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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How would you like to take this McLaren for a ride?

2016 McLaren 675LT Review – Appreciation of an Extraordinary Automobile

Article thanks to Ronnie Schreiber and Links provided:

March, 2016  I try to avoid superlatives unless the object of said superlatives is, well, truly superlative. In this case, however, they may be applied without reservation. The McLaren 675LT is an extraordinary car, with performance capabilities exceeded by fewer than a handful of very limited production vehicles. Perhaps what makes it most extraordinary, though, is just how well it performs as an ordinary car.
Classified ads for supercars rarely contain significant odometer readings. Ferrari’s own surveys show their customers typically do not manage to cover 3,000 miles a year. Why? A local high-end car enthusiast once told me that most people who own those kinds of “weekend” cars typically own more than one, so none of them get used that much. Another possible reason is that even wealthy folks don’t like paying the five figure regular service charges that come when you start accumulating miles on an exotic car, not to mention how expensive they can be to repair when you try to daily drive them.

McLaren says that its customers report driving their McLarens about two to three times the miles that competitors’ cars get driven. After driving a 675LT on the canyons, freeways and surface streets of southern California, including in rush hour, I can believe that. There’s no back seat, so carpool duty is out, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it as a grocery-getter. There’s a parcel shelf behind the seats and enough room in the trunk up front for a few standard paper-or-plastic bags.
The 675LT even gets decent fuel economy. I averaged an indicated 18.9 mpg. My usage included some standing starts, enthusiastic city driving, a little bit of open freeway, some bumper-to-bumper rush hour stuff, and the canyon run. At times, driving normally, I was flirting with 20 mpg. That’s almost 50-percent better mileage than the Land Rover LR4 I reviewed.

The 675LT is the track focused version of what McLaren considers its midrange car, the $250,000 650S (bracketed by the entry level 570S and the P1 hypercar). It’s about 40-percent different from the 650S, with a front suspension derived from the McLaren P1. Different body panels and aerodynamic aids give the 675LT significantly more downforce than the 650. Much of that improved aero is due to a very serious splitter up front and a ground effects extractor out back. Combine those with the car’s low height and you’re going to need the on-board chassis lift system every time you want to enter a driveway apron or go over a speed bump. Even with the lift system, which lowers automatically at 35 mph, I still managed to scrape a few times. I presume the bib spoiler under the splitter is a wearable part.
The chassis lift is the only thing slow about the 675LT. I didn’t time it, but it needed the better part of a minute to raise. To save time and angry looks from other drivers, you might want to start raising the car before you arrive at the gas station or parking structure. Other than that one quirk, you can treat it like any other car. Well, any other car that is capable of higher performance than most race cars of less than a generation ago.

In some ways you pay more for less — about 200 pounds less than the 650S, just under 3,000 pounds. It has lighter seats (with lightweighting holes), lightweight gas and brake pedals (with their own lightweighting holes), bare carbon on the floor, and minimal soundproofing. You do get more power — 666 horsepower (vs 641 for the 650S) — and better cornering.McLarens are exciting just standing still, but the real entertainment begins when you get behind the wheel, close the dihedral door, belt up, step on the brake, and press the Start button. The computers that control the twin turbo flat plane 3.8 liter V8 fire up the engine (the roots of which trace back to the Nissan VRH racing motor) and give it a blip of the throttle to let everyone enjoy the glorious sound. The slightly lopey idle when the engine is cold could never be mistaken for anything other than a V8. After a few seconds the idle smooths out, but at any speed the exhaust sounds fabulous. No matter the color, the 675LT is is not a discreet car.
The 675LT starts at $349,000 and this example had $50,000 worth of options, including air conditioning and a track monitoring system with three onboard cameras.
The standard AC delete drives home the fact that the 675LT is a track focused car, not a luxury car, though I doubt any get delivered without cabin cooling. Under the mats, the floor is bare carbon fiber, but the wide and tall sills of the carbon fiber tub are carpeted. The rest of the interior, including the steering wheel, is upholstered with premium Alcantara.
Again, it’s not a luxury car. It’s noisy. With so little soundproofing, you hear gravel hitting the belly pan as you drive. You also hear the big Pirelli P-ZERO Trofeo R tires thumping and grabbing the pavement. The engine’s radiators and cooling fans are just over your shoulders and you immediately know when they kick in. They also suck in debris like small bits of gravel and the odd plastic coffee cup lid.

