One reason for the high number of complaints is the sheer number of trucks truck traffic has increased almost sixfold between 1960 and 1995, according to the Dept. of Transportation (DOT). The other reason is that grass-roots anti-noise groups are no longer considered kooks by politicians. Congressional researchers say nearly 20-million Americans are exposed to noise levels that can lead to cardiovascular problems, strokes, and nervous disorders. Another 40-million are exposed to noise levels that cause sleep or work disruption.

Noise is such a reliable stress inducer that pharmaceutical companies use it to test their stress drugs on people, says Eric Zwerling, director of the Rutgers Noise Technical Assistance Center. The Centers main job is training law enforcement officials to accurately test noise levels in their jurisdictions, and Zwerling has seen a definite upswing in training requests during his eight-year tenure.

According to trucking industry officials, noise complaints are not something they hear about until drivers report that a usual route has been restricted and theyve been forced to take a longer, often slower route. Were getting anecdotal evidence from drivers that the problem is increasing, especially in smaller towns. One day theres a sign that says No Trucks and theyve got to find another way, says one LTL dispatcher who asked that his name not be used. The problem isnt us. Its the smaller fleets or the independents and their modifications of exhaust systems but we all pay the price.

Indeed, one of the most common signs being installed, even in larger cities, outlaws the use of engine brakes. Scott Fowler, vp-sales and marketing for Jacobs Vehicle Systems, says the companys Jake Brakes meet noise standards as long as there is no tampering with engine exhaust systems. A properly muffled truck is not objectionable, he says. Fowler says that his company favors enforcement of laws that prohibit tampering with exhaust systems because that keeps engine brake noise down and prevents his companys products from being painted with a negative broad brush.

Noise legislation is a hodgepodge of local ordinances, and efforts to pass nationwide regulations have so far failed. Under the Quiet Communities Act of 1978, the Environmental Protection Agency established an Office of Noise Abatement and Control. One of their tasks was to coordinate federal, state, and local abatement efforts; this would make it easier for truck drivers to figure out where and when they would be allowed to drive. It might also make it easier for engine and truck manufacturers to build to a standard that would be applicable nationwide. Funding for the group ceased in 1982. This left states and local jurisdictions to protect their citizens ears in any way they could, including wholesale restrictions of truck traffic and inconsistent noise laws.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has set noise levels for trucks traveling along an interstate road at 85 decibels (db). However, states and cities may set lower standards for private property or certain streets. New Jersey, for example, sets a level of 65 db for private facilities such as shopping malls or terminals during the day and 50 db at night. How can you expect a truck to go from 85 db one minute to 65 db the next? asks Zwerling.

While umbrella legislation and enforcement is one answer, technology must also play a role. Jim Higgins, spokesman for Mack Trucks, said that its goal is to continually drop the noise level of its trucks with every model year. The trucks meet FHWA noise standards, but new moves such as pilot injections to reduce combustion noise at idle and low load and isolating valve covers from the head will yield a tremendous drop in noise, says Higgins.

There has also been slow but steady use of quiet pavements, which absorb noise from tires rolling along at high speeds. Very common in Europe, these porous pavements not only cut ambient noise almost 30%, but offer better drainage and skid resistance. The drawbacks are higher installation and maintenance costs.

With reports from DOT that the number of trucks driving through city streets and towns has increased twice as fast as the number of trucks using interstate highways over the past ten years, citizens are becoming more vocal and their local legislators are responding in creative ways. One upstate New York community angry at truck noise from a nearby toll plaza and wanting it relocated passed an ordinance that outlawed trucks from idling longer than ten minutes. Truckers might be caught in the crossfire if state officials dont respond to the relocation request and local enforcement ensues.

Try, try again OSHA may be a candidate for its own rules. Once again the agency has indicated its intent to push ahead to develop a national ergonomic standard regulating repetitive motions such as lifting. Spurred by a National Academy of Sciences report last month linking muscle and skeletal injuries to certain workplace activities, OSHA is aiming to have a proposal on the streets by next summer.

A rose by any other name FHWA is remaking itself. Not only is the agency killing nine regional offices and establishing new resource centers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, and San Francisco, it is focusing its headquarters on five core business areas: infrastructure; planning and environment; operations; motor carrier and highway safety; and federal highways.

