?GM’s Diesel Engine Plans Revealed

Other than offering a diesel engine with its big pickup trucks, General Motors doesn’t have a line of diesel engines in place where some customers have wanted them for years: in their small cars. GM did introduce diesel engines to several of its large car lines in the 1980s only to recall and replace those defective engines with gasoline engines later on.

European Diesels

Since that debacle, GM has been building and selling diesel engines with success in Europe. The European market is highly dependent on diesel power as these cars typically average more than 30 percent better fuel economy than gas cars. And, with fuel costing more than $7 per gallon in some countries, diesels are a must have option for the European driver.

GM has yet to confirm it, but offering at least one diesel model in coming years makes sense.

First, federal fuel economy requirements will mandate a huge jump in fuel mileage by 2016, but GM has a lot of catching up to do if it is to meet the 35.5 fleetwide average coming down. Currently, GM’s fleet is averaging 24 miles to the gallon, but with the 40 mpg Cruze and the electric Volt hitting the market this year, those numbers will go up.

Second, diesel demand in the United States is pent up. Today’s drivers understand that the technology has improved considerably, making these engines cleaner and even more reliable than before. And, with no need to do tune-ups, they’re easier to maintain. Volkswagen has proven that consumers will flock to diesels if given the choice.

Possible Models

What models do I think will gain a diesel engine? That’s hard to say, although the Cruze would be a natural fit or even the smaller Aveo. However, giving the midsize Malibu a diesel option could help provide that sedan with a much needed edge in its segment. GM tried, and failed, to offer a hybrid Malibu, but a diesel option could prove wise.

Look for GM to consider a diesel option with its compact Equinox crossover too. That model has been a strong seller for GM and could benefit from that option. What better way to attract more customers than to present an option not widely available elsewhere.

We’ll know more about GM’s plans in the coming months with perhaps that news coming out when auto shows are held in Los Angles, Detroit, Chicago and New York later this year into early next spring. Diesel power, anyone?

?A Mercedes in a Dodge Body?

While Chevy and Ford have been out trying to improve the comfort and ride of their “”heavy duty”” line up, Dodge did something different — they turned to the master of comfort in Mercedes. In fact, Dodge, once owned by Mercedes, took not just a lesson in amenities, but also used the trademark Mercedes unibody construction to improve the handling and maneuverability of their beefy trucks. And this couldn’t have come at a better time, as soon after Dodge trucks exploded on the market with the new rounded grill and the sought after Cummins Turbo Diesel engine, they were sharply criticized for the unreliable transmission. Seems that Dodge built an engine so mighty that their transmission couldn’t keep up.

So what did they do? They used Mercedes innovative RFE transmission, complete with the antifreeze bladder to not just perform every bit as well as their Cummins engine, but also to reduce the engine noise vibration and harshness. But the innovative Dodge team didn’t stop there. The list of Mercedes features they added were impressive, from the high intensity discharge lights, soft touch interior, and LED lighting to the rain-brake support, they left the customer wanting nothing.

And to be sure, Dodge trucks have consistently outperformed their counterparts in the torque and power categories, but now any deficiencies in comfort, or safety — two Mercedes hallmarks — are a thing of the past. Now, with Dodge’s new designs, fans can have the best of both worlds, the best built trucks, and the most comfortable — all at an affordable price. No longer will those who need the power of a truck have to succumb to the often harsh ride, deplorable gas mileage, or hefty price tag. Dodge, or more accurately, now Ram –the two brands split in 2010 –has solved all of that for the customer, and once again, left no stone unturned. And along with the brand division, Ram will be rolling out a sweet new line up.

Maximizing efficiency and power, the new Ram is highlighted by the high output Cummins engine, built to pull a might 20,000 pounds. But customers need not worry, this hefty model is fully loaded with soft touch interior, LED lighting, GPS, Bluetooth and navigation cameras. Meet the new Ram — a perfect blend of power and comfort. And with it’s counterparts struggling to make ends meet, Ram reports sales are up 13%.

?Gasoline Prices Going Through the Roof

OH MAN!

Here we go again. I guess now the “”proof is in the pudding”” and it is time for us to face reality.

Gas prices are not going back down and is now said to be going up, again, to an average of over $3.00 per gallon.

This will be the highest jump in gasoline prices we have had since January this year. The increase of gasoline clearly does not only affect the people but also our economy.

Back when gasoline reached over $2.00 per gallon you could see lower sales of SUV’s and other large vehicles. People just could not afford to drive these type cars and trucks.

Just imagine what will happen now when prices exceed $3.00.

Not only will it affect our economy on a larger scale but for a lot of people it may be devastating.

Personally I cannot drive my car as much as I would like to. I actually have to limit my driving and make priorities of when do I really have to go somewhere.

Think about this. The minimum wage is around $5.50 in the USA. This means after you pay your state taxes, federal taxes and FICA. Of that hours work you are basically left with enough money to buy one gallon of gasoline which might take you 15-20 miles down the road. (Not to mention the price of gasoline is loaded with more Federal and State taxes.) In other words you have to work one hour to be able to drive for 15 minutes.

Gee, they say owning a car is a luxury and a privilege. Time for a reality check again.

For most Americans a car is a basic necessity. Is the government mentioning that they will do anything about this? (Like lower the Federal and State taxes on gasoline) NO! They are not.

Millions of Americans are already living below the poverty level today and how many will be considered to live below the poverty level after this increase in gasoline? A lot more people will have to seek help from the already strained welfare system just to feed their families. Children will go hungry so mom and dad can get to work to at least keep a roof over the family’s head.

Are we really a people that are so easily led? Don’t we have enough gumption and guts to stand up and say enough is enough or if nothing else demand something in return? (Like an increase in wages or a cheaper barrel of oil from Iraq that we are pouring billions and billions of U.S. tax dollars into) I got a question what is the price of gasoline in Iraq? Did you know that the U.S government is subsidizing the price of gasoline for the people of Iraq. Just guess what people in Iraq are paying for a gallon of gasoline? Please sit down before we tell you. 5 CENTS a gallon. Whats wrong with this picture?

