Meet HDT’s 2018 Truck Fleet Innovators

  • Meet HDT’s 2018 Truck Fleet Innovators

    Meet HDT’s 2018 Truck Fleet Innovators

    Get ready to meet five forward-thinkers, all of whom are helping to lead trucking by example in various ways that point the way to overcoming challenges and leveraging opportunities.

    Each year, Heavy Duty Trucking’s editors review nominations sent in from across the industry as well as give consideration to fleet executives they’ve met over the year. The editors then single out several fleet executives who have consistently shown innovation and leadership in one or more areas of truck-fleet management.

    This year’s honorees, from fleets both large and small, are being saluted for management accomplishments in areas ranging from rethinking the buying of power units and road-testing fuel-saving concepts to launching new streams of revenue and improving driver health and satisfaction:

    • Andreea Crisan, COO and executive vice president, Andy Transport, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec
    • Joel Morrow, director of research and development, Ploger Transportation, Bellevue, Ohio
    • David Myers, senior vice president of operations, Sygma Network, Dublin, Ohio
    • Sergio Rojas, director of wellness, Hirschbach Transportation, Dubuque, Iowa
    • Tom Schilli, CEO, Schilli Transportation Services, Remington, Indiana

    Our five 2018 Truck Fleet Innovators, sponsored by Phillips Industries, will be honored during the second annual Heavy Duty Trucking Exchange. HDTX is an invitation-only fleet networking event to be held May 9-11 at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona. Following an awards ceremony, this year’s Innovators will participate in a panel discussion on industry-wide issues.

    To help wring the most fuel out of Ploger’s trucks, Joel Morrow specs a downsped powertrain built around the OEM’s 11L diesel with Eco-Torque option. The engine is rated at 385 hp at 1,250 to 1,450 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a direct-drive I-Shift automated transmission. Photo: Ploger

    Driving all the way to the bank

    For Joel Morrow, the road to advancing truck technology is paved with attention to detail, mile after mile.

    For Joel Morrow, the road to advancing truck technology is paved with attention to detail, mile after mile.

    If Joel Morrow calls you, chances are he’s reaching out while taking a break somewhere on a revenue run. Chances are, too, that he’s making that run at the helm of some impressively advanced iron, including trucks that may be fitted with components no one can buy yet.

    “I’m not an office guy,” he says. “I get feedback [on specs] by going out and running the truck.”

    How he became a driver and test pilot rolled into one starts, as do many trucking stories do, with his family. Morrow’s owned a trucking outfit when he was growing up. He, his brother Jerry, and Jerry’s wife Tanya got together to launch Ploger as a regional carrier with one truck in 2006.

    The company has since grown to 40 tractors, all piloted by company drivers, with 100 van and flatbed trailers, specializing in hauling food products to distribution points for brand-name companies such as Pepperidge Farm.

    Outbound, the fleet moves mostly high-cube, multi-drop loads to customer locations east of the Mississippi. Backhauls are diverse and heavier, ranging from steel coils to scrap paper. Morrow says a typical run might cover 800 to 1,000 miles, with seven or eight outbound drops followed by a single-stop backhaul.

    Ploger is helping prove out Volvo’s 6×2 adaptive loading axle concept for fuel savings.  “We’ve run with the lift axle up more than half the time” when hauling cubed-out loads, advises Joel Morrow. He’s says there’s no parasitic loss from an unnecessary second drive axle and not having the extra set of tires on the ground cuts rolling resistance. Photo: Ploger
    Ploger is helping prove out Volvo’s 6x2 adaptive loading axle concept for fuel savings. “We’ve run with the lift axle up more than half the time” when hauling cubed-out loads, advises Joel Morrow. He’s says there’s no parasitic loss from an unnecessary second drive axle and not having the extra set of tires on the ground cuts rolling resistance. Photo: Ploger

    Morrow took part in the Run on Less fuel-economy event put on last year put on by the Carbon War Room and the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. On the 50,000-mile run over 17 days, seven professional drivers managed to average 10.1 mpg overall — demonstrating just how far technologies available on the market today can push fuel efficiency. Morrow piloted a 2016 Volvo VNM62T630 sleeper-equipped tractor on that run, one of the trucks in the Ploger fleet that helps maintains an overall average of 8.5 mpg.

