Having been a professional truck driver and trainer for more than 30 years, I find that you never, ever know it all. There are always new things to learn. My primary goal with this blog is to help other drivers (especially newer ones) with pertinent information and tips to enable them to work happier and more safely. Guest posts, contributors and feed-back are always welcome and wanted!
Truckers know a CB radio helps them avoid traffic jams, bad weather and tickets, but not enough know how to get the maximum performance out of their equipment.
“Everyone considers them to be plug and play, but they’re really not,” said Matthew Brehm, a quality assurance manager for DAS Products, which manufactures RoadKing CB radios. “A little attention can boost their performance drastically.”
What kind of performance can a driver expect from a CB? In optimal conditions (flat terrain, no tall buildings, low humidity and a well-tuned setup), signals might travel seven to eight miles, Brehm said. Four miles is more typical and that might shrink to a few blocks on a humid day in downtown Chicago. While location and weather are beyond your control, there are simple things you can do to improve your CB’s performance.
Here’s a component-by-component guide to getting the most out of your setup:
The antenna is the most critical part. It’s where signals are received and transmitted, and the type, location and tuning of the antenna are crucial to performance.
Antennas come in a variety of types and designs by materials, length and location of the coil. The antenna coils can be base-mounted, mid-mounted or top-loaded. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. Whichever type you use, make sure the coil is above the top of the truck for optimal performance (but low enough to clear underpasses and trees). RoadPro brands Francis, K40 and Wilson offer a variety of high-performing antennae in different models and mounts.
Radios and antennas need to be tuned to each other. RoadKing and other brands have built-in SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) meters which make this easy. Brehm said drivers should tune before every trip and certainly when getting into a different truck.
The SWR measures the amount of power being transmitted through the antenna, which determines how far the signal travels. Using the SWR meter as a gauge, incrementally lengthen or shorten the antenna until it is performing at maximum efficiency. (Detailed instructions can be found in the manual).
Unlike the radio itself, antennas, even the best ones, don’t last forever and should be replaced every few years. Keep them clean of dirt and oil and check the sheathing for any nicks or holes.
Taken care of properly, these can last for decades. Brehm said the most common performance problems are caused by a lack of grounding. Grounding was easier when more components in the cab were made of metal, but that has changed with addition of more plastic parts. He recommends running a grounding wire from the back of the unit to a metal part in the cab that’s connected to the chassis, such as a seat post bolt.
CB radios typically come with a basic dynamic mic, which most drivers discard in favor of superior, noise-canceling mics, like those made by Astatic and RoadKing. Soft-spoken drivers or those who work in particularly noisy conditions might prefer amplified mics.
It’s easy to overlook the cables, but they tie the whole system together and a poor-performing cable can hurt. Make sure to get a cable with the proper connectors and one that is shielded from interference, like those made by Wilson. “The more shielding you have, the better signal you’re going to get,” Brehm said.
And there’s one more thing Brehm would like to add to those upgrading or installing a CB radio: “Read the directions. I never used to until I started writing them and now I know how much good information is in there.” http://www.roadprobrands.com/
First in a series on career paths written by and thanks to Todd Dills and overdriveonline.com. Follow the links to read the entire series: Roads not taken, part 1: Owner-operator turned broker, freight agent
Jan, 2015The traditional career advancement for leased owner-operators has been to get operating authority and run as a full independent, then if circumstances line up adding trucks to grow the small fleet. Yet many drivers and owner-operators have prospered in other jobs within the industry. While there’s no guarantee a nondriving job will boost your earnings, plenty of truckers have found good money, opportunity for advancement and better quality of life after coming off the road. In this series, find typical industry opportunities where over-the-road experience gives you a leg up.
Though he’s only 28, Bryan Lundberg has run as an owner-operator and managed a small fleet. He and his father operated the fleet, KAL Logistics, and at the height of Lundberg’s involvement, he was responsible for 18-19 trucks, eight of them company-owned.
Lundberg recalled the purchase of his Cat-powered 2005 Kenworth W900L when he was 19 or 20, shy of the 21 years required to drive interstate legally. “I just continued to do custom work on it,” he says.
On the eve of his 21st birthday, Lundberg wasn’t out partying with friends. Instead, he was parked off Interstate 90 in Luverne, Minn., waiting for midnight so that he could cross into South Dakota.
“I pulled a step deck. It was really good money, but you had to go where the freight went.” Weeks out became months out. After Lundberg and his wife moved to Arizona, with a new set of lanes to tackle, getting back got harder, clouding the anticipation of starting to grow his family. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ve built up a lot of contacts. Maybe I’ll get into more of the customer side of things.’”
Well before joining the all-employee Allen Lund Co. brokerage last year, Lundberg became an independent agent for a carrier-affiliated brokerage, thinking he might be able to use those contacts.
