A guide to help you grow your operation with the right
A guide to help you grow your operation
with the right new or used truck
Brought to you by the editors of Truck News, Truck West and Motortruck Fleet Executive
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2 spec smart
ALL SCIENCE. NO FICTION.
Welcome to SPEC SMART, our guide to spec’ing new and used trucks.
Click here for a quick video tour of what you can find inside.
F inding the Right Spec’s
We go cross country to find out what you consider most important when
buying new iron
Looking for a truck that maintains value and retains employees?
Consider what the drivers want.
The manuals used to maintain trucks could help to refine the spec’ing
Shopping for Used Trucks
A step-by-step guide
0 steps towards a better full service lease deal
Getting the most flexible deal for your money means going into the
lease armed with a few good pointers
New Product Introductions
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spec smart 3
We go cross country
to find out what you
consider most important
when buying new iron
By Harry Rudolfs
4 spec smart
hat do multiple truck and smaller fleet owners want when they’re spec’ing a
Class 8 truck? I decided to ask them by conducting a brief survey across the country, including long- and heavy-haul, dumps and reefers, regional rigs and city tractors.
Fuel mileage, horsepower, overall cost, looks, versatility, driver comfort and resale
value all figured into the equation. So much depends upon the application, but saving
money at the fuel pumps was high on the list.
“Fuel mileage is the name of the game these days,” says Rick Albert who owns four
trucks in Oshawa, Ont. “I’d get as slippery a truck as possible, extended fairings, whatever aerodynamic package you can get. ”
Albert’s trucks run general freight around Ontario, from Windsor to Ottawa and
Montreal, so he’s not looking for a lot of power. “I’d go with the DD15 Detroit, probably
475 horse, but I could probably make do with 430. You don’t need more than that hauling 40,000 lbs. I’d probably want a 3.90 rear end, but I have one truck running around
the city with 4.11s.”
Joe Tavares has eight trucks on with MacKinnon Transport of Guelph, Ont. Every
one of his trucks is “slippery.” Most of them run dry vans and cover a large triangle:
Ontario to western Canada, dropping down into the States, then back to Ontario.
“Fuel mileage is one of the biggest things for me,” he says. “As a broker, I can’t control
the price of diesel or the freight rate. But to stay competitive you have to do everything
you can to keep money in your pocket. If you’re not getting 6.2 to 6.3 miles per gallon
it’s hard to make a dollar with general freight.”
Tavares has done his own research and owned every make of North American truck.
“I’ll probably get a Freightliner next because I’ve got one of everything else.” His
spec’s are interesting because he’s buying the next truck for his long-distance drivers
who run out west.
“I’ll probably go with the 435 horse DD15 and 3.53 rears. This combination should
give the best fuel economy across the flats, and pull decent enough up and down the
mountains without over-revving the engine,” says Tavares.
So far he’s had good results from the Eaton Fuller automatic 13-speed in his Volvo,
so he’ll go with that transmission again. Tavares also claims greater fuel savings (10%
or more) after installing super-single Michelin X-Ones and will have them installed on
the new truck.
Driver comfort is important to his drivers so Tavares wants a 78-inch bunk. “My
drivers spend a lot of time on the road so I usually upgrade the interior package: fridges,
Why more fleets, and even owner/operators,
are looking at wide-base tires
a work station table and a heavy duty inverter so
they can run their toasters or whatever.”
But for Simeon Brubacher, who runs his
trucks a little heavier down the road than Albert
and Tavares, fuel price isn’t the only consideration. His company, Marwall Transport of
Elmira, Ont., pulls concrete and lumber on flat
decks and B-trains, often with maxed-out loads.
“I go more for looks and power than fuel
mileage, even though I know that’s not the way
you’re supposed to be,” he says. “I’m more old
school; I like the look of the Pete 389.”
Like many Cat fans, he’s disappointed that
the manufacturer no longer makes a big engine.
“I suppose I’ll go with a Cummins, something
around 500 horsepower.” For a transmission
Brubacher likes an 18-speed Eaton although he
admits he almost went automatic with his last
“I want double lock-up rear axles because we
go into a lot of construction sites,” he says. For
driver comfort he’s happy with a 63-inch walkin bunk equipped with a Webasto bunk heater.
He also wants power windows and power doors
and tells me the Paccar GPS system has come in
handy from time to time.
6 spec smart
When it comes to tires, Brubacher puts Michelin XZA2s on the steering axle and Bridgestone EL 736s on the drives. He doesn’t go for
much extra chrome or running lights, “but we
put rear lights up on the headache rack so you
can see the tractor lights when you’re empty.”
Developing a Class 8 spec’ for your business
can take some experimenting to get the right
fit. B. Reynolds Trucking of Port La Tour,
Nova Scotia, specializes in moving frozen seafood around the Maritimes and New England.
Richard Reynolds tells me they prefer a longer
260-inch wheelbase because of the closeness of
the reefer unit on the front of the trailer. The
front ends of the tractors are also spec’d out a
little heavier: 13,200 front axle accompanied by
Looking for a heavy hauler, I came across
Mariel Vachon and his son Mario, who own
and run the Husky Road House restaurant in
Cochrane - but they are also truck owners. At
one time they used to have more than a dozen
trucks hauling logs and wood chips. But these
days they’ve only got a couple on the road. “Just
to keep my permits active,” says Mariel.
But when Vachon goes looking for a new trac-
tor he’s looking for something big, “550 to 600
horsepower and an 18-speed transmission,” he
says. “They make the passing lanes up some of
the hills, but for today’s trucks, even fully-loaded, there are no more hills. Many of them can go
105 km/h up or down the hill.”
