As the trucking industry struggles with fewer veteran drivers and greater freight volumes, more and more fleet owners are turning to automatic transmissions as a way to ease recruitment and reduce downtime.
Allison’s Lou Gilbert made this point in the last edition of ‘Automatic Insights,’ referencing a recent survey by Heavy Duty Trucking: Fleet decision-makers increasingly agree that automatics make recruitment easier and trucks safer. Another 2014 study, by consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, confirmed that fleet managers plan to increase trucks equipped with fully automatic or partially automated transmissions nearly 10 percent in 2015.
At a recent Ride-and-Drive event at Allison Transmission headquarters in Indianapolis, a number of leading fleet professionals put the Allison TC10® transmission to the test against automated manual competitors; their reactions confirm that automatic transmissions are pulling the Class 8 market in a new direction.
“The TC10 was superior to the AMT,” said Mike Turner of Rush Trucking, a 750-truck fleet based in Detroit. “I was impressed by how quickly the TC10 moved through the gears, [while] the AMT lost torque every time it had to shift.”
Colin Owen, Director of Maintenance at Central Freightlines, had similar kudos for the TC10’s performance. Allison’s Continuous Power Technology™ delivers efficient horsepower to the drive wheels for smooth acceleration: “I was impressed by the TC10’s acceleration at launch. I did notice the difference – the [automated manual] UltraShift seemed to lag.”
But Owen, representing a company that provides transportation and distribution services across 49 states, quickly focused on the bottom line. “The more we deliver, the more money we make,” he said. “I do feel like the TC10 would make us more productive.”
“It may make a driver a 23- or 24-stop-a-day guy instead of a 22-stop guy,” agreed Jim Boyd, director of fleet technical services for Southeastern Freight Lines. Boyd also emphasized the immediate impact of fuel economy, a critical issue for the company’s fleet (nearly 2,900 trucks) in this era of high diesel prices.
“We’re hunting for fuel economy,” he said. “And with the TC10 and proper coaching – coaching is still important – drivers can leave the engine in the ‘sweet spot’ longer and save fuel.”
Along with fuel costs, maintenance and downtime are also challenges to the bottom line. Automatic transmissions help operators – especially less experienced drivers – reduce stress on their equipment with seamless shifting, while allowing them to focus more attention on the road.
Keith Stevens is vice president of maintenance for JB Hunt, one of the largest transportation logistics companies in North America. With more than 20 years in the industry, Stevens quickly saw the value of the TC10 in fleet performance and longevity.
“The Allison TC10 pulled smoothly, accelerated smoothly – the biggest difference I saw was the acceleration from light to light,” he said. “The UltraShift just labored harder to get into top gear and ran higher RPMs. There was less wear and tear on the shifting pattern on the TC10...you’ll see less wear and tear on the drivetrain itself.”
As more fleets move towards automatic transmissions, the TC10’s combination of fuel economy, powerful performance and drivability is earning the respect of industry veterans.
“We see the end of the road for manual transmissions – the handwriting is on the wall,” finished Boyd. “And as for the TC10, it’s a big, robustly-built transmission. And with the fuel economy and reduced maintenance that equates to a lower total cost of ownership...you’ve really got something.”
Attendees to the upcoming American Trucking Association’s 2014 Management Conference (Oct. 4-7, San Diego) can learn more about the TC10 by visiting Booth 1057, or checking out our website.
Can the trucking industry ‘go green’ and still handle 20 percent more freight tonnage over the next decade? Can fleets shrink their carbon footprints without sacrificing productivity in today’s just-in-time economy?
Allison Transmission and Cummins Inc. are finding answers, engineering an ultra-low-carbon powertrain that still delivers seamless power and acceleration. Allison recently introduced an integrated stop-start technology for Project ETHOS, a program created by Cummins to demonstrate the potential for cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in medium-duty commercial vehicles.
Integrated stop-start shuts the engine down when the operator presses the brake pedal and the vehicle comes to a complete stop. The transmission remains in drive during this time and locks the output to help prevent vehicle rollback by using an electric pump to maintain internal hydraulic pressure. As the driver’s foot is lifted from the brake, the system automatically starts the engine to allow acceleration.
A driving demonstration for the Project ETHOS powertrain technology took place on public roads in California during June and July. While the powertrain system and vehicle are for testing and demonstration purposes only, the simultaneous demands for CO2 reductions and fleet productivity point to a promising future for such innovative solutions.
“We pride ourselves on being an industry leader for technological innovations,” said Randall R. Kirk, senior vice president of product engineering for Allison Transmission. “We have utilized stop-start technology in our hybrid systems for many years and have been pleased to apply it to this new powertrain concept in our latest collaboration with Cummins.”