You might think “”OH WELL”” welfare will take care of these people. What if it will actually affect you? This extra money you will have to pay for gasoline might be the money that would enable you to have cable TV. a computer or a cell phone. It will not be very nice to give this up, will it?

Before it all gets out of hand let us try to do something, demand something. After all we are supposed to be a government for the people, by the people. ARE WE NOT?

Our family took steps to lower our spending on fuel. We tried many products from oils, liquids, attachments and researched every product out there to no avail found nothing that worked.

Until one day I was taking a taxi and the driver told me about this revolutionary new product that he had been using for months to increase his gas mileage, he said the whole Taxi cab company was using it and they increased their gas mileage by as much as 25%. He kindly gave me a few tablets to try. I took the tablets with great skepticism and tried them and to my surprise it really did work. The pills increased my mileage by about 20%. I vowed to tell the world about this product so here is a site to read more about the product [http://www.CarCrow.com]

Thanks for reading our Blog,

?Used Diesel Trucks – Know This Before You Shop

There are many reasons why people buy used diesel trucks. Some use them for off-roading, some for towing recreational vehicles, and some people need them for work. A truck is a useful tool for many people in outdoor and agricultural settings. Many pickup trucks run on gasoline just like a car, but some use diesel fuel. A diesel engine has many advantages, from fuel economy to trade-in value. Because new vehicles depreciate significantly in the first three years after purchase, many serious drivers choose to buy a used diesel truck.

Diesel Truck Advantages

Although sometimes harder to find on the market, diesel pickups have several advantages over gasoline-powered trucks. The initial cost may be greater, simply because diesel trucks hold their value so well. This can be observed by comparing the Kelly Blue Book values on otherwise identical gas and diesel-powered trucks. This is because diesel engines last much longer than gasoline engines, especially when subjected to heavy towing or other kinds of heavy wear.

A diesel truck will also get much better fuel economy than a comparable gas-powered truck, often as high as 30%. Although diesel fuel is sometimes more expensive than gasoline, the price does not fluctuate as much. Diesel fuel is not likely to shoot up suddenly in price the way gasoline can.

Used Diesel Trucks

A new vehicle depreciates by thousands of dollars as soon as it is driven off the dealership lot. The primary advantage of a new truck is the warranty, and possibly that “”new car smell””. Buying a used pickup means getting more truck for the money, including features and options that would have been unaffordable on a new model. A truck that is three, four, or five years old will often have several years of low-maintenance operation before parts begin to wear out.

A used vehicle will usually have any manufacturing defects repaired, and been serviced for any recall-related issues. While it can be difficult to tell if a truck has had any major damage or repairs, a vehicle history report can be obtained online using the Vehicle Identification Number. Prospective buyers should obtain this report before purchasing a used vehicle.

A those that need a heavy duty vehicle, a used diesel truck is often the best choice. A diesel engine provides not only power, but excellent fuel economy as well. A used diesel pickup will hold its value and be worth more when traded in or resold. For those that drive their trucks for as long as possible, a diesel engine often has twice the life expectancy of a gasoline engine. Whether it will be used on a farm, ranch, construction site, or just for towing a couple of dirt bikes, a used diesel truck is well worth the price.

?Fuel Management When You Least Expect It

My guess is most of you have a fuel management program. It’s either real or it’s in your head but you believe you have a fuel program that is money saving when it comes to buying fleet fuel. You might really have that type of program, most of our research shows that most companies don’t have a comprehensive program when it comes to their fuel management needs.

One thing that I know we can agree on is trying to predict diesel fuel prices, weather and the unpredictable acts of god. We have talked about diesel fuel prices in the past and you bet it will come back up again in this column but today it’s weather and acts of god. I’m not talking about sunny weather or snowy, cold winter weather though you want to make sure you have a good fuel additive program. I am talking about the weather you didn’t see coming, even some that you might see coming and the crazy things that happen every day in this world that could affect your fuel management solutions.

Hurricanes, mud slides, heavy tropical storms, tornadoes, power grind disruptions, floods, frozen rivers, broken pipeline, you get the picture. These things happen and they happen more often than any of us want them to happen. The key for your company to be successful when most of things do happen is to have an emergency fuel management backup plan in place. Listen if you lived in Nashville, TN last month and the river over flooded like it did and your trucks were in 5 feet worth of water, there isn’t a lot you can do, as far as your fleet fuel goes. That was a very out of the box situation and sometimes no matter how hard you plan there just isn’t anything you can do.

Here is a short list of emergency fuel management tips:

� If you have bulk fuel tanks. Work a contract out with one fuel vendor and establish a relationship with them. This is critical when emergency happen. If you are trying to beat the fuel market each day and bottom lowest diesel fuel prices win, you will lose when an emergency happens. The fuel vendors will be as loyal to you as you are to them.

� Keep your bulk fuel tanks as full as possible. This way you have a couple of day’s worth of supply.

� Make sure you have a backup generator for your pumps or you won’t be pumping diesel fuel out of your bulk fuel tanks if the power is out.

� Have your generators in all parts of your building kept full. The diesel fuel used in a generator should be well treated with fuel additive and should also be run through several cycles per year. Don’t let it be during the emergency when the first time using your generator since the last emergency. Diesel fuel can go bad if it sits around too long.

� If you don’t have mobile fleet fueling at your location, establish a relationship with a mobile fueling vendor. This can help with your generator fueling, mobile fueling directly into your fleet of trucks as well as possibly bringing you in a short load of diesel fuel into your bulk tank if you have one.