The interior is minimalist and just what you need to operate the car. Surprisingly there are a couple of cup holders, but they are located in front of and below the somewhat floating center stack, making them almost inaccessible. You’d spill your coffee. It took me a while of fumbling around to find the 12 volt tap to charge my phone, because it’s also on the back side of the pass-through center stack.Though not luxurious, the 675LT isn’t uncomfortable. The fixed back carbon seats are a little snug for my chubby tuchas, and ingress and egress is a bit of a chore, but after a couple of miles I settled in and felt pretty much at one with the car. I understand that McLaren offers larger seats if needed. Ergonomics when driving are superb. The carbon fiber shift paddles rotate with the manually-adjusted steering wheel. To save the weight of motors, the seats’ fore and aft adjustments are manual. The dual-clutch transmission is controlled by buttons and has no parking pawl, so you must remember to use the electronically controlled parking brake. Fit and finish were very good with the exception of a noticeable amount of orange peel in the paint on the top surface of the rear spoiler. Considering how well paint flows out on horizontal surfaces, that was surprising, though I later found out that the car that I drove was a pre-production validation car.
There are three modes each for the drivetrain and suspension: normal, sport and track, all controlled with switchgear that makes me think of a mashup of Fender amplifiers’ “chicken head” knobs and mil-spec gear. Feeling that the normal setting for the suspension was a little bit soft, for the most part I kept things in sport mode and didn’t find the ride to be too stiff. I also kept the DCT in Drive, rarely using the paddles. I wanted to concentrate on driving — and besides, McLaren knows more about shifting than I do.
I was cautious while driving the 675LT on the unfamiliar mountain road loop recommended to me by Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire, but I was able to make good time through the canyons without going anywhere near the car’s limit. My friend Mr. Baruth may drive other people’s $400,000 carsat, or over, the limit, but I like to approach them with a little more common sense.
Truth is, you don’t have to push things to go fast. Steering was very neutral, with no real sense of understeer or oversteer. If the radius of the turn tightens, you just turn the wheel more and it simply goes where you point it. The 675LT’s steering is the quickest I’ve ever seen on a road car, just two turns lock to lock, and very precise. At 70 mph, a millimeter’s movement of the steering wheel’s rim changes the car’s path — though the car is not twitchy or darty at all. The steering is variably power assisted, with a feel and precision that is now the standard by which I will judge other cars.

Driving the canyons in this car is the proverbial E-ticket ride. The comparison with amusement parks is deliberate. The McLaren corners so well that it’s sickening, literally. The G forces gave me motion sickness so bad that I had to stop a couple of times. Not wanting to make things worse, I headed down out of the mountains to the Pacific Coast Highway.
Unfortunately, the urge to purge came upon me at a point on the PCH where there was no shoulder on the right due to falling rocks. Fortunately, a small turnoff appeared on the ocean side of the road just as a break in oncoming traffic opened up and if there is any car capable of dive bombing, it’s the 675LT. I got the driver’s door swung up and out of the way just in time. I hope that my effluent didn’t violate any of California’s environmental regulations. The state has some beautiful places to be sick. Manually activating an automatic spoiler is the height of automotive douchebaggery, particularly when driving around town. However, I was driving someone else’s 666 horsepower, rear-wheel-drive car at 70 mph in the rain. I put up the spoiler to see if I could feel the difference and indeed the rear ended hunkered down a little, tightening up the grip noticeably. The car handles so well that I really wasn’t giving the carbon ceramic brakes much of a workout, even in the mountains. Just to check them out I deliberately stopped for a couple of yellow lights while driving in the city. They’re a little bit noisy when cold, but they’re very effective and easily modulated.

It corners and stops well. How does it go? Like a four wheeled literbike. Given 666 horsepower, of course, one is tempted to make references to devilish levels of power. There is no turbo lag, just speed. The DCT shifts almost instantaneously and downshifting is accompanied by throttle blipping. A sport bike is the closest analogy that comes to mind. You know how on a motorcycle you can pass a vehicle by accelerating into a spot in traffic, something you can’t do with most cars? It can be done with the 675LT.
More impressive than the quoted standing start time of 2.9 seconds for 0-60 mph is how quickly the McLaren gets from normal freeway speeds to arrest-worthy speeds. Standing starts need to overcome inertia; rolling starts don’t. Seventy to 80 mph is nearly instantaneous. Sixty to a buck ten brings to mind images from space movies.
The 675LT is a wide car (though when the doors are open you can tell just how narrow the main carbon fiber tub is) but I didn’t feel uncomfortable in traffic. The front fenders arch right over the tires, so you know exactly where the car is positioned and where you are going. I could see more of the hood than I can in my 2015 Honda Fit. Visibility towards the rear is better than I expected. While the view through the center mirror is limited by the polycarbonate clear engine cover (and obscured even more when the spoiler is up), there are 3/4 windows behind you and very large side mirrors so blind spots aren’t the problem you’d think they’d be. If you’re worried that there’s a car in your blind spot, there’s always the go fast pedal. You’ll be there before they will.
When McLaren introduced the 675LT at last year’s New York Auto Show, they showed it in a beautiful dove grey color. The 675LT they loaned me was a bit more conspicuous: a bright — almost orange — red. I’m not used to complete strangers taking videos of me when I drive. When I pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu for photos with the Pacific’s surf in the background, a couple of Korean tourists stopped to take photos of the car, me and the car, and then one of each of them with me and the car.

