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Opinion: There’ll be driverless trucks on highways when general population accepts driverless cars



Don Ake says the final push for self-driving cars may come from insurance companies. "If you drive your car, your rates are $10,000 a year, but they fall to $1,000 if the car drives itself," he says

By Don Ake

Vice President, Commercial Vehicles

FTR Transportation Intelligence

The question I get asked the most by people inside, and outside, the industry is: When will there be driverless trucks on the highways?

This, of course, is a difficult question because it not only involves adaptation to technology, but a host of other complicated factors as well.

But my answer is this: You will see driverless trucks as soon as the general population accepts driverless cars. When people are comfortable riding in a driverless car, then they will not object to a fully-loaded, driverless tractor-trailer behind them on the highway.

I realize this is not a specific answer but providing an exact year at this point amounts to SWAG. It is difficult to calculate an adoption rate curve because, in addition to economics, there are cultural, political and other issues to resolve.

I believe most people are currently fearful of self-driving cars. This fear will, of course, be reduced by all the “self-adjusting/correcting” options (braking, parking, lane-assist, speed-adjust, etc.) available on newer vehicles.

In addition, there will be public service campaigns trumpeting the increase in safety provided by self-driving cars. Reduction in accidents, deaths, and drunk drivers will be the main benefits. Improved traffic flow is also an expected plus.

And traffic safety is of growing importance as millions of baby-boomers with diminishing skills share the road with the texting Millennials. Throw in increased marijuana legalization, and we all may end up demanding self-driving cars.

Personally, I know I will be extremely distressed the first time I am in a driverless car. I have never even used cruise control, because I must always be in total control of my vehicle. However, I do look forward to the day when I summon a car to take me to my doctor’s office. A robot will load me in the vehicle and another robot will lift me out. If I can adapt to this, I think other’s in my generation will also.

But the final push for self-driving cars may come from insurance companies. If you drive your car, your rates are $10,000 a year, but they fall to $1,000 if the car drives itself. “This is America, so it is your choice. We are not telling you what to do, but…”

Why is public opinion so important? Because Congress is not going to approve the use of driverless trucks if people are fearful. It may take years to even write the regulations.

Of course, if one political party writes them, they will be too lax, and if it is the other party, they will be too tight.

But there will be extensive debates and lobbyists promoting various interests, etc.

You can argue that the financial incentive for driverless trucks is so significant it will overrun all the obstructions and objections: “It is so obvious that they have to pass it!”

Yes, and the government is working so well, [as this is being written] it is currently shut down. And I will refer you back to the history of legislation on freight weight and trailer size.

“When is that 33-foot trailer legislation going to pass?”

Now, you can also argue that the truck will always need a “driver,” but that is based on today’s technology and logistics framework.

Twenty years from now technological improvements in automation, robotics, and logistics adaptation may change everything.

Maybe then you will just need an “attendant” to ride in the vehicle for emergencies. This could even spark a new form of ride sharing. “Ride in the truck for free from Kansas City to Memphis and call us if anything goes wrong.”

I do agree with those who say “platooning” will come first.

This involves two or more trucks connected by automated driving technology traveling down the highway in a line, separated by a close, set distance from each other. Successful platooning will also help people to accept the self-driving truck concept.

However, this still will need to be legislated, with regulations, etc. And that’s why it is difficult to put a timetable on it.

If you forced me to place a bet, maybe 2027. But driverless trucks will remain a hot topic of discussion until it ultimately happens.

As I said, it is the topic I am asked about the most. I was actually giving my opinion on the subject to an anesthesiologist as he waited for me to go under before a recent medical procedure. So, it has to be an important subject because if something went disastrously wrong, those would have been my final words!

Don Ake is vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR and is responsible for forecasting Class 8 truck and trailer demand.


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Cummins X12+Endurant powertrain now available in regional haul applications



Regional haul applications is a new market for the X12 engine, which has exclusively been available in vocational and refuse trucks before now. (Courtesy: CUMMINS)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Cummins said Friday that the X12+Endurant powertrain from its integrated power portfolio is now available for customers in regional haul applications.

Cummins officials said the powertrain delivers the lightest solution to the regional haul market in terms of maintenance intervals.

