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.

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.”

Evel Knievel's Big Red Mack a hit at Hollywood premiere

Vying for competition with stars on the red carpet, a very red tractor and trailer drew the crowds at a Hollywood premiere for “Being Evel,” a new documentary on legendary daredevil Evel Knievel. Big Red, a custom 1975 Mack FS cabover with an extra-long sleeper and matching trailer, was built in 1975 by one of his major sponsors – Mack Trucks – to haul Knievel, his motorcycles and ramps around the country in his typically flamboyant style.

Adding it all up 

I’m a words guy. Always have been. I tend to pull up the calculator app when even simple math goes beyond double digits. But as the Nobel laureate John Nash said, “You don’t have to be a mathematician to have a feel for numbers.”

Dealer service faces changing landscape

NAPA, CA.  The relationship truck dealers have with their customers, their truck manufacturer and even with one another are in the midst of a radical restructuring intended to vastly improve service and total cost of ownership for fleets and other users, according to a panel of dealers speaking at a Daimler Trucks North America press event.

Already onboard 

Company: Pason Systems Corp., Calgary, Alberta

Operation: Oil field services centered on managing and analyzing drilling data


Pason knows quite a bit about collecting data remotely and using it to improve efficiency. The oil field services company provides customers with hardware and software to monitor drilling operations and well production.

Hours vs. miles  1

The floodgates have opened. In the past two months, I’ve gotten press releases on a daily basis from fleets announcing increases in driver pay. Sometimes it’s for just one division, others for the entire operation. Some are relatively small fleets, others among the largest. Often they’re trumping the fleet’s second or third increase this year. And the increases are substantial, reaching as high as 25%. 

A bird in hand 

Within the next month, we should finally get details on federal regulations intended to push heavy-truck fuel economy to much higher levels over the next 10 to 15 years. Known generally as Phase II of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions requirements, official publication of the rules will undoubtedly set off a new round of argument and debate over the costs for any new technology needed to meet them and the projected payback for fleets paying the bills.

First test drive: Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van

Mercedes-Benz Vans USA rolled out two pre-production models of its new Metris mid-size van for a 200-mi. plus test drive through the mountains of western Colorado. Though actual production of the new van won't begin until later this year, MB brought the two -- one a Cargo Van, the other an 8-passenger van -- to Dunton Hot Springs near Durango to let the press get their first driving impressions over hundreds of scenic miles climbing to over 10,000 ft. and cruising down twisting two-lane country roads.

Mercedes-Benz Metris, the Goldilocks of cargo vans

DUNTON, CO. When it’s new mid-size Metris van hits dealer showrooms in October, Mercedes-Benz Vans USA believes it will prove to be just the right size and price for the U.S. commercial van market, according to Bernie Glaser,VP and managing director of the new MB business division.

Volvo: Connectivity will reshape trucking

NEWPORT, RI. The heavy-duty truck of the future could be a tractor with no physical fifth wheel but only wireless connections to a train of smart self-propelled trailers, according to Jeff Cotner, chief designer, exterior for Volvo Trucks North America. Such smart trailers could disconnect themselves from the road train, traveling the last mile to a final destination autonomously, he told an audience of dealers and fleet customers at a symposium here during a stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Talk of the show 

For anyone in the trucking industry, it’s the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS), not the return of the robin, that signals the beginning of spring.  And while the weather in Louisville this year didn’t feel very spring-like, the record crowd walking around the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center was in a celebratory mood as a warming economy has returned profitable and abundant freight, not to mention some of the strongest truck sales in nearly a decade.

A gathering of the tribes 

If you’re in trucking or a related business of any kind, March in Louisville is probably on your calendar.  Whether you own a fleet, manage one, drive for one or sell essential goods and services to the industry, the Mid-America Trucking Show is a meeting of the trucking tribes, the one annual event that brings out everyone.

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