Mostly tidbits this time out, my friends, as there’s been no earth-shattering development along product lines in
the last couple of weeks. Well, let me qualify that a little. Some of these tidbits are actually pretty significant, like the separate reports from Reuters and Global Insight that fanned rumors about a European buyout of Chicago’s Navistar International.
It seems the Italian truck-maker Iveco, owned by Fiat, is looking to partner with a North American OEM. According to Reuters, Iveco CEO Paolo Monferino says he’s considering a North American alliance for 2008.
Given that all other OEMs on this side of the pond, those that aren’t already owned by European concerns anyway, have strong links there, the logical conclusion is that Navistar International is the target.
Adding further logic to the mix was a report by the financial analysis outfit Global Insight, which speculated that German truck-maker MAN would enter the fray. It already has a joint engine-development deal with Navistar,
and it’s apparently willing to team up with Iveco to buy Navistar.
Who knows where this will end up, but this deal wouldn’t surprise me at all.
STAYING WITH EUROPE for a moment, there’s some evidence that the rapid growth of biodiesel use over there is already being felt in the price of … well, not food but drink. Told you so.
A report out of Germany by Deutsche Welle late in May said the price of beer is going up in that country because the barley used to make malt is increasingly being replaced by heavily subsidized and thus very attractive crops like rapeseed used for biofuels. Germans, by the way, drink a lot of brewski — 111.6 liters per head every year, on average — so this is no small deal.
The price of barley has doubled in the space of a year from 200 to 400 euros per ton on the German market, says Deutsche Welle. German farmland devoted to barley crops is said to be receding by 5% a year. Already, of the 30 million acres farmed in Germany, more than 15% are being used for biofuel crops. And it has beer-makers calling for a cut in the subsidies granted to biofuel crops.
Actually, it’s not just beer as the price of bread is also being affected. It’s likely to rise by 10% says the German
Bakers Federation, all because of reduced grain production. Again, the culprit is said to be farmers being
lured to subsidized biofuel crops.
It’s an issue elsewhere in Europe, and it seems bound to become the same in North America before too long.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) in the U.K. is concerned that food crops will be in short supply and force hikes in the price of food and drink.
“It is essential that the EU [European Union] and national policies formulated to increase renewable energy are
managed to avoid distorting the availability of agricultural raw materials for food and animal feed,” says the FDF.
COMING HOME BUT STICKING WITH FUEL, there were rumors recently that Cummins engines didn’t like being fed diesel fuel originating in the tar sands of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Unfounded rumors, according to B.C. Cummins distributor Guff Meunch.
“While we can’t comment on the position of other diesel manufacturers,” he said, “Cummins has no issues with
fuel from the Canadian oil sands and we are not at all concerned. Our diesel engines require fuel that meets
the appropriate ASTM fuel standard, and we don’t care what the molecular structure of the fuel is as long as it meets that established standard.
“From what we have seen, fuel from the oil sands meets these standards and we have not seen any issues or
problems with our fuel systems in Alberta or other regions that use fuel from the oil sands.”
So there you have it.
AND A NOTE ABOUT DECAL REMOVAL before I go. What? You’ll see amongst the featured new products in this newsletter an item that breaks the pattern a little. It’s a service, not a piece of hardware or software, but I found it unique and interesting.
I don’t know Jeff Halberstadt from Adam, but he got in touch with us a couple of weeks back to introduce the
business he’s about to launch. A mobile enterprise — Magic Touch Decal Removal — that will have him rolling
around the Toronto area stripping old graphics off trailers and truck bodies with an almost-patented tool of his own design. I’d never heard of something like this, and Jeff’s own market research confirmed that it’s unique,
but it sounded pretty viable to me. So I gave him a leg up. I just hope it works as well as he says it does!
WHICH REMINDS ME to insert a weasel clause in here as a reminder. There’s no lab behind me, no test track, no team of engineers dedicated to proving or disproving the claims made by the manufacturers and suppliers I write about here.
So I do not endorse anything at all. Again, I endorse nothing. Zip.
Sometimes I’ll have had the chance to try a new truck or some lesser gizmo and I’ll offer my impressions, but
they’re only that. After almost 30 years of doing this, they’re somewhat educated impressions, I suppose, but
they’re not based on science of any sort. Items that appear in this e-newsletter have piqued my interest,
obviously, and experience leads me to think that they’ll interest you too. But that’s all it is, that’s all I’m doing. Just telling you that product ‘X’ is on the market.
And with that I’ll wish the North American truck operators amongst you good luck with the Commercial Vehicle
Safety Alliance’s Annual Roadcheck event that starts today. Federal, provincial, state, and local inspectors are conducting truck inspections around the clock for the next 72 hours. And as always they’ll put a bunch of trucks
out of service unnecessarily because the brakes on three of 18 wheels were a sixteenth of an inch off the adjustment mark. It’s a field day for the truck-hating mainstream press. But don’t get me started.
This newsletter is published every two weeks. It’s a heads-up notice about what’s going on with trucking
technology as well as what you can see at www.todaystrucking.com where you’ll find in-detail coverage of nearly everything that’s new. Plus interesting products that may not have had the ‘air play’ they deserved within the last few months. Subscribe today!
And while you’re there at www.todaystrucking.com, check out the Decision Centers. They’re essentially libraries on specific subjects like Engines or Braking Systems. We’ve gathered all manner of information from maintenance manuals to research reports – and we’re always finding more – to help you make decisions about spec’ing, operating, and maintaining trucks and truck systems.
If you have comments of whatever sort about Product Watch, or maybe a gizmo I should know about, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.