Spec’d out for the highway and the bush, he’d
take a 16,200 front and 46,000 rear ends. “Still
light enough for the road, but able to handle bigger loads off road, too,” he says.
Vachon thinks a double frame would be a
good idea. “It makes the truck more versatile,
you could also use it to pull a float trailer.” And
moose catchers are essential if you’re running
anywhere north of New Liskeard. “A collision
with a moose can cost you $25-30,000,” he says.
I wanted to include a vocational Class 8 customer in the mix, and I found Keith Watters in
Winnipeg, Man., who owns KRW Enterprises
and three Macks. Manitoba has some of the
most restrictive weight regulations for tandem
dumps, limiting them to 24,300 kg gross. Watters could go with a smaller Class 8 truck but he
prefers his full-size Macks. “I don’t think those
smaller trucks last as long; I want to keep my
trucks as long as I can.”
Watters specifies 16,000 fronts and 40,000
rears. He’s also a fan of the Mack 350-hp engine
with a 13-speed transmission. He would consider going to the automatic Allison six-speed
transmission with his next truck if it was to only
work on hard packed surfaces, but he still needs
a clutch at times when drawing sand and gravel.
Watters also mentioned that he’d equip his next
truck with dual steering boxes to make steering
easier for a female driver.
Peter Tensen’s tractor business in Edmonton
is mainly focused on city work. Sonic Transport
is solely a tractor service that provides truck
and driver for local duties, whether it’s P&D,
delivering containers or contract work. As such,
Tensen’s requirements are different from regional or highway carriers.
“You don’t read a lot in the trucking magazines about city trucks, most of the talk is usually
about highway trucks, but for city work we have
different requirements,” he says.
“For one thing, when you’re running a tractor
service, you keep them longer; when choosing a
truck you’re basically looking for the best cost.”
Tensen says you don’t need a lot of extra features to pull trailers or tridems around the city.
But he wants enough power for the heavy loads
on the short haul.
“I go with a large motor, 475- to 490-horsepower, and the standard 12,000 front and 40,000
rear axles. Most of my fleet is day cabs,” says
Tensen. “When you’re running around the city
there’s no reason for a bunk, but I did take four
trucks with sleeper with the last order mostly
just to keep a few drivers happy.”
A few years ago, Jensen made a fairly radical
change when he closed his in-house repair shop
and went to a full-service lease. “You can lease
anything you want but cost really determines
it. Leasing companies are in a better buying
position with certain manufacturers. They can
leverage that buying power to get a better deal.”
Tensen also thinks that lessors can be better
maintenance providers, since they’re used to
dealing with the OEMs, and can get parts and
warranty issues resolved quicker.
But spec’ing a new Class 8 truck is serious
work, Tensen adds, as they are the life blood of
any trucking business. “You have to research the
truck manufacturer and the quality of the engines,” he says. “Some years some engines have
lot of problems, other years they don’t.”
Get Better Work Trucks By
Writing Better Specifications
spec’ing the right tires
By Robert Johnson
Tire spec’ing has evolved in
How to properly spec’
By Carroll McCormick
Looking for a truck
that maintains value and
Consider what the
By John G. Smith
8 spec smart
leets need to consider a long list of factors
when spec’ing a truck. The choice of engines, transmissions and even tires can play a
role in fuel efficiency; the weight of individual
components can influence the size of payloads;
and, the expected lifespan of each component
will affect ongoing maintenance costs.
The human factor deserves some attention
of its own.
Decisions made in the name of the driver
will play a key role in everything from employee
retention to the residual value of a truck, speakers stressed during the Technology and Maintenance Council’s (TMC) annual general meeting.
“And sometimes what they want is different
than what they need,” noted Frank Bio, product
manager for Volvo Trucks North America.
The needs and wants will vary depending
on the demographics of the drivers that a fleet
hopes to reach. Manufacturer surveys show that
aging drivers – who dominate much of today’s
available pool of employees – tend to dream
about the look of a classic truck, complete with
all the added chrome and gauges that can fit
into the dash. In contrast, younger drivers appear to be looking for more car-like amenities,
along with multi-function displays that offer
everything from GPS-generated maps to mileage, idle time and tire pressure.
At the very least, the decisions made about
the interior of a truck will affect the vehicle’s
value as a rolling office and living space, said
Dr. Josef Loczi, manager of human factors for
Daimler Trucks North America. “These are
the things you have to consider when you design your truck and where you buy it.”
The size of the truck will certainly make a
difference in driver comfort. Trucks that measure 120 inches from bumper to back of cab will
tend to offer more belly room behind the steering wheel, stressed HJM Fleet Management’s
Herman Miller, who began his own career behind the wheel. “Some of the (dimension) is for
hood length, but some of it allows the cab to be
“When you spec’ a truck, look at all the adjustability you can get because one driver does
not fit all,” Loczi added, referring to the importance of factors such as wider seat pans and
adjustable steering columns. Indeed, there can
be a big difference between obese male drivers
and their smaller female counterparts.
The comfort is not limited to the space alone.
Drivers will appreciate seats with multi-channel
lumbar supports, inflatable bolsters, and swivelling designs that offer easy access to the sleeper.
A built-in massager can make a difference as
well. “They’re sitting there in that position all
day long,” Miller reminded the maintenance
Drivers will also want to see tools that improve visibility, he added. Heated and remotecontrolled mirrors help eliminate the blind
spots that might exist with traditional fixed
mirrors, as will mirrors mounted on the fender
The room behind the driver’s seat will be
particularly important to those who need to use
it as a living area.
