Cummins Inc. produced its 3-millionth diesel engine for Ram trucks at its Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant (CMEP) in Indiana, highlighting the latest milestone in a partnership that spans more than three decades, according to the engine maker.
“The relationship that Ram Truck has with Cummins is one of the industry’s most enduring, and continues to raise the bar for power and durability,” said Reid Bigland, Head of Ram Brand. “Both companies have benefitted from this partnership, but Ram customers truly get to enjoy the toughness and best-in-class capability that a Cummins-powered Ram Heavy Duty truck delivers.”
The new 400-hp, 6.7L inline six-cylinder turbodiesel high-output engine is the first engine to break the four-figure torque barrier, according to Ram. Additionally, the new engine boasts a host of upgrades including new block, pistons, cylinder head, and valvetrain, for more power, better fuel efficiency and reduced noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).
According to Cummins the milestone adds to a legendary history that includes:
1988: Introduced first Cummins-powered Ram for model-year 1989.
1996: Exceeded 200 horsepower.
2001: Surpassed 500 lb.-ft. of torque.
2007: Launched 6.7L, 350-horsepower engine.
2013: Reached 385 horsepower, 850 lb.-ft. of torque.
Ram Truck and Cummins are celebrating this newest milestone with a group of 20 Cummins employees who have been working on Ram Truck – Cummins engines since the inception of the companies’ partnership.
“We are grateful to Ram Truck for choosing Cummins-powered engines for 30-plus years, and we look forward to a long partnership,” said Melina Kennedy, Executive Director of Cummins Pickup Business. “We are honored that these 20 employees have chosen to devote the 30-plus years to Cummins. They and the whole plant team are a big-hearted group committed to improving where they live.”
Cummins’ Columbus Mid-Range Engine Plant (CMEP) is 600,000 square feet, employs 900 people and has the capacity to produce 168,000 engines a year. The purchaser of the Ram with the 3-millionth engine will be identified after the truck is built. Ram is planning a celebration of the completed truck at the dealership involved at a later date.
A number of states are charging electric vehicle owners fees that experts and consumer advocates say are higher than what the drivers of equivalent gas-powered vehicles are paying in gas taxes, potentially discouraging an important environmentally friendly technology.
Almost all states have gasoline taxes to help pay for transportation projects, and electric vehicle owners avoid them because pure EVs don’t use gasoline. But many legislatures are looking at extra fees to make sure all vehicle owners pay for roads.
A new Consumer Reports analysis shows that of the 26 states that currently impose EV fees, 11 charge more than the amount owners of similar gas-powered cars pay in gas taxes, and three charge more than twice the amount. And the trend is potentially for more EV fees: Among the 12 states considering proposals, 10 would have fees greater than what a driver on average would pay in gas taxes. Seven of those states would ratchet up the fees over time to twice the amount.
“People should be allowed to choose a vehicle that’s safe, reliable, and better for the environment without being punished,” says Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and energy policy at Consumer Reports.
Baker-Branstetter says that the fees on electric vehicle drivers don’t do much to solve state road spending shortfalls, and they’re also unfair to the average family trying to save money on gas by buying an EV.
For the analysis, CR compared existing and proposed EV fees with how much in gasoline sales tax the average driver pays over a year in each of the states. In most states that have them, EV fees are paid annually by the vehicle owners.
In Missouri, there’s a proposal to increase the existing EV fee to three times what the owner of a gas-powered car would pay next year in the state, and the fee would increase to four times the amount by 2025, according to CR’s analysis.
Missouri’s proposed EV fee was set with the help of state senate research staff and experts at the state transportation department, says Senator Gary Romine, who was the main sponsor of the legislation. Most transportation funding in Missouri comes from a consumption tax on gasoline, says Romine, who serves as vice chairman of the state Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.
“Obviously, electric vehicles have no consumption that is taxable that makes its way to the Transportation Department,” he told Consumer Reports. “These fees would be a way for electric car owners to pay their fair share for maintaining the roads and bridges in the state. We’re not trying to penalize the electric car owner.”