Biodiesel acceleration The Senate has cleared an agriculture appropriations bill complete with a provision that will help make biodiesel, a soybean-based fuel, readily available. The bill has already passed the House.

Safety hot line The Dept. of Transportation has opened a toll-free hot line that will allow truck drivers to file reports on actual or potential violations of federal safety regulations. Mandated by recent federal legislation, the hot line (1-888-DOT-SAFT) provides a direct connection to the FHWAs Office of Motor Carriers. The legislation also protects drivers against firing, disciplinary action, or discrimination in compensation for filing such reports.

Repeat that As of the first of this month, time ran out on the congressional ban blocking OSHA from establishing any regulations governing repetitive motion injuries. That leaves the agency free to develop ergonomic rules that the trucking industry has long fought against.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and six diesel engine manufacturers have agreed to settlement terms over charges that current engines use their advanced electronic controls to sidestep federal emissions standards. According to EPA, engine makers will have to pay $83.4 million in fines and $109.5 million to fund R&D projects directed at lowering emissions.

The stricter NOx standards originally scheduled to go into effect in 2004 are now slated for October 2002. EPA estimates that the engine makers will put about $850 million toward design modifications necessary to meet the tighter standards. Starting with the new year, there will be an interim standard in place until 2002 that will require engine timing modifications, resulting in lower NOx emissions and a decrease in engine fuel economy.

The agreements, which were negotiated separately with Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack, Navistar, and Volvo Trucks, do not require a recall of all diesels using electronic fuel controls. However, they do call for modification of any older engine when it is overhauled. Presumably, some of the money collected under the agreement would be used to pay for those modifications. (For early industry reactions to the EPA settlement, see Point of Departure on page 6.)

In its continuing effort to introduce ergonomics regulations, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials have found an ally in aNational Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that links workplace activity with mus culoskeletal disorders.

The NAS report also cited research showing that specific interventions or procedures can reduce the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders for workers who perform high-risk tasks. High-risk tasks are those that are repetitive, stressful to muscles and bones, or a combination of these factors. The report stated: There is a higher incidence of reported pain, injury, loss of work, and disability among individuals who are employed in occupations where there is a high level of exposure to physical loading than for those employed in occupations with lower levels of exposure.

OSHA has been under fire by those who say that current science doesnt justify ergonomic regulations. But the NAS report bolsters OSHAs contention that ergonomics regulations are both necessary and based on strong scientific evidence. However, it warns that more research is necessary. It also notes that one size doesnt fit all when it comes to protecting workers or applying corrective actions.

Federal fuel-tax refunds just got a little easier to obtain, thanks to two congressional and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) initiatives. First, Congress integrated the laws governing gasoline and diesel-fuel tax refunds and provided uniform procedures for each time period. Previously, taxpayers had to have a higher threshold before receiving refunds of gasoline tax than diesel fuel, and refunds were available only for the first three quarters of the taxable year, with income tax credits the only method available for the fourth quarter. Now taxpayers can combine all fuel tax claims and apply in any quarter on Form 8849.

Meanwhile, the IRS has redesigned Form 8849 itself. Taxpayers who have filed it before should receive the new form early next quarter. First-time refund claimants should call 1-800-TAX-FORM to request a copy.

Mexican OEMs all-new vehicle line aimed at export markets including the U.S.

Consorcio G Grupo Dina, Mexicos largest domestic producer of trucks and buses, has taken the wraps off its new HTQ lineup of medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses.

The HTQ (for High Technology & Quality) truck line consists of Class 5-8 conventional models as well as an urban cabover unit, all designed to comply with various international market requirements.

According to Dina chairman Rafael Gmez Flores, the HTQ series boasts a world class cab, developed to the tune of $35 million. Engineering support was supplied by Detroit-based Roush Industries and design assistance came from BMWs DesignWorks USA subsidiary.

Dinas new generation of trucks sports a curvy, aerodynamic, Euro-inspired design and a North American focus on function and durability, Gmez Flores stated. He noted that developing its own cabs has enabled Dina to declare technological independence and thus export products built with its own technology.

According to Dina, key characteristics common across the HTQ line include: * Aerodynamic, modular cabs that significantly reduce air resistance and fuel consumption.

* Steel-reinforced polyurethane bumpers designed to optimize air flow by directing it toward tires.

* Large, advanced radiator grille design increases air intake to reduce risk of overheating.