My disclaimer of “Not mine, not mine” didn’t seem to make a difference. In a town where Lamborghinis are common, the McLaren 675LT is still a rare sight. Just 500 coupes and 500 spyders will be made. You need a special car to attract attention in car-centric southern California. Right after I picked up my rental at the airport, I saw a Lamborghini Aventador and BMW i8 within seconds of each other. Teslas are almost as common as homeless folks with their grocery carts. This McLaren, however, continues to attract attention from everybody up to and including the Gallardo Spyder driver whose mojo was clearly impacted by having to share the road with a hat-wearing bearded fellow in a long-spoilered supercar.
It would be a shame, however, if someone bought a 675LT just to impress other people. It’s a truly extraordinary automobile.
Getting lost in the mountains put me ten miles past the 200 allotted to me for my test. The McLaren folks reassured me that it wasn’t a problem. Surprisingly, some McLaren press loans come back with fewer than the allotted miles. Lord, what fools these mortals be! As long as the total mileage (there was about 6,700 miles on the loaner when I got it) ends up less than planned, however, the folks at McLaren are not concerned. They told me that when it’s done as a press car, it will go back to the works at Woking and be completely refurbished before it is delivered to a customer who has already spoken for the car.
There are $400,000 demos? I was told that my loaner wasn’t one of the 500 serialized coupes, but rather one of five pre-production validation cars. How is selling a car like that legal? My guess is that the customer lives outside of the jurisdiction of the EPA or European regulators, likely someplace where said customer may be a member of a ruling elite. I’ll never likely be a member of the ruling elite, and don’t think I could ever get completely comfortable driving a $400,000 luxury car like a Rolls-Royce, but I could get used to driving a McLaren 675LT.
Disclaimer: McLaren provided the car, a tank of gasoline and insurance. I paid for my own transportation to and from Los Angeles just to be able to drive the 675LT. I have yet to find someone who doesn’t agree that I would have been a schmuck to not do so.
[Images: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars]
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view over at Cars In Depth. – Thanks for reading – RJS

Saturday, June 25, 2016

False Start: How a Rookie Mistake Almost Ended a Racing Season Before It Started
Story thanks to Mark Stevenson and Links provided:

Mario Berthiaume will never forget May 21, 2015.
The rookie racer from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada is laying down pre-season testing laps in a brand-new racecar prior to the first race of the Nissan Micra Cup. The car feels good. Mario’s lap times are falling, albeit gradually, thanks in part to a new set of tires. His approach is methodical. He’s taking on one corner at a time; after perfecting one turn as much as he can, he moves on to the next. After all, mastering braking points, lines, and apexes at Mont-Tremblant is key to getting the most out of the low power, pint-size racer.
Everything is going as planned.
That is, until seven laps into the fourth shakedown session of the day. Mario makes a rookie mistake and it happens. The rear of the #7 Micra swings right-then-left like a pendulum. The fresh rubber digs into the warming tarmac on the inside of Circuit Mont-Tremblant’s turn 10, causing the Micra to tip and roll. In under 10 seconds, Mario’s racing dream has turned into a $30,000 nightmare — and the twisted aftermath is resting on its side on the outside of turn 10.
His season is over before it even begins.