Illinois proposed a $1,000 fee on EV owners earlier this year. After an outcry, it was reduced to $250. (Still, that’s $100 more than an owner of a gas-powered car would pay, on average.)
The move in some states to higher EV fees has been spearheaded by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which drafted a model resolution to support “equal tax treatment for all vehicles.”
ALEC’s resolution calls for eliminating EV tax credits and increasing user fees so that “all vehicles using public roads share in the cost.” The group contends that because the vehicles have heavy battery packs onboard, they exact a greater structural toll on roads than equivalent gas-powered passenger cars.
For example, a Nissan Leaf weighs 3,440 pounds, a thousand pounds more than a Versa compact, a gas-powered model similar in size and with room for the same number of passengers. The Leaf weighs about 200 pounds more than the larger, roomier Altima sedan.
ALEC describes itself as a group advancing policies for limited government, free markets, and federalism. The group didn’t respond to CR’s request for comment.
Vehicles and Road Damage
The weight argument doesn’t ring true to Robert Atkinson, an economist at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, who chaired a national commission on infrastructure financing in the 2000s. The amount of road damage caused by any kind of car, SUV, or pickup truck is minimal, Atkinson says. Almost all of the degradation to roads and bridges comes from heavy-duty trucks, he says.
“This isn’t a real issue,” Atkinson says. “If they’re really worried about damage to the roads, the thing to do is to tax heavy-duty trucks.”
Atkinson also contends that any EV fee should be set less than what the driver of an equivalent gas-powered car would pay in gas taxes, because EVs don’t pollute as much, and there are fewer government costs in dealing with the environmental impact. He adds that it’s probably a mistake to tax EVs at all for the next several years because the nascent technology is still trying to make inroads. Five years from now, it might be a self-sustaining technology, he says.
At least one state contemplating a special EV fee has tabled the idea as potentially harmful to widespread adoption of the technology. Vermont lawmakers backed off of a plan to increase EV fees after the state’s Agency of Transportation concluded that fees shouldn’t be increased “in the immediate future and not until the market for EVs moves beyond the ‘early adopter’ phase.” Moving consumers over from gasoline-powered cars to EVs is “essential to meeting the state’s short and long-term climate and energy goals,” the agency said.
At the end of 2016, there were fewer than 1,400 EVs registered in Vermont. By 2025, EVs could make up 15 percent of the state’s total vehicle registrations, at which point an EV fee would make good policy sense, the agency concluded.
For some state lawmakers, EVs have gained a reputation as $100,000 cars with owners who can afford to pay the fees, says Nicolas Loris, a Heritage Foundation economist who focuses on energy, environmental, and regulatory issues. He also points out that EV owners have benefited from federal tax breaks of up to $7,500. And because California has the lion’s share of EVs in the U.S., there’s a perception that middle-class taxpayers in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania are subsidizing richer, coastal states, he says.
“The federal gas tax is intended to pay for the cost and maintaining the highway system,” Loris says. “It is literally highway robbery that EV owners don’t pay into the system.”
Max Baumhefner, staff attorney of the climate and energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the reality is much different, because most of the 1.3 million EVs on the road today were bought as used cars. That’s because they’re typically bought on leases, then sold used after two to three years to low- and middle-income people, many looking to save money on gas, he says.
But for states and the federal government, EVs are needed to accomplish the key goal of electrifying transportation in order to meet air-quality goals and to reduce the output of greenhouse gases, he and other advocates have said.
“The misperception that electric vehicles are just for rich people who can afford these ever-increasing fees is a big problem,” Baumhefner says. “These increasingly onerous fees undermine the fundamental economics of electrifying the transportation sector.”
Gasoline prices moved lower by 1 cent to $2.65 during the week ending Sept. 30, and 10 states saw their pump prices decline by at least 5 cents, according to AAA.
