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.

A new look 

There are so many clichés about change—change is inevitable, the more things change the more they stay the same, change is in the air, and so on—that the word has become almost meaningless, a concept tossed around without any real thought.  Still,  change is indeed an essential part of life—sometimes feared, sometimes welcomed, but never avoided.

Fleet Owner has certainly seen its share of change over its more than 90 years of existence, but the pace seems to have picked up tremendously over the last decade or so.

Mexican truck sales ending 2015 up

The Mexican Class 4 to 8 truck market is having a good year and is expected to finish 2015 with sales of 30,000 units, according to Stefan Kurschner, president and CEO of Daimler Commercial Vehicles Mexico. For Class 8, which is already at 20,000 trucks through November, that is 5% to 6% growth over 2014. But given the size of the economy and population of Mexico, and that 83% of all goods here move by truck “that’s still way too small for a functioning truck market,” he said.

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.

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