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December 19, 2012

Navistar’s Road to Recovery

Navistar seems set on recovery. ProStar Plus trucks with Cummins engines are on their way to dealers days ahead of an impossibly tight schedule. However, the cost of recovery is high, with Navistar today reporting a nearly $3 billion loss for the last quarter of 2012, including restructuring and warranties. And Navistar has announced that the third nominee to the board by major investors has been confirmed.

These important steps signal a turnaround for the company is under way, if it can survive the cost.

Fourth Quarter Loss
Today, Navistar reported a fourth-quarter loss on tax expenses and expenses from its cost-reduction programs and engine warranties. Navistar lost $2.8 billion, or $40.13 per share, compared with a profit of $255 million, or $3.48 per share, a year ago. The pre-tax loss was $566 million, compared with a $275 million pre-tax profit for the same period a year ago. Revenue for the quarter ending Oct. 31 fell 24% to $3.3 billion, from lower sales (as predicted here).

The loss included $2 billion, or $28.59 per share, in tax costs and, as again predicted, charges of
  • $149 million in warranty expenses related to 2010 big-bore engines
  • $73 million in cost-reduction actions
  • $16 million in restructuring charges for its North American manufacturing operations and engineering integration
  • $14 million in non-conformance penalties—a number that would have been much higher without the sweetheart deal from EPA.
Navistar says its net loss for fiscal 2012 was $3 billion, or $43.56 per diluted share, compared with net income of $1.7 billion, or $22.64, for fiscal year 2011. “Unfortunately, we saw a spike in warranty spending in late October and early November for the few remaining engine issues and the cost to take the proactive actions to support our customers and fix those items is higher than we anticipated,” said Chairman and CEO Lewis Campbell in a release.

Cummins to the Rescue
The switch to selective catalytic reduction (SCR) from exhaust-gas recirculation (A-EGR) has been accomplished with Cummins help in packaging the aftertreatment system onto the International chassis in record time. Navistar is shipping 300 International ProStar Plus Class 8 tractors equipped with Cummins ISX15 engines.

Reaching the goal five days ahead of schedule, “demonstrates the tremendous progress we’re making in delivering our first SCR-based Class 8 trucks to the marketplace,” said Troy Clarke, Navistar’s president. “Working collaboratively and fully integrated with our Cummins colleagues, the team has beat an aggressive launch timeline while ensuring the highest levels of quality.”

Board Moves
Meanwhile, the new Navistar International board member is Samuel J. Merksamer, managing director at Icahn Capital LP. He replaces Diane Gulyas, who retired after serving three years as a Navistar board member. Merksamer's appointment to the board and Gulyas's retirement were effective December 10, maintaining the total number of Navistar board members at 10, nine of whom are independent.

Merksamer is the third board member appointment made as part of an agreement with Carl Icahn and Icahn Partners and Mark Rachesky’s MHR Fund Management. Between them, these two investors own nearly a third of Navistar stock and Icahn had demanded three seats on the Board after the previous management engineered a stock price slide approaching 50%, apparently with the Board’s approval.

The other nominees are Vincent Intrieri on behalf of Icahn, and Mark Rachesky. Merksamer will stand for election at the company's 2013 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. "We welcome Sam to the board and we look forward to his insights as we continue to execute on our plan to drive long-term profitability and deliver shareholder value," said Lewis B. Campbell, Navistar's chairman and CEO commented before the latest financial report.

Merksamer is a managing director at Icahn Capital LP, where he has served since 2008. He is responsible for identifying, analyzing and monitoring investment opportunities and portfolio companies for Icahn Capital.

November 16, 2012

Shell Reaches Out

One of the most fun things I do each year is judge the Shell Rotella SuperRigs truck beauty contest. Last summer’s event was in Joplin, Mo., and, as always, concurrent with the contest is the selection of trucks for the annual SuperRigs calendar. That calendar, published this month, features 12 super rigs photographed at various locations around Joplin, as well as information about the owners.
Best of Show at SuperRigs was won
by Todd Raccapriore of Clean State
If you stop in for an oil change at a Speedco location or purchase more than 10 gallons of Rotella, you get a 2013 calendar free during November. Starting in December, you can purchase a calendar here.

Joplin was the site of choice for this, the 30th SuperRigs event, because it was an opportunity for Shell and the SuperRigs contenders to give back to the local community, which was so devastated by the tornado that hit in 2011 – the deadliest tornado in America since 1947. By the time the show closed, the All Roads Lead to Joplin rebuilding project helped raise nearly $100,000, which was contributed by Shell and Speedco to the YMCA of Joplin’s Community Disaster Recovery efforts.