Former owner-operator Lindley Johnson did the same in 2006 following about a decade of trucking, the final five or six years leased to Landstar System. Johnson’s now owner-operator of the Landstar-dedicated LKJ Agency in Iron Mountain, Mich. “In late 2006, I decided to take all those business cards and names and contact numbers that I’d saved over the years and try to do something with them,” he says, starting up the agency as a one-man show.
The agent model among brokerages is akin to the leasing model at carriers, and Landstar’s agent model fits the mold to one degree or another – its agents, like its owner-operators, are independent businesses operating under the larger entity’s authority in a dedicated relationship.
“I didn’t do a single drop of business with any of those guys,” Johnson says of his long-saved contacts. He eventually made his way with others after a tough transition. He advises those interested in getting into freight brokering/agenting to be prepared to build slowly.
“It got really tight moneywise,” he says. “I lived on credit cards for a little while. Truckers always think that brokers have it easy, that the brokers are the ones making all the money. It was very interesting, overnight, to be on the other side of those phone calls and negotiations.”
His driving background “gave me instant credibility with drivers,” even though he didn’t trumpet it. Instead, it’s evident in the way you talk about lanes – “a certain phrase, or understanding that tarping something is going to be time-consuming.”
Like the independent owner-operators with whom they often negotiate, brokers wear a variety of hats. Over the course of a day at nonagency-model company Allen Lund, says Lundberg, he might spend more or less time negotiating with a trucker or making sales calls to potential new shipper customers, the latter his primary role as a business development specialist.
“Everybody here deals with the customer service end of things,” whether that’s a shipper or a trucker, Lundberg says of the Lund Phoenix office where he’s based, handling about 70 percent produce. “I still get involved with the truck stuff on a daily basis. Say a driver had an issue here or there – I’ll check to see if something’s legit,” such as if a particular pickup-and-delivery schedule is realistic.
On top of the task Lundberg’s title at the company suggests, as a former owner-operator himself, “I don’t want to distance myself to where I lose touch with” the realities of the road, he says.
Former owner-operators and drivers bring something of value to the brokerage world. Says Kenny Lund, operations vice president at the brokerage his father, Allen (a former trucker himself), built from the ground up, “We love recruiting brokers out of the driver pool. They definitely can work with the carriers better. They can speak that language.”
The ability to translate a trucker’s concern to the shipper becomes key, and if there is any drawback to hiring former truckers as brokers, from Lund’s point of view, it’s a tendency to advocate too much for the carrier. “As a broker, we really have to be as unbiased as we can” when disputes arise, he says. An independent who’s secured his own direct freight will be well suited to the role, something small fleet owner-operators who’ve ever brokered excess freight will know.
For Lundberg and Johnson, it’s working for the moment, though both readily admit they miss driving. However, Lundberg wouldn’t give up the time he’s able to spend with his 2-year-old son. “I leave for work at about 4:30 in the morning and get home by 5 every day,” he says. “I spend nights and weekends with him. He is in love with cars and trucks. We can sit on the couch for hours watching YouTube videos of tractors and cars and trucks.”
Lundberg and his wife have discussed what might happen after their children have grown up and left home. “I think we will hit the road again,” he says. “I will never be the type to sit around in retirement sitting at the coffee shop solving the world’s problems or playing my second round of golf.”
Maybe he just watched too many episodes of "Breaking Bad."
After Ronnie Music Jr. won $3 million last year in the Georgia Lottery, prosecutors say he decided to use his winnings to invest in an illegal stash of crystal methamphetamine and guns and then market them across the South.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia in Brunswick announced that Music has pleaded guilty to federal charges that could carry a potential penalty of life in prison.
"Music decided to test his luck by sinking millions of dollars of lottery winnings into the purchase and sale of crystal meth," said U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver. "As a result of his unsound investment strategy, Music now faces decades in a federal prison."
A felon with a history of violence, drug possession and multiple felony gun convictions, Music was on probation when he struck it rich last year playing the Georgia Lottery, according to court records. He won $3 million with a $20 instant scratch-off ticket called 100X The Money, according to news accounts of his win.
Music said at the time that he and his wife intended to put at least some of his winnings into savings. But federal prosecutors said Music chose instead to invest his winnings in criminal activities. During the investigation, prosecutors said federal agents seized more than $1 million in methamphetamine, a large cache of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, which they seized along with more than $600,000 in cash and multiple vehicles, including a Dodge Charger and a GMC Sierra that Music bought last year.
Last September, four alleged members of Music's posse—who have also been indicted by a federal grand jury in Brunswick—were caught attempting to sell 11 pounds of crystal meth with a street value of more than $500,000, prosecutors said. The investigation, they said, revealed that within a month of winning the lottery in February 2015, Music had used his winnings to begin buying quantities of crystal meth for resale.