� Fleet fuel cards. You might already have them because you buy most of your fleet fuel over the road but if you have bulk tanks or mobile fueling, having fleet fuel cards in a draw that work can really help you out in a pinch. You are not going to be able to order fleet fuel cards during an emergency and expect to get them anytime soon. It takes time to process them and who is going to deliver them to you FedEx, UPS, USPS or others they are all battling the same issues you are during this period of time.

As a fuel manager, you need to make sure your fuel management systems are in place before the problem happens. There is also no reason why during a crisis you should sign off on all your fleet fueling bills like all diesel fuel prices are acceptable. Yes, to deliver during a crisis does take more time and effort and there is a price to pay for that but a fuel analysis after the fact won’t do your company much good.

Get your emergency fuel management pricing deals in place ahead of time, like everything else.

Good luck.

?A Look At Gas Trucks Versus Diesel Trucks

If you plan to use your truck like a car, desiring quick, quiet acceleration and rarely ever haul a heavy load and don’t plan to it for a long time,you may want a gasoline engine. Gas engines run smoother, fuel is easier to find, and gas engines start easier in cold weather.

If you plan to use your truck for towing, value good fuel economy and plan to put plenty of miles on it, you may want a diesel. The price to buy a diesel truck is really high, although they can offer you a lot in return.

Below, you’ll find the leading vehicle manufacturersand what they offer you.

Dodge

The 2500 and 3500 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks are the newest 3/4 and 1 ton trucks on the road. Back in 2002, the Ram didn’t have enough power with the 245 HP 9.5L. Dodge promised more powerful engines for the 2500/3500 platform and they delivered on that promise.

The new base engine is the 5.7L gasoline V-8 that’s not only the most powerful engine of the group at 345 HP but also revives the well known and historical Hemi name.

Ford

Ford helped push the 3/4 ton and 1 ton truck market to where it is today when it introduced it’s international engineered power stroke diesel back in 1994. Before 1994, these diesels were poorly built and no match for the big gasoline engines.

From 1994 to 2002, over 70% of super duty Fords were sold with the optional 7.3L V-8 diesel engine. This engine helped to put Ford among the leaders in diesel trucks, as they had more than they needed to dominate the market.

Chevrolet/GMC

The GM 2500/3500 twins Silverado HD and Sierra HD both come standard with GM’s 6.0L gas engine V-8. This engine is ideal for 3/4 ton trucks where towing isn’t a concern. The upgrades start with the 8.1L gas V-8 that’s based on Chevrolet’s venerable big block engine.

Over the years, diesel trucks have proven to be effecient with mileage, great for towing, and easy on maintenance. Unlike gas engines, diesel engines do not have spark plugs, which means you won’t need to get them tuned up near as much as gasoline engines.

For those who like to haul heavy loads on a frequent basis, diesel is the way to go. You can get quite a few miles per gallon, and diesel trucks are built to go 250,000 miles or more before the engine needs to be rebuit,making them a purchase that is more than worth your money.

?Fuel Economy Winners For Model Year 2011

Over the coming weeks, the fuel economy numbers will be updated to reflect the release of the remaining 2011 model year vehicles.�

I say “”updated”” because the 2011 models have been released throughout 2010, with the last of them expected to roll out in December. Automakers can call whatever comes out in a calendar year the following year’s model year, even if the car goes on sale on January 1.

The top fuel efficient cars will once again be hybrid models with the Toyota Prius retaining its position for a few more months. Come December, the pure electric Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt will debut, with the former expected to dethrone the Prius. Figure that the Leaf’s equivalent fuel economy numbers will be in excess of 100 mpg when the calculation methods have been finalized. The Volt may also edge out the Prius although it is an electric car with a supplemental gas engine.

Other winners are likely to be as follows:

Ford Fiesta — Its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine already provides best in class (subcompact) fuel economy, 40 mpg on the highway or 33 mpg combined.

Chevy Cruze — Its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is lighter and more powerful than the Fiesta and it, too, should deliver 40 mpg on the highway, clearly the leading vehicle in the compact class.

Hyundai Sonata — Relying exclusively on four cylinder engines hasn’t hurt the Hyundai Sonata which gets a class-leading (midsize) highway fuel economy rating of 35 mpg on the highway. Expect the Ford Fusion Hybrid to retain its best in class honors of 41 mpg city, 36 mph highway until the Sonata Hybrid debuts later this year. That car may get 40 mpg on the highway!

Toyota Avalon — For 2011, the Avalon gets 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway edging out the Chevrolet Impala which gets 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. Breaking the 30 mpg threshold may be a year of so away unless Ford figures out a way of sticking in a 2.0-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine under the hood of its Ford Taurus.

Mazda 5 — By offering one of the smallest minivans, Mazda has enjoyed an edge no one else can touch. Powered by a 2.3-liter four cylinder engine the Mazda 5 gets 28 mpg on the highway, 22 around town.

Ford Ranger — A 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine will likely allow the Ranger to retain best in class fuel economy for small pickup trucks — 27 mpg on the highway. Not far behind is the full-size Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, getting 23 mpg on the highway.

Among sport utility vehicles, there is a three way tie thanks to the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute sharing the same hybrid system. Getting 34 mpg city, 31 highway isn’t likely to be challenged although gas powered Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain get 32 mpg on the highway, 22 around on town.

As far as diesel powered vehicles go, Volkswagen continues to lead all comers. Its diesel Golf and Jetta models get 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway by far the best in class fuel economy for any diesel models.

?Truck Driving School

The CDL School I attended was located in Priceville, Alabama. A Super 8 motel room would be my home for the next three weeks. I did not know what to expect on the first day, but I met a wide range of personalities in the other students. The range included a Mississippi farm boy with a middle-school education to a former software engineer with a Master’s degree. There was an ebony giant named Steve, who looked like an offensive lineman for the New England Patriots and, his foil, a rail-thin fellow named Ray. There was also Mike, from North Carolina, who had worked in the computer field in some capacity, but seemed perpetually bitter because of “”lowering”” himself to training for a trucking career. And, of course, there was the guy who already “”knew everything”” and for whom, in his mind at least, this school was a mere formality. Despite the varied backgrounds and personalities, everyone here had at least one thing in common: each person was seeking a better life for himself or, he was seeking to get his life back on track from a prior misfortune. So, it came as no surprise when a camaraderie quickly developed among most of us.