“The flat-top sleeper is just about history,”
Miller observed. “In resale, nobody wants it.”
The driving veteran also stressed the importance of a high-quality mattress in the bunk.
“We certainly spend a lot on mattresses in our
home. It’s funny we only spend $100 for mattresses in a truck,” he said.
Several speakers stressed the importance of
available storage, whether it is to hold personal
items, cell phones or travel cups filled with
coffee. “You can never put enough storage in
a truck,” Loczi insisted. “If there’s an option
for additional storage, buy it.” His advice extended to the addition of an upper bunk even
if a truck has a single driver: “They will use it
When it comes to the drivetrain, Miller
O/O of the year
What does it take to be a successful owner/operator?
Hear it from someone who knows, the 2010 Truck News
Owner/Operator of the Year.
appears to believe that bigger is always better, listing preferred spec’s such as a 15-litre
engine, engine retarders, a minimum of 1,650
lb.-ft. of torque, an automated or automatic
transmission, automatic traction controls and
“(Drivers) love having all the gears, but they
only want one gear to pull up the hill,” Bio added.
Options such as engine brakes, aluminum
wheels, exterior sun visors or varied colours
may seem like an added cost, but Bio referred
to the way they can increase resale values. The
500-hp engines and manual transmission are
in high demand, unlike the vehicles with single
drive axles or single bunks.
“You really never know what the equipment
costs you until residual costs are considered,”
noted Jerry Warmkessel of Mack Trucks.
The panel also seemed to agree that, while
many fleets prefer white trucks, drivers will
also tend to be drawn to distinctive paint jobs
and finishing touches.
“Drivers like a good looking truck,” stressed
Miller. To him, the enhanced look of bright
10 s p e c s m a r t
bumpers, mirrors, brackets, exhaust pipes and
guards should not be forgotten.
As valuable as any of these additions seem to
be, Thomas Newby reminded the crowd that
every decision needs to consider the fleet’s operating model. Depending on schedules, it may
actually make more financial sense to house
drivers in a hotel rather than build a dream
sleeper, said the director of field maintenance
for Old Dominion Freight Lines. And while
AGM batteries might answer the call for increasing hotel loads, their cost also have to be
considered alongside specialized maintenance
equipment. Even the choice of a tandem drive
can add two to three cents per mile to the cost
of running a truck with a single drive axle.
“If I do have to over spec’, how will I pay
for it?” he asked, referring to one important
And there is another factor that will always
affect the resale value of a truck, no matter
what has been added in the way of options. “A
million-mile truck is a million-mile truck,” he
said, “no matter what you hang off it.”
Click on the images below for a full report
Truck: Mack Pinnacle Day Cab
Engine: Mack MP7*
Transmission: Mack mDrive
Truck: Mack Pinnacle CXU 613
Engine: Mack MP8*
Truck: Kenworth T700
Engine: Paccar MX 13L* and
Cummins ISX 13L*
Transmission: Eaton UltraShift Plus
Truck: Freightliner Cascadia
Engine: Detroit Diesel DD15
Transmission: Eaton UltraShift Plus
Transmission: Eaton UltraShift
Truck: Volvo VN780
Engine: Volvo D13*
Transmission: Volvo I-Shift
By James Menzies
Truck: International ProStar+
Engine: International MaxxForce
13 (0.5 g NOx)*
Transmission: Eaton Fuller 13-speed
By Harry Rudolfs
* Denotes EPA2010-compliant engine
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12 s p e c s m a r t
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St. John’s, NL
The manuals used to maintain trucks could
help to refine the spec’ing process
By John G. Smith
he Recommended Practices that have been
developed by the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) are widely considered to
be the final word in many service bays. Known
more by the abbreviated “RP,” these documents
detail the practices that should be followed
when repairing just about any component or
system on a truck or trailer. They have even
made a mark on US regulations, now that new
emission-controlling rules reference an RP for
Still, many fleets are overlooking one other
use for the massive tomes. The same information used to repair a truck could also support the
Recommended Engineering Practices (with
blue covers) help designers and engineers build
more maintenance-friendly trucks, and the
Recommended Maintenance Practices (the
red books) improve the
maintenance of trucks
that are already on the ground. Those who are
ordering equipment can simply reference RPs
which address their specific needs.
“It makes your specifications for your vehicle
very precise,” says Jerry Thrift, senior manager
of new product development at Ryder System.
“If you include the (RPs) you want to use in your
specifications, it gives you a better specification
for your vehicle, and there is a lot more detail in
His comment about “detail” could be an understatement. By referencing the code for a specific standard, buyers can establish the standards
for everything from pneumatic brake balance to
the selection of torque rods and the ability to
replace a blower motor in less than 30 minutes,
says Ron Szapacs, Air Products and Chemicals’
maintenance specialist – power vehicles. “If you
list the six letters and three numbers (to identify
an RP), you can eliminate the next three pages
14 s p e c s m a r t
in your spec’,” he adds. “You eliminate so much
paperwork, yet you don’t lose any detail.”
The added advantage is that the RPs are developed with feedback from all related manufacturers, engineers and users. Many are created
through joint committees including TMC and
representatives of the Engine Manufacturers
Association, Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, and Society of Automotive Engineers.
In each case, any disagreements have to be addressed before a document is published.
“If you could hire somebody to write an RP
for an electrical system, who could you better
pick?” Szapacs asks.