In a heartwarming close to the June SuperRigs event, Best of Show winner Todd Raccapriore donated his $10,000 winning check to the Disaster Recovery fund on behalf of driver John O’Keefe.

November 6, 2012

New MX13 for Petes

As predicted in my September column in Diesel Progress magazine, the Paccar MX13 that debuted at the IAA in Hanover, Germany, in September has been introduced into Paccar’s Peterbilt models. The announcement on October 30 came a lot sooner than I thought it would however. No doubt we shall see a similar announcement from Kenworth within a few days.

The MX13 features an all-new common-rail injection system, accounting for the model name change from the MX12.9 previously. Gone is the somewhat antiquated unit-pump system, replaced by a full-blown common rail fuel injection system. Running at 2,500 bar (36,000 psi), it is one of the highest rail pressure injection systems so far. Higher pressures provide the finest fuel atomization along with multi-event injections for improved fuel economy and lower noise, both attributes of the current MX12.9. So the new engine is good news for the Paccar brands.

With its new injection system, the MX becomes a thoroughly modern diesel with ratings starting at 380 hp and peak torques up to 1,450 pounds-feet for North America.

The engine debuted in Europe in the heavily remodeled DAF XF105. That truck is mostly new under the skin but the cab structure – the biggest in the industry, says DAF – is unchanged though thoroughly updated. The model change is to bring the tall, cabover XF in line with the upcoming Euro 6 emissions requirements that will hit European customers early 2014. But in line with European practice, the new models are introduced ahead of time so customers can realize the benefits of the required new technology as soon as it is available.

In the case of the XF105 with its new MX13 engine, these benefits include improved fuel economy along with an improved driver experience for recruitment and retention, issues in Europe as much as they are here in the United States.
The benefits of early adoption of the new emissions level are societal as well, as the new, cleaner technologies get to the market earlier and in larger numbers than is the case in North America, where the last three technology jumps to meet emissions have seen a pre-buy of older technology and a slower post-buy of cleaner engines.

October 27, 2012

The Trucking Industry's Top Concerns 2012

The release of trucking’s top 10 issues by the research arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) shows the state of the economy is still a concern, but the new #1 is the Compliance, Safety and Accountability motor carrier safety-rating program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (CSA). Particularly, carriers want a review of the accuracy, reliability and significance of CSA scores, in light of testimony that the system does not accurately rate carrier performance.

The state of the economy has been the top concern for the last three years, featuring in second place in 2008 as the current economic situation loomed. It now drops to third place behind the perennial concern with changes to hours of service and their full impact on carrier operations going forward.

The poll, conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), is conducted over 4,000 industry executives with this year’s results released at the ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition which closed recently (October 11, 2012).
The approaching crisis of driver recruitment has many concerned, too. Always in the Top 10, the issue dropped several places over the last few years as fleets downsized capacity for the shrinking freight market. However, with the hoped-for return to better times on the horizon, finding drivers is reckoned to be a massive problem. The weak, but positive growth in GDP was highlighted in the “All Eyes on the Economy” panel session during the ATA annual conference.

Driver retention has been another ongoing issue, but not broken out in past reviews here. New for this year, though, is that driver health and wellness is now on the chart, showing concern with acquiring drivers, retaining them and improving their lifestyle all rank in the Top 10.

A number of issues have fallen out of the ranking. Infrastructure concerns, both the crumbling Interstates and bridges and the methods of generating revenue to deal with the problems, come in at number 11 this year, just off the chart.

Tort reform and legal issues has also disappeared again after a brief resurgence last year.

On-board technology and size and weight had come on the radar in the last few years but dropped off again this time around. Conspicuously absent in the latest rankings are regulatory concerns of ever more strict mandates on the industry, and environmental concerns. Both have figured to a greater or lesser extent over the years.

The slide presentation here shows the ATRI Top 10 issues for the trucking industry for 2005 through the latest 2012 listing just released. First is the complete matrix and is a little hard to read and extract trends. So I’ve broken out the issues one by one on the subsequent slides. The order is based on that most recently reported. And if you page through all, you will see the odd instance of a “dead end” like the insurance issue in 2005. This came up because of a blip in the truck insurance business the previous year that saw an almost total abandonment of trucking by the insurers at that time.

With the individual issues broken out, it is very easy to see the impact of outside influences like fuel price, the general economy, and the evolution of technology. All in all, it makes for an interesting series of snapshots of what grabs the industry’s attention at the moment. And it also shows those issues that endure.


October 12, 2012

He Be Gone - Almost

Well there you are: The second shoe dropped October 8 as Jim Hebe announced his retirement as Navistar senior vice president for North American sales operations. His career path had been a matter for speculation after the departures of Dan Ustian, chairman and CEO, Dee Kapur, vice chairman and chief product officer in the management meltdown at the company.