I became fast friends with Alan, the former software engineer. Alan had been laid off from his engineering job and, at 54; he’d been having difficulty finding suitable employment in a young man’s field. Like me, Alan had a lot riding on the success of this new venture. After the expenses of moving from New York to Alabama and the costs of CDL school and my motel, my savings were dwindling rapidly. If this trucking thing didn’t work out, I was screwed. However, Alan and I were not the only ones who had pushed our chips “”all in”” on this hand. The guy from Mississippi said that he’d ripped the stereo system out of his car and sold it at a truck stop in order to have gas money to get to Priceville.

As is often the case, most of us banded together and helped to alleviate the concerns of our circumstances through laughter and joking. Steve was the biggest comedian of all, both literally and figuratively. Steve wore a perpetual smile, and the clowning giant was the rare type of person whose mere presence tends to lift one’s spirits. He was always a joy to be around and he usually kept everyone laughing, except Mike, who maintained a sour view of the world.

The training format of the school put us in the classroom during the first week in preparation for the written tests, and the next two weeks introduced the road training for the driving portion of the test. I wasn’t too concerned about the written tests-but, I was VERY concerned about the road test. This could prove to be the potential worm in my apple but I was determined to give it my best shot.

The classroom instructor was a rotund, middle-aged fellow named Ron. He boasted many years of over-the-road experience and, although he may not have been the most entertaining instructor in the world, it soon became clear that he had probably forgotten more about trucking than most of us would ever know. Thanks to Ron’s expertise, 10 of the 15 students passed the written tests on the first try. Three of them passed the second time around and, the other two had to make a third attempt but, eventually, everyone in the class had passed. Now, it was time to drive the trucks. Oh boy…

Alan and I bantered nervously in the crisp morning air of the big day. Alan was a transplant from England and, although he had been in the States for sixteen years, he had not lost an iota of his Cockney accent. When he became aggravated or nervous, his accent tended to become even more pronounced-sometimes to the point where I’d have trouble understanding him. On this morning, I didn’t need to understand him. We were both nervous but, at the same time, we were excited about the new challenge before us. We’d be spending the first couple of days in the yard, learning straight-line backing and 45° angle backing.

The instructor entered the yard before the sun had fully risen and waved for us to join him at the row of trucks in the yard. The rank of about a dozen trucks was mostly ancient long-nosed Freightliners and dilapidated Volvos but, presumably, they all worked. They reminded me of ancient battle-scarred warriors who should be resting in retirement but who have been recalled to active duty for one last fight.

The instructor’s name was James, who was a little younger than Ron, but whose shoulders were slightly hunched, as if he’d been carrying a cinder block before he’d arrived. He had a cookie-duster mustache and spoke in a nasal monotone, which made me glad that I’d ingested plenty of coffee this morning. James, as we would discover, had a propensity for talking about women’s breasts. He didn’t just talk about them, mind you, he analyzed them: the shape, the size, the feel, the texture, the smell, the “”rating system””, the color, the roundness of the areola, the smoothness, the pear-shaped ones, the apple-shaped ones… well, you get the picture. At first, the mammary musings of James was funny and entertaining but, after a time, it started seeming a little creepy. It was obvious that he was obsessed with the glorious globes. I’ll admit that I have an appreciation for female breasts myself, but they are rarely exposed as a topic in one of my normal conversations. James spoke of breasts as if he were casually talking about the weather. Be that as it may, James was our instructor now, and I fervently hoped that he had more knowledge to bestow upon us than the most plausible route to “”Titty City”” in Nevada.

After about half an hour of verbal instructions, James climbed into the old white Volvo and fired up the engine. The roar of the diesel engine drowned out the sounds of morning as it proclaimed itself the ruler of its domain. Even Steve was dwarfed standing next to the rumbling white giant. James maneuvered the truck between two rows of orange cones and told us that we’d be learning straight-line backing today. He then pointed directly at me and asked me to remind him of my name.

“”Rick””, I said.

“”Okay Rick””, grinned James, “”you’re first-jump in!””

I climbed up into the rumbling vehicle with trepidation while some of the students wished me good luck, and others were wagering on how many cones I’d crush. James climbed up to the window and shouted a reminder at me over the noise of the thundering engine, “”Steer into your trouble… if the trailer goes right-steer right, if the trailer goes left-steer left.”” With that, he climbed down from the vehicle and left me to the task at hand. The old Volvo was shaking with authority, as if it were a rodeo bull eager to dismount me in less than eight seconds. The mirrors were vibrating so violently that I couldn’t even see the cones; they appeared as orange blurs.

I took a deep breath and began my backward trek. Amazingly, I managed to negotiate the 100-yard course without hitting any cones, but it didn’t take long to discover that this was trickier than it seemed in theory. If I’d had to go another hundred yards, there’s no doubt that I would have killed some cones. Over the next couple of days, I got to practice more and gained a little more confidence. Then, I was introduced to the bane of my existence: 45° angle backing.

Almost everyone is abysmal at 45° angle backing to start with, and I was no exception. I had been a submariner in the U.S. Navy and had gotten a commendation for serving as a helmsman/planesman during an ice expedition to the North Pole in 1981. I steered the ship through shallow, ice-covered waters on a daily basis without breaking sweat. So, it aggravated me to no end that the task of backing this truck between those stupid cones seemed to be so impossible for me. However, I was not the only one having difficulty. Alan even resorted to mathematical solutions to try and crack this puzzle but it didn’t seem to help either of us.