Following Freightliner’s announcement at Tank Truck Week in Nashville, Tennessee, this lightweight powertrain from Cummins can be now be ordered in Freightliner’s brand new Cascadia 116” BBC Day Cab.

This is a new market for the X12 engine, which has exclusively been available in vocational and refuse trucks before now.

“The X12+Endurant powertrain’s lightweight, yet durable design allows customers to maximize their payload for each and every job,” said Amy Boerger, vice P\president – engine business sales for Cummins. “We wanted to create the optimal powertrain solution for customers with weight-sensitive applications, and we are confident this is it.”

At just over 2,700 pounds, the X12 paired with the Eaton Cummins Endurant transmission is expected to be to be the lightest powertrain available for the Class 8 on-highway market, Boerger said.

“It is a perfect match for weight-sensitive markets like bulk and regional haul applications. Driver-friendly features from the Endurant transmission like smooth shifting and quiet engine performance contribute to a comfortable in-cab environment, while Optimized Urge to Move and Creep Mode make maneuvering in low-speed environments easier,” she said.

“We are thrilled that the X12 will now be available in the Freightliner Cascadia 116 BBC model,” said Paul Rosa, Penske Truck Leasing senior vice president of procurement and fleet planning. “This new offering makes for a great weight-conscious solution and will be a nice option for our customers.”

Expanded availability of the X12 comes at the perfect time, as Cummins is expanding maintenance intervals for the platform, Boerger said, adding that customers can benefit from oil-drain intervals of up to 75,000 miles, and those that participate in Cummins OilGuard program may see extensions of up to 100,000 miles.

“Together with the Endurant, which offers a 750,000 mile lube change interval and a maintenance-free clutch, you have a powertrain with the industry’s best maintenance intervals,” Boerger said.

The 116” BBC day cab Cascadia with the Cummins X12 and Eaton Cummins Endurant begins production mid-2020.

The Freightliner Cascadia is also available with the Cummins X15 Efficiency series engine and

the Eaton Cummins Endurant in the 126” BBC day cab and sleeper models.

For more information about Cummins, visit

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Cummins: Diesel platform expanding for 2020, includes X15 Efficiency Series



The 2020 X15 Efficiency Series engine is designed with customers’ total cost of ownership in mind. Base engine hardware improvements and advancements in air handling deliver up to a 3.5% better fuel economy when compared to the 2017 X15 Efficiency Series engine model.  (Courtesy: CUMMINS)

ATLANTA — Global power provider Cummins displayed a full showcase of power solutions, ranging from advanced diesel engines and powertrain components to connectivity solutions as well as electric and fuel cell technologies at the 2019 North American Commercial Vehicle Show at Atlanta recently.

“We want our customers to be successful,” said Brett Merritt, vice president – on-highway engine business at Cummins. “Cummins is committed to offering a diverse power portfolio to ensure each of our customers is equipped with the right technology at the right time to get their jobs done.”

Merritt said Cummins diesel engine platforms are expanding for 2020, providing customers with dependable, efficient solutions for line-haul, regional-haul, heavy-haul, vocational and specialty applications. The X15 engine offering for 2020 includes a new X15 Efficiency Series engine, a new Productivity Series offering and the Performance Series engine customers currently utilize. And with the expanding availability of the X12 engine, customers have access to the broadest ratings in the heavy-duty diesel space.

“We believe that diesel technology will be the best solution for many of the markets we serve for decades to come,” Merritt said. “That’s why we continue to invest in and innovate our diesel platforms.”

The 2020 X15 Efficiency Series engine is designed with customers’ total cost of ownership in mind. Base engine hardware improvements and advancements in air handling deliver up to a 3.5% better fuel economy when compared to the 2017 X15 Efficiency Series engine model.  The X15 platform now offers industry-leading oil drain intervals of up to 75,000 miles.  Extensions of up to 80,000 miles with the use of Valvoline Premium Blue oil and up to 100,000 miles through the Cummins OilGuard program are available for improved uptime.

The 2020 X15 Efficiency Series also boasts new EX ratings which deliver expanded powertrain capabilities that can deliver up to an additional 1.5% fuel efficiency increase on top of the improvements gained through base engine hardware and feature enhancements.