Arguments for and against Hebe's continued employment hinged on whether he might run the company, as he had done so successfully at Freightliner or whether he would get the heave-ho when all the warranty, guaranteed residuals and potential litigation chickens came home to roost. In the end, it looks like Hebe shot himself with the new managers Lewis Campbell and Toby Clarke. Or maybe the Navistar Board.

Who Gives A ... ?
In what has become known as the "clarity and transparency" press conference, held last month at a "boot camp" in Tooele, Utah, Hebe’s presentation was peppered with expletives. Some furious scurrying around by PR folks to discover recordings of what exactly was said was quickly followed by Hebe deciding to "retire". Speaking of the troubles at the top of Navistar, Hebe is quoted verbatim in Landline Magazine. “We’re still going to go through the next few months of Rachesky and Icahn trying to decide who is going to be the dominant force on our board,” Hebe said.

“Who gives a shit,” he told the audience of International dealers and trucking editors (not me, incidentally. I wasn’t invited!) on Sept. 26. “At the end of the day, who cares who sits on our board of directors? It sure as shit didn’t make any difference for the last three years. Why would it make any difference going forward?”

Essentially, though, his presentation was about a brave new world at Navistar where company managers and spokepeople would no longer be badmouthing the competition. Implicit was that the company would no longer make unsupportable claims about its products.

“We’re through with the B.S.,” Hebe is quoted in Landline saying. “We’ve had enough of it the past three years.” Personally, I don't doubt there are many competitors who feel the same way.

Hebe also confirmed that the 15-liter based on Caterpillar iron is a dead duck.

But Hebe, 63, is not altogether gone at Navistar. The word is he will continue with a much reduced role as a consultant because of his customer contacts. That could mean that only Hebe knows the details about some of the deals that have been cut.

Board Shakeup
Meanwhile, back at the store, the Navistar Board, dodging a proxy fight or litigation, lopped off three members that include Eugenio Clariond and Steve Klinger to accommodate Carl Icahn and Mark Rachesky. Icahn and Rachesky, who previously worked as Icahn’s managing director, each own just shy of 15% of Navistar and demanded representation on the board. Icahn has nominated Vincent Intrieri to sit along with Rachesky and a third yet to be announced, who must be agreeable to the two shareholders.

Intrieri has worked for entities related to Icahn since October 1998, Rachesky is Co-Founder, President, and Investment Chief at MHR Fund Management. When announced on October 8, the settlement with Icahn sent shares up more than 7 percent in morning trading to $22.70.
Steve Gilligan (left) details changes to ProStar Plus side skirts. At right is a proud Ed Pence, Cummins Vice President and General Manager – Heavy-Duty Engine Business admiring the big red thing under the ProStar’s hood. Note the blue filler cap for the 23-gallon DEF tank!

New Engines, New Products
The day before, and signaling a sea change, I was welcomed by a gracious Steve Gilligan, vice president, product and vocational marketing to a Navistar press walk-through of a ProStar Plus with a Cummins ISX 15 and a LoneStar with the 13-liter MaxxForce engine. The event was held at the Navistar booth at the ATA Management Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas.

Both trucks featured the Cummins-derived aftertreatment for selective catalytic reduction. The ProStar also featured newly designed roof and side skirts, re-engineered to save weight. And while the skirts were hand-laid-up prototype panels accommodating SCR tank and devices, they look like the production panels on the Cummins powered trucks going into production at the start of 2013, according to Gilligan. MaxxForce SCR engines will take longer to get ready, appearing some four months later.

Gilligan said the work done so far is on ProSar Plus and LoneStar since these trucks are most popular in over-the-road applications and so cover a major part of Navistar’s International production.

September 14, 2012

Disaster du Jour at Navistar

Well, things move apace in the boardroom battle at Navistar. The fire started with Carl Icahn’s open letter to the Navistar Board has indeed flared with the gasoline of the abrupt response by the corporation. There’s absolutely no doubt Icahn’s use of “amicably” in his settlement terms is a somewhat misused version of the word. Icahn is plainly furious.

Personally, I have to wonder why it has taken Icahn so long to get his dander up. But I suppose when you’re a billionaire, a $330.9 million investment, made just over a year ago, going down the tubes is something you put on the back burner until it boils over.

Well it has.

The Navistar Board has reacted slowly and altogether predictably, firing Dan Ustian – at last – and then sitting back on its hands as it has for the last four years as Ustian took the company down the wrong technology road, leading to abject failure in meeting EPA2010 with a compliant heavy-duty engine. The substance of the first response to Icahn’s wake-up letter of September 9 was that the company is now on track with a clear path forward.

