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.
And that’s not to mention the impending disaster if NAFTA is modified in some substantial way. I’ll leave that one alone here to focus on trucks and technologies.
The President’s campaign promise of eliminating two regulations for every new one enacted means that question marks abound. Expert Washington observers suggest that’s much easier said than done, however, so trucking is left to wait and see.
One proposal that seems bound to die by all accounts is the effort to mandate speed limiters on both new and existing trucks. It was years away from being enacted anyway, and no specific speed limit had been proposed. DOT proposed discussing a maximum speed at 60, 65, and 68 mph, but was prepared to consider other speeds based on public input. Critics, as they did when Ontario and Quebec went down this road, cite the near-total dearth of research backing up the idea. I’ll bet that this one is toast.
THE ELECTRONIC LOGGING DEVICES mandate, on the other hand, is likely to move ahead unchanged. The ELD rule was mandated under a Republican House majority in 2012, and it was a non-partisan matter so we can assume it will go forward.
But who knows?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a final rule in December 2015 mandating the use of ELDs for all trucks model-year 2000 or newer engaged in interstate commerce. Carriers and drivers must transition to ELDs by Dec. 17 of this year. However, carriers and drivers using automatic onboard recording devices prior to Dec. 18, 2017, may continue using them through Dec. 16, 2019. Suppliers of ELDs must conform to technical specs, certify them, and register them with FMCSA.
ONE KEY RULEMAKING still in the pipeline is the complex set of greenhouse gas Phase 2 fuel-economy rules, and it seems they could be delayed or even abandoned outright. I’m not betting either way.
The Phase 2 greenhouse-gas/fuel-efficiency rule sets CO2 limits for model-year 2021 to 2027 trucks and tractors and model-year 2018 to 2027 trailers as entire vehicles. The rule also sets separate engine fuel-efficiency standards for each category of commercial vehicle and, for the first time, it also regulates trailers.
The rule requires truck and engine makers to reduce CO2 emissions from 2017 through 2027 and to attain serious fuel-efficiency improvements for vocational and heavy-duty vehicles. It became effective date of December 27, 2016
Because the rule was initiated by federal agencies, Congress could now opt to either roll it back or slow down its implementation. So far truck and engine makers aren’t commenting but the American Trucking Associations says if there’s to be a rule, it must be a national mandate vs. one driven by California.
California has its own greenhouse-gas regulations for trucks, which not only address new but legacy equipment as well.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE FEDERAL RULE is abandoned? California would probably go ahead and enforce its own regulations, and other states would likely follow California’s lead, some experts says.
GHG Phase 2 brings some harmony to the various emissions standards proposed by the feds and California, which would mean a much clearer compliance regime for truck and engine makers and, ultimately, for fleets. A California-only rule would likely be more stringent than the GHG Phase 2 standards, and could have a much different timeframe.
California wants to cut more NOx emissions from diesel exhaust, something truck and engine makers say will be difficult to do while improving fuel economy. The state seems to be digging in for a fight over its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
But consider this: given the size of the state economy, a California-only regulation could well become a de facto national standard. One expert observer thinks engine makers aren’t likely to develop two types of engines, one for California and the other for the rest of the country.
Scott Pruitt, the President’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, questioned agency regulations governing exhaust emissions during a contentious Jan. 18 hearing before senators who will vote on his appointment. Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, said he disagrees with a waiver giving California the power to impose stricter standards than other states, and couldn’t commit to keeping the decades-old waiver in place, reported the Los Angeles Times.
It’s entirely unclear how Canada will manage its way through this maelstrom.
I’M ENCOURAGED TO SEE ADVANCED safety technologies gradually making their way into the mainstream, and two recent examples seem bound to make a difference.
New for 2017-model-year Fuso trucks is an optional collision-avoidance system from Mobileye, a first for medium-duty trucks.
And a couple of weeks back, Penske Truck Rental announced that it too is making collision avoidance systems — along with air disc brakes — its standard spec on commercial tractors within its rental fleet
For an unspecified limited time, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America (MFTA) will install the Mobileye system free of charge on all of its 2017 FE and FG Series trucks. Normally, this would be a US$1000 option.
