Monday, October 24, 2022

3 Tips to Get Better Air Flow in Your Kenworth Truck

The following is a guest post thanks to Jon Lewis of Shoreline Truck Parts:

Kenworth trucks are notorious for poor air flow. There’s nothing worse than going down the road
sweating, or freezing. Both of these scenarios can be avoided. In this article, I’ll be sharing 3
tips to ensure that you get the most air flow from your Kenworth truck.
The first thing to consider is the problem may not be your blower motor, but your HVAC box
itself. Having holes in an HVAC box is like trying to pour water into a bucket that is filled with
holes. Your bucket will quickly fail at it’s job. The same goes for your blower motor.

1 - Inspect Your HVAC BOX

Inspect your Kenworth HVAC box for corrosion, holes, and air gaps. First, run the AC/heat and
feel around your box for air leaks. If you find major corrosion, you may want to consider
replacing your Kenworth heater box with a stainless steel version. If your KW truck has a metal
HVAC box and spends much time in northern states that salt their roads, there’s a good chance
that your truck is seeing signs of corrosion. If the corrosion is bad enough, it will eventually wear
a hole in your box.
Second, all Kenworth HVAC manufactures use gasket material in various locations on the
boxes to prevent air leaks. The areas most prone to leaks are around the top cover and the area
where the evaporator line come out of the HVAC box. Adding gasket material to these areas
can help stop the air leaks. Thirdly, check the venting behind the dash in your truck. Many
models of Kenworths have vent tubing similar to dryer vent hoses. Over time, the venting tube
easily cracks.

2 - Clean Heater Core and Evaporator

Example of a clogged heater core

If your box is in good shape, another cause for bad air flow is a dirty/clogged evaporator and
heater core. This is especially common for trucks that run a lot on dirt roads or dusty work sites.
Dust mixed with condensation in your HVAC box will create a wall of debris making your
evaporator and heater core impenetrable. Heater cores and evaporators should be cleaned
every one to two years.

3 - Upgrade Your Blower Motor

The last thing to check, if you have found that your box is in good shape, the evaporator and
heater core are clean and it doesn’t have any air leaks, consider replacing your OEM blower
motor with an upgraded blower motor. Our company, Shoreline Truck Parts, offers a Blower
Motor Upgrade Kit that will give you a 15% increase in CFM. Our upgrade kit includes a
stainless steel lid and baffle plate, the upgraded blower motor, and gaskets.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Never Forget Our Heroes

January 14, 1945.
On that single day in the history of World War II there were 810 American casualties. One of those was my father’s cousin, Captain Gene Edward Sucharda, who was killed while commanding a tank company at the Battle of the Bulge. Approximately 19,000 American soldiers were killed in the 5 week long battle. I remember seeing Gene’s picture hanging on the wall in uniform when we visited my dad’s Aunt Claire and Uncle Edmund. At their house in Akron, Ohio, the picture was above a small table with his memorabilia laid out on it, like a small shrine. He was their only child and I, even at my young age, wondered how the parents could have gotten through something like that. His remains never even made it back to the USA. He is buried at Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré Belgium. My youngest brother Gene was named by my parents in his honor. So many heroes are responsible for the lives we have today. Never forget! What follows is an account written by David Kasavan, a fellow soldier, for the 11th Armored Division Legacy Group:
Gene's Purple Heart & Silver Star

"The Captain (Gene Sucharda) was leading the way as he always did, when the shell came from his right flank. It must have been right in line with him, for suddenly he fell, and slumped down into the turret. The tank started burning, and Ramee gave me the order to back up quickly behind a house. I saw Cpl. Armin Stodolenak, the Captain’s gunner, got out of the tank after he looked around and saw he could help the CO or the loader, Pfc. Stan Chadwick. The bog and the driver Pfc Clarence Busch and T/4 Key both got out of the tank but not before it was hit the second time. And then suddenly our tank was hit, right in the back deck which was sticking out past our shelter. No one was hit badly, and dodging all of the mortars and artillery, we finally made it back to a house where we were later picked up.”

The Captain and Chadwick must have been killed instantly. Stodolenak had some nasty shrapnel in his hip, and he hopped into Sgt. Jones’ tank for safety and first aid. “That made six men in the tank,” Jones said, “and before long there was a knocking on the tank. We opened up and there was Pfc. Sid Meyer, loader in Cohen’s tank, so we took him too and sat him on the transmission. Then the artillery started falling in town. Lt. Brendan Burns, who was to lead us through the rest of our battles, was outside scouting around with Captain Dick McCoy, from the battalion staff. They both hopped into the tank, too, so we had a total of nine men there. Probably set some sort of record.”

