Sean Kilcarr

Senior Editor

Sean reports and comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry -- light and medium duty fleets up through over-the-road truckload, less-than-truckload, and private fleet operations Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

Navistar acquires proving grounds facility

NEW CARLISLE, IN. Navistar Inc. is establishing its own 668-acre proving grounds here along the farmlands of northern Indiana at a site purchased from Robert Bosch LLC; a facility that includes a three-mile paved and banked oval track where the OEM will test its entire portfolio of Class 5 through 8 commercial trucks, school buses and military vehicles.

Test driving the new CT680

Caterpillar introduced the third model in its CT line of vocational trucks - the set-forward-axle CT680 - during a special ride and drive event at its Tinaja Hills, AZ, proving grounds. Though only two tractor configurations of the new CT680 were available for testing - the gray one equipped with an 18-speed manual and a red one spec'd with Caterpillar's CX31 automatic transmission - company executives stressed that the Class 8 CT680 is also available as a straight truck chassis model, too.

Caterpillar unveils new CT680 model 1

TINAJA HILLS, AZ. Caterpillar introduced the third model of its CT vocational truck line – the CT680 – here at its training and proving grounds just outside of Tucson, AZ; a 124-in. BBC vehicle that will be available in both truck and tractor configuration when it goes into full production this July.

Truck stops tapping the personal touch 

In a way, Aaron McCann serves as the face of new tactic in the battle among truck stop chains for customer business: the personal touch.

Armed with nothing more than an orange vest and a thousand-watt smile, McCann’s primary job as a “diesel service champion” or DSC at the Flying J Travel Center off I-78 in Frystown, PA, entails directing commercial vehicles to open fueling slots or the shortest line for them at the facility’s 11 lane diesel refueling island.

Stopping in at Flying J

The Flying J truck stop located in Frystown, PA, just off I-78 - off the unlikely-named Camp Swatara Road - sports a 12,771 sq. ft. facility featuring all the amenities truck drivers and fleets alike might need (including its self-proclaimed "best coffee on the interstate") as part of a 56.27 acre spread that includes an IdleAir facility and Boss truck repair shop.

U.S. fuel prices stay in high gear

Diesel and gasoline prices across the U.S. continued to increase this week, according to data tracked by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), though they remain far lower compared to the same period in 2014.

The EIA said the average U.S. retail pump price for diesel jumped 2.4 cents this week to $2.878 per gallon, though that is $1.070 per gallon cheaper compared to the same week in 2014.

Diesel prices increased in every region of the country, breaking the $3 per gallon mark in five areas:

Data indicates trucking should stay strong thru summer

Recent data analysis indicates that the trucking industry remains inherently strong, despite some near-term slippage, and should continue to hold the upper hand in the freight market through the summer.

"Conditions for truckers and fleets remain quite positive,” noted Jonathan Starks, director of transportation analysis for research firm FTR Transportation Intelligence, in a statement.

Lessons learned  1

Manager: T.J. Thomas

Title: Director of marketing & customer solutions

Company: Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems  

Operation: Test fleet of 30 power units and 30 pieces of towable equipment from dollies to flatbeds, dry vans and tanker trailers


Back to bicycles 

It’s more than a little interesting to hear that the trusty bicycle—designs for which may date as far back as 1493—is coming back in vogue as a means of both daily passenger and freight transit.

Healthy drivers: A holistic approach 

The way the business world views the issue of “employee wellness” is changing radically these days, especially where the trucking industry is concerned. Rose Stanley, senior practice leader for the nonprofit human resources association WorldAtWork, explains that it is becoming a much broader issue than the traditional focus on the physical health of workers.

Video increasingly viewed as legal shield for trucking

Mike Nalepka, VP of video intelligence solutions for PeopleNet, will tell you that in the majority of truck-car crashes, the truck driver is not at fault.

Yet in the majority of truck-car crash related court cases, the motor carrier is usually ends up settling in an effort to minimize costly litigation, he said during a presentation at the 2015 ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, NJ, this week.

ALK Summit Day 2

The second day of the 2015 ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton NJ covered a broad spectrum of topics, from an inside look at how the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducts investigations and crafts recommendations - provided by a former NTSB Chairman - to the growing role video systems can play in providing protection to motor carriers and drivers alike in truck crash lawsuits. All photos courtesy of Abel Communications.

Freight looks good – for now

PRINCETON, NJ. The U.S. economy is still growing, albeit more slowly, and freight volumes look to stay steady for the rest of this year and into 2016, noted Noel Perry, senior consultant with FTR Transportation Intelligence and principal of research firm Transport Fundamentals.

But beyond 2016, he thinks fleets should “think about going in the bunker” as sovereign debt issues could finally catch up to many developed countries, including the U.S.

Near term, though, the outlook looks pretty good for trucking, Perry stressed.

ALK Summit Day 1

The 2015 ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton NJ touched on a wide array of industry topics: an update on the direction of the U.S. economy and freight market; insight into the telematics connectivity pathways being explored by truck manufacturers; a case study review of how one fleet is using in-cab video as a driver coaching tool; and many more. All photos from Abel Communications and Fleet Owner.

Ford offers new V8 alt fuel prep package for F-150 pickup

Ford Motor Co. plans to offer a compressed natural gas (CNG) and propane-ready gaseous prep package for its 5.0-liter V8 engine slated for the 2016 model F-150 pickup truck this summer.

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