Cool Cabovers

Emerging Technology
June 9th, 2005

Those of us in the trucking industry have been hearing a lot about two issues—heat and corrosion—that are causing very expensive problems. My question is: with all the technology we have built into our trucks, how could this be? Are their any solutions that won’t cost us an arm and leg?

I started my driving career in a 1962 lnternational conventional and have always been partial to conventional tractors. But, I did drive my share of cabover tractors and I certainly appreciated the ease of getting into those tight spots with that cabover.

But, the cabover went the way of the convertible: gone but not forgotten. So, today every driver gets his conventional tractor.

The problems this shift started began to surface in the push to improve fuel economy by making the truck more aerodynamic. The OEM`s trimmed off as much sheet metal as possible but still worked hard at keeping some semblance of a conventional tractor.

Then came the trend to equip the driver with the latest and greatest communications and productivity tools. Then we throw the post '02 low emission engines and the EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) technology in the (by now) cramped engine compartment. And, by the way, don't forget to throw in the "reducing the size of the radiator" issue to conform to the new "aerodynamic" look of that "long nose" conventional the drivers pushed for in the first place!

Wow, no wonder we have already convened a Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) technical panel to address the issue of under-hood heat.

The interesting thing is that I can't remember ever having an under—the-hood heat issue in that K100 Kenworth Cabover (or any cabover) that I drove. nor in those Kenworth W900s or Peterbilt 379s that I had the privilege of driving for Dick Simon years ago.

I wonder if the Europeans are having these heat issues in their truck tractors? My impression of the European truck market is that they basically build all cabovers and they are really focused on aerodynamics. Perhaps they are on to something?

While preparing for this article l was given a copy of a September 29, 1987 TMC S-4 Study Group presentation which addressed aerodynamics and the tractor—trailer.

The presentation was given by Ileinz Snizek, an Austrian with a background as a mechanic, car test driver and race car driver. What I found interesting in his presentation was that in utilizing aerodynamic principals you could address those two issues: heat and corrosion.

Corrosion and its negative effect on our trucks today is a problem of immense proportions and appears not one to be solved anytime soon.

Being a resident of Colorado I have to feel I am in thc "eye ofthe Storm" when it comes to winter driving and experiencing state and local govemments laying down on our roadways as much magnesium chloride or other corrosive chemicals (in lieu of the "old" technology solution sand or salt) that destroy our commercial vehicles.

All this in the name of preventing accidents for a motoring public that feels (falsely) indestructible in their 4-wheel drive SUVs while driving like it was July on January mountain ice and snow-packed roads while demanding cleaner air quality.

But, the good news is that perhaps by re-visiting such documents as the one presented way back in 1987 at the TMC S-4 Study Group we can continue to study and utilize technology such as aerodynamics to address these two huge issues before us.

Otherwise, perhaps we revert back to earlier technology and use more cabovers (get rid ofthe heat issue) and do the unthinkable by stopping (or limiting) the use of these corrosive chemicals on our highways.

The first suggestion would require almost a complete cultural change within the driver pool. But, with a 136 percent yearly driver turnover rate in the truckload sector this may not be such a hard thing to do, since the original drivers that pushed for the conventional tractor in the first place surely aren't in the industry today.

The second suggestion would require the motoring public to slow down during winter driving conditions which could help reduce the amount of corrosive chemicals the govemment spreads on our highways during winter driving conditions. This surely could help to greatly reduce our corrosion issue. Good luck to the trucking industry with both suggestions.