Editor at Large
Rolf Lockwood was the founding editor of Today’s Trucking in 1987, and currently serves as the magazine’s editor at large – as well as Newcom’s vice president of editorial. Over his career, Lockwood has established himself as one of the deans of the trucking industry trade press. His honors include the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Truck Writers of North America, and the 2003 Harvey Southam Lifetime Editorial Achievement Award from the Canadian Business Press. He is also a contributing editor to Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.
COLUMBUS, IN – In a dramatic demonstration of technological agility, Cummins finished off a press conference here yesterday by unveiling its all-electric, zero-emissions class-7 tractor. Obviously, it’s a first for the 98-year-old diesel manufacturer that wants to become known as a powertrain provider, not an engine builder. It was a surprise to many, even to those of us who knew electric power was in the cards at Cummins, as well as being a small slap in the face to Tesla, which has been threatening to introduce an electric tractor next month.
Called the ‘AEOS’ electric commercial vehicle demonstrator, and built by Roush on what seems to be an International ProStar base, it’s a working 4×2 regional hauler, not just a concept shell. Cummins sees its role in vocational applications like urban delivery, port drayage, and terminal container handling.
It’s claimed to achieve over 30 miles per gallon in diesel-equivalent terms while accelerating 25-35% faster than the same tractor powered by an 11- or 12-liter diesel (depending on rear-axle ratios, of course).
A few months ago I wrote a couple of times about headlights, complaining that the standard lamps offered in most vehicles — from cars to heavy trucks — are insufficient. Meaning, it’s too easy to over-drive your lights at what are pretty ordinary speeds nowadays. The light just isn’t thrown far enough down the road, reducing the ability of a driver to see far enough ahead to avoid an obstruction and maybe a catastrophic accident.
Volvo has been mighty busy of late. Back in late April it chose our very own Expocam truck show in Montreal to unveil its new and long overdue VNR regional tractor. Promoted as the “shape of trucks to come,” it was joined this week by another much updated truck, the long-haul VNL, replete with all manner of safety technology as standard equipment.
So I had some fun last week in Arizona with a few of Western Star’s latest trucks and the continuation of the company’s anniversary celebrations. They refer to it as ‘Celebrating 50 Years of Legendary Awesomeness’. No hyperbole there.
Bucket-list item ticked: I finally got to India. In fact I’ve just returned from spending two weeks in that astonishing country, where I couldn’t keep up with anything that was going on here in the world of trucking, so this edition of my report will borrow heavily from work my colleagues have been doing in the last while.
I’m writing this issue of the newsletter in absentia, so to speak, as it will be published while I’m away from computers and unable to stay in touch. To be more precise, I’m a week early in posting this so forgive me if giant events occur between now and the 22nd and they’re not covered here. Then again, this report isn’t intended as a news vehicle.
Well, we’re a couple of tumultuous weeks into the new Trump administration south of the 49th, and it would seem chaos prevails. At least for the moment. With the new President having promised, implicitly and otherwise, something of a war on regulatory controls, some issues with an impact on trucking are up in the air.
I’ve long held that North American headlight standards are inherently dangerous because they don’t allow brightness levels to match the speeds we travel. It’s just too easy to over-drive your lights, meaning you don’t see obstructions like stalled cars or animals or — may all the gods forbid — pedestrians in the way until you’re past the point of being able to stop in time. Even back in the 1950s when cars and certainly trucks were much slower, this held true. In fact it was worse.
Navistar unveiled its Catalist SuperTruck on September 28, reporting a 104% improvement in freight efficiency compared to the DOE’s control vehicle, managing a commendable 13 mpg. The truck also demonstrated an impressive 50.5% brake thermal efficiency, and Navistar says it’s on the path towards 55% BTE.
There’s renewed interest in mandating sideguards for trucks, and just as much disagreement as ever over their efficacy. The U.S. Department of Transportation says that half of all cyclists killed by a truck first impact the blind side of the vehicle, as collisions typically occur when the truck does a right-hand turn at an intersection. The issue goes much deeper than that, of course, and involves more than just heavy trucks. Toronto Police statistics show that 541 cyclists have been hit by cars since June 2016. That’s nearly 10 collisions per day.
Where are we headed? Well, with enormous potential waiting to burst, we’re in the midst of the second industrial revolution. It’s all about the Internet of Things, meaning a network of physical things embedded with electronics and sensors and internet connectivity — and crucially, the ability to exchange data. Put a savvy truck in the middle of that network and start thinking about what it could link up with.
As I write this in a hotel room in Hannover, Germany — where 400 other trucking journalists are also lodged — I’m anticipating the opening of the 2016 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show tomorrow morning. Ultimately there will be some 2500 motor noters like me descending on the Hannover exhibition grounds and then rushing about this way and that like pen-wielding ants, all of them looking for a story that nobody else has discovered.