Icahn is clearly infuriated by that. In his second letter September 11, he wrote: “After years of supporting a failed strategy, squandering corporate assets, overpaying underperforming executives, watching share price and market share consistently decline and, in my experience, making every possible effort to avoid engaging with shareholders in a meaningful dialogue about the future of this company, this Board is asking for a chance to implement their latest ‘clear path forward’ at Navistar. It is a chance shareholders cannot afford to take. After all, this is the same Board that proved fully capable of spending our money to open a new, gold plated corporate headquarters, but failed to develop an engine that could meet EPA standards.”

Other amicable remarks include: “It appears to me that the old management team received unwavering support from this Board, and in particular from this Board's executive committee, right up until the point where it began to endanger Board members' jobs. Only then were they willing to do anything about it, and even then they were not willing to find a permanent management team or have an open discussion with shareholders.”

And, he continues, “What has happened at Navistar over the past three years is not simply a matter of poor business judgment – as far as I am concerned it represents a blatant, ongoing disregard for the success of the company and a long track record of ignoring the perilous situation the company is in, while rewarding the strategy and management team that got us here. In my opinion, by damaging our company and its prospects, the Navistar Board has also exposed itself to significant risk of personal liability both as a result of its continuing reckless disregard for the needs of the company and the requirements of its business, and by adoption of a poison pill in the unique circumstance existing at Navistar.”

To see the full fury, go to and see what Icahn REALLY thinks of the Navistar Board. It makes compelling reading.

Now, further to my comment in the last post concerning how other senior executives may fare post-Ustian, it seems Dee Kapur, Truck president and only a few months ago promoted to vice chairman, is now Kaput, to borrow from Oliver Dixon’s highly amusing post. His departure has been met with far less fanfare.

In all this, to my mind the people hurt most are not the investors but the customers who go sucked in to purchasing the worthless trucks. And I use the term advisedly. John Barnes, who is Director of Operations for Commercial Transload of Minnesota Truck Lines wrote in an e-mail, “It is a total disaster and now the trade values [for these trucks] are so bad you can’t give them away.”

It is absolutely certain Barnes is not the only frustrated fleet manager – or even owner-operator – out there struggling with trucks they can’t use and can’t sell. They are massively out of pocket and have no idea where to turn. I have heard rumblings that some larger fleets are planning to file suit against Navistar, and I would love to put some names in a future blog so we can get an idea of where this activity may be going.

If you care to share your experiences with these trucks, as John Barnes has, I’d love to hear from you. E-mail me at

September 10, 2012

Let the Games Begin

One of the four major Navistar investors, billionaire Carl Icahn, has sent a letter to the Navistar Board members blasting their inactivity and lack of fiduciary management over the last three years as the Navistar stock price plummeted from $60 a share to a little more than $21.

Icahn is demanding a board seat for himself and three others who, between them, own 60% of Navistar common stock. No one can own more, due to a “poison-pill” provision that Icahn describes as “unusually restrictive.”

Icahn says under Delaware law, board members may be personally responsible for the company’s performance under the “prior CEO.” That, of course, is a reference to former Chairman, President and CEO Dan Ustian who retired recently. More and more it’s looking as if he was pushed, as part of his $14 million-plus severance includes $25,000 for outplacement counseling.

Icahn says he is prepared to fight for board representation: “I would prefer to amicably resolve this matter now, rather than through protracted litigation and a proxy fight. However, I am sure that you have no doubt that I will proceed with both, if necessary, to protect my investment and the interest of all shareholders. In that regard, we are preparing and will soon deliver to Navistar a demand under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law seeking access to corporate documents and Board proceedings at Navistar. Given the recent history of the company they should make interesting reading!”

Navistar Board’s response is that Icahn should put his threats where the sun doesn’t shine.

Judging from the tone of the open letter, Icahn is outraged that the board has changed technology direction and top management without discussing the moves with any of the four major investors. He is particularly scathing in his remarks about incoming CEO Lewis Campbell who, he says, “has a questionable track record at Textron” (his last post).

“At Textron, over an 11-year period,” he says, “Campbell watched Textron stock go from over $37 per share to $20 per share, primarily because of a risky financial subsidiary, which lent money to a golf course and a time share project.”

Icahn questions Campbell’s lack of industry knowledge, too, lending weight to the rumor that he has been talking to others with far better credentials for running a major truck manufacturer.

Particularly gratifying to me is that in the list of transgressions is a condensed version of my “Told You So” blog that I posted when Navistar’s about-face on SCR was announced in July. As well as the list of spending on failed technology; litigation against suppliers, competitors and regulators; and developing marketing plans to convince customers of the compliance of non-compliant engines, Icahn points to the new corporate headquarters in Lisle, Ill. I wrote …“the new corporate Ivory Tower in Lisle, Illinois. Another questionable decision…” Icahn calls it “a gold-plated corporate headquarters that cost over $100 million.” Same, same.

