Jim Mele


Nationally recognized journalist, author and editor, Jim Mele joined Fleet Owner in 1986 with over a dozen years’ experience covering transportation as a newspaper reporter and magazine staff writer. Fleet Owner Magazine has won over 45 national editorial awards since his appointment as editor-in-chief in 1999.

The hangover 

If you’re on the for-hire side of trucking or have to compete with it, it’s no secret that freight rates have been a bit soft and volumes off for the past few months.  And now it looks like that softness will extend through the end of the year and possibly into the first month or two of the new one. While that’s not great news, the sky isn’t falling.  So why, then, are we seeing so many dark reports from the analysts and others in the industry, some even raising the dreaded recession word in their forecasts?

Detroit Powertrain plant starts AMT production

REDFORD, MI.  Representing a $100-million investment in the Detroit Powertrain plant here, Daimler Trucks kicked off full production of its DT12 automated mechanical transmission with a celebration that included the governor of Michigan Rick Snyder, former owner of the company Roger Penske and the entire plant workforce as well as Daimler Trucks and Buses head Werner Bernhard and Daimler Trucks North America president and CEO Martin Daum.

Daimler bringing medium-duty engines to U.S.

REDFORD, MI.  Building on its powertrain integration strategy, Daimler Trucks NA announced today that it will begin manufacturing medium-duty diesel engines at its Detroit Powertrain plant here.  The 5-liter DD5 and 8-liter DD8 are Daimler’s new generation medium-duty diesels introduced in Europe three years ago.

A good mandate 

Mention “government mandate” to fleet executives and you can almost see the dollar signs popping up in their eyes.  Sometimes, though, you need to look beyond the immediate cost to see the ultimate benefit to both individual fleets and the industry as a whole.  A case in point is recent activity on forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems.

DTNA forecasts strong truck sales next year

PHILADELPHIA. Look for 2016 truck sales to fall somewhere between the exceptionally strong numbers of 2015 and those seen in 2014, according to Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. 

With production plans essentially in place through the end of the year, Class 6 through 8 sales in North America should top 435,000 trucks, he said during a press conference at the American Trucking Assns. Annual conference. That would be 13.4% above 2014 sales, which totaled 384,000.

Freight forecast to climb by end of year

PHILADELPHIA.  Freight volumes should start to climb again by the end of the year, according to Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Assns. 

Kenworth to build 40-in. sleeper models

PHILADELPHIA.  A 40-in. sleeper model for vocational and regional fleets needing an occasional-use bunk that meets legal driver rest requirements will be added to the Kenworth T880 lineup in March, 2016.  Expected applications include oil field service, towing and bulk hauling opertions.

Who controls capacity? 

Last month, Con-way Inc., the large LTL and truckload carrier, was purchased for $3 billion. Although the price tag is rather remarkable, consolidation in trucking has been fairly run of the mill for some time.

It started with deregulation way back in 1980, and gathered steam right up to that brick wall we now call the Great Recession. The motivation was fairly simple: Combining fleets brought economies of scale in a low margin business. Whether it was fuel contracts or equipment orders, being a bigger player than the competition brought significant advantages.

How to drive Freightliner’s self-driving truck

DTNA engineer Antonio Edgar shows how a driver can become certified to operate the Freightliner Inspiration autonomous truck on the open highway in Nevada.

DTNA sees strong truck sales extending through 2016

LAS VEGAS. With 2015 Class 8 truck sales in North American running a strong 10% above last year, 2016 should see similar volumes, according to Richard Howard, Sr. VP of sales and marketing for Daimler Trucks North America.

Barring unforeseen global economic disruptions, “directionally we expect sales to move sideways,” he said during an event showcasing the company’s autonomous demonstration truck. The company forecasts Class 8 totals will reach 313,000 trucks this year.

What do fleets want? 

It’s no longer a question of whether we’ll have autonomous or self-driving cars and trucks. Of course we’re not there yet, not by a long shot. But while the engineers working on autonomous vehicles might not agree, public discussion seems to have settled the question of technical feasibility. The general consensus at this point is that building a practical autonomous vehicle is a bit like laying pipe—we know where it has to go, now we just have do the work and dig the ditch.

The future of fuel economy: Match game 

Truck manufacturers generally followed the same path when it came to meeting previous emissions standards, though those paths differed in detail. In the end, all have used diesel particulate filters and then selective catalytic reduction to satisfy federal requirements to drastically lower pollutants coming out of their tailpipes. There is, however, no single “silver bullet” that will solve the next government emissions focus, a multiyear program to reduce heavy-truck emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG).

Kenworth mid-roof sleeper heads to production
A new model for its popular heavy-duty aerodynamic tractors and a new diesel are on the way from Kenworth Truck Co. as the company extends a string of rapid product releases over the last few months that include new equipment technologies such as predictive cruise control and an ultracapacitor starting module.
Higher Class 8 sales in 2016 “unrealistic”

RENTON, WA. Asked to forecast truck sales for 2016, Kenworth Truck general manager and Paccar vice president Preston Feight pointed out that current high Class 8 numbers in the U.S. and Canada would be hard to exceed. Citing recent Paccar estimates of 2015 industry sales totals at 270,000 to 290,000 units, Feight said: “With sales at such high levels, I don’t know where we can go from here.”

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