David Kasavan also wrote about these events 9 days before Gene was killed:

“The Captain (Gene Sucharda) called a meeting the next afternoon on January 5th. “Men,” he said, “I want you to know what a wonderful job you did. The 41st Tank Battalion really made a good reputation fighting out there, and most of the advancing occurred when we were in the lead. I want you to know that I am proud of you. And since I have to go into combat, all I can say is that I could not ask for a finer bunch of men than you.” The company looked at the Captain. They did not say it, but they too, were proud of him. He had shown himself to be the bravest. And he had kept a cool head throughout the battle. When one of the innumerable questions that always pop up in the course of an action was referred to him, he always knew the right and logical answer. He had proved himself the best and a best fighting man we were to ever know. Little did we suspect what was going to happen on our next step into action. Sgt. Jon Jones had this to say about the CO “It seemed as if he was out of his tank more often than in it. And he would walk around when artillery was falling all over the place. If he could help it, he would go see a man rather than have that man walk out in the open to see him. Why I remember one time I was all buttoned up due to artillery fire, and I heard a knocking on my pistol port. I opened it up and there was the CO. Do you know what he was doing? He was passing out cigarette rations.”

Newspaper article about Gene's death, I believe in the Akron, Oh newspaper:

Link to David's entire 22 page article:

Monday, June 27, 2022

A Driver's Obituary

Unfortunately, this driver is my brother. Retired Minneapolis Metro Transit bus driver with more than 20 years accident free. Rest in Peace brother!

Russell James Bridger - Obituary
July 22, 1954 - June 17, 2022            Age 67

An honest man of character.

Russell James Bridger, 67, died of natural causes suddenly at his home in Brooklyn Center, Mn prior to June 17th, 2022. He was home alone at the time of his death. Born July 22, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wi to Donald James Bridger and Agnes C Konitzer Bridger Bast. Survived by siblings: Daniel (Louise Berndt) Bridger, Charles (Lynn) Bridger, Cynthia (David Jones) Bridger Boyd, Gene (Sherry) Bridger and Karin (Jon) Bush.

Russ married Sandra Draeger in1973 at Milwaukee WI, Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church - Annulled 1978. He married Roxanne Lea Caron Bridger in 1979 at Las Vegas Nevada, later divorced. He met Cheryl Rose Zaic while both were driving school buses in Minneapolis. Surviving children of Russ and Roxanne are April Lea Bridger and Shane Alan Bridger, both of Minneapolis, Mn. Surviving grandchildren are Connor Robert Christensen, born 2006 and Aurora Eva-Lea Hagen, born 2016.

In 1972 Russell graduated from James Madison High School while working two jobs in Milwaukee. He then pursued a career in the finance industry, working his way up to office and branch manager, transferring to California and eventually Minneapolis. There, in Minnesota, he met and married Roxanne, the mother of his children.

After many years in a high pressure field of employment, he had enough and decided to get out, obtaining a job driving a school bus. That experience eventually led to employment in the city of Minneapolis as a Metro Transit bus driver. With numerous safe driving awards, he retired at 62 and was living comfortably.

Russell enjoyed living his life the way he wanted to and was always upbeat and a happy person. You could ask him anything and always get an honest answer. He would never expect you to agree with him and felt everyone had a right to their own opinion.

Russ will be cremated and a private family service will be arranged at a later date, as he requested in a letter to his children.

Cremation provider: Crescent Tide Cremation Services 774 Transfer Rd, St Paul, MN 55114, USA

About Russell:

My hero is Einstein,... and my mother!!!..... My favorite musical instruments are piano and guitar. My favorite children are April and Shane.

Russ's favorite quotes:
"When a man is in love or in debt, someone else has the advantage."

"Marriage is the unsuccessful attempt to prolong an incident".

"The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who can not read them."

A link to a great story he previously contributed to my blog:

Sunday, April 17, 2022

NMA: A Former Truck Driver's Perspective on Whether 18-year-olds Should Drive Big Rigs

Thoughtful, well written article thanks to Thomas Beckett and published in The National Motorists Association newsletter #690 April 3, 2022. You can help support the NMA by joining at the links provided:

I read with interest the NMA Weekly E-Newsletter #685 on allowing 18-year-olds to drive in interstate commerce. 

I come to this discussion with some experience, having been both a driver and a fleet manager for JB Hunt. In addition to that experience, I also have some insight into Greer Woodruff's approach, having worked under him (we didn't know each other, aside from an occasional hello, or a short discussion at a safety meeting) in both roles.

