talking about outfitting new tractors for the time being, though the National Transportation Safety Board proclaimed last year that it also wanted to see stability control on all tank trailers over 10,000 lb GVW -- all of them, both old and new. That's obviously a taller order, and as far as I know the idea hasn't made much progress.

The NTSB also recommended a requirement for stability control systems on all commercial vehicles over 10,000 lb.

All of this has been discussed endlessly in manufacturing and engineering circles as well as in the halls of government power. One of the key discussion points and maybe the biggest challenge has been to determine how testing will be done. NHTSA wanted a performance-based standard that would require a vehicle to pass appropriate testing to meet the requirement, I'm told. But manufacturers have complained that such a test would be both expensive and ineffective, preferring simpler tests and an equipment standard for the yaw side of the equation, not unlike the current ABS rule.

It's not yet clear who's winning the argument. Nor is it clear how NHTSA will handle the distinction between the two types of stability systems on the market, roll stability control (RSC) and the somewhat more effective -- and expensive -- electronic stability control (ESC).

One thing's very plain, however, namely that some sort of stability control will be on the spec sheet of your new trucks in the near future. And that includes Canada. The feds in Ottawa will produce their own rules, which might be slightly different than those in the U.S., but they'll ensure harmonization.

I hate having government in my face but here's a rule I look forward to seeing.

Every time I express that opinion I hear from drivers bitching and moaning about the 'nanny' state and how intrusive such a rule would be. Proper training and driving skill is all that's needed to prevent rollovers, they say. Well, I say they're wrong. It's woefully easy to concoct a situation in which no human, no matter how skilled, could keep a tractor-trailer upright while an RSC or more likely an ESC system could pull it off. I've seen and done it myself on test tracks.

This isn't senseless intervention like speed limiters or -- Lord save us -- the NTSB's latest call for on-board video recorders. This is common sense like seatbelts make common sense. It's just dead simple.

For what it's worth, NHTSA claims that these systems would cost the trucking industry up to $107 million a year, which ain't small change. It claims, on the other hand, that more than $370 million would be saved by preventing accident damage and delays. It'll be a cold day in the Sahara when I believe government cost/benefit estimates but I have no doubt that savings would be realized.

IT'S ALMOST SHOW SEASON so let me end this with some reminders for your date book.

First we have Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week 2012 at The Mirage in Las Vegas from January 23 to the 26th, which starts with the Heavy Duty Manufacturer Association's Heavy Duty Dialogue on the 23rd. Call 708-226-1300 or visit

Then it's TMC, the Technology & Maintenance Council’s 2012 annual meeting and exhibition, February 20-23, at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida. Check out or call 703-838-1763.

From March 5th through the 10th it's The Work Truck Show 2012 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, held in conjunction with the National Truck Equipment Association annual convention. The gathering includes the Green Truck Summit on March 5 and 6. Call 1-800/441-6832 or go to

A couple of weeks later, March 22-24, it'll be time for the Mid-America Trucking Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. Your car, like mine, can probably find it without human or electronic intervention. Call 502-899-3892 or 1-800-626-2370 or go to

And next it's time for a trip north to Toronto, Ontario for our own Truck World 2012 show on April 19th through the 21st at the International Centre. Call 1-877-682-7469 or go to

For those of you who plan way ahead, note that this is a Hannover year. The 64th IAA Commercial Vehicles show will be held from September 20 to 27, 2012 in Hannover, Germany. See

THIS NEWSLETTER IS PUBLISHED every two weeks. It's a heads-up notice about what's going on with trucking technology. I also write here about interesting products that may not have had the 'air play' they deserved within the last few months.

I should remind you that I don’t endorse any of the products I write about in this e-newsletter, nor do I have the resources to test them. What you’re getting is reasonably well educated opinion based on more than three decades in trucking.

If you have comments of whatever sort about Product Watch, or maybe you've tried a gizmo I should know about, please contact me at


(December 21, 2011) -- Peterson’s 2012 master catalogue is the biggest yet


(December 21, 2011) -- New route optimization paradigm with release of Telogis Route 3.0


(December 21, 2011) -- Kenworth T800 adds Bendix Wingman with ACB as factory option


(December 07, 2011) -- A 4-year warranty on Trojan's AGM-31 TransPower ST1000


(December 07, 2011) -- Wheel Monitor's SPIF-compliant electronic control system


In This Issue

A look at Ontario's mandatory out-of-service quotas (Yup. They exist.), by Rolf Lockwood. Plus, a special focus on drivers, from retention to training — including the best fleets to drive for. And Jim Park explains how to choose the engine displacement that's best for you. That and much more in the April issue of Today's Trucking.


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