Police in Tennessee stopped Music's vehicle after federal agents witnessed him picking up money intended as payment for four pounds of meth that Music was found to have in his possession along with $22,000 and a 9 mm pistol, according to Music's plea agreement. At that time, according to his plea, Music claimed he was just a courier. According to his plea, he still faces possible additional felony drug and gun charges in the Western District of Virginia.
Music's attorney, Ronald Harrison, had no comment.
May, 2016 General Motors plans to roll out a new 10-speed automatic transmission in its 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Designed for rear-wheel-drive applications, the transmission will be available in eight yet-to-be-named vehicles by 2018.
Earlier this month, Ford announced select trim levels F-150 would get a 10-speed transmission, so the trail is already blazed to drop the new trans into select members of Chevy and GMC’s pickup lineup.
GM says its new 10-speed is an all-new design – and the first-ever application in a car – with a wider, 7.39 overall gear ratio spread, that enables the ZL1’s supercharged engine to remain at optimal engine speeds during upshifts.
“With world-class shift times on par with the world’s best dual-clutch transmissions and the refinement that comes only from a true automatic, the 10-speed delivers incomparable performance on and off the track,” says Dan Nicholson, vice-president, GM Global Propulsion Systems. “It also leverages the experience of our other multispeed transmissions to deliver that performance with greater efficiency as its use expands into other vehicles.”
The wider overall ratio enables a lower numerical top gear ratio – an attribute that reduces engine speed on the highway, which contributes to greater fuel efficiency than a comparable eight-speed transmission. Improvements in spin loss complement the optimized gearing, further enhancing efficiency.
The 10-speed is approximately the same size as the six- and eight-speed transmissions, minimizing changes to vehicle interfaces.
Testing has shown faster upshift times than the Porsche PDK dual-clutch transmission. In fact, the 1-2 upshift is 36-percent quicker than the PDK, while the 2-3 and 3-4 upshifts are 27-percent and 26-percent quicker, respectively.
Thanks to only two non-applied clutches – the same number as the eight-speed – as well as other design features, the 10-speed automatic has lower friction that contributes to greater fuel efficiency over GM’s six- and eight-speed automatics. New ultra-low viscosity transmission fluid also reduces friction, while an internal thermal bypass allows the transmission to warm up faster – attributes that enhance fuel efficiency
It is the latest transmission to use an all-new, GM-developed control system, with performance calibrations tailored specifically for different vehicles.
Architectural features and packaging
Thousands of hours of computer-aided engineering analyses were made during the development of the Hydra-Matic 10-speed transmission, resulting in a design envelope comparable to the eight-speed automatic.
A one-piece aluminum case with an integral bell housing helps reduce weight and enhance powertrain stiffness, while a unique 260mm, integral turbine clutch torque converter design reduces complexity and helps make the converter thinner, which contributes to the transmission’s packaging.
The 10-speed has four simple gearsets and six clutches: two brake clutches and four rotating clutches – one more clutch than the eight-speed, despite having two more forward gears.
A unique triple-clutch assembly in the middle of the 10-speed’s architecture is a primary enabler for packaging 10-speed content in the same space as GM’s six- and eight-speed transmissions.
The 10-speed also features a variable-displacement vane pump, which optimizes transmission fluid pressure, based on speed and load, to enhance efficiency.
7.39 ratio spread and faster upshifts
The new 10-speed’s performance and efficiency are due primarily to its wider 7.39 overall gear ratio spread, which GM says enhances off-the-line performance with a more aggressive first gear ratio than the company’s eight-speed automatic. Smaller steps between the gears also help the engine maintain the optimal speed for maximum power at almost all speeds, especially when exiting a corner on a track.
Adaptive shift controls such as Performance Algorithm Shifting and Driver Shift Control enhance performance driving. Performance Algorithm Shifting (PAS) monitors how assertively the driver is using engine output to determine at what engine speed to upshift or downshift. Driver Shift Control allows the driver to shift the transmission via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Electronic safeguards prevent over-revving if the wrong gear position is selected, but relies on the driver to make upshifts or downshifts.
Gear changes are mainly executed with clutch-to-clutch action, where an on-coming clutch is engaged and an off-going clutch is released in a precise manner to achieve the ratio change. Certain key shifts, however, are made with a freewheeling action, such as 3-1 downshifts, where a plate clutch is actively disengaged while a mechanical freewheeler clutch automatically engages with optimum synchronization.
The torque converter is 260mm in diameter and features a lock-up clutch. It also uses electronic controlled capacity clutch (ECCC) technology, which employs a small, regulated amount of slip to dampen out engine pulses for a smoother running drivetrain, especially during shifting.
Reduced spin losses and new transmission fluid
Friction-reducing design features, including all-new ultra-low viscosity transmission fluid, internal thermal bypass, minimal number of non-applied clutches and otherlower mechanicalspin losses, contribute to the 10-speed’s effect on improved vehicle efficiency.