For what it's worth, I have driven over two million miles since 1975, including 770,000 accident-free miles with JB Hunt and another 175,000 on the mean streets of the Triple Cities (that's the Binghamton, NY area) for Broome County Transit, as well as several other driving jobs, and my own personal miles, which are considerable. I still hold a Class A commercial license with a passenger endorsement.

One of my roles as a fleet manager was to take newly hired drivers out of orientation and put them in trucks, then run them for about ten days till they got acclimated to our way of doing things and hand them off to a permanent fleet manager. By the time I was doing that, we had not hired an out-of-school driver in ten years, and everyone I worked within that program had at least a year's experience, a few with much more than that. 

For the most part, I agree with the conditions of the apprenticeship program. I'm not a big fan of in-cab cameras or speed limiters (governors) set no faster than 65 MPH in a world where 75 MPH speed limits are typical. I think trucks should be able to run with the flow of traffic at whatever speed. Governing them at 75 will keep them moving at a speed similar to surrounding traffic and will still limit how fast they can go; it's not necessary to run triple-digit speeds. Sending out a much slower vehicle into interstate traffic only asks for trouble, if not for the slow truck, then surely for the other drivers who have to maneuver around it. 

Not allowing double trailers (and triples in some western states and on the Ohio Turnpike and Indiana Toll Road) also makes sense. Those trucks are much more unstable than a single trailer of any length, especially triples. I talked to a Consolidated Freightways driver on the Indiana Toll Road one night about 25 years ago, and we got on how the trailers behave, especially in poor conditions. His comment was, "I never really know what that last trailer is doing." This was a guy who'd been driving them for 30 years.

While I can see the theory behind in-cab cameras, I'm not sure watching someone the whole time he's in the truck is advisable. Maybe they can be set up to operate only while the truck is in motion, but a full-time camera is a non-starter. After all, these guys live in their trucks, literally. Who would have a camera in his home that watched him 24/7, allowing his boss access? 

Yeah, I know everyone is sharing on social media ad nauseam, but some prefer to have our private moments. 

For better or worse, the transport industry seems to have embraced the idea of cameras in operating cabs. In many cases, railroad locomotives are now equipped with them, as are quite a few buses. Companies will want to know that their drivers are not on their phones, eating/drinking while driving, etc. It's probably an inevitability, even if this proposal is not ultimately implemented. It will likely become an essential tool in collision investigations. 

Having an experienced driver on board is not unprecedented. When I started with JB Hunt in 1995 (at the age of 36), I attended a mandatory four-week program at the National Tractor Trailer School in Syracuse, NY. Then I spent four weeks with a driver-trainer, a more experienced driver who observed me and got me up to speed on JB Hunt practices and procedures. He also monitored my logs for accuracy and if they comported with DOT regulations. This was standard practice at the time, as JB Hunt was expanding rapidly and hiring new drivers at a furious pace. Today, this is less of a factor, as electronic logging largely eliminates mistakes, and makes falsification almost impossible.

When I started trucking, JB Hunt had around 8,000 road trucks in the fleet and was taking people from all walks of life to fill driver seats. But when starting out, the driving experience level was low--no better than an 18-year-old when it came to driving a truck. My driving school class had guys (the field is overwhelmingly male, even today) who had been school bus drivers, factory workers, and food service workers. Most of the people I went to school with were older, in their 30s and 40s. We had quite a few veterans, too. My trainer was a veteran who spent 24 years in the Air Force. 

The point about 18-year-olds not having any driving education is well taken. As it is, driver's ed in high school seems to be a lost practice. When I was in high school in the 1970s, every school I knew had a program with a dedicated teacher or someone outside the school teaching on contract.

I went to driver's ed at a Catholic high school in Manhattan--New York, not Kansas--and learned to drive in a 1975 Pontiac station wagon. It was good training for almost everything I'd ever encounter in my driving life. Years later, when my kids came of age, their high school, Union Endicott in upstate NY, did not offer driver ed. 

If you wanted to get driving instruction, you had to go to driving school. I get that it's an expensive program and has some serious liability issues, but overall, the risk to the larger driving public would be much better served if high schools had driver's ed programs. At least these kids would be going out onto the roadways with some basic skills, and it would be a more level playing field since everyone would have a similar baseline skillset. 

