Too Much Information… This being an election year and being that I’ve got a blog or three of that nature to tend to, as well as write a grant proposal for my tiny town so we can get legible street signs and maybe even a reliable water system, I’ve been trying to cut back to one post a week. But the news of gearhead import never stops, so I’ll try to deliver at least a “Cliff’s notes” update here.

No sooner do I get done taking the railroads to task for lack of investment, BNSF bellies up to the bar and orders a round of no less than 5000 new tank cars to haul crude oil and maybe ethanol too. That’s another billion dollars of investment on top of the five billion BNSF has already committed this year. These will all be the newer and much more crash&burn resistant tank cars that have been required the last few years, although the older less safe tank cars are grandfathered in. Word is that BNSF will ban the older cars by summer, and refiners such as Tesoro are also making mass purchases of the safer tank cars. Meanwhile, CP and CN are hanging a 300 odd dollar surcharge on moves with the older cars, which will further “improve” those incredible profit margins they’ve been bragging to Wall Street about, at least until the next conflagration torches a town or city.  CP ain’t as big as BNSF, but they’ll make a couple billion dollars profit this year… CP, I challenge you to follow BNSF’s example and reinvest at least half of that profit in your trains and tracks.

Meanwhile, this was “Super Truck” week in the media circus. Started with President Obama ordering tighter fuel economy standards for big trucks, which shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the truck makers, being as they’ve already pretty much signed off on the deal and are on board. Given that most all of the blunt nosed boxy cabbed conventionals managed to survive the 2014 standards, some tougher standards are indeed called for.

The presidents announcement set off the usual flurry of “me too” PR, with Paccar announcing a Peterbuilt with a lot of aero tricks and a massaged Cummins ISX engined that managed 10.4 MPG… On a flat Texas highway at a modest 65,000 pounds total weight. Similarily roused, Walmart made a media dump of what looked like the second coming of Colani’s one-off aerotruck of the 80s…

wal-mart-wave supertruck

And it’ll probably be  just as commercially successful. Walmart put some serious millions into this, claiming carbon fiber, hybrid microturbines, etc.. It also looks to be mid engined, which means it has the worst attributes of a conventional and cabover design, needing a tilting cab to access the engine with none of the space benefits of such a cabover. The central driving position is a non-starter, but I ‘spose now that Walmart’s Bentonville HQ has their very own Interstate they’ve forgotten about two lane passing. That means the whole cab design gets scrapped, and the rest of the trucks features are pretty useless too, least for Walmart… they claim a 4000 pound weight reduction from building the trailer out of carbon fiber instead of steel and aluminum, but WalMart’s merchandise mix tends to fill up that shrimpy 53 foot trailer long before they get anywhere near pushing the weight limits. Which neatly sagways us into the real Walmart Super Truck…

walmart supercube

This one actually runs, in fact there four of them running around Canada for over a year now. Nothin’ real radical and unproven, just a 21st century remix of an old school drom and semi-trailer combination. Instead of all the other “Super Trucks” mere 53 foot trailers, this one sports a 60 footer AND what looks to be a 7 or 8 foot long drom box too… That’s a 30% or so improvement in ton MPG, which puts the “Super Trucks” 10 to 20% improvements to shame. And best yet, this Supercube Truck was built from an off the shelf Freightliner Argosy tractor and conventional drom and trailer, which means it could go into production near immediately…

Which it probably will, given that after a successful trial of 4 units, Ontario has given Walmart permission to put a hundred on the road. The tractor was built from a glider kit being that while the Argosy is American made, it ain’t sold here, but figure out where to mount all the emission control bits for an EPA 2010 engine and it’s street legal. Will a hundred unit order be enough to bring cabovers back to the North American market? Well, MAN and Scania are already in Mexico, and Volvo just quietly seeded a couple FH cabovers with a Canadian fleet to test “24 volt electric systems”…

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