Carl Tapp, vice-president of maintenance for
PAM Transport, cites the example of the RP
that governs battery cables and how it can be
used to prevent many future challenges such as
While a battery box
can be mounted on both
sides of the cab, under
the sleeper or between the frame rails, the related wiring will need to account for specific
distances to the starter. “Ohm’s Law doesn’t
change when you move the battery,” he says. It’s
why he asks his suppliers to deliver new trucks
with a printout that proves the standards of that
RP are met.
“If something comes up down the road and
you find out they didn’t do it, you can at least
have some kind of resolution discussion on your
behalf,” Tapp added.
Larger fleets undeniably have more influence
when making requests like these, but Thrift
stresses that fleets of every size should be referring to the documents. “If all users started using
these RPs and using them to spec’, guess what?
You’ll get what you’re looking for,” he told a
crowd of maintenance managers. “The OEMs
want to build a better truck. Sometimes they
need a little help.”
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A step-by-step guide
uying a truck is a very complicated process. You need
to make sure you have the right tool for the job.
That’s hard enough when you start with a clean sheet,
but when you’re in the market for a used truck it gets
even more difficult. It can be a real gamble with disastrous
consequences if you get it wrong, on the other hand, you
can be a big winner if you get it right.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time owner/operator,
an existing owner/operator or a small fleet owner – the
fundamentals are the same. You need to get the right piece
of equipment for the job you need it to do. This is where a
lot of mistakes are made. Emotion takes control – it’s only
natural – and lots of people buy far too much truck.
16 s p e c s m a r t
Set a budget
First of all, you need to identify your budget
and then you need to work out exactly what you
need to do the job. If you’re running light loads
across the Prairies, you don’t need 625 hp and an
18-speed. Likewise, if you’re running Super-Bs in
the mountains, 450 hp and a nine-speed are going
to be no good.
So first of all, you need to find the correct basic
spec’s, namely: power rating; transmission; and
rear ends. Once you’ve done that you can then
fine tune it a little. For example, if you’re running flatbed, can you get away with a flat top or
mid-roof? The condo may well offer extra living
space, but it will affect fuel mileage when pulling
a deck and fuel mileage can make or break you.
On the flip side, the condo will be better aerodynamically when pulling van or reefer trailers, so
if everything else stays the same, it will earn you
Choosing a brand
Now the easy part is done - you’ve identified the
basic truck that your operation requires - and the
difficult parts come next.
The first may not be difficult at all, but it needs
to be given a lot of attention. Exactly which brand
do you buy? This may be easy. You may currently
By Mark Lee
run a small fleet of trucks from one manufacturer, you may just favour one make over all others
or it may even be that you’ve always dreamed of
owning a particular truck.
Whatever the case, don’t let your heart rule
your head. Remember, this is a business decision
first and foremost. Other things may take priority over your personal preferences, for example,
the fleet you lease to may have good labour rates
at its shop but they’re standardized on one particular brand. Or, maybe you can get access to
some good discounts through them. During the
lifetime of the truck you will be spending money
maintaining it, so things like this need to be
taken into consideration.
Finding the right truck
Now, you have to find the truck that’s right for
you. You’ve identified what you need, brand, model, power rating, transmission and rear ends - so
it should be easy, right? You just go to the closest
dealership and write a cheque? No, that’s still a
long way off yet. There are a number of things
that now have to be decided: do you buy a nearly
new truck, one that’s halfway through its life or
one that is almost worn out? For some of you, the
first one or two options may not be possible, but
assuming you have the money for a nearly new
truck we’ll start there and work our way down
through the options.
The option of a nearly new truck can seem very
attractive. The trucks available may still have
some manufacturer’s warranty left on them, they
will have lower mileage and will be in pretty
good shape and they’ll have that all-important
curb appeal. But they’re not always without their
problems. The warranty may cover parts and
labour in some cases, but it doesn’t pay downtime
and trucks have become increasingly complicated
in recent years, mainly due to tightening emission regulations. The trucks that conform to the
EPA07 regulations are statistically more likely to
suffer breakdowns than pre-emission trucks. As
with most new technology, it sometimes takes a
little while to iron out the kinks.
Next on the list are the trucks older than three
years, but not yet at the end of their working life.
Built after 2003, they will also have some emission
controls, so they too can be troublesome, but less
so than the newer models.
While thorough research can help you find a
truck that doesn’t suffer from EGR- or DPF-related issues, you can’t eliminate the risks entirely.
But if you use due diligence you can reduce that
There are several important steps you need to
follow to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon. First thing is to get a full ECM report. Check
out everything on it, look for idle time, average
speed driven, average shift speed and fuel mileage. A quick look at these items can tell you a lot.
If the truck has been thrashed, walk away. If
it has a really high idle percentage, walk away.
If the fuel mileage is low, walk away. Check out
any maintenance history. If the truck has been
in the shop with repeated problems, walk away.
More useful information can be gleaned from
taking oil samples from the engine, transmission and rear ends. Ideally, the truck will not
have been serviced recently so the engine oil has
a few miles on it when you take the sample. Get
a sample tested by a lab. The engine manufacturers all offer this service and the results can
tell you a lot about the health of the components.
If all that comes back good and you’re still interested in a particular truck, get a mechanic to give it
a good going over. Check that it has been greased
and that suspension bushings are in good shape.
Healthy, greased components indicate that the
truck has been looked after. If it hasn’t, walk away.