Prices for regular unleaded haven’t been significantly impacted by the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities that took about 5% of the global oil supply offline in late September.
“Crude oil prices have dropped close to where they were right before the drone attacks on the Saudi oil facilities,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “This is helping to push gas prices cheaper in most of the country. Americans can expect this trend to continue, except for those filling-up on the West Coast, where refinery disruptions are causing spikes at the pump.”
The national price is 7 cents more expensive than a month ago and 22 cents cheaper than a year ago.
The week brought a mixed bag because West Coast states saw increases, led by California’s 28-cent move higher to an average of $4.02 per gallon. Midwest states mostly saw prices decline.
States with the largest weekly changes include California (up 28 cents), Ohio (down 15 cents), Nevada (up 13 cents), Michigan (down 12 cents), Kentucky (down 11 cents), Illinois (down 10 cents), Delaware (down 9 cents), Indiana (down 7 cents), Iowa (down 7 cents), and Minnesota (down 6 cents).
States with the lowest prices include Louisiana ($2.30), Mississippi ($2.30), South Carolina ($2.32), Arkansas ($2.32), Alabama ($2.33), Texas ($2.35), Virginia ($2.35), Oklahoma ($2.35), Missouri ($2.36), and Tennessee ($2.37).
Meanwhile, the average price for a gallon of diesel increased 1.5 cents to $3.066 per gallon, which is 24.7 cents lower than a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Unscheduled vehicle downtime is not only a maintenance issue, it is also an accident-avoidance issue since, on average, 20% of a fleet’s vehicles annually incur downtime due to accidents. While many vehicle downtime events are unavoidable, downtime can be managed and minimized by adopting a proactive versus reactive maintenance program and by implementing a driver-based versus asset-based fleet safety focus.
The bottom line is you can’t change the fundamental requirements of your business, which necessitates specific asset requirements. The best way to minimize preventable accidents (and by default vehicle downtime) is by modifying driver behavior. In addition to maintenance and accident-related issues, downtime is also caused by numerous other circumstances ranging from tires damaged by road debris, to recalls, vehicles booted for unpaid tickets, to expired license tags.
The end result is that vehicle downtime negatively impacts the ability to perform service jobs, complete deliveries, or make sales calls, all of which result in a loss of productivity and revenue. Reducing downtime will reduce overall operating expenses and optimize vehicles productively, which increases fleet uptime.
Reasons for Downtime
With fleet budgets tighter than ever, it makes it imperative to track all expenses associated with downtime. However, not all fleets track downtime costs, one estimate showed only 36% of the fleets do so. Also, because there is no universally accepted industry definition of downtime for light-duty fleets, benchmarking downtime with peer fleets is difficult.
For instance, should downtime include all repair events? Or, only unscheduled events? Also, downtime metrics vary widely. Should you track cost of downtime hours per day, vehicle downtime per month, total downtime costs per event, or something else? Regardless, one thing is true, fleets generally underestimate the total cost of downtime, but it can be managed. For instance, vehicles participating in a scheduled preventive maintenance (PM) program experience about 20% fewer maintenance-related downtime days than those that aren’t.
In essence, the objective of a PM program is to ensure a vehicle is able to operate without any break in service until its next PM. A scheduled PM program helps to identify service issues before they become major problems. Follow-through on fault codes and alerts from onboard diagnostics and telematics systems will fix small issues before they become major, more costly, issues.
In addition, many incidents of unscheduled downtime can be avoided using predictive maintenance, namely forecasting when components are near the end of their useful life based on historical maintenance data rather than waiting for component failure. Developing a maintenance schedule to replace or rebuild components before the end of their expected lifecycles, fleets can offset higher expenses incurred from unscheduled downtime. Vehicles have a limited lifetime, and the frequency of breakdowns and cost of repairs goes up proportionately as vehicles age.