    Ploger operates sleeper-equipped Volvo tractors. To help wring the most fuel out of the trucks, Morrow specs a downsped powertrain built around the OEM’s 11L diesel with Eco-Torque option. The engine is rated at 385 hp at 1,250 to 1,450 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a direct-drive I-Shift automated transmission.

    Also helping, the trucks roll green on low-rolling-resistance tires. In addition, drivers get some help thanks to a fuel-efficiency coaching system in the cab. An aerodynamic assist beyond the standard tractor treatment comes from setting the tractor-trailer gap at 42 inches, putting on tandem-axle wheel covers and adding tandem gap fairings. The fleet is also looking at trailer aerodynamics, such as a new type of split trailer side skirts and a boat-tail device.

    But what stands out the most of late is Volvo’s Adaptive Loading option, which Morrow says helps boost fuel economy too. This 6×2 drive-axle configuration is distinguished by a liftable forward axle that automatically adjusts to load weight changes and provides for 4×2 operation in certain conditions.

    A vocal proponent of testing out new technology, even trying pre-production equipment concepts on revenue runs, Morrow is all about pushing the envelope to stretch Ploger’s fuel dollars. “Our fuel economy strategy is to do research and development with real-world testing to make sure we are right about our specs in our operation,” he explains.

    Joel Morrow director of research and development Ploger Transportation Bellevue, Ohio Photo: Ploger
    Joel Morrow director of research and development Ploger Transportation Bellevue, Ohio Photo: Ploger

    “Proving out the 6×2 adaptive loading axle concept is the big thing we are into now,” Morrow points out. “We’ve run with the lift axle up more than half the time” when hauling cubed-out loads. According to Morrow, there’s no parasitic loss from an unnecessary second drive axle, and not having the extra set of tires on the ground cuts overall rolling resistance. While he has opted for a sway bar on the front suspension, he hasn’t conducted fuel economy tests on it. But he figures that it cuts tire costs, because it saves on the corrections a driver has to make that cause tire scrub and uneven wear.

    “We believe specs for displacement and horsepower should be correct for our application and should be weighted for fuel efficiency vs. resale value,” Morrow says. “We know that all things being equal, drivers want the fastest and the newest truck. We’ve gone from four to five years down to trading them after three years. As a guy who specs hardware for fuel efficiency, I still have to keep resale value in mind with the shorter trade cycle. But if we spec the truck right, it will be fuel-efficient and our drivers will like its performance. It’s a balancing act. And it’s a moving target to stay on top of as we are growing the fleet.”

    When it is time to sell one of Ploger’s fuel-sippers, timing is everything. “Given our size right now, we typically sell them direct to owner-operators and smaller fleets. We have a reputation for running high-mpg trucks. What we get for them depends a lot on the price of fuel at the time. Now with fuel going up, our values are up. I have seen it before — the second that fuel goes up, the price moves for us.”

    With his proven track record with on-the-road R&D, Morrow is not shy about approaching OEMs with his spec’ing ideas. And while his latest order of trucks, starting to arrive this spring, includes Volvos and Macks, he advises, “I do a lot of shopping. We ran a demo with another OEM recently and talked to another one as well. We like to do an in-depth analysis.”

    Morrow is especially excited about trying out a new Volvo powered by an 11L rated 425 hp at 1600 lb-ft that’s fitted with an updated fuel system that he says “feels like a 15L going down the road but still sips fuel like an 11L.”

    Morrow says that he’s been “a driver all my life. I started tinkering with equipment back when I started to walk. And getting to work closely with an OEM engineering staff over the last four to five years has been enlightening, to say the least.”

     

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