This spoiling for a fight might lead to some very interesting changes in direction. Again.

Only a few days ago, Lewis Campbell, Troy Clarke – Navistar’s new Lewis and Clarke team – and CFO Andy Cederoth reaffirmed Navistar’s roadmap from wilderness to recovery. This included sticking with the 11- and 13-liter MAN-derived MaxxForce engines with SCR technology, as well as adding the Cummins ISX 15. Nowhere was there any mention of the 15-liter based on Caterpillar mechanicals, confirming it as a dead duck.

They did say, though, that Cummins has a team co-located at Navistar to speed the adoption of the Cummins Emissions Solutions technology.

You may wonder, as do I, why Navistar would embrace so completely the Cummins Emissions Solutions to help it through its current heavy-duty engine emissions challenges. After all, Navistar has SCR on its MWM engines in Latin America and the company even showed an Indian-partner SCR Mahindra cabover in its booth at the Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville in the spring – another $2 million of investors’ money. The legend board proclaimed it the “Direction of the Future.” How prophetic! Within months Navistar would embrace SCR. But at the time, it was an embarrassment for Navistar. When industry watchers climbed over the truck and discovered the aftertreatment technology, the access door to the DEF tank was hastily and crudely screwed shut!

Obviously, since Cummins is back in the fold, there will have to be some Cummins aftertreatment on-board Internationals with ISX15 and, maybe, even 12.9-liter power, so why not go whole hog and make all the engines work through the same system? That’s not at all an unreasonable direction and would be a quick fix-to-market for the MaxxForce 11- and 13-liters.

But there’s another take from a Navistar competitor and industry source who is great at calling it like it is. The word there is that the in-cylinder plus technology (ICT+) will never see the light of day. Navistar is hemorrhaging and the fastest way to stop the blood-letting on the engine side is to pull the 11- and 13-liter (and the stillborn 15-liter) to just cut the losses. All heavy-duty power will be from Cummins as in days of old with the ISX 12.9 filling in for the 13-liter MaxxForce. The company will stay in the medium-duty engine business but abandon the MAN-derived engines altogether, shutting down and mothballing its Alabama engine plant and letting go a bunch of production and engineering folks as part of its current desperate headcount reduction and cost-cutting.

Ustian’s departure allows for the blame to be assigned to him as Icahn says in his letter. Lewis and Clarke get the credit for charting the new course. And maybe some of the old guard gets to stay under the new leadership with a new roadmap. Just who from the old guard gets to remain is an interesting field for speculation.

That’s a not-unreasonable take on the possible fall-out and one that’s not so unlikely. Wall Street would likely fall all over it. The investment community loves to see aggressive cuts.

Caterpillar wouldn’t fall all over it, however, as it's the 13-liter MaxxForce that’s in the current Caterpillar CT660 truck. And the eagerly anticipated 15-liter, based on the Caterpillar C15 iron, was to be the big power for Cat trucks in North America. It might have helped the somewhat dismal sales of the CT660, which is currently running about one a day if industry reports are to believed. Nobody sees Caterpillar bellying up to Cummins 12.9- or 15-liter power any time soon. And that may put in jeopardy the entire Cat/Navistar worldwide marketing pact.

I thought with the announcement of the technology and corporate about-face the whole sorry saga was finished. But no. As it turns out, it was just the first salvo in what may be a long and bloody battle with an outcome as yet impossible to call.

August 27, 2012

Ustian Out as Navistar Big Wig

Well, there you are. The architect of Navistar’s plunge into dire straits, Dan Ustian, has pulled the plug. We’ll likely never know what went on, but his departure from the ailing Navistar has been widely anticipated, at least in this corner. He is being replaced as chairman by former Textron CEO and GM veteran Lewis Campbell. Campbell will be interim CEO until the company appoints a replacement. Troy Clark will serve as President and COO of Truck and Engine operations.

It would have been difficult for Ustian to remain chairman, president and CEO after the debacle of advanced EGR vs. SCR technologies and heavy-duty engine development to meet the latest EPA emissions regulation. The turnaround and adoption of the much denigrated technology pursued by every engine manufacturer in the world except Navistar to meet strict NOx emissions was certainly embarrassing but it was also a $700-million mistake.