So it passes all the tests so far and you’re still
interested. Next thing is to hook up to a dynamometer and check for blow-by. This will give
you an idea of the health of the internal components. The actual values will differ depending
on the engine and the mileage, so listen to the
technician. If it’s worse than it should be, walk
away. Next, check power to the ground. A healthy
engine should be putting at least 80% of its
rated power through the rear tires. If it isn’t, then
something isn’t right and it’s time to walk away
again. If it passes all of those tests, then you’ve
found your new truck - once you’ve negotiated a
good price, of course. But we’ll come to that later.
First we have to deal with the well-used truck.
As these will be almost worn out, it isn’t worth
Choosing the Right Used Truck
By Harry Rudolfs
What to consider when shoppping
for a used truck.
18 s p e c s m a r t
option well worth considering, especially if there
are no vehicle age limits placed on your operation. If you do go for this option you don’t want
to go too old. Engine manufacturers were at the
top of their game just before emission controls
diverted all their attention away from efficiency,
so a turn-of-the-century truck is probably the
best way to go.
going through all the time and trouble – not
to mention the expense – of making all of the
For these older trucks, I would recommend
a check over by a mechanic and maybe an oil
sample, just to make sure that it isn’t about to suffer a major component failure. Other than that,
there’s not much more you can do, although the
fact that it has survived so far is encouraging. If
it was a lemon, it would have found its way to the
junk yard a long time ago.
If the newer technology worries you and you don’t
want to run around in an older truck waiting for
it to gasp its last breath, there is another option.
You can do a glider kit of sorts. This way you can
really tailor the truck to suit your needs. You need
to find a donor truck and then you have the starting point. It doesn’t even need to be a runner as
you can refurbish almost every part, but the more
you have to do, the more money you’ll spend.
You can build an engine to your spec’s, have
the transmission and rear ends you want and
do a little custom work along the way, making
upgrades to various components to both lower
maintenance costs and improve efficiency. It’s an
A personal decision
Having taken all the above into consideration,
you should now have selected a truck that’s a
good fit for your application with technology that
makes you feel comfortable.
For my own operation, which is van/reefer
work throughout Western Canada and the 48
states, I’d purchase something along the lines of
this: I’m a big fan of the classic, so I would get
a pre-emissions (EPA07) Pete 379 with either a
6NZ Cat or 60 Series Detroit. I’d run 2:79 gears
with a single-over 18-speed, so I could cruise at
an economical 100 km/h in 17th (direct) and have
18th (overdrive) available if I needed it.
It would get decent economy and my maintenance costs would be at the lower end of the scale.
But remember, everyone’s preferences and work
situation is different, so choose a truck with which
you feel comfortable.
Whichever route you decide to go, you’ll come to
a point where you have to hand over your hardearned money. This is where the art of negotiation comes in. If you’re buying from a dealership,
don’t just concentrate on getting the lowest price.
What you want is the best value for your money.
You may be able to knock a grand or two off
the sticker price, but paying the sticker price
and getting new rubber all around or having
the truck painted in your colours may save you
even more in the long run. You have to look at
each case differently, but in all cases if you don’t
ask, you won’t get. Remember, you can always
increase your offer. Truck dealers do this day
in and day out. Make them work hard for their
money; turn things around so that they sell you
a truck, rather than you buying the truck from
them, and don’t ever be afraid to walk away. Buying the wrong truck could cost you a lot more
than you think.
10 steps towards a
better full service
Full-service leasing companies offer a wide array of
competitive services but getting the most flexible deal
for your money means going into the lease armed
with a few good pointers
By Lou Smyrlis
20 s p e c s m a r t
1) Nail the lease versus own decision
Full-service leasing allows companies to be able
to concentrate on their core competencies outside
of running the fleet. Leasing can provide fixed,
predictable payments rather than variable rate
financing as occurs on some purchasing. Under
a lease, the statement can show operating lease
payments as a monthly expense rather than longterm debt on the balance sheet, freeing up capital
within the company to reinvest elsewhere. Essentially, full-service leasing is an unbundling of the
But not all leases are created equally, so fleet
managers should be able to see the cold hard facts
in a numbers analysis. Leasing companies have
software that helps crunch the numbers in the
lease vs. own decision as well as compare different types of leases. For example, when weighing
owning vs. leasing, the software will divide truck
ownership into different components: financial,
depreciation value, and administration costs. The
program will also go over management costs, fuel
costs and preventive maintenance and regular
maintenance. If you have your own numbers,
that’s even better. You can plug those in too.
Full service truck leases, unlike most other
purchases or straight finance leases have many
variables which is why a lease vs. own analysis is
2) Know your own costs
When weighing your lease vs. own options, it’s
important to first take a thorough inventory of
your costs. Leasing experts will tell you that many
fleet managers do not know their true transportation costs. This is particularly so if the leasing
decision is driven by the CFO, who may be more
in touch with cash flow than operational costs.
Maintenance is one area where costs don’t
tend to be captured as well as they should. For
example, tires may not be included in the cost of
maintenance and so when the cost calculations
are done, they may not include tire costs of say 1.5
cents per mile, which can be significant. So focus
on the extra costs that may not be as transparent.
If you are not sure how all your costs will be factored in, don’t be afraid to ask questions. And be
wary if the lessor doesn’t do the same.
3) Be clear about maintenance
It’s a given that fleet maintenance will automatically eat up both time and money but how much
can vary. Full service lease programs can have
standardized repair costs across North America
built in to the agreement so that if repairs have to
be done in another province or state, there are no
Also, make sure you are well-informed about
service schedules. Look for a maintenance program that covers your operation completely and
includes inspections that keep breakdown costs
down. You should be notified when the equipment
is due in for servicing. A full-service lease should
also respond to your maintenance concerns for
both preventive and reactive maintenance.
