Mile Post 370

Mile Post 370
Mile Post 370

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Former Fleet Manager on Jalopnik's, Andrew P. Collins' rant about Pickup Trucks that are over 8500 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Yesterday in Jalopnik, Andrew P. Colins acted as if he was reviewing the new Ford Super Duty Pickups (and touched on the Super Duty Cab and Chassis), but instead, chose to loose his mind and went on a rant about Trucks over 8500 lbs. GVWR and the need for the government to publish fuel economy standards for these vehicles.  The rant was brought about over the new 48 gallon fuel tank that is available on Ford's Super Duty trucks and what the approximate range of the truck is.  With these numbers, you can "back into" the fuel economy.

While Mr. Collins has the luxury of being a Journalist, I 've been a Fleet Manager for a larger utility company, specifying things like Tare Weight, Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings, and Gross COMBINATION Weight Ratings for Class 1 - 7 trucks that keep energy moving to its end users.

Before I could get the Operations Department what they needed in a truck (choosing a utility body to hold tools and supplies), the Safety Department the features on vehicles that will protect drivers from being injured, and protect others around these vehicles from being injured due to collision (e.g. back-up alarms, sensors, and cameras), I have to take into consideration other things such as:
  • What is the maximum payload for the vehicle, 
  • What are the worst conditions the vehicle will see as far as gradient, road surface and payload are concerned
  • Will the vehicle have to go off road?
  • Will it have to tow a trailer and equipment in addition to its usual payload?
These are the basic requirements to know about a vehicle chassis and its intended use.
  • Will the driver be required to have a Medical Card/What laws the driver must follow (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act), 
  • Will/can an individual driver pass a DOT Physical? 
  • Will his/her 2 year DOT Physical Card be shortened by non-Insulin Controlled Diabetes Mellitus, Sleep Apanea, Hypertension or Heart Disease?, 
  • Will the driver be disqualified from driving a Commercial Motor Veicle (with a GVWR of 10,0001 lbs or greater) because of Insulin Dependant Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?   
(The reader will note that most of these "diseases" are associated with workers of older age and  have the ability to disqualify the expert technicians, who have the most experience and are (in theory) the best people that a company has in the field.)
These are regulatory requirements relating to the GVWR and Tare Weight of the Vehicle, related to driver qualifications and driver safety.  After this, you can design the upfit of the vehicle, in order to make it the mobile tool box the driver/technician needs to allow productive work.

And working at a utility, the company that employed me was considered (by the Federal Government) to be an energy producer, requiring us to purchase and use the alternative fuel for a required percentage of Alternative Fueled Vehicles (even though we only TRANSPORTED the energy to the consumer - this rule is about as silly as calling the railroads or trucking companies Energy Producers and forcing them to use alternative fuels to run their trains or trucks).  These regulations bring their own set of problems whether the vehicles are fueled with Liquid Propane Gas, Compressed Natural Gas, Liquified Natural Gas or Batteries, as each system has to have it's own real estate and lessen the payload on the truck, each has it's own special needs in order to produce power to move the vehicle.  Natural Gas Vehicles need to have Heated High Pressure Regulators to keep the regulator orifice from freezing, constricting the orifice and leaning out the mixture to the point of misfire, which destroys the Catalytic Converters of the vehicle, as well as a 3-year inspection of their high pressure fuel tanks.  Propane Powered Vehicles need to have heated fuel rails to prevent the injectors from freezing, when the Liquid Propane Gas is injected into the intake manifold.  Battery powered vehicles pose their own problems with extreme weight and heat generated during the charging and discharging of the batteries.

I ALWAYS specified the largest fuel tank(s) available for any of my company's trucks, as the less time that a driver/technician is filling a vehicle with fuel (including the trip to the filling station), the more time he's working.  So let's discount the rant about the size of the Fuel Tank.

The sweet spot for heavier pickup trucks is where Ford has been since about 2008, with their 3/4 ton truck at 10,000 lbs. GVWR (GM followed along at 9600 lbs and Dodge/RAM followed back at 9200 lbs.).  Above this weight, any drivers would have to get and keep a DOT Medical Card as governed by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act.  This was followed in 2013 by a new FMVSS regulations on vehicle TARE WEIGHT from 8000 7840 lbs.), as Ford's competitions secondary completed vehicles (where a utility body is commonly added) were sometimes overloaded by their new owners, past the point of where their brakes and suspension could keep up with the loaded vehicle and were involved in wrecks.

So, just how does Mr. Collins want to measure the fuel economy of this type of vehicle?  Does he intend to be the sole arbiter for the individual needs of a buyer or for a company?

The job for which the vehicle is purchased must be the sole determining factor for the purchase of a truck. It's a business decision, whether it's a "home business" of pulling horses or a race car around, or an incorporated business that allows an inspector to cruise the right of way on his company's energy delivery system.

Different Utility bodies have different aerodynamic characteristics, leading to more drag and poorer fuel economy.  Likewise, different trailers suffer with the same issue.  So a one aspect will not fit all in evaluating Fuel Economy (or setting standards) for these vehicles.

Environmental regulatory issues also lead to the poor fuel economy of pickup trucks.  As engines are now tuned to produce fewer oxides of nitrogen, which is thought to be a primary contributor to acid rain, engines are no longer allowed to "lug" or pull very hard at low rpms. This lugging allows better fuel economy, but produces the oxides of nitrogen.  So the engines' power bands are moved upwards, using more fuel to create less of one type of pollution.  As a result, a 3/4 ton pickup, that's bed has been replaced by a 96" utility service body, feels sluggish and underpowered off of the line in normal acceleration, despite new transmissions with 8 forward gears.  It feels much like an older heavier Muscle Car that someone has swapped a higher performance camshaft into, with a "soggy," sluggish acceleration until the vehicle "gets up on the cam (in the rpm range in which the camshaft operates with maximum performance -which is beyond the cruising rpms)."  This is explained at the 1:15 second mark, and dramatically illustrated by this The Fast Lane Truck video, over the whole video as the truck and trailer pulls the "Ike Gauntlet" through the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado.  The RAM's 6.4 Hemi makes more Horse Power and Torque than the Chevrolet, but the Silverado beats the RAM with the same load (could it possibly be the gearing in the transmission?).  Additionally, the Ethanol laced gasoline that we are required by law to use, contains fewer BTUs and requires more fuel to make the same power as "pure gasoline."

To mitigate this issue, Ford has now gone to their 3.5 Liter Eco-Boost, Twin Turbocharged, Direct Injected, Twin Independent Cam Timing System in their pickup trucks (and are expanding into their Explorer EL and Navigator SUVs), but overall, the real world Fuel Economy between the 3.5 Liter Eco-Boost V-6 and their older Single Overhead Cam V-8s shows little difference, if any.  Performance is equivalent to marginally better with the Eco-Boost V-6.

I suspect, as GAWKER owns JALOPNIK, that it's left leaning viewpoints about (radical, forced) environmentalism, our hydrocarbon consumption and our carbon footprint are making it through the editorial process, telling us what we can/should drive as good stewards of the environment. 

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