The capper had to be the August Forbes article, most appropriately headed Death By Hubris? The Catastrophic Decision That Could Bankrupt A Great American Manufacturer . This article, as well as my blog in July “Told You So” places the blame for Navistar’s disastrous stock performance and potential bankruptcy on Ustian’s insistence in “differentiating the company” by the pursuit of its unique emissions technology. Ustian was not alone, though, in this misguided approach. He was bolstered by a cadre of senior managers who supported his insistence that Navistar should offer a differentiated approach to EPA2010, one that would offer a simpler customer interface than the added complexity of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) offered by every other North American competitor.

Ustian and his executives maintained that SCR technology is complex, adds weight and requires the addition of another driver-replaced fluid on the vehicle. Many customers agreed that this simplified approach suited their operations better and bought into the alternate approach. Unfortunately, the technology was not ready for prime time and the trucks have proven unreliable.

Now, Navistar faces not just an expensive technology turnaround and a new investment into SCR – likely partnering with Cummins Emissions Solutions – but also huge warranty exposure for those trucks sold with advanced exhaust gas recirculation (A-EGR). An even bigger unknown is what will happen in the courts as disgruntled fleets band together to sue the company for selling unfit vehicles.

In the interim, said Ustian in public statements, Navistar will continue to sell its EGR trucks and buses until a satisfactory SCR solution is worked out. This will also be a burden on the company, as the vehicles will carry non-compliance penalties (NCP) for exceeding the NOx levels required since January 1, 2010. These NCPs had been set by the Environmental Protection Agency at close to $2,000 per vehicle, but that number was challenged and has since been thrown out. The court is expected to set a more realistic penalty within a matter of days and will likely be nearer $10,000 or more. This equates to more woe for the company, led down this blind technology alley by Ustian and his cronies.

People close to the company say the debacle is not Ustian’s fault alone. They offer that Ustian was a finance guy and didn’t know who in the company to believe when it came to technology That’s a point amply made in the Forbes story. But he was paid the big bucks to know. And didn’t.

So, goodbye Dan.

August 25, 2012

Driving the 2014 Cascadia Evolution

When it’s available early next year (ordering is open now), the 2014 model-year Cascadia Evolution from Freightliner will offer revisions to Cascadia’s already extraordinary aerodynamics, changes to the common-rail fuel system and a simpler turbocharger setup, which should deliver a 7% fuel savings for the “new” Cascadia. Another significant option is the soon-to-be-available Detroit DT12 automated transmission.

This demonstration unit had more available fuel economy technologies to achieve a test-track 10.67 mpg. To further demonstrate available fuel efficiency, the same truck was employed in an over-the-highway Evolution of Economy Tour, a real-world highway run from San Diego, Calif., to Gastonia, N.C. That truck and driver combo scored 9.31 mpg to prove the updates to the Cascadia could push fuel economy close to the magical 10 mpg.

The truck
Changes to the Cascadia to boost aerodynamic efficiency were developed in Freightliner’s own wind tunnel in Portland, Ore. Many of the detail improvements are around the front fascia, with hood and bumper closings to keep air flowing around to the sides and there’s a change to the air dam under the front. A smaller radiator allows less air through, saving some weight as well. Other aerodynamic improvements include subtle change to the windshield seal, a sleeker elliptical shape for the mirrors and an integrated antenna. New chassis fairings and longer side extenders contribute to the lowered drag.

The resized radiator is a result of the switch to selective catalytic reduction, which requires less cooling for the still-present EGR on the 2010 DD engines. But at the same time, the new radiator has a revised baffling system for greater efficiency and a new mounting for increased durability.

Those are the basic Evolution changes. But the truck I drove was the ultimate Evolution, with 6x2 drive, ultra-low profile single tires, wheel covers and a trailer with aerodynamic aids created in the Freightliner wind-tunnel but representative of commercially available products. It also had the new Detroit DT12 transmission. Suffice it to say, the electronic controls and the way the transmission talks to the engine make this the ultimate in optimization, for performance and economy.

In this Evolution, the direct transmission is backed up by a Meritor final drive of 2.50:1 in the single drive axle. The tandem is the available Meritor 6x2 setup with a forward drive axle. A loading valve and anti-spin logic provide added traction when needed. It is gaining increasing attention with the 400-pound weight savings and the additional fuel economy from only one set of gears driving.

The ultra-low profile singles on tractor and trailer are by Michelin. They’ve been in the marketplace for 10 years, with more than a million produced. That should be enough to convince anyone they work. And not one went flat on this truck’s coast to coast run. They are as likely as not a major contributor to the outstanding coast-to-coast mileage. Fleets that use them consistently turn in leading fuel economy numbers, and there’s no question that they contribute to fuel economy.

Another fuel economy feature on the evaluation unit is the wheel cover. Developed by Jon Fleck, they really do the job. Easy to fit and work around, they actually deliver a modicum of fuel savings. A modicum here, and a modicum there, and you have a nearly 10 mpg truck.