In partnership with the California Energy Commission, Cummins developed an engine that uses E85 (a high-octane blend of ethanol and gasoline) as a fuel to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions significantly. The Cummins ETHOS 2.8L engine is coupled with an Allison 2550 Series fully automatic transmission which utilizes integrated stop-start to cut emissions even further while increasing fuel economy.
“Integrated stop-start is an exciting development that represents the natural evolution of our product technology,” said Kirk. “We are continuously researching solutions to help our end-users reduce their carbon emissions and fuel consumption.”
Allison worked closely with Cummins to integrate the 2550 transmission model for maximum efficiency and drivability. The transmission is equipped with specific hydraulic circulation features to ensure smooth operation during stop-start driving. Additionally, all Allison Automatics provide Continuous Power Technology™ with seamless full-power shifts to deliver horsepower to the drive wheels in the most efficient way. The result is faster acceleration and higher average road speeds, accomplishing more work in less time.
Testing and validation were conducted using test cells and a prototype delivery step van provided by Freightliner Custom Chassis. Valvoline provided NextGen engine oils specifically designed for lower CO2 emissions.
According to Cummins, with more than 1,500 hours accumulated on the ETHOS 2.8L engine over the past 2 1⁄2 years, the technology has proven capable of far exceeding the 50 percent CO2 emission reductions outlined as the project goals.
Earlier this year, Allison introduced FuelSense®, a fuel efficiency package that automatically adapts shift schedules and torque based on load, grade and duty cycle, maximizing transmission efficiency without sacrificing Allison’s superior performance and Continuous Power Technology™.
Navistar, Inc. announced in August that it will offer FuelSense on its medium-duty and vocational International truck models, bringing the latest fuel-saving innovations to a truck manufacturer with more than 110 years in the marketplace.
“With FuelSense, we’ve brought our best thinking to one of the industry’s biggest challenges – how to cut costs without cutting performance, and get the most work out of every drop of fuel,” said Lou Gilbert, director of North American marketing & global brand development for Allison. “We’re excited that Navistar will offer FuelSense and bring these fuel saving features to our customers.”
The industry response to FuelSense has been enthusiastic since its introduction at the NTEA Work Truck Show in March. The system is a welcome solution for fleet owners confronting the reality of diesel prices that have nearly doubled over the last decade, but valuing the advantages of automatic performance – especially in duty cycles that include stop-and-start driving.
“This is a great option for customers who operate in high density city environments or have demanding start and stop duty cycles and seek fuel economy improvements and cost savings,” said Steve Gilligan, vice president, product and vocational marketing, Navistar. “We have seen FuelSense perform well in the International ProStar with the Allison TC10® transmission and we are excited to now include this as an option on our medium-duty and vocational products.”
FuelSense has achieved double-digit fuel savings in initial trials and fleet feedback. Its features include:
It’s a great time of year for sports fans: As baseball cruises towards the postseason, college football and the NFL are getting underway. In just a few weeks, college hoops teams start practicing and preparing for the annual march towards March.
Above all the action, the Goodyear Blimp is sure to be hovering over the biggest games. Goodyear has been in the ‘blimp business’ for nearly 100 years, and providing live aerial coverage of sporting events for around half that time – but the operation of these huge airships (almost three-fourths the length of a football field) brings challenges that ground-based transportation leaders like Mack Truck and Allison Transmission are best equipped to answer.
Blimps can’t be ‘driven’ on the ground like most airplanes, so a major logistical question is how to get the 13,000-pound craft into its hangar after landing. After all, the newest blimps cost an estimated $21 million each, so protecting them from the elements is paramount.
The blimp relies on a custom-built Mack Granite® truck to haul it (connected by the ‘nose’ to a truck-mounted mooring system) from its landing site to the hangar. The 64,000-pound, all-wheel drive 8x8 truck is equipped with a Mack MP8® engine and an Allison automatic transmission, to deliver the pulling power and performance necessary to move its iconic freight.
Allison transmissions are engineered to thrive in even the most demanding jobs – even powering the 32-ton truck that has to haul and maneuver a blimp that itself weighs more than six tons. The versatility of an Allison delivers the necessary horsepower along with the ability to make tight turns and position the blimp in its hangar. In this delicate operation, smooth handling – and no loss of torque at shift – is a must. The automatic operation keeps the driver focused on the movement of his mammoth cargo and allows him to ‘creep’ the blimp into exactly the right space.
“Watching the Goodyear Blimp float across your television during pre-game, it’s easy to lose sight of how massive it really is,” said Lou Gilbert, director of North American marketing & global brand development for Allison. “In a sense, that’s our goal with an Allison transmission: To shift so seamlessly, without power interruptions, that a driver doesn’t even think about how much weight he’s moving – even if it’s a truck and a blimp that combine for nearly 40 tons!”