The air is still crisp when we arrive at Circuit Mont-Tremblant for the Fall Classic in September. My girlfriend and I have driven up from Montreal in a Nissan 370Z press loaner after flying in the night before from Halifax.
Unbaffled exhaust notes produced by all sorts of racing cars — from Micras to Formula BMW open-wheel cars — fill the usual aural emptiness of the surrounding wood. The 2.65 miles and 15 turns of twisting tarmac nestled in one of Quebec’s première ski-resort towns are anything but quiet this weekend.
“Welcome to Mont-Tremblant!” says one of the public relations handlers in a very distinctive Parisian accent as we arrive at the hospitality tent. “Enjoy ze weekend. Enjoy ze racing. You are our guest.”
“Thank you,” I reply, “but I want to find a story while I’m here, too. Unfortunately, our readers aren’t too keen on motorsports. Let me know if you hear of anything in the paddock beyond the typical results-and-points stuff.”
An hour or so later, the Parisian public relations handler bounces out in front of us.
“Mark, I zink I have somezing for you,” he said. “And I don’t zink anyone else ‘as written about it.”
Mario and his wife Valérie are sitting under an awning attached to their car trailer when we approach their space in the paddock. We collectively shuffle off into the trailer to get away from a particularly boisterous Sportsman division turning laps.
Mario is about as green as one can be in an organized spec-racing series. The electrician and a father of two from Trois-Rivières always wanted to race, but, he explains, nobody else in his family shared the same desire.
“I got a motorcycle when I was sixteen years old and I did a lot of different types of motorcycle track days, but never motorcycle racing — only for fun,” he says.
Mario is a rookie racer, one of seven that competed in the Nissan Micra Cup series in Canada in 2015. His car, which is his own and — at the time of the crash — devoid of sponsor decals, is a specially prepared Nissan Micra S with a simple livery. Mario paid for everything out of his own pocket to get in the series. It was a small price to pay to realize his dream of becoming a racer.
But I’m not here to ask him about being a rookie. It was here, just a few months before, that Mario’s season nearly came to a tragic end.
“I was confident with the car,” he says of his first practice session at Mont-Tremblant in May, before the start of the season’s first race. “I drove the car before on another track. But I want to go slowly during this session — I need to walk before I run.”
His second session is more of the same.
“In the morning, we were learning the track. My coach was telling me, ‘At this turn, keep to the right’ or ‘keep to the left’ or ‘apex earlier.’ Things like that. It was very good. My laps were getting faster, gradually. I wanted to make gradual progress.”
By session three, “Each corner was better because I learned more each time around the track.”
“I can tell you, he was smiling through the phone at lunch time,” Valérie said, interrupting her stellar translation abilities with her own take on the event. “I could hear him smiling! Everything was okay at this time.”
Mario opted for new tires for the fourth session. “I took two laps to warm them up. My times were going down, but very slowly. I told myself, ‘This is only a test day.’ I was not pushing the car or anything. I was trying to be smooth and easy with the new tires.”
However, even a smooth and easy driver can get into trouble, especially when they rely on reflexes and instincts built up over years of driving on the street.
“Well, it’s something I know in theory,” he explains, “but I didn’t know it in practice at that point in time. The back of the car started to spin, I tried to correct with the steering wheel, and I know I don’t have to get off the gas. However, the car continued to spin around. My reflex was to lift my foot off the accelerator, even though we are taught to push the throttle. I lifted. The car swung the other way, the wheels dug in, and I ended up rolling the car.”
As Mario’s car sat on its side with him inside, only one thought went through his mind: “I want to do a replay!” Unfortunately, this isn’t Gran Turismo. Not this time. And the reality of the moment sets in.
“We heard some interesting words on the video. French words,” Valérie explains with a laugh.
“I put my head in my hands and I said, ‘Oh no!’”
“We heard that on the video, too.”
Mario was able to extract himself from the car. Paramedics checked him out and released him. A wrecker came for his car.
“I went to the trailer and cried and cried and cried,” says Mario.
He called Valérie and broke the bad news. It was a shock to her considering the tone of the earlier call.
“I didn’t have any sponsors so everything is coming out of my pocket. I can’t buy another car,” Mario says.
He was dejected, and he told Valérie on the phone not to come to the track the next morning. She did anyway.
“The next day, I arrived, and we were in solution mode,” explains Valérie. “We decided we wouldn’t do Montreal or Tremblant in the summer (the next two rounds of the series), and we could save money from not going to those events to buy another car. In our minds, it was possible to come back to the series in Trois-Rivières, and we want to be there because it’s our home town. It was a big deal for us. We were in solution mode because I just wanted him to realize his dream. And it’s my dream too because I love him.”
Mario silently lets out a couple of tears.
Valérie recounts that she coaxed Mario into watching the race on Saturday. They sat together on the same corner he crashed the previous Thursday.
“I saw him smiling. It was the first time since the crash that he was smiling,” she says.
Drivers asked how Mario was doing, but he was still in no shape to visit the paddock. Mario wanted to go home after the racing on Saturday, but Valérie talked him out of it. She was too tired, she told Mario, or at least that’s the excuse she used to get him to stay another day.
On Sunday, they went to the track again and were approached by someone toward the end of the day.
“Later, someone said, ‘Someone from Nissan Canada wants to talk to you.’ I told Mario, ‘He wants to talk to you. It will be good news. You are not obligated to see the other drivers. You don’t have to talk to everyone. You just need to see Nissan. I will wait for you here.'”
Mario walked toward the stage where a Nissan rep was waiting for him. Someone from his team told him to hurry up. Another person told Valérie she should run up there too.
The Nissan rep brought Mario on stage for what he thought would be a pat on the back. It wasn’t.
“They start to tell me that Mr. T, the Nissan Academy driver, won the two races over the weekend, and he gave me his two checks. $1,500 each. $3,000. After they told me that, they said Nissan Canada would give me another $1,500. Then the series gave me $1,500. Total (the lubricants company) said they would do the same, and gave me $1,500.”
Mario ended up with $7,500 in the end, just $2,500 short of the cost of a new Micra S.
The team was able to rebuild the car and get it running for the next round of the series in Montreal during the Canadian Grand Prix.
“The car was purchased the week after the crash. The team rebuilt the car the following weekend and the car went out for graphics on the Thursday morning. The car was on Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve on Thursday afternoon,” says Mario.
In the end, Mario and Valérie feel like they’ve found a new extended family.
“Whenever anyone needs help, someone says, ‘Can I do something for you?'” says Valérie. “There’s a lot of people doing that. It’s a big family. We felt that in Mont-Tremblant. In Montreal, a lot of people came to the trailer to say, ‘We are happy to see you! You have a new car!’”

Mario is racing again this year, and again without a main sponsor. Drop us a line if you’d like to help him out and we’ll put you in touch.
Nissan Micra Cup returns this year with an expanded schedule, which sees the series visit Ontario, and it will have its first American driver, 2014 Nissan GT Academy U.S. winner Nic Hammann. The first race is scheduled for May 13-15 at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Ontario.
Disclosure: Nissan Canada provided the flight, hotel, and vehicle to get my girlfriend and me to the season finale of Nissan Micra Cup. We also had fancy dinners and many beverages.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What a 3-million miler wants your drivers to know about safety

Holland driver William "Pat" Shelton
Article thanks to Larry Kahaner and Links provided:
The first time Pat Shelton pulled doubles, he was terrified. It was nighttime, snowing, visibility was low and the experience was so nerve-wracking that he called central from his destination – after it took forever to get there - and told them that he was finished. He wouldn’t be driving it back. The dispatcher begged him to continue saying that no one else was available. They went around for a while, but Shelton finally agreed, and he’s been driving doubles ever since.
All totaled, Shelton has been driving for 34 years (not all LCVs) and currently works for Holland logging 2,700  miles weekly between South Bend and Cleveland. He is one of 19 active Holland drivers who have hit the 3 million mark without a preventable crash.
How has he stayed safe all these years?
“I am not an aggressive driver,” he says. Especially when driving through construction zones, the nighttime hauler keeps a steady but prudent pace and begins to slow down and change lanes well in advance of the detour or barrier. “I drive speeds where I feel comfortable. So many others drive too fast. I’m not going to put myself in harm's way to pacify somebody else who wants to go a little bit faster. In the snow, I see people driving way too fast for the weather conditions. They’re going 
50, 55. I’m going 45 because that’s what’s really safe for the conditions. They can go around me.”