The “”guy who knew everything”” was, amusingly, one of the worst in the class. I cannot recall his name, so I’ll just call him “”Douchebag””. Douchebag blamed the equipment, blamed the instructor for teaching him bad habits, and blamed the setup of the course. It couldn’t have been his lack of ability because he was God’s gift to trucking. Douchebag insisted that if they had allowed him to design the course, he’d have everyone transformed into a Super Trucker within a week. By this time, Douchebag was being looked upon as comic relief rather than a mentor.

In truth, backing a big truck is more art than science. The only way to improve is through sheer repetition. Unfortunately, there was a limited amount of time and opportunities to practice before our road test. Concern began to arise among some of the students. We didn’t see how we’d possibly be ready in time.

Enter Pat. Pat was another yard instructor, a petite middle-aged lady with closely cropped blonde hair and a forceful presence. Pat was a veteran of the road and traveled with her loyal companion, a terrier mixed-breed named Zip Code.

“”I named him that because he’s been in every zip code,”” explained Pat.

She said that the course in the yard was set up exactly the same way that it would be for the test. Then, she pulled a Joe Namath moment out of her hat:

“”We’ve done this week in and week out with hundreds of students, and I guarantee that I’ll have you ready for your test.””

She seemed so confident and assured of herself that I didn’t write her words off as bluster-I believed her. True to her word, she began showing us some tricks that yielded immediate results. The “”tricks”” that she showed us probably wouldn’t have helped a whit in a real world situation of attempting to back into a dock at a crowded shipper, but they helped immensely in learning to set up at the correct angle on this particular course and getting the trailer in between the cones.

This brings up a point. A three-week trucking school is, essentially, a boot camp toward getting a CDL. Given the short time frame, the student is crammed with the essential knowledge to pass the test… period. There is no time to perfect or hone any of the basic skills that have been introduced. Make no mistake; a student fresh out of CDL School is, in no way, prepared to be on the road in an 18-wheeler. That is why, upon being hired by his first company, a new driver will spend 6-8 weeks with a certified trainer before he is cut loose on his own. The role of a CDL school is to whip a student into shape to pass a CDL test… that’s it.

In the meantime, we had been going out in groups of four with other instructors to drive on a low-traffic route in Decatur, Alabama to learn how to shift through the 10 gears.

Donny was the first instructor to endure the comedy of errors from my group. Donny was a laid-back country boy with rugged features, for whom being behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler seemed as natural to him as putting on his pants in the morning. Donny was as cool as a cucumber, and never got frazzled by any of our beginner mistakes. For the first couple of days, there was more grinding taking place in those trucks than in a Starbucks factory.

Another instructor I rode with was Rick, a compact and vigorous black man with an energy level that could only be rivaled by the likes of Richard Simmons-although Rick wasn’t nearly as annoying as Richard. Rick would earn the nickname of “”Boom Boom”” because, his method of instruction on the proper time to shift gears was:””Okay, get ready-BOOM! Get ready-BOOM!”” Boom Boom relayed countless road stories to us, and he became one of my favorite instructors to ride with.

Finally, the time to take the road test had arrived. We would be going, in small groups, to the testing facility in Hartselle, Alabama over the next 5 days. I would be testing on the second day, and Alan would test on the fourth. Everyone was nervous, so I guess that Alan just needed a laugh when he approached Douchebag and asked, “”Do you think you’re going to pass?””””I KNOW I’m going to pass!”” boasted Douchebag proudly.Douchebag failed on his first two attempts.

The test would consist of four parts: first, the student would provide a verbal commentary of an inspection of the truck and trailer, next would be straight-line backing, then, 45° angle backing and, finally, driving on the road with the evaluating officer.

On my test day, the diminutive Ray and, another student named Jerome accompanied me. Jerome was missing most of his front teeth, but that didn’t stop him from flashing an endearing smile. He had poignant circumstances for being here and I was in his corner rooting for him. The scuttlebutt among the instructors, however, didn’t give him a snowball’s chance in hell of passing. On this day, Jerome’s smile was missing and he was nervous, almost to the point of trembling. It helped to relieve some of my tension while I offered encouragement to him as best I could.

Ray was the first to test and despite the fact that he was barely big enough to reach the pedals, he managed to pass on his first attempt. Next was Jerome. Pat was the instructor who had accompanied us and she didn’t seem optimistic. Jerome, however, rose to the occasion and shocked everyone. He got what would hold up to be the highest score of anyone in the class.

“”I didn’t see that coming,”” is all that Pat could say.

Now it was my turn. We had gone two for two today, and I certainly wanted to keep the streak intact. I breezed through the inspection because Alan and I had unmercifully drilled each other on this until we had it down cold. Straight-line backing didn’t prove to be a problem either. Then, it was time for the dreaded 45° angle backing. After my heart skipped a few beats, I set up the way that Pat had showed us and I slowly maneuvered the trailer between the cones. It was perfection! I was dead center perfect! My confidence was now soaring as I got out to see that my trailer was already across the first line, which was a passing grade. I thought, however, that I could back a little closer to the rear cone to improve my score. I climbed back into the truck and backed up a little. I got out to observe my mastery, knowing that I’d just sent my score into the stratosphere.

My life flashed before my eyes in horror as I observed the rearmost cone lying horizontal, as if it were a bowling pin that had been struck with a Brunswick from the hand of Walter Ray Williams Jr. I looked at the officer with an imploring appeal but, with the cone lying there like a dead duck, he had no choice but to fail me.

I was devastated. I moped to the curb and sat down with my head in my hands. Our roles reversed, Jerome came over to offer encouragement. I was pissed off at myself because it was my ego that had caused me to fail. I’d just been trying to “”run up the score””. I had deserved to fail, and I knew it. Jerome wouldn’t allow me to feel sorry for myself for very long though.