When you do need emergency road service,
look for 365 days a year availability, 24 hours a
day. The average response time for service (across
the choice of vendors), outside of the remotest
lanes and the worst weather conditions, should be
at or under two hours. Look for a leasing company that has set up a computerized network of
vendors that can respond to your service needs,
and make sure that the leasing company will
vouch for that vendor. Your lessor should have a
road service track record that can be documented
in print, not just verbally. A superior full service
lease supplier should provide documentable evidence which proves that the average downtime for
To Lease or Not to Lease
By Julia Kuzeljevich
Weighing the pros and cons of fullservice leasing in light of costly new
Lenders Say They’re Open
By Ingrid Phaneuf
Have finance companies finally
loosened their lending criteria for
new equipment purchases?
Four Takeaways from Tax
By Scott Taylor
Lessons learned from Canada
Meal Deduction Rates
Make 2011 a Year to
By Scott Taylor
Why owner/operators may want to
take a hard look at incorporating
22 s p e c s m a r t
a truck requiring emergency road service is
under two hours.
Another issue is substitute vehicles.
Make sure your leasing company will arrange substitutes for you as quickly as
And consider the proximity of the leasing company’s maintenance facility to your
location. If you have to travel a long way
to your leasing company, that will cut into
4) Build flexibility into the
Have a plan about what kinds of flexibility you may want built into your lease in
future, and bring up these needs at the
initial discussion with the lessor. A leasing
company should be willing to build flexibility into your payment structure, and to
work with you on any specific needs. For
example, if your business is seasonal, can
your payment schedule work around this?
Locking into a longer lease on equipment you may need to change can be another risk. So look for some flexibility on
upgrading or swapping within the lease.
Payment plans are normally within 1216 months. Some are stretched over seven
or eight years. But it’s not often you’re going to have lease arrangement beyond five
years, because things change and need to
5) Shop for extras and
If you are deciding between different leasing companies as a first time lessee, or
looking to move from one company to
another, what sorts of value-added services
does your business need to enhance the
deal? Value-adds can include things such
as an unlimited truck washing program.
Standardization of service is another potentially important value-add. In the end,
it’s all about taking the headaches away
from the lessee.
6) Insist on assurances for quality
A typical lease is a long-term relationship and a
major financial transaction. A typical lease term
lasts about five years, and a good percentage of
leases get renewed, so you’re looking at a good
fifteen years of building a solid business relationship with your lessor. Receiving good customer
service is of paramount importance.
Signs of good customer service include a willingness to assign an account manager to you so
you always have one person they can talk to.
Beyond personal relationships, consider what
kind of guarantees you are provided on paper. Ask
what kind of quality assurance the lessor provides.
Does the company have a customer audit and customer service program? Does it have a requirement to see you every month to ensure there are
no concerns? Does the company have a customer
orientation meeting? Does your lessor or prospective lessor provide satisfactory feedback on
issues such as data reporting and fuel efficiency?
Lastly, does the leasing company have a measurement system in place?
The leasing company should be able and willing to measure every aspect of its performance to
the fleet and provide a fully documentable "report
card" showing how it is performing.
the life of the lease and beyond. Watch out for
underspec’ing. When there are four or five leasing companies competing against each other,
some of the companies may bring the price down
by underspec’ing. A good leasing company will
show an interest in spec’ing right to cover its
costs. The right leasing company won’t want you
to run the wrong type of equipment just to get
your business because maintenance would prove
9) Be aware of market conditions
The slowdown in freight volumes started before
the recession and carriers hung on to their vehicles because they didn’t want to renew their
fleets during uncertain times. As a result, there
are now a lot of carriers with older vehicles they
want to move out of their fleet but may have
difficulties doing so because of the low trade-in
value for those trucks. With leasing, you don’t
have to worry about residual value - the lessor
does. Although the glut of trucks on the market
isn’t the greatest situation for a leasing company,
it can work out well for a savvy customer. When
leasing companies have a lot of used trucks, they
can put together special deals to move them.
7) Understand how outsourcing will
impact your employees
10) Get your administrative
nightmares looked after
Be prepared to deal with employee issues if you
are outsourcing maintenance to a third party
but keep in mind that when companies go with
a leased fleet, the opportunity to run with newer
spec’s can be a benefit on the driver retention side.
In fact, leasing companies say they’ve found in the
past they’ve been able to help fleets retain drivers,
and boost driver morale by putting the drivers in
the right vehicle.
If paperwork on permits and licensing is tying up your valuable time, will your leasing
company take on this onerous task for you? A
full service lease supplier should offer you relief
from administrative burdens associated with
transportation services, such as permitting and
legalization services, and licensing. Some of the
items a fleet manager should insist on from its
full service lease provider include state (or provincial) and federal licensing and registrations,
vehicle safety inspections, local tax payments,
heavy vehicle use payments, fuel tax permitting, fuel tax reporting, emergency permitting,
service records compliant (with DOT and Canadian equivalents), hazardous waste issues, and
8) Watch out for under-specing
When it comes to spec’ing, fleet managers should
come to the table with as much knowledge as
possible. But a lessor should be able to offer a
properly spec’d vehicle for the purpose, and for
Cat unveils much anticipated vocational truck
aterpillar has taken the
wraps off a stunning new
vocational truck that will be suitable for a full range of vocations.
The set-back axle (SBA) Caterpillar CT660 was unveiled
to industry journalists prior to
Conexpo-Con/Agg and surprisingly, it was painted viper red,
a departure from Caterpillar's
trademark yellow and black.