* Ergonomically designed cabin allows easy access to driver controls and mirrors.

* Padded dash has three interchangeable modular components and standard instrument indicators.

* Interchangeable doors offer extended lateral vision.

* Double-sealed doors, with full-chamber noise reduction system, better balance cabin air pressure and make ventilation more efficient.

* One-piece, 31-degree windshield angle and aerodynamic hood increases field of vision.

* Tilt hood provides easy access to engines as large as the Caterpillar 3126.

* Impact-absorbing, retractable steering column.

* Crossbar cab beam system and reinforced roof for greater structural integrity in collisions or rollovers.

Full specs on all HTQ models were not available at presstime. The heavy-duty DCE-522570 conventional truck boasts a maximum weight rating of 52,000 lb. Its standard specs include the Cat 3126 and Eaton Fuller RT-6609A transmission. Another model, the DCP-351972, carries a maximum rating of 35,000 lb. It also comes with the Cat 3126 and has a Spicer ES62-5D transmission. The HTQ tractor is designated the DFT-1204370.

Dina began introducing HTQ trucks to Mexico and Latin America this summer. Plans also call for exporting Dina vehicles using HTQ technology to Europe in the near future.

The company predicts HTQ trucks will reach the U.S. and Canada starting in the second half of next year. The trucks will be sold initially through select dealers as well as via direct sales. Dina will likely target both freight carriers and vocational fleets here.

Once the trucks arrive stateside, chances are they wont carry the Dina name. During the introduction, a company executive told FLEET OWNER that a brand name has yet to be assigned to U.S.-bound truck models. He noted one possibility would be to badge them simply as HTQs. Currently, the Dina brand is used in Mexico but the OEMs vehicles go to market elsewhere in Latin America under the name Dimex.

The HTQ unveiling took place in late September at the OEMs ISO 9001-certified plant in Sahugan, Hidalgo, Mexico. Ceremonies there included a stirring congratulatory address by Mexicos President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Len. Zedillo especially praised Dina for its role in expanding Mexicos transportation sector.

Dina also operates bus plants in Pembina, N.D., and Winnipeg, Manitoba, which are run by its Des Plaines, Ill.-based subsidiary, Motor Coach Industries International (MCII). To strengthen its export capability, the OEM opened a plant last year in Mercedes, Argentina, to supply trucks and intercity buses to several South American nations.

Mexico City-based Grupo Dina was formed in 1989, when Consorcio G purchased Diesel Nacional (hence DINA) S.A. from the Mexican government. The company is now publicly held.

Freightliners Hebe says customer satisfaction key to navigating business currents

In a keynote speech at Septembers Southern Trucking Expo in Atlanta, Freightliner president & CEO Jim Hebe strongly hinted at how the OEM will grow.

The 21st century has been described as the era of mass customization, in which customers will expect products to be developed faster and tailored ever more precisely to fit ever smaller niches, Hebe pointed out.

We are still at an early phase of this trend, he continued. But any manufacturer which expects to be viable in the future had better be moving in this direction toward more kinds of products and a greater choice of options.

Therefore, he said to expect Freightliner to make further acquisitions and form partnerships and alliances with body builders and suppliers of specialized vehicle apparatus to let us maximize this opportunity of serving customers.

One of my great wishes is that trailer manufacturers be as aggressive and innovative in design and technology as truck OEMs, Hebe stated.

Right now, he continued, the trailer is usually the weak link in terms of efficiency and safety. If we profess to supply customers a total transport solution, well have to get the trailer companies to step up to the plate or take some kind of action in this area ourselves.

Hebe also noted that Freightliner will move into more markets simply to fuel its growth. The larger our universe, the greater our economies of scale, and the more we can invest in pushing technology and efficiency to the next plateau.

Class 9? Peering farther down the road, he predicted that what he calls a Class 9 truck is coming. Hebe said this would be a truck designed for 90,000- to 100,000-lb. applications.

We have the engines for such a truck already, he advised. But we still need the driveline to support it on a cost-effective basis.

Even in light of his emphasis on expanding markets and leveraging technology, Hebe cautioned that the winners in the 21st century wont be those focused on expanding markets or inventing new technologies but those of us who put customer satisfaction first.

After all, he summed up, todays technological whiz-bang is tomorrows boat anchor. But customer satisfaction is forever.