Shelton notes that a major contributor to his safety is being aware of his surroundings at all times. “I could be at my house and have a headache, a cold, just not feel well, but once I’m in the truck it’s a completely different mindset. You have to pay attention to what you're doing at your job because it's your life and everybody else's around you. You have to be aware at all times of what's going on.” Going along with having a mindset of awareness is being mentally and physically alert. “Because I work at night, it’s especially important to get the proper rest.”
Not everyone is on top of what’s happening around them. “There’s so much traffic but and not everybody is using their mirrors. In the summer you've got people pulling campers that maybe they only pull once a year and they’re not looking ahead to see what’s going on.”
One of his peeves is distracted drivers. “People are watching movies going down the road. I see this every day, and I don't like it. Stay off the phone, too. No texting. Just stay off the phone.”
Shelton says that he tries to keep composed no matter what happens. "If a situation comes up, I don't panic or overreact. That's very important."
He adds: “When you're on the road, you're representing everybody, especially your company. Sometimes truck drivers get a bad rap. We're actually pretty decent people and do care about others. I always do. I would never want to be involved in an accident where someone got hurt whether it was my fault or the other driver. I just couldn't handle it.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trucking - New York Style!

NY state trying to end NYC ticket-shielding program for trucks

Article thanks to Tom Quimby and Links provided:

New York state legislators are trying to end a parking ticket reduction program for delivery companies in New York City which they say is being abused and causing traffic jams along with stopping the flow of tens of millions of dollars in ticket revenue to state and city coffers.

The news comes following a federal lawsuit settlement in which the city agreed to pay delivery truck companies $14 million for wrongfully ticketing their trucks with costly traffic obstruction violations.
A city program, started in 2004, nearly prohibits issuing double-parking and other tickets to delivery trucks that have stopped in the street for business purposes, such as picking up and delivering packages.
However, in its lawsuit the The New York Trucking and Delivery Association contends that the city got around the program’s double-parking ticket restrictions by issuing traffic obstruction tickets instead. Those tickets cost delivery companies like UPS, FedEx, Fresh Direct and Amazon millions of dollars in fines, which, following the lawsuit, the city agreed to repay.
Now, in response to ongoing lost ticket revenue and complaints about the trucks being double-parked on busy city streets for hours, state lawmakers are hoping to pass a bill that’s designed to put an end to the ticket-shielding program, according to the New York Post.
“Trucks stay double parked for hours because there is no incentive not to. It’s not fair to other people,” Assemblyman David Weprin said.
The Post reports observing delivery trucks parked for hours on city streets. In one case, the same delivery truck has continued to park on a city crosswalk daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The program causes the city and state to lose out in millions of dollars’ worth of traffic fines: about $53 million a year in parking ticket fines for the city and roughly $23 million for the the state in surcharges.
Delivery truck companies and their supporters contend that, despite the program, which reduces or eliminates fines, the city still has not made adequate provisions for these street-based businesses.
“There is simply no accommodation for last-mile delivery businesses,” Kathryn Wylde, president of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City told the Post. “They have no choice but to park illegally. The city needs to make more legal curb space available.”
Under the program, parking-related tickets can still be issued to trucks. For instance, a double-parking ticket is warranted for a truck that has been parked without any apparent business activity for over a half-hour, or if a parking space is available within 100 feet of the truck.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bringing home on the road
Article thanks to Jim Sweeney and the RoadPro Family of Brands.
The inside of a truck cab is all business: gauges and switches, knobs and dials. Utilitarian in design and functional in appearance.
But it’s also home away from home for the men and women who spend long days behind the wheel and that means carrying more than what’s in the trailer. Many truckers pack a variety of personal items to remind themselves of who and what they’ve left behind.
We asked members of the RoadPro Pro Driver Council about the items they bring on the road to remind them of home. Here’s what they told us:
For Allen Wilcher and partner Sierra Sugar, home is Destin in the Florida Panhandle and they bring a little bit of the beach with them on the road. He wears Costa Del Mar sunglasses and she wears flip-flops (when weather allows).
“Lastly, and kind of importantly,” Sierra said, “I have a necklace with a silver wire-wrapped amethyst that my mother made for me before she died. I wear that all the time and no other necklace. That is something that reminds me of childhood and home.”
Veteran Ryan Sexton has a photo of his daughter on the dash and in his sleeper and another picture of his Army unit, taken in Iraq just before he headed for home from his second deployment.
“It reminds me of what I fought for and what’s waiting for me to come home,” he said.
Maggie Riessen opts for the practical and the sentimental: a “lucky” screwdriver that belonged to her father and grandfather, both of whom were truckers, and a fuzzy blanket: “Guaranteed to never leave me stranded or cold,” she said.
The more years he has behind the wheel, the less Tom Kyrk carries.
“They may not be things that I look at often, but they are things that have special memories,” he said. “For example, I have several of my father's neckties with me that he used to wear on Sunday while preaching in church. For a number of years, I carried one of his old fedoras. Like I said, for me it is items that just have special meaning and as much as possible a practical use as well.”  
Joanne Fatta mounted pictures of her daughter on the dash and for years carried a note written by her. She still wears a necklace her daughter gave her. “Whenever I left the yard on a snowy, bad weather day I would kiss my necklace and say a little prayer before going out the gate.
“The little mementos of family can help ease the burden of our long days on the road. Make us smile, when we may not want to be smiling, and take away some of the stress we drivers deal with on an everyday basis,” Fatta said.
Everyone seems to pack pictures. Thomas Miller’s sleeper has refrigerator magnets with pictures of his wife, daughters and grandson while Henry Albert keeps his photos on his phone.  
For Libby Clayton, it’s not as much bringing items from home on the road as it is bringing the color scheme from home: purple. Her sleeper has purple rugs, sheets and a quilt. She also has a stuffed toy bunny clipped to her visor.
“Oh, and I'm sure the mechanics think it's funny, but I have a glow-in-the-dark mobile with stars that hang from it,” she said.  
Fred Weatherspoon bring pictures of his wife and grandchildren and a pillowcase “that has my wife’s sweet fragrance on it. I know, a little mushy, but that’s my babe.” But when he really wants to remind himself of home, he brings his 73-year-old mother on the trip.
“She loves to ride,” he said. “If you could see how she lights up when I come to get her, you’d be amazed. She is great company and a lot of help.”