In the cab
It’s great to climb aboard a really nicely spec’ed cab and sleeper, and this one truly is, though for the sort of application likely for this truck, the dinette sleeper would be my taste. Be that as it may, the 2014 model is little different from the tuck we tested earlier this year, except in dash and controls.

The dash now includes a new instrument cluster with gauges in the speedometer and tachometer, making use of otherwise underutilized real estate. It puts the coolant temperature and oil pressure gauges right there where you want to see them along with a repositioned fuel/DEF gauge. There are in-wheel switches for engine brake and cruise control, and marker light interrupter and flasher. And there’s the new shifter control on the steering column for the Detroit DT12 transmission. 

A new switch sets the soft cruise setting the driver feels is most appropriate to his driving style.

On the road
We were fully loaded sitting in a turnout at Yountville facing southbound through the Napa Valley on state 29. It was hot outside but the 2014 Cascadia Evolution was nicely cool in the cab. The main reason for the drive was to explore the features of the new transmission while negotiating I-80, some divided highway and then some two-lane through the town of Napa and back through the vineyards of the region.

Starting out, with a foot planted on the service brake I rolled the direction selector to Drive and leaned on the air valves to release the brakes. All there remained to do was to move the right foot and squeeze down on the throttle. There's no danger of rolling back as there is a creep and crawl feature that will give a slow forward motion even without touching the accelerator. For steeper hill starts a hill-hold feature commanded by the transmission keeps service brakes applied until a torque sensor tells the air brakes to release.

For medium to heavy pedal demand, the transmission responds well, choosing the right gear for the conditions – including the truck weight, which for us was 76,000 pounds – and skip shifting for the quickest or the most economical acceleration. For instance, in one sequence in Economy mode and moderate throttle, the transmission shifted 2, 3, 5, 7 and 8 within about 50 yards.

In the upshifts, there is interaction between the transmission and the engine retarder. The advantage is to punch the shift through as quickly as possible and also to minimize the torque break during the shift. Thus the truck slows less during the shift. Since there is less roll-off of speed, the feature actually saves some fuel – minute maybe, but still a savings. From a driver’s perspective, it enhances the performance – and remember we are still in Economy mode – to get up to speed faster.

Driving in Economy mode, where there is a need for additional performance, there is a kick-down feature at the throttle pedal. You can feel it in action as there is a detent that the driver has to push through, which produces a down shift followed by rapid acceleration from the 455-hp DD15.

In Economy mode, I noticed shifts for the most part between 1425 and 1450 rpms, putting the revs in the next gear precisely on 1000 rpm to make use of the flat 1,550 pound-feet from the 455-hp DD15 of the evaluation truck. In the performance mode, revs drift up to 1600 to 1700 and after an upshift the engine is at 1,300 rpm, where it can make best use of the horsepower curve.

This outbound stretch of highway has regular traffic lights, all seeming to turning red as we approached. But that was no problem: pulling down a notch or two on the shift lever for the retarder. As a bonus, the system is sensitive to how much braking is demanded. In the third (Maximum) demand position, an aggressive downshifting regime brings downshifts to make the retarder work at its peak efficiency.

But even without this feature, as you slow for a light or a corner, the transmission downshifts to be ready for the next acceleration demand.

One of the coolest features is the e-Coast, where the transmission goes to a neutral and the rpms fall to idle when cruise detects no throttle to retain road speed. Truly remarkable is how frequently this feature comes into use. On the rolling highway of I-80 West and East bound, I was astounded to be in and out of e-Coast all the time. On the coast-to-coast Tour early in the year, when this truck scored 9.3 mpg for the trip, the e-Coast mode accounted for around 25% of the total running mileage.
New for the 2014 is an asymmetric, waste-gated turbocharger for "fleet" horsepower ratings like this 455. By dispensing with the turbo-compounding on these lower rated engines, there is an economy gain and a savings of around 100 pounds. Despite this, there is plenty of performance on tap, helped in part by the efficiency of the transmission. Higher power ratings 15-liter and DD 16s will still feature the turbocharger

It was hard to imagine how the Cascadia could be improved, it was such a game-changer when it was introduced. But put the new transmission in the Evolution, spice it up with some added aerodynamic aids for the trailer, and you’ve got a package that delivers near magical 10 mpg fuel numbers with the ease and repeatability of the automatic shifting. It’s a combination that’ll be very hard to beat.

August 24, 2012

Detroit's New Automatic is a Fuel Saver

The automated 12-speed transmission from the Detroit brand of Daimler Trucks N.A. was rolled out in August. It's the latest automated transmission introduction to the N.A. truck market, with calibrations and programming new for the North American operating environment. However, the mechanicals within the transmission have been well proven in millions of miles and over a hundred thousand Mercedes-Benz cabovers in Europe and other world markets, often at far higher gross combination weights than our 80,000 pounds. The transmission will be available in the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution starting in May 2013.

