Letters: APU Market Slump, Fuel Prices, Execs vs. Dealers, E-Logs, Outrageous Terms

These Letters to the Editor appear in the March 2 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

APU Market Slump

Your story on the demise of RigMaster comes as no surprise in a sector of the truck market that has seen a drastic downturn of new business, mostly exacerbated by tightening of credit markets (2-9, p. 4). For more than six months now, auxiliary power unit sales business generally has been severely affected by these and other market forces, although it is fair to state that the repair side is still showing some continued strength.

For those who bought the RigMaster APU, there is no need to be too concerned about parts and service. It is fortunate that the unit shares much of its component parts with other APU manufacturers. The items that are product-sensitive or captive are easily sourced in the aftermarket, so there should be no reason to worry about obsolescence in the short term.



Anticipating RigMaster’s demise, other APU makers, my company included, have taken stock to purchase major component parts and defunct units for teardown and are in the process of looking at ways to improve the product that is out there. That means present and future customers will be able to use their APU for the duration of its anticipated life cycle.

For those with the generator-style APU, it is important to switch off the 110/115 power demand during start-up and shutdown. The power draw tends to stress the capacitor in the generator, leading to premature capacitor failure and no power generation.

Dennis Williams

President

Linden Engineering Inc.

Golden, Colo.

Fuel Prices

If the price per barrel of oil is the lowest it has been in five years, why is fuel still more than $2 a gallon?

Who is getting all this profit at this time of low income?

Rob Barry

Owner

Bar-J Transport

Martinsburg, W.Va.

Execs vs. Dealers

I have to side with the dealerships on this one: “Fleet Execs Confront Dealers on Padded Bills, Estimates” (2-16, p. 3, click here for previous story). Yes, sometimes a truck is in the shop for an unusually long time, but for the most part, trucks get out of a dealership on a timely basis.

Take into account that almost every dealer is overburdened, dealing with the owner of one truck up to the mega-fleets and everything in between. There is only so much time, space and technicians to work on equipment.

Also take into account that the advanced electronics and other high-tech components on trucks today have increased tech time substantially. Most dealers have a first-come, first-served philosophy. Or, if the dealer has a close relationship with the carrier, they often can work the equipment in ahead of others.

If you follow up with the dealer and monitor your equipment professionally, you can get in and out on a timely basis, but there are instances where the equipment will be in for a long time. It’s frustrating, but it’s going to happen and you have to deal with it occasionally. The dealerships don’t want to keep your equipment. They want it in and out of their shop, repaired correctly, as efficiently as possible, so they can bill you and prepare for the next customer.

I did notice that a couple of those complaining run less-than-desirable maintenance programs and rely heavily on breakdown maintenance. Just a hint to those complainers: Improving your in-house maintenance department, programs and processes will greatly reduce your dependency on dealerships, reduce your outside expenses, reduce your overall costs and reduce your equipment downtime at the dealership.

Greg Hart

Owner

Hart Consulting

Valparaiso, Ind.

Electronic Logs

I read with great interest the article about electronic logs in the Feb. 16 edition of Transport Topics’ magazine supplement, iTECH (p. 10).

I am amazed by the debate.

As an executive of a company that has used the technology and achieved a 98% hours-of-service compliance, I have to question everyone’s commitment to complying with the HOS rules. By “everyone,” I mean the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the shippers and the transportation companies.

This may sound harsh, but what other explanation is there? Monitoring compliance using electronic logs is cheaper than

monitoring with paper logs. It is real time, which makes it much easier to determine the driver’s availability.

The only real reason for not adopting electronic logs is in the body of the article, where a carrier’s safety director said they would be at a competitive disadvantage if they followed the rules but others didn’t.

So what is being said here? Clearly, the message is that if we can’t cheat like everybody else, then we can’t compete.

You may think I am criticizing the person or the company, but I am not. It is a very real concern. More than once, customers have asked us why we were six hours late when our truck was two hours from the delivery point. The answer is that because of our strict enforcement of log rules, our drivers did what they were supposed to do. They stopped and took their break. The competitor’s truck makes it on time because their driver, using paper logs, had the latitude to make the logs appear legal. After all, it was only two hours.

However, I do think that the industry and the FMCSA are being somewhat shortsighted on the subject. On more than one occasion, we avoided an expensive lawsuit because our log compliance was unquestionable. Anyone in the industry can tell you that even when the trucking company is not at fault, a good plaintiff attorney will make it your fault by pointing out safety issues with the company, even if those issues had nothing to do with the cause of the accident.

Also, our experience demonstrates that strict adherence to the log rules will result in more rested drivers and cause fewer accidents. Our accident ratio dropped by more than 50%. I thought that was the purpose of the rules.

Yet, the debate continues — a debate in which the only defense is: “We won’t be able to cheat anymore.”

And we wonder why the public questions our commitment to enforcing the rules.

Marc Stewart

Chief Financial Officer

Company Name Withheld By Request

Nashville, Tenn.

Outrageous Terms

I just received a letter from the newest European owner of an American brewing company. The letter states that their payment terms for all goods and services from their suppliers will be net 120 days. That is four months or one-third of a year.

I called my finance people, the truck stops we fuel at, the tire people we deal with and every other supplier we do business with and told them we are going to start paying our bills net 120 days. They told me no, I wasn’t, so I called the brewery and told them I could not comply with their demand.

The brewery asked what I was going to do, and I said I was going to switch brands of beer to something that is less filling and tastes great.

I hope these delayed payments are not the way of the future.

President

Midwestern Trucking Company

Name, Location Withheld by Request

 

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