Even vehicles that have provided years of reliable service will sooner or later experience component failures. The rule of thumb is the older the vehicles, the more the problems and greater the risk of catastrophic failures. One analogy is with a person’s health. Approximately 80% of a person’s lifetime medical expenses occur in the last years of life — a similar ratio is true with vehicles.
A vehicle replacement policy, based on mileage or months in service, allows you to systematically phase out older vehicles that have a greater propensity to have problems, which will proactively help to lower incidents of unscheduled downtime.
Another cause of unscheduled downtime is vehicle overloading. Fleet maintenance surveys consistently show that overloading is the No. 1 cause of unscheduled maintenance for trucks. When a vehicle is overloaded, its emergency handling capability is reduced, which can contribute to an accident. For instance, braking distance increases, which can cause drivers to misjudge stopping distances, and tire failure rates are higher because tires run hotter.
Hard Costs vs. Soft Costs
Downtime costs are typically broken into two categories: tangible costs of downtime (hard costs), and intangible expenses (soft costs) due to driver inactivity.
Hard costs related to downtime include lost revenue, towing charges, temporary rental, and employee overtime. Soft costs are those incurred during driver downtime such as lost employee productivity, lost revenue-generating opportunities per day, and delays in delivering the product or service your company provides to its customers.
Key components to calculating the total cost of downtime are:
The costs of repairs necessary to get the vehicle back on the road again. This includes the cost of labor, replacement parts, diagnostic fees, and towing costs,
Know the approximate compensation costs of drivers to fully calculate employee soft costs, along with employee productivity costs. When drivers are not able to work due to a vehicle problem, they cannot produce revenue. This is a lost “opportunity” cost that impacts current and prospective customers.
In summary, you need to track downtime in detail. Don’t accept “repair time” as downtime, rather downtime should extend from the moment a vehicle is pulled out of service until the driver is able to get back on the road to resume work. Sometimes, the largest expense of downtime isn’t related to the actual repair, but other related soft costs, such as employee compensation and the lost revenue generation from the product and service provided.
Fleet data analysis can identify recurring downtime issues. It’s important to determine the causes of downtime so procedures can be developed to minimize such problems in the future.
The annual accident rate for commercial fleets is around 20% and the average cost of a fleet accident is $70,000 — almost double the cost of the typical workplace injury. Fleet managers should know that a small group of people — specifically, high-risk drivers — cause the bulk of their collisions.
So it stands to reason that changing the negative driving behaviors of high-risk fleet drivers is a smart way to reduce accidents while keeping your drivers safer.
Advanced Driving Training Services, Inc. recommends that fleet owners and managers take the following steps:
Identify High-Risk Drivers
Fleet managers should check motor vehicle records and accidents histories of every driver in the fleet. This allows you to find a group of drivers who have a high number of moving violations and have been involved in numerous crashes.
Classify the Group
Next, classify the high-risk group into sub-groups. Level 1 would include drivers who have one to two infractions; level 2 would include drivers with three to four infractions; level 3 would include all drivers with more than four infractions.
The next step involves training all high-risk drivers in the appropriate manner. ADTS recommends that level 1 drivers receive online training in the specific area in which the driver has had problems. It might be speeding, following distance, or backing accidents, for example.
Level 2 drivers require a full day of driver skill enhancement, according to ADTS. This would ideally include classroom and behind-the-wheel training with a focus on responsibility, scanning techniques, crash prevention and skill building exercises.
Finally, level 3 drivers should receive one-to-one training during a normal business day, so that the driver remains on the road and productive. The goal is to create a positive atmosphere that emphasizes your company’s commitment to, and concern for, safety.
ADTS stresses the importance of involving managers in solving the problem of high-risk drivers. Managers have direct contact with drivers and play a key role in reducing crash rates. In short, managers need to understand that they set the tone for drivers’ safety.
Keep the Message Alive
Keep safety visible and top-of-mind with your high-risk drivers and with all drivers. It’s critically important to reinforce the message by sending email reminders, safety memos, and discussing safety at company meetings.