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Truck Platooning, Past, Present, and Future
Interesting article thanks to Rolf Lockwood and Links provided:
April, 2016  A few weeks ago, I was being chauffeured down the A52 autobahn in Germany by a guy with no hands on the steering wheel as we sat just three or four car lengths behind another truck. At speed in a semi-autonomous Mercedes Actros sporting Daimler's cool Highway Pilot Connect system.
We were platooning, and it was pretty dull, really. While at the same time being damned exciting because it was cutting-edge technology at work.
It's supposed to be a dull experience, of course. Uneventful. Something's gone very wrong if there's any excitement at all.
There really was a distinct lack of drama in the process. In a platoon of three, I was in the third and last truck and was impressed by how seamless the electronic connecting and disconnecting of the three trucks was. If traffic demanded it, the trucks automatically disengaged and widened the gap, sometimes to allow merging traffic in, once to allow one of those pesky four-wheelers to live a little longer even though he rudely cut in between us and the next truck.
What is platooning? We're talking about technologies that create semi-autonomous road trains, where two or more trucks are controlled by a lead vehicle through wireless communication using about a billion sensors. (OK, I exaggerate -- in reality there are about 400 sensors on the Mercedes Actros tractors equipped with Highway Pilot Connect.) Trucks in such a convoy are able to drive very close together, reducing aerodynamic drag in a big way and bringing fuel-efficiency of as much as 20%, depending on which test you're looking at. The smaller the gap between vehicles, the better the fuel economy.
The trucks constantly maintain a communication link that allows them to share data and action. If the lead truck’s collision avoidance system activates its brakes, for example, the following truck or trucks will do the same.
The platooning idea has been around for ages, though you could be excused for thinking it's a new development, given all the attention it's been getting lately. It's not even close to being new.

The Beginnings of Platooning

In a very real way it can be traced back to 1939 when such things were the stuff of science fiction. But, as far as I can tell, that's when the idea for an automated car was born.
Back then American futurist Norman Bel Geddes, understanding that roads were just as critical as the cars themselves, imagined things like electronic speed and collision control systems and highways that went well beyond the norm and could be called "smart." He put his visions together for the Futurama ride that General Motors showed off at the 1939 World’s Fair. His ideas included, among many other spectacular things, magnetic trails built into the road to move and guide cars along. Platooning wasn't part of that imagined scenario, but you can easily see that it would fit. GM played with all of that in a more practical way with real experiments, especially the magnetic road, in the mid-1950s.
We got to platooning proper in 1972-73 with the European ARAMIS project, which had "trains" of as many 25 small transit vehicles running at about 50 mph -- just a foot apart -- using ultrasonic and optical range sensors. Only on a French test track, however.
And then there was, again in Europe, the Prometheus Project that ran from the late 1980s until 1995. It involved both car and truck makers, other technology companies, universities, and governments. The broad pan-Euro aim was to create intelligent vehicles within an intelligent road system that would encompass all the key areas like communications, vehicle control, and artificial intelligence. Mainly it was looking to produce driverless cars.
Volkswagen was involved in Prometheus and in 1989 they ran test-track trials with multiple-vehicle platoons at highway speed under full automatic steering and longitudinal control. The vans in the test were all automated, but we don't know much about the technology involved because it was and seems to remain proprietary.
VW dropped the project for political reasons, and next it was California’s turn, with an organization based at the University of California at Berkeley. PATH, the California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology project, actually stretches back to 1986. And it remains active, a joint effort with state and federal governments.
The partnership was a platooning pioneer. In 1994 it showed an Automated Highway System that used automated longitudinal control of a four-car platoon. They ramped that up to an eight-car platoon in 1997. Not long ago it successfully operated several three-truck platoons at intervals of about 14 feet.
More recently we had SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), another European Commission co-op project that ran from 2010 to 2012. Led by engineering consultancy Ricardo UK, its sole OEM partner was Volvo on both the car and truck sides.
Its goal was to develop strategies and technologies that will ultimately make platoons viable on public highways and bring environmental and safety benefits. The key difference here, I believe, is that it was the first such trial to use automated control in both lateral and longitudinal directions.
More importantly, it was the first such project to demonstrate platooning on public roads, in Spain. With the use of vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V), local vehicle signals such as speed and sensor data are shared among the vehicles in the platoon. The results clearly showed a benefit, with measured fuel savings of up to 20%.
Very significantly, this project's road train mixed trucks with cars. There was a manually driven lead truck followed by one truck and three Volvo cars. All the following vehicles were driven autonomously at speeds of up to 55 mph – in some cases with no more than a 13-foot gap between them.
The long-term vision is to create a transport system where joining a road train would be easy. To facilitate that, road-train information and operation will be integrated in future Volvo vehicles when the technology is ready for production. Booking, joining and leaving a road train must be easy and smooth, says Volvo.
Think smartphone. If you wanted to join a convoy in your car, you'd likely wait at an entrance ramp and your phone would "poll" passing vehicles to find one with a matching destination. Then you'd simply catch up to the "platoon" autonomously, your onboard sensors detecting the right vehicle ahead.
Waiting to find a platoon isn't going to work in a truck, because you could spend a lifetime catching up, so truck drivers would be rolling and polling at the same time.
Leaving the platoon would be easier still, your truck or car instructing you to take manual control and use a given exit. Any platooned vehicles behind you would simply close the gap automatically and the convoy would continue.
Interestingly, SARTRE people see the possibility of monetizing a platoon. Followers might pay a fee to join, with the lead vehicle earning an income for his trouble. What an interesting idea.