The new truck was also significantly different in appearance
than the International PayStar
it was based on, or as Caterpillar officials referred to it as, the
"To say everything above the
frame rail is new is a fair statement," said Gary Blood, product manager, vocational trucks.
"There is very little carryover
inside the interior. We even did
things like, we didn't like how the
window lift worked so there are
24 s p e c s m a r t
now two window lifts per door."
Attention to detail was the
theme during the CT660's design process, which included
heavy consultation with customers. Cat wasn't afraid to deviate
from industry norms with its
debut model. The tired wood
grain paneling so often found on
truck dashes has been replaced
with brushed aluminum, giving
the interior a modern look. Cat
also integrated the speedometer
and the tach into a single gauge
to better utilize dash space.
The glove box has been replaced with a removable storage
bin. And drivers of all sizes will
find a comfortable place to rest
their left elbow: a folding armrest, the door handle or for taller
drivers, the window sill.
The CT660's exterior is
equally unique. It has a threepiece stainless steel bumper
that's easy to repair. The end
pieces will bend back 180-degrees before causing damage to
the centre section. Composite
plastic fender sections are damage-resistant and easy to replace.
The honeycomb grille is
framed by a stylish three-piece
stainless grille surround. The
cab is aluminum, saving about
250 lbs compared to steel, Blood
noted, and the sloped hood affords excellent visibility. Visibility is further enhanced with
optional convex mirrors over the
doors, which were favoured over
a Fresnel lens inside the door
since they can fill with water
or become obstructed by items
inside the cab. Cat officials also
said the CT660 offers a best in
class turning radius.
"We have touched every panel on this cab. It is not the same
cab the parent donor started
out with," Blood said. Cat even
changed how the mirrors were
mounted onto the A-pillars and
improved accessibility to the
doghouse panel as it Caterpillarized the CT660.
Improved door seals and a
standard enhanced insulation
package make the cab super
quiet, Cat officials insisted, although the truck hasn't yet been
made available for road tests.
Under the hood is a yellowpainted International MaxxForce 11 or 13, rebadged the Cat
CT11 and CT13 with a CT15
to come later. Subtle enhancements have been made to make
the engines a true Caterpillar,
but Blood admitted the engine
is not much of a departure from
the International base engine.
The engines will use advanced
EGR and will come in power
ratings ranging from 330 to 550
hp (once the CT15 is brought
on-line) and torque ratings from
1,450 to 1,850 lb.-ft. The truck
will be available with a wide
range of manual and automated
transmissions, but Cat's own
CX31 will be a notable option.
The fully automatic transmission has six forward speeds and
one reverse gear.
Caterpillar will begin taking
orders for the CT660 in April
and commence production in
May with initial deliveries to
begin in July. The CT15 will
be available in the first quarter
of 2012, and Cat has already
announced a set-forward axle
CT680 will be the next member
of the family, available in the
first quarter of 2013. Pricing for
the CT660 is not yet available and will depend largely on the
specifications - but it will be
priced like a premium product.
A full report on the Cat
CT660 will be available in the
May issues of Truck News and
Truck West. The truck will also
be featured in an upcoming
episode of our weekly WebTV
show, Transportation Matters
Click here to see video of the
Click here to see George
Taylor discuss why he feels the
new Cat truck will be a hit. SS
A look at how Mack’s new automated transmission mDrive
performs on a serious grade.
s p e c s m a r t 25
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26 s p e c s m a r t
New Product introductions
New aerodynamic fairing and enhancements add
significant boost to fuel efficiency for Mack’s Pinnacle
ack Trucks, Inc. has unveiled an assortment of
product enhancements, including new, optimized roof and
chassis fairings for the MACK
Pinnacle models, additional
fuel-efficient Econodyne ratings for its Mack MP engines
and interior enhancements to
improve driver comfort and
Mack rolled out redesigned
roof fairings for its Pinnacle
70-inch high-rise, 70-inch midrise and 60-inch mid-rise sleepers. The company also debuted
stronger, lighter, longer chassis
fairings, covering up to a 140
gallon fuel tank - yet costing
considerably less than the previous option. Customers ordering
Mack Pinnacle model sleepers
with improved aerodynamics
can expect up to a six percent
fuel efficiency improvement,
according to Jerry Warmkessel,
marketing manager, highway
"The new roof fairings are
optimized for the lowest possible coefficient of drag and a
much smoother transfer of air
from the truck to the trailer,"
Warmkessel said. "The design of the new chassis fairings is simpler, and more aerodynamic. The fuel efficiency
improvements achievable with
these optimized aero aids and
the proven performance of our
MP engines with ClearTech
SCR positions the Mack Pinnacle among the best in highway fuel efficiency."
Warmkessel placed the fuel
savings possible by this combination of features at 12.5%
and said he believes such savings at a time when fleets are
so concerned about rising diesel prices will lead to greater
interest in the Mack brand.
"We will be in double digit
figures in market share in the
very near future. I absolutely
guarantee it," he said.
Building on the fuel saving
performance of its EPA 2010
certified MP engines, Mack
also announced the addition of
four new Econodyne ratings MP7-405E, MP8-415E, MP8445E, MP8-505E -optimized
for fuel efficiency without sacrificing power. Through an
enhanced fuel mapping strategy, Mack's EconoBoost intelligent torque management system offers an extra 200 lb-ft. of
torque seamlessly through the
"We found that drivers can
significantly increase fuel ef-
ficiency by remaining in the
top gear as much as possible,"
said David McKenna, Mack
director of powertrain sales
and marketing. "EconoBoost
initiates at 1300 RPM, providing additional power that
allows drivers to remain longer in the top two gears. The
engine torque reverts back to
the lower profile when the engine senses situations with zero
torque input, such as cresting
Further enhancements to the
Mack Pinnacle series include an
optional one-piece windshield,
and an updated Grand Touring
trim package with button-tuck
vinyl and ultraleather seats that
provides drivers comfort and a
welcoming environment, at no
extra charge over the previous
Mack also introduced a new
twin-steer package for its Granite model heavy duty Class 8
conventional straight truck.
