Truck Makeover your Car

Taking a cue from the “Extreme Makeover” TV show, BP Lubricants USA Inc. has kicked off the “Castrol Tection Extra Big Honkin’ Truck Makeover.” The grand prize winner of the essay-with-photo contest will score an “internal, external and communication makeover” valued at $50,000 for their vehicle weighing more than 10,000 lbs (Class 3-8). The winning truck, including before and after photos, will be featured on the company’s web site.

Interested parties can register online at http://www.castrol.com/us. All submissions, whether via mail or Internet, must include a vehicle photo and essay in 50 words or less describing why the entrant deserves the makeover.

Online entries are due by July 15 and mailed submissions must be postmarked by July 15. Judging will be based on the following criteria: 50% originality and creativity, 25% relevance of essay to theme, 25% photographic appeal.

LETTER OF THE MONTH

I thought your article (“Manager’s Toolbox,” 5/05) interesting …your article pushed my buttons on a subject I have preached on over and over – training entry level mechanics. Being raised with trucks and a father who did much of his own maintenance I couldn’t help but learn mechanics… He had farm-milk pickup routes in Wisconsin and every truck ran seven days a week, no exceptions…. Almost twenty years ago, my wife and I had an opportunity to rent a small shop and start a truck repair business. We have grown over the years and have had several grads from truck tech schools work for us, all who have been disappointed by the actual entry-level positions afforded thema[yen] One young man on his first day stated he thought he’d “made a mistake.” After two years of school, he didn’t have a clue how a shop functioned or that he would have to contribute to the profitability of it…I have said for years to vo-tech people that they are 180 degrees out in their classes. The students they graduate…need to know how to do basic PMs. Give me a youngster for six months and I’ll have a mechanic who can go to work in any shop, anywhere. Don Bigelow Rock River Truck Repair, Inc. Fort Atkinson, WI

Fuel… for fuel

Rail giant Union Pacific (UP) is feeling the pinch of rising fuel prices. It consumes some 3.25-million gallons of diesel a day and has seen its fuel costs jump by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year. To help get a better handle on this, a new “Fuel Masters” program is rewarding fuel-saving engineers with $50 cards that they can use to offset their own personal fuel bills.

An engineer’s conservation efforts are determined by comparing monthly fuel consumption performance against fellow engineers in the same territory. A one-to-two-month snapshot of each engineer’s fuel consumption performance is used to calculate individual average consumption rates. Engineers are grouped by pool or specific run to eliminate variances such as flat versus hilly terrain. Each month engineers in the top 10% to 15% of each pool are awarded a fuel card.

‘Fuel for Fuel‘ is more than a dollar-saving program, it’s also an important conservation initiative for the railroad,” says Wayne Kennedy, director of UP Six Sigma.

“The market for hiring drivers is tight… our salaries, wages and employee benefits and other expense lines reflect the additional costs required to keep our tractors manned. However, those dollars are being put to good use.” -Robert M. Powell, chairman & CEO, USA Truck Inc.

CID leaving Hamburg to buy Nu Car site for headquarters

The CID Group Inc., one of the area’s largest waste management companies, has embarked on a systemwide expansion that includes the purchase of a bankrupt competitor’s assets.

In late September, CID acquired assets of J&I Disposal Inc., I&J Disposal of Western New York Inc. and Albion Disposal Inc.

The Hamburg company is negotiating with Nu Car Carriers Inc. to acquire 54 acres in West Seneca, where the waste hauler plans to consolidate office, truck repair, truck wash and truck storage operations.

“No garbage is being stored on the site,” Richard Penfold, CID chairman, said. CID operates a landfill in Chaffee.

Penfold said he will consolidate company operations in Hamburg and Newstead at the West Seneca site.

Penfold said the acquisition of the three disposal firms — forced into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in September — prompted him to start plans to purchase the Nu Car property.

“We got the firms on Sept. 27 and by Oct. 15 I had the land deal wrapped up,” he said. J&I was based on Main Street in Newstead. CID is temporarily operating from the Newstead site until the West Seneca deal closes.