Newer Projects

Back on these shores, there's been a lot of interest in platooning over the last couple of years, much of it centered on Peloton Technologies, a Silicon Valley outfit that's been working with Volvo and Peterbilt and others. Volvo is an investor, as is Denso.
Peloton’s truck platooning system is an integrated safety, efficiency, and analytics platform that builds on advanced safety technologies such as collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control systems. The system electronically couples trucks through a combination of vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V), radar-based active braking systems, and proprietary vehicle control algorithms.
In 2014 Peloton, Meritor Wabco, and Denso staged a truck platooning demonstration in Detroit. It consisted of two driver-operated, electronically linked tractor-trailers equipped with Peloton platooning systems, Denso DSRC radios, and Meritor WABCO safety systems. They traveled along a stretch of highway at 55 mph separated by some 40 feet.
The trucks were linked by V2V that prompted the second tractor trailer to automatically accelerate or brake simultaneously with the lead vehicle as drivers maintained steering control themselves.
Peterbilt and Peloton have also done two-truck demonstration runs in Nevada and are looking to do more.

Platooning Benefits

A report on the first phase of research into the possible benefits of truck platooning technologies showed that all trucks in a platoon gained fuel efficiencies, with the lead truck gaining as much as 5% while the trailing truck got up to 10%.
The study was conducted by Auburn University’s GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory, along with partners Peloton, Peterbilt, Meritor-Wabco, and the American Transportation Research Institute.
As part of the Federal Highway Administration’s advanced research project on heavy truck co-operative cruise control, the first phase of the study looked at the commercial feasibility of "driver assistive truck platooning," or DATP.
Researchers gathered industry input for a preliminary case analysis and also looked at technical issues such as system modeling, aerodynamics modeling, research for developing algorithms for platooning formation, and human-machine interface evaluations.
According to the report released by ATRI, “the going-in hypothesis was that DATP technology is near market-ready for industrial use and will provide value in specific roadway and operating conditions for heavy truck fleet operations.”
DATP technology builds on adaptive cruise control, which has been available in the trucking industry for several years.
Some key findings:
  • Truckload and line-haul LTL operations would be the most likely fit for early adoption of DATP.
  • A majority of fleet managers contacted said such a system would have either a positive impact or no impact on driver retention and 39% said they felt drivers were likely to use a DATP system.
  • Owner-operators response was more toward the “negative end of the scale” the report said, and owner-operators would want a ROI payback within 10 months, while fleet respondents expected a payback within 18 months.
  • Using models based on historical traffic slows, researchers at Auburn found that platoon formation would not cost truckers excess time.
The “most challenging aspect,” of DATP, according to the report, comes down to who to platoon with. Most fleets would prefer platooning with their own trucks, while owner-operators would prefer platooning with other owner-operators, with only 7% of surveyed owner-operators willing to platoon with large fleets and 5% of large fleets willing to platoon with owner-operators.
Phase II of the study will focus on system testing using donated Peterbilt tractors equipped with the Peloton system and performance testing systems, specifically wireless communications, vehicle control, positioning, driver comfort and safety.