A certain temperament and mentality are essential for driving a big rig. Being away from home for extended periods is an adjustment, especially for those with a family. You have to get used to living in an 8x8 foot box for a couple of weeks at a time. The hours are often long and often odd. You'll deal with rain, snow, sleet, hail, the gloom of night--sometimes all of those in 24 hours, and some at the same time. You'll go more miles in a year than most people drive in ten: more miles in ten years (if you last that long) than most people will drive in a lifetime. 

I recall once driving down I-65 in northern Indiana one night, 15 degrees and freezing fog, thinking, if I had any sense, I'd be in a warm bed somewhere, and the only reason I'm out here is because someone is paying me to do this, and I have a 0600 delivery in Louisville.

It's a life that's not for everyone, and most are not cut out to do it. The dollars can be good, but the time spent to earn them is long and often lonely. Those factors make retention a challenge. 

Anyone who will enter into the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program should be required to go to driving school for tractor-trailers before going over the road. Presumably, they will have met any minimum hiring and DOT qualifications before going on the road with a supervising driver. JB Hunt required us to pass the state road test and have our Class A licenses before being officially hired. 

OOIDA's Todd Spencer has a point about retention. There were 18 in my driving school class when I came on as a driver. Two dropped out when they heard they'd have to complete a drug screen successfully; 11 completed the course and passed their road test. A year later, I only knew of three that were left. 

This was not uncommon. I recall talking to the class coordinator one day, who said that the average new driver coming through school lasts 117 days. Many guys get out on the road and quickly realize it's not all 70 MPH with the window down, the radio up, the wind in your hair, and all is right with the world.

There is the reality of being away from home most of the time, as well as the long hours sitting--and it's not so much hurry up and wait, as it is waiting, and hurry up to get to the next place. I think Greer Woodruff hits the nail on the head. There's a lot of wasted time, which is entirely unproductive, in the business. 

Woodruff states that the trucking industry could add a lot of capacity if detention time were reduced and by using drop and hook pick-ups and deliveries. That much is true, but there also would need to be other changes to minimize driver detention, most of which would have to be taken by the customer, which is mainly out of the carrier's control. 

Some customers are not too bad about this; some are horrible. I used to hate going to Owens Corning in Kansas City, Kansas, or Budweiser almost anywhere since you were usually in for a whole working day on their dock to get loaded. On the receiving side, grocery warehouses are notorious time-wasters, and it's not uncommon to spend four or five hours at one, especially if there's a detailed breakdown of the load. A load of spice, for example, can have several hundred items and break down into as many pallets. It's a nightmare. 

Drop and hook is ideal for the driver, as long as there is an empty trailer at the receiver. Usually, it's not a situation where you drop a load and immediately pick up another load, though there are places where that happens. A trucker can be in and out in 30 minutes if all goes according to plan with a drop-and-hook customer. 

At JB Hunt, we had a lot of them--companies such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's, Procter & Gamble, and a wide variety of others. The issue is often at the receiver end of the trip. Grocery warehouses, as a rule, don't have trailer pools, so it's a live unload; likewise, we also did some store deliveries for Home Depot, which are live unloads as well. They were usually pretty good, as long as they had enough people to pallet jack the freight into the building. And, as I said, the drop and hook only works if there is an empty trailer at the receiver. If not, you can waste an awful lot of time looking for one.

We were encouraged to report customers if it took too long to unload (anything over two hours). We'd start charging them detention time after four hours. This plays directly into Woodruff's theory that if drivers could actually drive 8-3/4 hours a day instead of the average 6-1/2, it would reduce the need for additional trucks and drivers. The drivers would also earn more, which would be a big boost to retention. 

On detention: One of the significant changes that affected detention was the change to the 14-hour rule about 15 years ago. Before that change in hours of service, you could sit on a dock all day and not lose any driving time. With the 14-hour rule, if you started at 0600, you could not turn a wheel after 2000 hours, regardless of whether you'd been driving all day or sitting on a customer's dock. Many of our trucks would outlaw on customer docks this way when that 14-hour rule was first implemented. It took a couple of years, but finally, many customers got the idea and sped up their warehouses. Most loads can be loaded or unloaded in less than two hours with no trouble, and should be. But detention still wastes a lot of driver time and reduces productivity.

Driver unloads should be outlawed, period. Customers should be handling and segregating their freight. This is a waste of driver on-duty time, especially since drivers often do not get paid for doing this. Almost all road drivers are paid by the mile, and the ones that do get paid for unloading don't get nearly enough to justify the time spent. Also, the driver could run the risk of an injury rendering him unable to drive again till medically cleared.

