Paul’s picks

Despite predictions of doom and gloom at the International Trucking Show (ITS) due to our industry’s troubled economy, and the notable absence of some major suppliers, a surprisingly large number of attendees were on hand to see the latest and greatest in trucking equipment. Here’s my quick rundown of what I think are the most worthwhile.

üAir-Weigh on-board scales (1-888- 459-3444, www.Air-Weigh.com) can pay for themselves in just a few months if you gross out. Anyone who has ever been overweight on the tandems or front axles knows accurate weight distribution is important. Using the AW5700 truck or trailer scales, you’ll know your weights while the shipper loads you. No need to run to the truckstop for weight, then either go back for adjustment or risk a fine. The AW5700 also can multiplex up to 24 accessory controls, such as hydraulics, pneumatics, lift gates, etc. Air-Weigh is accurate within 70 pounds. You even can get a print out of your readings by downloading to a computer.

üSmartbrake (1-888-437-7426 www.smartbrake.com), an exhaust brake from Herhsam USA, is the solution when the problem is “No Engine Brakes Allowed.” It is quiet yet effective. In side-by-side tests on a Cummins ISM, the Smartbrake produced 313 retarding horsepower, compared to 275 from a Jake Brake. The brake can be partially set to increase backpressure in order to shorten warm-up time. Exhaust brakes work by restricting exhaust flow when brakes are applied and the engine is defueled. They create backpressure in the engine, just as compression brakes do.

üMGM Brakes (1-800-527-1534, www.MGMBrakes.com) provides quick, accurate brake stroke status readingsfor pushrod operated air brakes. The electronic readout uses blink codes to pinpoint problems. The e-Stroke Electronic Stroke Alert works best with the electronic sensors factory pre-installed on MGM brake chambers. Sensors can also be retrofitted to other brake chambers. The MGM e-Stroke system is especially helpful with lowboys or high-cube trailers with small trailer wheels that make brake inspections difficult.

üWith extended oil drain intervals come extended maintenance intervals, so Citgo (1-800-248-4684) introduced OverDrive HD grease, a distinctive green grease designed to stay in place longer. Citgo also introduced Citgard SynDurance 5W-40 synthetic motor oil in CH-4+ grade. This PAO based synthetic oil allows faster warm-ups in cold weather. It is backward compatible, meaning it can be used on all existing engines, although it was developed for the 2002 emission-controlled engines. Citgo claims SynDurance 5W-40 should be able to double OEM recommended drain intervals.

üA quick and easy way to make sure wheel lug nuts are on tight is by installing the Safety Link System from Adams-James Associates (1-888-687-3933). After nuts are torqued properly, simply fit these plastic devices so they form a continuous circular pattern around the wheel. Any loosening is immediately obvious from a change in the circular pattern. At night, any shift is visible when a reflective tab, normally covered by the adjacent device, is uncovered. Safety Link devices interlock to resist loosening of wheel nuts after only seven degrees of rotation.

üShow truckers are always on the lookout for anything that will give their rigs that competitive edge. Many of the rest of us also want a distinctive look. Spectra Metal from Pacific Crest Custom Architectural Metals (1-909-735-9111, www.pacificcrestind.com) has a process of etching and polishing smooth metal surfaces so they have a textured look. The surfaces can be fabricated into bumpers, sun visors or trim panels, then protected by clear powder coat epoxy to prevent damage to the surface. Stainless, aluminum and copper can all be treated. The variety of patterns is limited only by the imagination. About a dozen were shown in the company’s literature.

üHave creature comforts gotten out of hand? Tundra Refrigerators and Freezers from Taylor Made (1-800-746-1313) displayed a super-size 12-volt truck refrigerator with more than 8.5 cubic feet of interior volume. It’s almost 6 feet tall. The T80 is compressor-operated and insulated with urethane foam. The door racks hold four two-liter pop bottles or half-gallon milk containers, and the freezer looks big enough to hold a week’s worth of food.

üThe X-One line of super-wide drive and trailer tires were introduced last year by Michelin. The Freightliner family (including Western Star and Sterling) had an exclusive on these 445/50R 22.5 tires. Accuride offered the only 14 inch 22.5 wheels made for these tires. At ITS, Alcoa introduced their own 14-inch-wide wheel, and Bridgestone showed its new Greatec tires in a variety of sizes. The 435/45 rib tires will carry 10,470 pounds with 130 psi inflation. The 445/50 tires, in both rib and block patterns, are good for 10,000 lbs. each at 75 mph sustained speed when inflated to 115 psi. For heavier hauling, 495/45 block tires will carry 12,785 lbs. with 130 psi inflation, at up to 68 mph. The Alcoa one-piece, forged, wide-base wheels are rated at 12,800 lbs. each. Compared to duals, Greatec radials save 2 to 5 percent fuel.

üSylvania (1-800-347-3420, www.sylvania.com) announced it had started to ship its aftermarket versions of high intensity discharge (HID) replacement headlamps and auxiliary driving lights. Unlike the over-wattage, blue-tinted halogen bulbs we all find quite annoying, these are DOT legal replacements or DOT approved add-on lamps. They provide more lumens (light units) in a broader, more usable pattern. They are beneficial to drivers over 40, the age when nighttime vision starts to deteriorate. Replacements are available for H6054, H6024, H4656 and H5006 halogen sealed headlamps.

ü Last but not least, Ten-Four Stairs (1-888-437-1710) made their first trip to Las Vegas with their unique safety stairs. Far too many slip-and-fall accidents happen when drivers climb in and out of van and reefer trailers, or onto platform trailers. Ten-Four Stairs can be built-in to the rear of most flat-floor trailers, allowing drivers and helpers to climb normally up and down. The stairs have hinged covers that allow the flat floor to extend over the stairs. When up, the door has a railing. Models for refrigerated trailers have gaskets to seal in the cold (excuse me, that should be “seal out the heat” if you read my March/April 2001 LL article on reefers).
One clue that these are quality made products was when I saw Truck-Lite personnel planning improvements in the lighting and wiring for the stairs. Top quality producers use only top-quality suppliers. The stairs, from what I saw, are well made with excellent welds and accurate fabrication.

That’s it from this year’s International Trucking Show. I’ll have more “picks” from Dallas after the Great American Trucking Show.