Europe's Platooning Challenge

Which brings us to today, almost literally. Last week six separate platoons formed by six European truck makers traveled, on separate routes along public roads, to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Invited to participate by the Dutch government, there were platoons from DAF, Iveco, MAN, Scania, and of course Volvo and Daimler. The three semi-autonomous Actros tractor-trailers I climbed around in Dusseldorf were part of this, the European Truck Platooning Challenge 2016.
Dutch organizers say the effort "aims to combine as many forces as possible to realize truck platooning in the near future. We will do this by creating a European partnership between truck manufacturers, logistics service providers, research institutes and governments – and by sharing knowledge and experience around truck platooning.
"We believe that truck platooning can become a reality in Europe in the near future.
"At the same time, realization will depend on bringing together member states and private parties with a view to crossing borders while harmonizing policies and technical issues. Close co-operation between significant partners in the truck industry, logistics services, research institutes and governmental can realize the ‘big picture’. Truck platooning will become routine.
"The Netherlands aims to make this close co-operation happen."
Realistic? Yes, I think so. Estimates about when we'll see it in action range from five years to 10, and I believe them. At least for over-the-road operations. Even the U.S. Army is getting ready for it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Emergency Kit for Professional Drivers
Content Below is Presented By: Shell Rotella. Links provided:

Emergency situations for professional truck drivers usually fall under truck breakdowns, but there are also weather delays – especially snow and ice storms –infrastructure failures such as road closures and bridge crossing failures. But there are also power outages which may include the inability to use credit cards, access online bank accounts or pump fuel. And then there are traffic jams, not normally an emergency but go search on the Internet for the great Chinese traffic jam mid-August 2010. It extended for more than 60 miles and took 10 days to clear. There was less risk there as Chinese entrepreneurs were quick to set up a roadside city to service all the stranded motorists and truck drivers.
What we’re talking about here is surviving when you’re stranded and on your own. While personal survival must be top of the list, the professional driver is responsible to the trucking company and the owner of the freight. “Abandoning ship” is rarely an option.
If you think about it, the cab of a modern truck may not be the worst place to wait out a storm, earthquake or whatever. Leaving the truck may well be leaving the safety and security of the cab for something a lot worse.
Later, lists of provisions, clothing equipment are spelled out. But a word about tools: If you do your own maintenance, you’ll likely have everything you need on the truck – and more — already. A few basic tools, such as a hammer, set of flat and cross-head screwdrivers, simple set of open-end wrenches, hex-key set, needle-nose pliers and channel-lock pliers make you a lot more self sufficient that you’d be otherwise. And in the toolbox you need electrical repair stuff like crimpable wire connectors and insulating tape and some sort of crimping tool. Better yet, add shrink tubing to match the wire connectors.
Some heavy-duty jumper cables are bulky but invaluable when you, or a fellow driver, are faced with flat batteries.
And it’s not just on the road. According to the emergency kit specialist Survival Supply, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that everyone have an emergency kit on hand. Their kits are claimed to have all that’s recommended and more, housed in a  bright orange backpack. They contain food, shelter, supplies and protection from particulate contaminants. The full three-day supply of food and water has a shelf-life of five years, so you don’t have to worry about spoilage. And the emergency manual and the family communications plan will keep you informed as well as protected.
Here then are the things you might include in the kit. You might want to cut and paste it and then you can assemble it and check off the list as you go.
Emergency Kits:
Daily drivers (of all kinds):
  • Half a dozen bottles of water
  • Food for two days such as energy and protein bars
  • Extra medications if you take daily
  • Cell phone and dash charger
  • Flashlight
  • At least $50 cash
  • At least one credit card (Visa or MasterCard)
  • Up-to-date emergency contact numbers or contacts database
  • Smartphone with camera or disposable camera
Optional but advisable:
  • Change of underwear and socks  
  • Hat and sunglasses (summer)
  • Heavy jacket/coat and muffler, fur-lined hat (winter)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Band-Aids in small and large sizes, wet wipes, pain medication
  • Spare pair of comfortable shoes
  • Swiss army knife, Leatherman or other multi-function tool
  • Road atlas for truck routes
  • Headphones for smartphone music
Drivers home at weekends – The above, plus:
  • Add several gallons of water
  • More food, jerky, Try to stop and get some fresh fruit beginning each trip
  • Canned corn beef, chili or similar
  • Soup in cans
  • Can opener
  • Cooking device like a hot pot (to run from 12-volt outlet or via inverter)
  • Combination plate, bowl, cup and eating utensils
  • Sleeping bag and pillow
  • Inverter
  • Soap (personal as well as dishes)
  • Washcloth, hand towel and shower towel  
  • Wet wipes and kitchen paper towels
  • Clothing changes for extra days
  • Additional medical supplies and medications
  • Personal hygiene items and toilet paper
  • CB radio
  • At least $100 cash
  • Black plastic garbage bags
Long-Haul Truck Drivers:
  • Cooking device for broader meal variety
  • More clothing
  • Laundry supplies
  • Plastic bucket
  • Small sewing kit
  • Emergency candles and waterproof matches
  • Spare pair of glasses or contact lenses
  • Spare batteries for flashlight
With winter here, you should have a basic snow kit always in the truck: a blanket, gloves, hat, water, granola bars, flashlight and extra batteries, flares, wooden matches in waterproof container, compass, scissors, rope and first aid kit. Always carry Windex, rolls of paper towels and stash a big jug of windshield-washer fluid.
Many thanks to the websites  and Both are useful places to go look for support and this survival kit is drawn from advice there. The latter offers ready-assembled survival kits that could be a quick and easy way to get started.
 ~End of Article~
 The content, presentation or accuracy of the information in this article does not directly reflect the opinions of Shell Lubricants. Shell Lubricants expressly disclaims liability for any errors or omissions in the materials contained in this article. Shell accepts no liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.
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