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January 02, 2008
TRENDS AND CHANGES
by Rolf Lockwood
January 2, 2008 Vol. 4, No. 1

I consider this a successful year so far. Young as it is, it’s at least being properly referred to here in this newsletter, as 2008 instead of ’07. An accomplishment, I’d say, given the carrying-on of two nights ago.

It’s also a moment to wish all of you well in what promises, for some, to be a challenging time. There will be changes in the way you go about your business, of course, changes in the products you hold dear. Some of those changes may even represent improvement.

Truth is, if you look back over the last 25 years or so, and I realize that some of you were mere toddlers that far back, you’ll see we’ve gone through truly enormous changes on the hardware front. And that long ago, for all intents and purposes, the software front didn’t even exist!

I’m reminded of that nearly incomprehensible fact because in this issue of Lockwood’s Product Watch I’ve written a short piece about a new and useful wrinkle on software emanating from Carrier Logistics in Tarrytown, N.Y. (www.carrierlogistics.com). I’ve known CLI, and vice president Ken Weinberg in particular, for a very long time. It was more than 20 years ago -– 1983 to be exact -- that I headed down to Montreal to do a story on CLI’s installation of its Routronic automated dispatch system at GTL, a long-lost LTL carrier that was once a major player on the trucking scene in central Canada. I believe it was the first such system in the country, and I thought it was so cool – indeed, it was revolutionary – that I made it my cover story that month. In fact, CLI has been around for more than 35 years, and now offers its consulting services and freight management software systems in Australia and the UK. as well as North America.

To call the latest CLI product a ‘wrinkle’ is to understate things a little. Its new ‘FACTS-ondemand’ is a web-based subscription version of the company’s FACTS freight management system. That means these capabilities: P&D routing and dispatching, interactive web tools, freight billing, integrated accounting, claims, dispatch and equipment control, auto-rating of bills, interline payables, and management reporting.

The idea is to make such capability easily accessible to smaller carriers that need the computing power but can’t afford or can’t justify the significant upfront cost of purchasing an IT system, nor the cost of running an IT department. Essentially, you get an IT department that’s always at work and always ‘staffed’ by reliable pros, but you don’t get the HR headaches, and you have a system that you don’t need to remember to back up!

Weinberg tells me that while small carriers were the original target, larger fleets are now wondering about using this web-based service as a means of ‘outsourcing’ their IT function the same way many have outsourced maintenance. It may be a bigger leap, because you wouldn’t be containing all your critical information in your own house, but it may also make sense for many operations. British outfits lead the way in seeing this opportunity, Weinberg says.

THAT MAY SOON CONSTITUTE A SOFTWARE TREND, but there’s also a big out-and-out change on the nuts-and-bolts horizon. After eight months of discussions, General Motors has agreed to sell its medium-duty truck division to Navistar International, which maintains North American market leadership in class 5 to 7 trucks.

Navistar will take over GM's Kodiak and TopKick nameplates. GM may be giving up its conventional trucks, but it will continue its relationship with Isuzu to market W-Series cabovers.

The deal, which also includes related service parts businesses but no production facilities, is expected to close in 2008. When a deal is definitively done, manufacturing will move from GM’s plant in Flint, Mich., to a Navistar facility yet to be named. GM will retain ownership of the Flint plant and build other products there.

The official GM press release said that the deal means “Navistar would sell a competitive line of Chevrolet and GMC vehicles and service parts through GM’s proprietary dealer network in the United States and Canada.” I haven’t yet had this confirmed, or for that matter explained, but the implication is that you won’t see a Topkick being sold at an International dealership. More on that to come.

Financial terms of the agreement haven’t been announced. But as we reported last month, analysts say that GM's medium-duty business -- which made nearly 60,000 trucks last year and controls 12% of the mid-range market -- is valued at $500 million.

SPEAKING OF MEDIUM-DUTY TRUCKS, you might want to wander over to The Work Truck Show at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia next month, especially if you’re interested in hybrid powertrains. The associated National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) convention and educational sessions start Feb. 25 and the show runs to Feb. 28.

The highlight of this solid convention and show for me and a growing number of others is the day-long Hybrid Truck & Alternative Fuels Summit on the 25th. This year it’s going to be kicked off by Clarence H. ‘Bud’ Albright, Jr., Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy. He oversees the DOE’s energy and environment programs.

The Summit, sponsored by International Truck and Engine, features a dramatically expanded curriculum, which includes general sessions, product demonstrations, breakouts and a reception.

“Although it’s part of The Work Truck Show and Annual NTEA Convention, the Summit has grown into a major industry event,” says Jim Carney, NTEA executive director.

A big lineup of industry and academic experts will cover the hottest topics in hybrid and alternative fuel technology during six general sessions following Albright’s keynote address. Among others, Daniel Kratz, truck operations manager for GE Capital Solutions, will present the ‘Future of Hybrid & Alternative Fuel Work Trucks.’ Dr. Richard Nelson, Kansas State University professor and representative of the National BioDiesel Board, will discuss ‘Implications for Bio-diesel Expansion.’ A ‘Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF)’ update will be provided by Bill VanAmburg, senior vice president of Weststart-CALSTART. And Tony Bizjak, transportation engineer for the Fairfax County Department of Vehicle Services in Virginia, will conduct a ‘Light-duty Hybrid Work Truck Action Group Update.’ To register for the show, the convention, or the hybrid summit, have a look at www.ntea.com or call 1-800-441-6832. And hey, don’t forget our own show, Truck World 2008, to be held in Toronto on April 17th through the 19th at the International Centre. You’ll be among some 20,000 visitors checking out the wares of more than 500 exhibitors. Call 416/614-5817 or visit www.truckworld.ca.

This newsletter is published every two weeks. It's a heads-up notice about what's going on with trucking technology as well as what you can see at www.todaystrucking.com where you'll find in-detail coverage of nearly everything that's new. Plus interesting products that may not have had the 'air play' they deserved within the last few months. Why not subscribe today?

And while you’re there at www.todaystrucking.com, check out the Decision Centers. They’re essentially libraries on specific subjects like Engines or Braking Systems. We’ve gathered all manner of information from maintenance manuals to research reports – and we’re always finding more – to help you make decisions about spec’ing, operating, and maintaining trucks and truck systems.

If you have comments of whatever sort about Product Watch, or maybe a gizmo I should know about, please contact me at rlockwood@newcom.ca.

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(January 02, 2008) -- Hendrickson improves the steerable Paralift, now lighter and more adjustable, a boon to truck owners and body-builders ...more

HILL-START ASSIST
(January 02, 2008) -- Volvo’s I-Shift transmission has an option that makes for a safer launch on even slight grades ...more

MCLEOD’S FUEL-TAX MODULE
(January 02, 2008) -- GPS-based option for LoadMaster customers streamlines data collection in fuel-tax processing ...more

A/C COMPRESSOR OIL
(January 02, 2008) -- Behr Hella’s synthetic oil features non-hygroscopic formula, UV leak detection agent, and exclusive warranty ...more

FREIGHT MANAGEMENT
(January 02, 2008) -- Carrier Logistics introduces version of popular FACTS system aimed at smaller carriers ...more

ROLL STABILITY IMPROVED
(December 19, 2007) -- Meritor Wabco simplifies Roll Stability system, adds features, and retrofit is OK ...more

HR GUIDE, SEMINARS
(December 19, 2007) -- New tools from CTHRC will help tackle recruiting and retention needs ...more


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