A lot of apprehension filled the air as the deadline for EPA '07 emissions-compliant truck engines drew near. New technology in the form of catalyzed diesel particulate filters (DPFs) would be required to meet these stringent requirements, adding a layer of complexity and cost. Rumors surfaced about heat rejection issues, fuel economy and the level of maintenance and service that would be required. Then there were the cost projections indicating you could expect up to a $7,500 premium for the additional components.
Luckily, most of the concerns were unfounded. We contacted owners experienced with the '07 EPA-compliant engines to get the real scoop.
Lancaster, PA-based, Thomas Trucking hauls bulk cement, mulch, topsoil, crushed limestone, sand, wall stone and winter products. Its fleet includes bulk cement trailers, dump trailers, tri-axle dump trucks and single-axle dump trucks. This includes eight 2008 model Peterbilt trucks equipped with '07 Caterpillar C15 engines. These trucks had between 20,000 and 70,000 miles accumulated when we interviewed John Thomas.
According to Thomas, the trucks have proven reliable, especially when you consider it is a totally new design. "What you have to realize is that you have a whole new truck," he states. "They not only changed the engines, but I think the biggest fear was all of the configuration differences they had to make... Everything is totally different.
"We have had one or two issues where the pipe coming out from the motor and into the regen cracked," he continues. But this was very minor considering the changes in the overall design. "You can test and test, but until you get it on the road you don't know what you have," he says.
Reliability has not been a concern. "Out of the eight, we have four or five we have never touched," says Thomas. A couple had minor issues that Caterpillar resolved, but there have not been any major problems. "We have had no heating issues at all," he says.
Fuel economy is also not a factor with these trucks. "We actually find that the fuel economy is about 1/4- to 1/2-mpg better," says Thomas. "They actually perform better because they have more power than the '06s did."
The only drawback has been that the trucks don't allow the use of heated beds.
The diesel particulate filters (DPFs) need to be regenerated to burn off accumulated particulate matter. During this process, exhaust temperatures can reach high ambients. But drivers typically don't notice. "You can't tell anything," says Thomas. "You just drive the truck."
Thomas also didn't have to pay the cost penalty associated with the additional emissions hardware. "I actually paid less for my '08 trucks than I paid for my '07 trucks," he recalls. The trucks were ordered from the Peterbilt dealer in November of '06. "They were hungry and everybody was scared of the [new engines], so I ordered them in November for March/April delivery."
Many customers fear the unknown, but Thomas isn't one of them. "There is always a fear," he says. "The same thing happened in '04. The bottom line with anything in life is you have to go forward. There are guys out there that, if you let them, would still have mechanical engines. My theory has always been the future is coming. We can't stop it. I would take some of the risk up front and run the new stuff. Sure there are going to be some downsides to it, but you have to pick up and go. There are a lot more positive things than negatives."
Calfrac Well Services is a leading provider of specialized oil field and well stimulation services. The company runs a fleet of approximately 750 trucks. It currently has 26 Kenworth T800s equipped with '07 Cummins ISX engines.
These trucks spend 50% of their time on paved roads and 50% off road. "We don't accumulate a lot of miles," says Greg Kessler, maintenance manager. "They get a lot of hours, but not a lot of miles."