“”Git up and go take that motherbleeper again!”” he insisted. “”I know you can do it an’ I’m gone kick yo’ motherbleepin’ butt if you don’t go take that motherbleeper again!””His words were blunt, simple, and to the point. I decided to go and take that motherbleeper again.

This time, I collected myself and left my ego at the door. I backed the trailer between the cones and got out 3 or 4 times to assess my progress. When the rear of the trailer was across the first passing line, I looked at the officer and asked, “”Is that passing?””He could not conceal an amused grin when he said, “”Yeah, that’s passing. Do you want to go for a higher score?””

“”No, sir!”” I stated with conviction.

The road test went well and, after the emotional roller coaster ride of today, I could rest easy now-I had passed.

?Forget V8s In Pick-Ups, Small High Power Diesels Are The Way To Go

The Pick-up Truck market in the US is very lucrative and that does not harbor Innovation. With hauling capacity being the biggest selling point, Truck makers tout Ultra-large V8 engines putting out huge horsepower and torque figures. with fuel economy being a big issue today, many of the truck makers are looking to complex technologies to solve this issue. What many of them fail to realize is that smaller diesel engines can provide as much torque or more than the Big V8s and still consume less fuel.

I am fully aware the diesel engines in development by Ford and GM and its true that Chrysler is using the Mercedes 3L CDi engines in the grand Cherokee, but these are still too big and the Mercedes engine is quite expensive. Even Toyota with all their eco clout just followed Detroit when they engineered their new Tundra. To get an idea of what I’m trying to say is to look at those hatchbacks used for hauling in Europe. They rely on small diesel engines with serious torque that their petrol rivals cannot muster. Now look at the stream of progress in the diesel field from the amazing engines from Fiat and Peugeot to the high tech wonders of BMW especially their new twin turbo versions. The 3.0L 6 cylinder version produces 272hp and a mind boggling 413lbft of torque and the new 2.0L 4 cylinder version produces 204hp and 295lbft of torque. all while having a fuel economy of 35mpg and 41mpg respectively. That is some serious performance both on the torque and fuel economy fronts.

Now Imagine a Pick-up Truck with an engine in between those two a 2.5l 5 cylinder engine with 235hp and 350lbft of torque and a fuel economy of 30mpg taking the heavier weight of the Pick-up into consideration. This is very feasible and should be looked at by the Big Truck Makers. They can standardize their engines offering different states of turbo boost while using the same engine. This would save manufacturing costs and be a lot cheaper than chasing hybrids. Why Toyota did not push to take on the Pick-up Truck Market touting fuel economy is a mystery, but any Truck maker than wants to send the rest out of business should really consider small capacity diesels even if their initial price would be more expensive than the big V8s they currently use.

?A Look At Gas Trucks Versus Diesel Trucks

If you plan to use your truck like a car, desiring quick, quiet acceleration and rarely ever haul a heavy load and don’t plan to it for a long time,you may want a gasoline engine. Gas engines run smoother, fuel is easier to find, and gas engines start easier in cold weather.

If you plan to use your truck for towing, value good fuel economy and plan to put plenty of miles on it, you may want a diesel. The price to buy a diesel truck is really high, although they can offer you a lot in return.

Below, you’ll find the leading vehicle manufacturersand what they offer you.

Dodge

The 2500 and 3500 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks are the newest 3/4 and 1 ton trucks on the road. Back in 2002, the Ram didn’t have enough power with the 245 HP 9.5L. Dodge promised more powerful engines for the 2500/3500 platform and they delivered on that promise.

The new base engine is the 5.7L gasoline V-8 that’s not only the most powerful engine of the group at 345 HP but also revives the well known and historical Hemi name.

Ford

Ford helped push the 3/4 ton and 1 ton truck market to where it is today when it introduced it’s international engineered power stroke diesel back in 1994. Before 1994, these diesels were poorly built and no match for the big gasoline engines.

From 1994 to 2002, over 70% of super duty Fords were sold with the optional 7.3L V-8 diesel engine. This engine helped to put Ford among the leaders in diesel trucks, as they had more than they needed to dominate the market.

Chevrolet/GMC

The GM 2500/3500 twins Silverado HD and Sierra HD both come standard with GM’s 6.0L gas engine V-8. This engine is ideal for 3/4 ton trucks where towing isn’t a concern. The upgrades start with the 8.1L gas V-8 that’s based on Chevrolet’s venerable big block engine.

Over the years, diesel trucks have proven to be effecient with mileage, great for towing, and easy on maintenance. Unlike gas engines, diesel engines do not have spark plugs, which means you won’t need to get them tuned up near as much as gasoline engines.

For those who like to haul heavy loads on a frequent basis, diesel is the way to go. You can get quite a few miles per gallon, and diesel trucks are built to go 250,000 miles or more before the engine needs to be rebuit,making them a purchase that is more than worth your money.

?Ford, GM, and Chrysler; Still the Big Three?

Back in the early nineties the light duty work truck market experienced something it hadn’t seen before: Asian competition; sort of.While Japanese manufacturers had done a number on the big three in the small truck market as they had done in various automobile segments, the full size truck market was still red, white, blue, and green$$. Then came the Toyota T-100. While the initial entry into the full size market from Japan didn’t have much of an impact on the North American work truck market, it should have been a wake-up call.

Though the T-100 missed the work truck mark in many ways: low gvw, sheet metal like tin foil, puny power trains, low tow rating, and styling best described as a Camry with an 8′ bed, it did accomplish one thing. It gave Toyota a platform to experiment, gather feedback and learn. It wasn’t exactly heavy duty. But by the T-100’s third year of production it claimed the title of Best Full Size Pickup in JD Powers initial quality survey and had begun to erode notions that only American manufacturers could build full size trucks.

