Brian Straight

Managing Editor

Brian joined Fleet Owner in May 2008 after spending nearly 14 years as sports editor and then managing editor of several daily newspapers.  He and his staff  won more than two dozen major writing and editing awards. Responsible for editing, editorial production functions and deadlines.

Articles by Brian Straight
CEO charged about Smith Electric's future

In a recent Dept. of Energy filing, Smith Electric Vehicles said that is has stopped shipping trucks and step vans with its Generation II system to customers “due to the company’s tight cash flow situation.” The company confirmed that it has halted production at its Kansas City facility as part of a “planned and temporary shutdown” with hopes that production will resume in 2-3 months time.

Smith Electric Vehicles through the years

A recent regulatory filing and report in a local newspaper said that Smith Electric Vehicles had stopped producing its all-electric medium-duty trucks late in 2013. Co-founder and CEO Bryan Hansel said that is true, but with the company expected to announce a new round of financing in the coming weeks, Hansel said he has "never felt better about our future than I do now."

Fuel invoice errors could be draining fleet profits

When Pilot Flying J corporate headquarters were raided by FBI and IRS officers in April 2013, it brought immediate and widespread attention to an issue that trucking fleets deal with on a daily basis: fuel prices.

Alternative fuels: Beyond natural gas

To suggest that natural gas is now the only choice for fleets looking to get into the alternative fuel arena is to shortchange the other options. There are many, from long-standing choices like propane autogas and biodiesel to the soon-to-be available dimethyl ether (DME) and maybe even hydrogen.  And fleets are certainly interested. To read more about the options available today, click here.
 

Alt fuels: Beyond natural gas 

Since the dawn of time, it seems, diesel fuel has ruled the landscape for powering commercial vehicles.  Sure, every few years a new “fuel of the future” pops up and becomes the darling of the alternative fuel world.  Right now, that fuel is natural gas, either in compressed or liquefied form.  The benefits of natural gas are many: abundant supply, a domestic fuel, low emissions, almost equivalent power and torque to diesel engines, and low price compared to diesel.  Because of this, almost no one believes natural gas will disappear as a fuel; rather, the exp

Green Fleet of the Month: Natural fit 

Looking to find a way to more closely align its trucking fleet with its image as a recycler, Valley Proteins turned to PacLease for its solution.  Working through its local PacLease franchise, MHC Truck Leasing in Charlotte, NC, Valley Proteins put 10 compressed natural gas tractors into its fleet in Gastonia, NC.

“When we decided that we wanted to be an early adopter of natural gas trucks and not sit on the sidelines, we looked at all our options, and PacLease was clearly the leasing company to work with,” says Richard Evans, fleet manager.

Filling seats the social way 

By now you have probably seen—or at least heard about— the “Epic Split” video produced by Volvo Trucks in Europe.  The viral video, which had garnered more than 65 million views on YouTube by the end of 2013 despite only being released on Nov. 14, shows actor Jean-Claude Van Damme demonstrating the precision of Volvo’s dynamic steering on its FM truck models by doing a split between two moving trucks.

Smart shipping 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership has had a profound effect on trucking since its debut in 2004.  The program estimates that partners in the effort have eliminated 28 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, resulting in a savings of 65 million barrels of oil and $8.1 billion in fuel costs.  If not an outright member, many trucking operations have at least adopted some fuel-saving initiatives verified by the program.

Obama pushes infrastructure investment, aims to slash red tape

Saying that he will use executive actions when appropriate, President Barack Obama promised to slash the red tape holding back infrastructure projects in this country during his fifth State of the Union address last night. He also reiterated his administration’s promise to implement further fuel efficiency targets for heavy-duty trucks beyond the current regulations that begin phasing in this year.

Evolution-ary efforts 

Seventy-five years ago, Herbert Wolding was traveling around central Wisconsin making milk deliveries with his one-man trucking operation.  Today, at 101 years of age, while no longer traveling the roads of Wisconsin, Wolding still drives to the office each day to keep tabs on the company that he founded, H.O. Wolding.

Right fit 

Backed by its owner’s preferences, and lured by the low cost and green benefits of the fuel, Dillon Transport has made the leap into the world of natural gas tractors. The Burr Ridge, IL-based liquid and dry bulk carrier has taken delivery of 25 Kenworth T800s with the Cummins Westport ISX12 G natural gas engine, bringing its fleet of natural gas tractors to around 60.

Dillon has another 100 units on order, which would bring its total natural gas units to about 35% of its 450 or so trucks by the middle of 2014.

General Business: Health & taxes 

 Every business faces a myriad of challenges on its way to profitability. There are infrastructure concerns, hardware and software issues, employee management, and, of course, the  task of delivering products and services.  But regardless of the challenges faced, they are all influenced by regulations.

The rules are changing 

To say rules and regulations have an over-reaching effect on trucking operations is like saying the sky is blue.  No one will dispute it.  Yet, outside of the industry, few understand just how much regulation there is in trucking these days, and how much is still on the loading dock waiting for delivery.

Service edge 

COMPANY: The Martin-Brower Co. LLC,
Rosemont, IL

OPERATION: Global supply-chain management and distribution provider for quick-serve restaurant operations

Problem: When you service restaurants, there is a sense of urgency when making deliveries.  Too soon, and the product may not sell before it goes bad, literally dumping dollars into the dumpster.  Too late, and restaurants lose sales as hungry consumers look for a location that has the food they want.

The propane effect 

Among the considerations fleets must review before switching to an alternative fuel are vehicle miles driven in a day, total cost of ownership, infrastructure improvements, and fuel price.  For some fleets, answering that quartet of questions opens a number of possibilities.  For Lake Michigan Mailers, though, the answers led to a single conclusion.

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