I'm not sure letting 18-year-olds drive interstate is entirely a bad idea. Suppose an 18-year-old is allowed to drive from Chicago to Springfield, 200 miles, but not to Hammond, Indiana, just across the state line, 20 miles from the Chicago Loop. I figure if a kid can drive in the city of Chicago, anything else will be easy. 

What has to happen is good training in the first place and an excellent safety culture after that. 

At JB Hunt, we were relentless about highway safety, not just in training our drivers, but in getting a safety mindset ingrained in them for themselves and the motorists around them. We had our guys do quarterly safety meetings, in-class at a terminal; we did monthly briefings that were seasonally related: about school buses in August, RVer's in June, winter driving hazards in November, etc. 

We also had them send us a daily safety message--and we'd hound them about it if they didn't. It was all geared to the drivers having the importance of safe operation first thing on their minds when they went out every day. Even 18-year-olds will get the point if it's repeated often. As my New-York-City-teacher grandparents used to say, repetitio martare studiorum est: repetition is the mother of study. Do something over and over, you learn it well, and it becomes a habit. Another of their favorites: practice makes permanent. That should be self-explanatory. 

Supply chain issues are not going away soon. As the pandemic relents, the Russians are putting pressure on the world economy from an entirely different angle, and there will be disruptions. We need to get everyone in the game. Properly trained and managed younger drivers should be able to fill that need.

Link to National Motorists Association.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Bane of Truckers - Grocery Warehouses

One of the unfortunate necessities of driving for a food company is having to deal with grocery warehouses. I’ve had to put up with a lot of them over my trucking career, some are not too bad, but many are disgusting places with poor management and union employees that like to abuse drivers just for the fun of it. Management tends to see drivers as free labor that they can take advantage of. Back in the 1980’s the abuse was widespread and it isn’t much better these days.

After getting rehired by Frigo Cheese in Lena, Wisconsin in 1983 I was pretty much a local driver staying mostly in Wisconsin and getting home most nights. We had a weekly run down to the Milwaukee-Madison area that us four local guys took turns doing. The usual delivery stops on that run included a couple grocery warehouses, one of which was the Roundy’s Distribution center just off Highway 41 and Burleigh in Milwaukee.

One Wednesday, in 1986 or ‘87, I had a delivery appointment at 11am to deliver four pallets of cheese. They were my third or fourth stop and I showed up on time for my appointment, thinking my day was going well. Checking in with security they assigned me an open door and I backed the trailer to the dock and walked into the receiving door at almost exactly 11am. Seeing a receiver standing near the door I pleasantly greeted him saying hello as he stood silently looking at me. I gave him the paperwork and said I had four pallets of cheese for them. He took the paperwork, looked at it, and threw it on the floor saying “I don’t need this shit!”. The papers scattered all over and it took me a couple seconds thinking “don’t throw the first punch”.

It took everything I had but went and retrieved the scattered paperwork and neither he nor I said another word. The receiving office was quite a distance away and I walked down there, going in, and asking for a supervisor. Being very angry, I had to control myself and calmly tell him what happened. His response? “Well, he’s a union employee and there isn’t much we can do about it.” Still trying to maintain myself, I walked out of the office and went down to a payphone to call my boss in Lena. After telling her what happened I stressed that I needed to leave before I lost it saying “I can’t go back and deal with that guy again”.

She told me to wait there and call back in five minutes. As I was waiting by the phone a couple minutes later, some clerk came out of the receiving office and asked me to go back to the truck. She said someone would be right there. I went back and they evidently had pulled that guy off the dock and someone else was offloading my pallets. The supervisor hadn’t bothered to come out to tell me but sent a clerk to do it! Roundy’s Distribution Center, thanks for the memories, not. 

A few additional facts about Roundy’s: 

In the early 1980’s, at that location they had a serious accident on a receiving dock. The brother of a buddy of mine worked there as a produce receiver. He was unloading pallets of watermelon one day and the truck rolled away from the dock as he was coming off the trailer on a forklift. The forklift fell to the floor with a corner of the dock plate hitting him in the back turning him into a paraplegic. After the lawyers and lawsuits were done he ended up with a settlement of over a million dollars. Of course, no amount of money would make up for what happened to him. But the cash enabled him to buy a handicap equipped van and drive himself. He had a good supportive wife and the strength of character to maintain a positive attitude.

In 2003, Roundy’s opened a new distribution center in Oconomowoc and relocated out of Milwaukee. 

In 2021 a janitor went on a rampage killing two employees before running and killing himself as the cops were chasing him. According to a union official, the two men murdered had worked at Roundy’s for at least 20 years. The investigation was eventually closed with no real answer as to the janitor's motive, and I'll just leave it at that.