As part of its efforts to build partnerships with heavy vehicle manufacturers located in Mexico, Meritor Automotive last month announced the opening of a new Heavy Vehicle Systems sales facility in Mexico City.

Meritor Heavy Vehicle Systems Mexico S.A. de C.V. will service all Meritor medium- and heavy-vehicle OEM customers in Mexico, as well as dealers and fleets. It will also coordinate aftermarket services for Mexico.

In addition, the company plans to open a new assembly facility for antilock braking systems and drivetrain components, including axles, brakes, clutches, transmissions, drivelines, and automatic slack adjusters, for medium and heavy vehicles.

Located in the region between Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, and Queretaro, the 100,000-sq.-ft. plant will eventually employ up to 100 people. Long-term plans include using it to serve as a distribution center for Meritor aftermarket parts.

Larry Yost (left), chairman and CEO of Meritor Automotive, and Prakash Mulchandani (right), president of the companys Heavy Vehicle Systems division, watch as James L. Hebe, president and CEO of Freightliner Corp., signs a multi-year drivetrain supply agreement that will further expand the collaborative alliance of the two companies. Under terms of the agreement, Meritor products already standard on the Century Class truck line will become standard on additional models, including the following: FL106 and FL112 tractors, Argosy cabover engine tractors, Business Class medium-duty trucks, the new Sterling line of Class 8 vehicles, American La France fire apparatus, and custom chassis made by Freightliner.

Transmission Technologies Corp. (TTC) says it will begin delivering its new automated mechanical transmission to medium-duty truck manufacturers in January.

Based on the Spicer 7-speed manual transmission, the new Spicer AMT-7 uses advanced electronic controls to fully automate shifting, doing away with the clutch pedal and shift lever. It is also fully programmable, which allows shifting to be tailored to specific applications and vehicle configurations.

The automated medium-duty already has engineering approval for use with Cummins ISB and ISC engines, and should be approved for Navistars DT466 shortly, according to TTC officials.

Similar approval for Caterpillar medium-duty diesels is expected before the end of the year. Freightliner will be the first truck maker with production availability in January, followed shortly by Navistar and Sterling, TTC says.

The AMT-7 shares about 80% of its parts with the manual Spicer transmission and will be offered in both direct and overdrive models. Initial torque capacity will be 520 lb.-ft. for the direct version and 600 lb.-ft. for the overdrive.

Modifications for the AMT-7, including a self-contained hydraulic power pack for gear-change and clutch actuation, add 123 lb. compared to the manual Spicer 7-speed. The automated mechanical is expected to cost significantly less than a fully automatic transmission with torque converter, but about double that of the manual gearbox.

Currently three medium-duty trucks equipped with AMT-7s are touring North America, offering both fleets and dealers an opportunity to test drive the new automated transmission. (For more information on the demonstration tour, try the companys Web site at www.ttcautomotive.com.)

TTC says it will follow the AMT-7 with both heavy- and light-duty automated mechanical transmissions within two years. The company also plans to introduce a new heavy-duty multi-speed manual transmission in the near future.

TTC is the transmission marketing arm of Spicer S.A., which is jointly owned by DESC, Mexicos largest auto-parts manufacturer, and Dana Corp. Last year, Dana sold its Spicer heavy- and medium-duty transmission lines to Spicer S.A, which also manufactures and markets TREMEC light-duty transmissions. Dana retains a 49% interest in Spicer S.A.

Rapid change is not normally associated with engine oils, Jim McGeehan, manager of engine oils technology for Chevron Global Lubricants, observed at a Chevron-sponsored seminar during SAEs fall meeting in San Francisco. Further EPA-mandated reductions in NOx emissions, however, will require revolutionary changes in engine emission after-treatment system design, he explained, heightening the performance demands on lubrication by increasing the levels of soot and acid in the crankcase oil. It might also impact drain intervals, at least in the short term.

For starters, API CH-4 will be released ahead of schedule for implementation December 1 of this year. Secondly, a new oil category, PC-7.5, will address high soot levels in engine oils, resulting from lower NOx requirements under on-highway conditions, as a result of EPAs recent actions. This PC-7.5 category will be licensed January 1, 2000. If PC-7.5 is instituted as proposed, this would constitute the most expedited enactment of an oil category change ever, he noted.