Available in axle-forward or
axle-back packages, the twinsteer now offers vertical backof-cab aftertreatment - DPF
and SCR. Mack's vocational
trucks now also feature Body
Link III. Designed with extensive input from body builders,
the new Body Link III provides a conveniently located
under-cab 29 pin connector, cab
pass-through boot for a quick
and reliable body hookup, and
assignable in-cab switches. SS
s p e c s m a r t 27
New Product introductions
Freightliner introduces new vocational models
reightliner has expanded its vocational
presence with the introduction of two new
The 108SD is a 108-inch BBC offering with a
42-inch set-back axle position with axle ratings
of 10,000- to 20,000 lbs on the front and up to
46,000 lbs on the rear. It comes with Cummins
ISB or ISC power under the hood, with ratings of
200 to 350 hp and 520 to 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque.
The larger 114SD is available in either setforward or set-back axle configurations with front
axle ratings of up to 23,000 lbs and rear axle ratings of up to 69,000 lbs in tridem configurations.
The 114SD comes with Detroit Diesel's DD13
engine as standard, along with its BlueTec Selective
Catalytic Reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment
system. Power ratings for the 114SD range from
260 to 380 hp and 660 to 1,300 lb.-ft. of torque.
During a recent ride-and-drive event, T.J. Reed,
director of product marketing told trucknews.com
that the SCR system and other components have
been tucked up underneath the cab to provide a
clear back of cab for easier body upfitting.
"We have packed as much equipment up underneath the cab as we can: the aftertreatment system,
the fuel tanks, the DEF tanks and the batteries,"
he explained. The new trucks boast a stationary
grille, which allows the hood to be opened without
being impeded by front-mounted equipment such
as snow plows.
28 s p e c s m a r t
Both new vocational trucks have a lightweight aluminum cab, which Reed said is durable enough to often outlive the bodies that
will be attached to the trucks. Dump, crane,
roll-off and mixer applications are among those
well suited for the new Freightliner vocational
offerings. Also new to the family is a SmartPlex electrical system that allows for simplified
chassis-to-body electrical integration for truck
The trucks are ideal for crane attachments with
capacities from eight to 50 tonnes, the company
"Whether lifting or hauling, uptime is absolutely essential in the boom truck market, and our
new line of Severe-Duty chassis will keep our customers on the job earning profit, by providing the
most efficient, smart business solution to handle
any boom truck application," announced David
Hames, general manager, marketing and strategy
with Daimler Trucks North America.
Freightliner also introduced a new tag line for
its vocational products: Work Smart, a spin-off of
the company's Run Smart slogan for its highway
products. The new 114SD SFA will begin production in the second quarter of 2011 while the 108SD
and 114SD SBA to go on line by the end of 2011,
The May issues of Truck News and Truck West
will review the new SD family.
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New Product introductions
Navistar showcases improvements to WorkStar
avistar unveiled improvements to its International WorkStar severe-service trucks
at the Conexpo-Con/Agg construction industry
New to the WorkStar is a high-visibility sloped
hood option and a completely new interior with
improved ergonomics and driver comfort enhancements, the company announced.
"With the new sloped hood, WorkStar is now
available in a comprehensive range of specifications to meet the diverse needs of our vocational
truck customers," said Jim Hebe, Navistar's senior vice-president, North American sales operations. "Together with the improved visibility and
interior enhancements, the WorkStar provides
an added level of comfort and convenience that
allows these vocational truck drivers to do their
jobs safely and effectively."
International also borrowed a strong vocational
"mega-bracket" from its PayStar 5900 Set-Back
Axle (SBA) offering and applied it to the WorkStar,
to provide more radiator and front-end support.
Key features for the International WorkStar
7600 with sloped hood are: 113-inch BBC for
excellent maneuverability; best-in-class visibility; 150,000-lb tow hooks; availability in 4x2
and 6x4 axle configurations; and availability
for REPTO and transmission-mounted PTO
New interior features include: easy-to-read ivory gauges or chrome bezel black gauges on the
instrument panel; rosewood trim on the dash; an
ergonomic center panel for easy access to switches;
hands-on steering wheel controls; easy to clean
floor mats; and a new back wall pocket for additional storage.
"From our no-hassle MaxxForce Advanced
EGR emissions technology and new products like
the TerraStar and TerraStar 4x4 to the integration of Continental Mixers, we continue to focus
on meeting the needs of construction customers,"
Hebe said. "We are committed to delivering innovative, best-in-class products that move the
construction market forward."
#MATS: MaxxForce 15 makes Mid-America debut
#MATS: Peterbilt takes bold step in making disc brakes standard
#MATS: Volvo fighting high diesel pricing with 8% fuel efficiency
#MATS: Volvo offers new cab interior
#MATS: Daimler launches mobile parts and service app
#MATS: Freightliner offers new aerodynamic enhancements for Cascadia
#MATS: Western Star introduces enhanced interior for all truck models
#MATS: New Western Star sleeper combines feel of daycab with more
#MATS: Kenworth offers new seats, regional T660 and 6x6 T370
30 s p e c s m a r t