These ratings contain the full suite of powertrain features, including not only all prior ADEPT features but also new capabilities such as predictive gear shifting, predictive braking, dynamic power and industry-exclusive on-ramp boost, delivering powertrain performance and driver satisfaction across an entire fleet. Many of the powertrain features in the EX ratings are only available with the X15 Efficiency Series engine when paired with the Endurant transmission from the Eaton Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies joint venture.

The new X15 Productivity Series ratings are designed for multi-purpose, vocational and heavy-haul customers who look not only for efficiency in their powertrain but also the response and performance needed to get the job done thanks to a wider engine speed range.

In 2020, Cummins is offering the same X15 Performance Series engine customers have used in the past. With no changes to the product in 2020, the X15 Performance Series still dominates the big-bore industry with exceptional transient response and the most powerful engine brakem Merritt said.

Cummins’ X12 engine continues to be an ideal solution for customers with weight-sensitive applications. Designed for customers with regional-haul, vocational and intermodal truck applications in mind, the X12 engine is the lightest in its class, Merritt said.

“When paired with the Endurant transmission, Cummins offers the lightest powertrain in the industry, with unbeatable maintenance intervals across the system,” he said. “This engine rounds out Cummins’ heavy-duty diesel offering, helping customers get the job done, day-in and day-out.”


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Alliance Parts expands footprint by adding 15 locations in U.S., Canada



Customers of Alliance Parts will find an ever-increasing inventory of new and remanufactured parts available in-store and online. (Courtesy: TREY MYTTY/Truck Center Companies)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) Alliance Parts brand continues to expand its retail footprint to better serve customers by adding 15 new locations during October and November. Three standalone stores and 12 in-dealership retail locations opened across the U.S. and Canada, including standalone stores in Carrefour du Camion in St. Quentin, Quebec, Canada; Houston Freightliner in Lufkin, Texas; and Centre du Camion in Mont-Laurier, Quebec, Canada.

Recently opened Alliance Parts retail areas include locations at dealerships in Baltimore Freightliner in Baltimore; ATG Tri State Trucks in Westminster, Vermont; Garage Gilles Roy in St. Georges, Quebec, Canada; Freightliner of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio; Transwest in Grand Junction, Colorado; Transwest in Greeley, Colorado; Transwest in Frederick, Colorado; H&H Freightliner in Hope Mills, North Carolina; Campbell Freightliner in South Brunswick, New Jersey; Southport Truck Group in Tampa, Florida; Boston Freightliner in Everett, Massachusetts; and Truck Center Companies in Salina, Kansas.

“Our priority is keeping customers on the road, so we are increasing our retail footprint in order to meet customers where they are and provide quality parts at the right price,” said Brad Williamson, director of marketing, Alliance Parts & Detroit Reman. “Alliance Parts is committed to creating a superior experience for our customers that helps them maximize their Uptime.”

Customers of Alliance Parts will find an ever-increasing inventory of new and remanufactured parts available in-store and online, Williamson said. Recently added parts offerings from Alliance Parts, include height control valves, fuel pumps, water pumps, Detroit-branded carriers, composite bumpers and 14-gauge stainless steel bumper guards.

Detroit trailers are available for nearly all medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. New, composite bumpers feature quick and easy installation with guaranteed fitment and are color-matched to the original grey bumper or easily painted on request. Alliance Parts’ new bumper guards fit 90 percent of both DTNA trucks as well as all makes and are interchangeable, rust resistant and include tow hooks.

All Alliance Parts meet or exceed original equipment specifications for quality, fit and finish and are backed by a one year/unlimited mile nationwide warranty, Williamson said.

Alliance Parts are now available at more than 800 locations with more locations opening in the near future. Matched with the all-new e-commerce platform from DTNA, Excelerator, Alliance Parts’ increasing retail footprint and growing portfolio of parts are helping to drive the Uptime revolution.

Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Fort Mill, South Carolina, Alliance Parts offers parts for nearly all heavy-duty truck makes and models.

Go to for a complete list of Alliance Parts locations and available products.

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