McGeehan, SAE fellow and chairman of the American Society of Testing and Materials, discussed the probable scenario facing engine, oil, and additive manufacturers between now and 2005. Designs for model-year 1999 engines will use retarded fuel injection timing to reduce NOx, mandated by EPA. This will increase soot levels in engine oils between 30% and 50%.

To meet the tightening of emission requirements for 2002, engine manufacturers will use cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). This will demand improvements in both soot dispersancy and base retention (TBN) of the oil.

When manufacturers move to EGR in 2002 (PC-9 engine oil specification), however, the heat will really be on the oil. EGR lowers NOx by reducing the oxygen in the cylinder, which reduces peak-flame temperature. The result? More corrosive acids and soot in the power-cylinder, with potentially higher crankcase temperatures.

By 2005 (PC-10), NOx catalysts are expected to become part of the emissions solution, perhaps replacing EGR. Catalysts will require ultra-low sulfur fuel to remain effective, however.

Taken together, these challenges have the potential to push engine oil drains back from their extended cycles. Engine manufacturers hope to stay with extended drains because thats what fleets want, McGeehan noted. But drain cycles may just have to get shorter again until we know how much soot EGR will add to the oil; moving to really long drain cycles (50,000 mi. and more) will have to wait. Crankcase oil has become a pivotal component to engine durability for electronically controlled, low-emission engines of today and tomorrow.

AlliedSignal, Knorr-Bremse team up with Robert Bosch

AlliedSignal Inc. and its truck brake systems partner, Knorr-Bremse AG, Munich, Germany, last month signed an agreement with Robert Bosch GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany, to establish a joint venture combining their European commercial heavy-duty brake systems businesses.

Under terms of the agreement, still subject to approval by European regulators, Bosch will contribute its commercial vehicle brake product division, including its facilities in Schwieberdingen and Nuremberg, to Knorr-Bremse Systeme fur Nutzfahrzeuge GmbH, Munich.

Bosch will receive a minority shareholding of 20% in the European joint venture. AlliedSignal will also hold a 20% stake. Knorr-Bremse, AlliedSignals joint venture partner since 1993, will have a controlling interest and own the balance of shares.

AlliedSignal will continue to own the controlling interest in the existing North American joint venture, AlliedSignal Truck Brake Systems Co. (TBS), located in Elyria, Ohio. Bosch will not have an ownership interest in TBS.

This European joint venture formalizes the resolve of AlliedSignal, Knorr-Bremse, and Bosch to continually advance the state of the art of heavy-duty vehicle pneumatic and electronic braking and vehicle dynamics systems, said Jeffery I. Sinclair, president of AlliedSignal Truck Brake Systems. The combined strengths of these companies creates a venture with world-class capabilities dedicated to providing innovative products for our customers.

The joint venture forms one of the worlds largest manufacturers of air brake systems and components for heavy trucks, including antilock braking systems (ABS), electronic braking systems (EBS), compressors, air dryers, and valves.

Volvo Trucks North America will join forces with Cummins Engine Co. to deliver new diesel engine technology that will ultimately benefit its customers by providing increased productivity and lower operating costs. The agreement covers product development, sales, marketing, and customer support.

The new realities of trucking are here, created by customers who want greater uptime and more productive vehicles, said Marc F. Gustafson, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks. To meet those expectations, we must work more closely with leading suppliers to develop products and services that create a clear competitive advantage for our customers.

We are allying ourselves with Cummins because with our mutual strengths in customer support, information products, and engines we can create measurable performance breakthroughs in vehicle design and engine systems.

The first result of this effort will be designed for owner-operator segments of the heavy-truck market. Several new Volvo truck models with Cummins engines will be developed and marketed as Signature Series products.

Were eager to work more closely with Volvo Trucks because its organization understands that these types of efforts are critical to delivering better products, said Roberto Cordaro, president-Automotive Group at Cummins. Our customers expect nothing less. It is a natural fit between two market-driven companies.

1. Aggressive driving and road rage

2. Hours of service (now based on 10 hours on, 8 hours off)

3. Increasing congestion

4. Lumping (drivers having to load and unload trucks themselves)

5. Unreasonable shipper demands (time and distance demands for deliveries that tax the drivers endurance, sometimes resulting in speed and driver fatigue

6. Lack of respect from shippers, receivers, and dispatchers

7. Increasing high crime in rest areas

8. Unreasonable treatment by law enforcement

9. Low pay

10. Unsafe inspection sites