Since then the T-100 has become the Tundra, and has racked up just about every quality award and press accolade known to man. It’s also grown up. Regular Cabs have grown to double cabs larger than the domestics, and horsepower and displacement have grown from the initial 3.0 v6 to todays vvt-i V8 pushing nearly 300 hp. But a more important event occurred when the T-100 became the Tundra. It went from a Japanese truck built in Japan by Japanese workers to an American Truck built for the American market by American’s. Why is that important? In the world of full size trucks, it’s everything. When it comes to high revving sports cars, compact economy cars, or even lawnmowers, we’re happy to defer to any European or Asian company with a better idea. But, when it comes to trucks, Americans are finicky.

We know what we want and don’t want. I’m an American truck owner and I can’t describe it but I get it. We all get it. So regardless of whether or not it makes financial sense for Japanese car companies to build trucks here in the US (it does), it makes perfect sense from a design and marketing standpoint. The best and fastest way to deliver what a market wants and needs is to be immersed in the culture. That shift from the T-100 being built in Tokyo by Toyotas Hino division, to the Tundra being built in Indiana by American’s forever blurred the distinction between foreign and domestic trucks. Foreign vs. Domestic simply doesn’t have the same meaning in the 21st century as it did in the decades following WW2.

The impact of this event hasn’t fully developed yet but it will in the coming years. Full size trucks were the last unmolested market the big three had. Now, not only is there foreign competition, it’s not even really foreign. When Toyota opens their new truck plant in San Antonio in late 2006, they will employ over 2000 workers and have on-site suppliers employing another 2100 people. All of them Texans. It’s hard toimagine an American truck more American than one built by Texans.

Now, with the introduction of the Canton Mississippi built Nissan Titan, the writing is on the wall. Through October of this year, Nissan has sold nearly 74,000 Titans. Add that to the more than 100,000 Tundras pumped into the market, and we’re talking serious numbers. That’s annually more than a quarter million sales that would have gone to Ford, GM or Chrysler a mere 13 years ago. But the figures are more ominous to the big 3 than that. The Titan and Tundra only compete in the 1/2 ton market. Toyota and Nissan don’t produce a model to compete with the Chevy HD’s, Ford Super Duty’s, or Heavy Dodge Rams and Power Wagons; YET.

Can’t imagine Nissan and Toyota building serious work trucks? Remember, Toyota already owns Hino and Nissan and UD are one in the same. Hino and UD own a significant piece of the class 3 to 6 medium duty truck market in the states. Those are the segments just above the Super Duties, Power Wagons, and HD’s.

They may not be called Nissan and Toyota, but that’s not important. What is important, is that they have the dealer network, distribution chain, corporate infrastructure, and 20 plus years of selling quality trucks to commercial buyers in the U.S. All that’s left is to close the loop in the noose around the big threes collective neck.

To work truck buyers, three factors are critical. Initial cost, cost of operation, and reliability. Nissan and Toyota are masters at entering market segments and in a short time having products of higher quality, better efficiency, and in many cases lower prices than their competitors. Forcing the big three to play catch up at their own game. Cadillac and Lincoln still haven’t caught back up to Lexus. If GM, Ford and Chrysler don’t get it together in a hurry, Nissan and Toyota will start building 3/4 and one ton trucks, and the game will be over before they knew it started.So how ready are the big three for serious foreign competition?

This year If Toyota was inclined, they could have offered a no bed Tundra with a dual wheel rear axle under it, dropped in one of Hinos diesel engines and sold more cab and chassis than Dodge. How? Dodge hasn’t offered a true cab and chassis since the Ram’s redesign in 2003, literally giving the market to Ford and GM for over three years. That kind of slow adaptation will spell disaster against companies like Toyota and Nissan. Not to mention Honda and Mitsubishi who may also become players.Based on show vehicles recently unveiled, like the Toyota FTX (which has a built in collapsible job box and ramps that slide out of the bed), Nissan and Toyota are going to go bigger and heavier. While Ford is wasting time slapping Super Duty pickup beds on International chassis, Toyota and Nissan are refining their product and winning the hearts and minds of American truck buyers.

Will history repeat itself? It already is. Oh, and by the way, the Chinese are coming.

?Tips For Buying a Pick Up

It was just a few decades ago that, like a lot of other things, trucks were fairly basic and without much variation to choose from. Now, owing to technology, we have a wide range of trucks available to suit our customized requirements. There are certain tips to buying the perfect pickup for your needs.

Here are some of the things that should be considered when taking a decision.

Size of the truck: First and foremost is the size of the truck that you need to buy. Generally, trucks come in three sizes. One is compact truck, which as the name suggests is smaller in size and can carry a weight of about 3,000 pounds. If you need to tow more, then consider buying either a medium sized truck or a large sized truck. Compared to the other two, compact sized trucks give a better gas mileage but you even need to consider the interior of the truck which is certainly smaller than its bigger counterparts.

Seating requirement: Again you have three options. A standard cab truck has just one row with two seats and no storage space behind the seats.
An extended cab truck has a bench seat behind the first row which has the driving seat. It is an extended cab also because it provides some space for groceries and other small packages.

Third type is a crew cab which has plenty of space in the second row as full second row is for seating. It has four doors so all the passengers can move in and out of the truck conveniently.
Engine: One of the most important parts of any vehicle is an engine. The larger the truck the heavier the engine. Therefore compact size trucks have four-cylinder and six cylinder engines whereas large sized trucks even come with V8s, V10s and diesel. Example could be the chevy pickup.

Safety system: When buying a truck you should also make sure that it has a proper safety system for the passengers as well as other carriage. Trucks come with an anti-lock brake system which allows it to maintain control when driving around an obstacle. Front and side curtain air bags, traction control, skid control, post crash alarm systems are another few. Trucks such as chevy pickups usually have these safety systems.

All the above with a budget in mind can help you make an appropriate choice when buying a truck.

