The little stuff adds up

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“The customer is always looking for more ways to save money.” –Tom DeHaven, senior manager of driveshaft products, Dana Holding Corp.

If there’s been any one repeating theme this week at the 2011 Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting in Tampa, FL (which proved to be more grey, rainy and cold more time than I would’ve thought for the Sunshine state), it’s the everyone continues to look for “just a little bit more” in terms of saving money in the trucking business.

In terms of trucking products, that “little bit” is being found in myriad ways: eliminating a maintenance procedure here, shaving a few pounds off a component there, even introducing new technologies to help save more of the technician’s ever more precious time.

Take for example Shell Lube Express – a device that’s actually been around a long time, almost 20 years, but that’s just now being introduced by Shell to U.S. fleets. It’s a device that automatically changes heavy truck engine oil – eliminating a mundane yet odious chore no technician looks forward to. Yet automating the oil change process – simple as it may seem – frees up a technician to focus on more important tasks in the shop.

[Below you can watch an overview of how the Shell Express Lube system works – and who KNEW such a product could generate such enthusiasm!]

Even small changes to trucking components can save time and money for the shop over the long term. Take Dana Holding Corp.’s new “service-free” design for its Spicer Life Series (SPL) driveshafts. By eliminating the need to add grease to a driveshaft’s U-joints, it can save a fleet $150 over the estimated 600,000 service life of this component – not a lot, surely, but added up across a fleet of trucks it adds up.

Fleets need to stock one less kind of grease, technicians have one less job to perform (though they still need to inspect the driveshaft at recommended intervals), and that leads to more shop savings over time.

[You can watch Tom DeHaven, Dana’s senior manager of driveshaft products, review these design changes below.]

Even the ubiquitous fifth wheel is getting a series of makeovers these days, again as fleets look for ways to generate even incremental savings.

Fontaine Fifth Wheel is just one supplier serving this product niche that’s rolled out several different versions of its fifth wheels products to address a variety of different needs, from lighter weight designs aimed at compensating for the addition of heavy mandated emission control systems to trucks on over to fifth wheels with simplified maintenance designs and ones offering safety-related features.

[Steve Mann, Fontaine’s VP-engineering, reviews some of those fifth wheel design changes below.]

No truck component these days is too small from design enhancements these days. For example, Betts Spring Co. and Spraydown USA forged a partnership to provide Betts’ DirectFlex hanger with Spraydown’s aero guard system to replace he typical mud flap/bracket components an integrated unit that features tougher more robust construction while reducing road spray that obscures the vision of truck and car drivers alike.

Over time, the system is supposed to reduce fuel consumption by helping redirect air flows under and around an 18-wheeler, but more importantly, the strengthened design aims to significantly reduce maintenance costs associated with mud flap care and repair.

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Then there are even odder items, such as Counteract Balancing Beads; microscopic inert tempered glass beads with a special coating that, when placed inside a truck tire, “stick” to the low spots to help even out tread wear over the life of a tire.

Added inside the tire case in small bags – a 16 ounce bag for a wide base tire, 12 ounce bag for a typical driver tire, and 10 ounce bag for a steer tire – these beads help the tire stay “cool” with smoother tread, increasing casing life.

Indeed, the Canadian-based company noted fleets can expect to get an additional retread opportunity out of the tire casing over and above what they normally achieve by using these beads.

These beads are certainly unusual, to say the least – then again, nothing is too small to escape the notice of truckers these days, as the industry continues to search for ways to save no matter how microscopic the opportunity might be.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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