The Nu Car property, which borders Route 400, neighbors a 600-acre parcel that is being marketed as an industrial park. The property includes an 11-bay truck repair station.

“It is a very central location for us,” said Tony Nosek, CID vice president and general counsel.

Detroit-based Nu Car uses the land for truck and car storage. Nu Car officials could not be reached to comment about plans after CID closes on the property.

“This will allow us to do all of our repairs and truck work at one site,” Nosek said.

Terms were not disclosed, but according to papers filed with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, CID received a $3 million bond to help finance the transaction.

The agency’s papers indicated CID hopes to create 55 jobs in the next three years.

“What we are bringing to West Seneca is our reputation and good community track record that CID has established in Hamburg,” Nosek said.

CID has more than 100 trucks in its fleet, most of which will be stored in West Seneca.

The company, which started in 1974, has 87,000 residential customers, 5,000 business clients and 1,000 industrial customers.

With 1990 revenues of $38.11 million, CID ranked 21st among Business First’s 1991 Top 100 Private Companies. It employs 327 in the Buffalo and Rochester areas.

At the Sept. 27 bankruptcy auction, CID company paid $3.5 million for the assets of J&I Disposal and two related companies. J&I was forced into involuntary Chapter 11 this summer by Browning Ferris Industries Inc. The Houston waste-management giant wanted to purchase the three companies but negotiations broke down.

William Savino, J&I attorney and partner in Buffalo law firm Damon & Morey, said CID’s bid was $1.5 million higher than any other received at auction which was for J&I’s assets, such as customer accounts, trucks and equipment. Real property was not included and has not been sold, he said.

The Future of Smart Cars 20xx

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about automotive electronics–what people often call telematics. As buzzwords go, that one is pretty bland, but the topic isn’t. Navigation systems, remote diagnostics and other such features allow automakers to improve the value and variety of their products.

The Japanese are the world leaders in navigation systems. There are Japanese systems that generate a synthetic 3D model of the area you’re driving through, complete with representations of the terrain, buildings and road features. As you drive along, you’re presented with a view of the area as if from a helicopter flying behind and above you. I haven’t driven with a system this powerful, but I’m on my second, much simpler navigation system now, and I really like them.

It’ll be 10 years or more before electronics can safely take over the actual driving. For a while, it was generally assumed that fully automatic driving location would require “smart” highways, able to orchestrate the movements of equally smart cars. Now it seems more likely to me that we’ll solve the problem almost entirely within the car.

By the end of the decade, we’re likely to see global positioning systems (GPS and Best Garmin Nuvi GPS for your car ) enhanced to operate on multiple bands and provide location information accurate to within a few inches. This data would have to be backed up with an in-car inertial navigation system (INS) to take over when the GPS signals are lost, sensors to detect the positions of other cars and obstacles and a large, in-car map database that can be updated in real time by data received over terrestrial or satellite radios.

Much of the R&D for this technology will be done on behalf of the U.S. military, which wants similar capabilities for its land, sea and air vehicles. Navigation systems already sell well enough to justify the extra development work needed for civilian use.

Vehicle diagnostics have been developing fairly rapidly for many years already, mostly as a side benefit of emissions regulations. The best way to reduce vehicle pollution is to put a computer in charge of the engine and let it optimize the combustion loop. The computer measures the engine’s air intake, directs the fuel-injection system to add just the right amount of fuel and monitors the exhaust to make sure the process is working right.

Modern cars monitor many other sensors as well, such as the one for gas-tank pressurization. If you get a Check Engine light these days, it may have nothing to do with the engine–maybe you simply failed to tighten the gas cap. The human interface, as usual, is the weak link in this chain.

Some regulators want future can; to maintain regular contact with local vehicle-licensing agencies through cell phone or wireless data links. If the engine computer can’t keep the engine operating properly, it would turn itself in to the authorities, who could then send the owner a summons to appear at an inspection station. Though this may seem intrusive, the tradeoff for most of us would be that we wouldn’t have to get the car inspected as long as the car itself is satisfied that it’s working properly. Still, I’m not sure I want my car to have that kind of power.

There’s a big potential for cars to communicate with each other, other personal electronic devices and the Internet–but that’s a topic for a later column.