The truck-maker says the Mobileye system has proven itself in testing to reduce the number of incidents that trigger warnings for tailgating, lane departure, urban collision, and rural or highway collision by an average of 50%.
THE MFTA STUDY ALSO SHOWED that where drivers received specific training in system safety detection and operation, reductions were significantly higher.
The combination of cabover design, which already offers excellent forward vision, with the addition of the Mobileye system enhances safe operation, especially in the urban areas where most Fuso trucks are found.
The Mobileye system’s forward-looking sensors act as a never-distracted and never-fatigued ‘third eye’ and can detect and warn of an imminent rear-end collision at any vehicle speed, with up to 2.7 seconds of advance notice. The system identifies pedestrians and cyclists during daylight hours.
The headway monitor assists the driver in maintaining a safe following distance from the vehicle in front, displaying the amount of time, in seconds, to that vehicle when the gap drops below 2.5 seconds. A green vehicle icon signifies safe headway, while a red icon signifies unsafe and the system provides an alert if the time becomes dangerously short. The lane-departure warning alerts the driver when the truck departs from the driving lane without turn signals, by displaying a right- or left-lane icon as appropriate. The system also detects and classifies various speed limit signs and provides a visual alert when the vehicle’s speed exceeds the posted speed limit by 10 mph. If conditions such as bad weather, direct sunlight, or a dirty windshield might compromise the sensors’ detection range, the system dims the display to alert the driver.
OVER AT PENSKE, THE COMPANY has ordered more than 2000 tractors from Freightliner, Volvo, and Navistar with the new spec. The 2018-model-year units are set to begin going into service and will be available for rental starting this month. More will arrive as the fleet is replenished.
“We continue to introduce and test the various safety platforms available within our truck rental fleet from a variety of manufacturers,” says Paul Rosa, Penske’s senior vice president of procurement and fleet planning. “By using the commercially available safety platforms in our rental fleet, we are best able to help guide our full-service truck leasing customers when evaluating these systems with road-tested performance in real-world conditions.”
Wish I could get my hands on some of that evaluation info.
AND MORE ON HEADLIGHTS… comments continue to come in regarding my recent writing about the quality of forward lighting. A continuing theme concerns the uncomfortable and sometimes unsafe brightness of LED headlamps, or more particularly the poor aiming of such lights. Even more complaints are about the uncivilized behavior of some drivers who refuse to dip their high beams in the face of oncoming traffic. Nothing new there, but the complaints seem innumerable.
A new angle comes via my long chat with a veteran northern Alberta driver and small-fleet owner who agrees that excessively bright lights are a major problem if poorly aimed and left on high beam. But for her the issue becomes a major safety challenge on roads like the ones she travels that are not marked with center or edge-of-the-pavement stripes. Finding her lane in such situations is near impossible, she says, and poor weather exacerbates the danger in a big way.
The matter of lousy lane markings arose in another lighting conversation, and in that case the charge was the use of cheap marker paint that wears out in a matter of months. Provinces and local governments are not helping us.
So, to review, when it comes to the ability of a driver to see far enough ahead to avoid an obstruction and maybe a catastrophic accident we have five key factors: the quality and brightness of the lamp itself; the cleanliness of the windshield and headlight lenses; the aiming of those lamps; the sometimes lousy behavior of some drivers who don’t know what low beams are; and the nature of the roads we use.
As if you couldn’t tell, I’m now on a mission with this lighting matter. Next stop is Transport Canada and a look at the equipment regulations to see what can and needs to be changed. As always, I invite your comment and anything you can add to move the ‘mission’ forward. Thanks in advance.
THIS NEWSLETTER IS PUBLISHED every two weeks. For the most part 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, and maybe about issues that warrant attention in my occasionally humble opinion.
I should remind you that, with the odd exception, I don’t endorse any of the products I write about in this e-newsletter, nor do I have the resources to test them except on rare occasions. What you’re getting is reasonably well educated opinion based on more than 37 years in trucking.
If you have comments of whatever sort about The Lockwood Report, or maybe you’ve tried a gizmo I should know about, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org