The low-viscosity fluid helps reduce fraction across the full temperature operating range, which enhances fuel efficiency. Additionally, the internal thermal bypass allows the transmission to warm up faster to its optimal operating temperature, further contributing to fuel efficiency.
GM control system
Shift time quickness and responsiveness are accomplished by leveraging the base transmission hardware in concert with GM exclusively developed algorithms, software and calibrations. An externally mounted electronic control module executes millions of controls instructions every second.
A stout, go-anywhere truck for tough, off-road work can be had for not a lot of money.
May, 2016 Need a stout go-anywhere truck for off-road work, and for not a lot of money? An ex-military 6x6 might be just the ticket. It is for Bob Eggar, who runs The Pumpkin Patch, a produce farm on an island in the Columbia River, near Portland, Oregon. Here, mud is an enemy.
That complicates the task of getting crops out of the fields, but a team of former U.S. Army vehicles can handle it. Two were purchased through the GovPlanet arm of IronPlanet, the worldwide auction service, for under $5,000 apiece. An older a 2-1/2-ton cargo truck – a Vietnam-era “deuce and a half” -- cost Eggar only $2,500.
“They offered me another one for the same price,” he said of that dealer, “and to this day I wish I had taken it.” His latest trucks came from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (formerly the Army’s Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, near Tacoma, Washington).
“We farm 55 acres, and have a lot of equipment. My son just turned 18, he likes equipment, and he found the web site,” Eggers said, explaining how he happened to buy the 5-tonners through GovPlanet.com.
In war zones, like Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers ran these trucks day and night and they got ragged, so were often scrapped. However, trucks kept Stateside usually see light duty, and though they’ve been kept for 20 years or more, they have low miles and hours by the time the military decides to replace them.
IronPlanet executives say they recently heard that many were to be scrapped, and convinced the Pentagon to auction them instead. Then they set up GovPlanet. Civilians have bought hundreds of trucks and much construction equipment, like motor graders and bulldozers, at a fraction of new-equipment prices.
Eggar said he bought the deuce-and-a-half, an M35A1, 20 years ago; it has a turbocharged multi-fuel engine with 5-speed synchromesh manual transmission and a 2-speed transfer case.
He acquired a pair of 5-tonners, a truck and a tractor in the M939 series, in the last two years. The ‘939s originally had heavy, naturally aspirated Cummins NHC-240 diesels with similar manual transmissions and TCs, but the Army upgraded them in the early 1990s with Cummins turbocharged ISC-240 diesels and Allison automatics.
“They work well for us because we can harvest our winter crops,” he said. “Sometimes the weather can get kind of sour on us, but they go well through mud” with their all-wheel-drive setups. “We’ve had no problems whatsoever -- no grief yet. We did put a clutch in the deuce-and-a-half.
"They don’t do road trips because they’re so heavy, and we can’t get enough produce on to make it worthwhile.” For road work The Pumpkin Patch has commercial-style trucks.
A 2-1/2-ton cargo truck’s empty weight is about 13,000 pounds, according to Wikipedia. The stated capacity of American military trucks is for off-road operation; on roads a 2-1/2-ton truck can carry 5 tons. Its top speed is about 50 mph, though GIs have driven them faster (says this ex-soldier).
The M939 series includes sub-models for various duties: A straight cargo truck like Eggar’s is designated M923, and weighs 21,600 pounds, and an M931 tractor weighs 22,089 pounds. The tractor’s on-road fifth-wheel rating is 15,000 pounds and it can pull a semitrailer weighing up to 37,000 pounds.
Though Eggar’s trucks don’t have them, Eaton central tire inflation systems went on some of the upgraded M939s. (CTIS is now made by Dana Spicer, which continues to sell it mostly for military use, but some have gone on civilian concrete mixer trucks.) Upgraded M35-series 2.5-ton trucks got Caterpillar 3116 diesels with Allison automatics.
All trucks retained their air-over-hydraulic drum brakes during the upgrading. Because of stability problems with the 5-tonners, the Army had limited road speed to 40 mph, and some got anti-lock braking systems as a remedy. Some trucks had power steering, and with the automatic transmissions were rather easy to drive.
Aside from GovPlanet, “trader” publications carry listings for ex-military trucks like these, with asking prices from $3,500 to $7,500 and more. That’s because the government has been selling obsolete and no-longer-needed vehicles for many years. “Army surplus” became part of our language after World War II, and older folks recall cranes, excavators and water tanks mounted on deuce-and-a-half chassis.
Frugal commercial operators like Bob Eggar and private enthusiasts who often belong to the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (www.mvpa.org) buy such trucks singularly and in groups. Parts are readily available from specialists who run print and on-line ads. Maybe it’s time to “join up.”