?Ford Super Duty Gets Tweaked and Empowered

Ford’s Super Duty truck has received a new 6.7-liter turbocharged diesel engine for the 2011 model year. When the truck went on sale earlier in 2010, the Power Stroke diesel returned 390 pound-feet of torque and 735 horsepower. In addition, Baldwin-Wallace College says that the truck gets 29.2 miles to the gallon.

But Ford has found a way to improve power and fuel economy by offering a software upgrade. That 30 minute adjustment, performed at the dealer level, will yield 400 pound-feet of torque and 800 horsepower, providing best in class performance. Importantly, Ford says that fuel economy will improve, although those numbers have yet to be confirmed.

Smart Move

The upgrade isn’t unusual, but how it was handled is. Instead of waiting for the next model year trucks to be assembled, Ford has offered the upgrade for all new trucks and those already sold to customers. That means if you own a 2011 Power Stroke diesel, you can get the upgrade at no cost. Ford says that customers are likely to opt for the change especially if they use their trucks for hauling and other rigorous work.

Power Stroke has served Ford well, a capable line of engines previously produced by Navistar for Ford, but now handled in-house. A previous version of the engine had some technical problems which cost Ford a mint to fix, but the current engine is more powerful and offers best in class fuel economy. The EPA doesn’t track fuel efficiency in this class of vehicles, but the Ford Super Duty beats the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 and Dodge Ram Heavy Duty truck in most independent tests.

More Tweaks

Software plays an important part in the way any vehicle works these days. All vehicles have a central computer which controls the essential functions. Torque, horsepower, fuel efficiency and a host of in-cabin and handling matters are computer controlled or enhanced, allowing manufacturers to squeeze more power and efficiency out of every vehicle. Indeed, software engineers can sometimes find ways to make a vehicle more efficient after the fact, giving customers the chance to enjoy a complimentary upgrade.

Owners of any late model car should keep track of recalls and other notices related to their vehicles. Not all recalls suggest a quality problem, but keeping cars compliant can go a long way toward ensuring that your vehicle operates optimally. Recalls are a cost covered by the manufacturer, with upgrades usually part of your vehicle’s warranty plan.

?A Diesel Truck As a Family Vehicle?

One of my friends for three years has searched for the right diesel truck. He intends this to be the primary family vehicle for a family of five with three drivers. This seems at first to be an unreasonable decision but maybe not. Here are three reasons that make a diesel pickup work for some folks.

Lasts Nearly Forever

Well, not really forever but certain diesel pickup engines are legendary for lasting for many hundreds of miles. Often those are miles piled up while pulling trailers too. Cost to drive vehicles that last a long time often justifies spending more money on the vehicle initial purchase. If the power plant will last for upwards of three thousand miles, cost to own the truck can be quite reasonable.

Fuel Efficient Even When Loaded

Some diesel pickup engines don’t really get great fuel mileage. But then some do offer mileage in the high teens. The real plus to the diesels is the loaded mileage possible. When towing or hauling is part of the reason you use a pickup, diesels often excel. That’s because loaded and unloaded fuel economy are close to the same sometimes. That often beats a gas powered truck by a considerable margin.

Several Fuel Sources

My friend with the desire for the pickup has run a diesel car on vegetable oil for years. See, there’s method to his madness. If you can develop a system to manufacture your own bio diesel or run a diesel engine on used fats, you have a powerful option for self-sufficiency. Think of the possibilities if you can cheaply manufacture fuel at home and run it in your own vehicle. There are other ways to make diesel fuel other than using used vegetable oils too.

Some truck owners have developed systems to produce diesel fuel from soybeans and that opens all kinds of possibilities to bypass the oil companies with your own fuel systems.

Put a four door diesel pickup in your driveway and you open up many options. Especially if your business or hobby includes towing a trailer, a pickup like this makes good sense. Develop your own sources of fuel and the economics of diesel trucks looks brighter and better.

Though big heavy pickups can be somewhat unwieldy to drive around, it’s hard to top a pickup for all around usefulness. With the right engine choice and the right maintenance people available to keep it going, diesels open up some really attractive possibilities.

?Ford Pick-Up F-250 Truck

Ford Pick-up F-250 super duty truck is another great invention by the company and is somehow different from earlier models of F-series trucks. It is available in three body styles and includes regular cab, extended cab and crew cab. This vehicle is a strong and ultimate performer, both in terms of efficiency as well as working. It is a heavy-duty truck, but provides extremely comfortable driving experience. It can easily handle huge consignments and that’s why it is one of the foremost choices among all. Ford F-250 truck is available in four trim levels including Base XL, Midlevel XLT, Luxurious Lariat and Off-Road oriented Cabela.

If you will take a look at its technical features, it has a trio of 5.4 liter V8, a 6.8-liter V10 (optional) and 6.4-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel V8 engines. There are four transmissions available, namely, 5-speed manual transmission for gasoline engines, 6-speed manual transmission for diesel engines, 5-speed automatic transmission for 6.0 diesel engines and 4-speed automatic transmission for gas or diesel engines. Hence, buyers of this truck have large number of options available. When it comes to exteriors, it has huge dimensions of 6.66′ and 7.8 inches of ground clearance. Seats of F-250 are enriched with black leather and are very comfortable. Meticulously built interiors of this vehicle give it a great look inside. According to some sources, this truck can pull up to 13, 500 lbs.

Ford makes changes to its vehicles year-on-year and hence make them advanced with every passing year. This strong performer F-250 truck smoothly carries heavy freight, without much hitching and with smooth acceleration. It is a specialized vehicle for working on odd roads with heavy stuff. But one thing that I would like to remind here is that driving this truck requires great driving skills and attention.

Ford F-250 truck has a very efficient engine and in fact provides best-in-class fuel economy. Be it towing, pulling or hauling, this pick-up does it all. Its immense towing capacity and controlled movement is superb and making the towing an effortless task. With it’s these features, F-250 truck commands on road and does the job in the best way. In short, this heavy hauler work hard and play hard as well.

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