The Detroit DT 12 is a three-speed main transmission with a range-change and hi-lo splitter to give 12 forward speeds and an available four speeds in reverse. The single countershaft and aluminum casing give it a weight advantage of 100 pounds compared to Freightliner's existing offering – the Eaton Ultrashift Plus – which will continue as a second automated transmission option. The first Detroit DT 12 transmission is the DA1750 direct rated 1,750 pound-feet and the OA2050 overdrive at 2,050 pound-feet. It will be the larger of a pair of transmissions: later in 2013, the lighter B transmission DB1550 and OB1650 with input torques reflected in the model designations will be available with weight savings of 680 pounds compared to the Eaton.

According to the company, the DT 12 has a number of features and some significant benefits compared to competitive transmissions, with the shifter the most apparent. This is a steering column-mounted shift stalk, though somewhat more robust than the usual column stalk. It’s a convenient alternative to the visually unappealing dash-mounted shift pad. Like the pad, though, it doesn’t impede a driver's passage through the cab or into the sleeper.

In use, the DT 12 can be operated in automatic or manual. In either case, pulling the shifter up towards the wheel initiates upshift; pressing away, downshift. In the end of the lever is a switch to allow users to select Auto or Manual mode, or a quick touch selects Economy or Performance shift schedule. This same column shifter is also the selector for the engine retarder, with off, two, four and six-cylinder brake application as the lever is pulled down through four detents. Forward, reverse and neutral are selected with a rotary switch embedded in the shifter. A neat feature is a neutral reminder and selector if the driver forgets to take the transmission out of a drive position while setting the brakes and keying off.

With the MT 12, there are new features for the cruise control. One is a dash-mounted switch that allows for selection of different levels of "float" in the cruise setting. In low, it will allow speed to gain 3 mph before cruise control applies the engine brake. On medium, it allows twice this margin before application. In the highest position, it removes all interaction with the truck speed, allowing the truck to roll and take maximum flat or mildly rolling terrain.

Another feature designed to improve fuel economy is eCoast. This senses when the truck is rolling on any kind of a downgrade and drops engine torque to zero. The transmission then goes to neutral and the engine speed drops to idle. While this may be considered a little-used feature, in the recent coast-to-coast economy demonstration Freightliner, the demonstration truck was in e-Coast mode for 25% of the mileage covered, accounting for significant fuel savings.

At the other end of the performance spectrum, there is a throttle kickdown switch where a detent is provided in the throttle movement. Punching through this causes a downshift and a change to the fueling schedule so acceleration is akin to the transmission being in performance mode.

In the different shift modes, the transmission will upshift at 1400-1450 to drop back onto peak torque at 1000 rpm; in performance mode, shift points are higher to get the engine into the higher horsepower, shifting at 1700 rpm or more, depending on conditions the transmission recognizes, such as grade, throttle demand, gross vehicle weight and so on.

Upshifting, there is interaction between the transmission and the engine brake. With the proprietary interface, the electronics do a lot more than just speed the shift. Initially, the retarder aggressively reduces engine speed but then as engine speed approaches synchronous between gear and road speed, two cylinders start to fuel even if the other four are still in retarder mode. This keeps the turbocharger spooled up and when the upshift completes, the engine is sooner on power in the next gear. The advantage of this sequence is to punch the shift through as quickly as possible and also to minimize the torque break during the shift. Thus the truck slows less during the shift. Since there is less roll-off of speed, the feature saves more fuel.

Another feature of the advanced communications is driveline protection – the transmission senses engine torque applied and will dial it down to prevent wind-up in the driveline. This protects the drivetrain and provides a more comfortable driving experience, according to Detroit.

The new transmission also has Daimler’s Virtual Technician, the on-board diagnostics and prognostics feature that detects fault codes and transmits them behind the scenes to the Customer Support Center. Service decisions are then based on the nature of the fault code, the mission of the truck and the availability of dealer support.

With implementation of the new automated transmission, there's a new dash display for Cascadia in 2013 that is currently referred to as IDB4. It includes information about the gears selected as well as up and down arrows for shift advice when in manual mode. It also indicates whether the transmission is in Performance or Economy mode. There is also a dash warning light that illuminates with a fault code and activation of Virtual Technician.

August 2, 2012

Deeper Into the Woods

More from the “I told you so department:” Thursday, (August 1, 2012) Navistar announced in its guidance for the quarter ending July 31 that, as I predicted a month ago, it will indeed be offering Cummins ISX15 as part of its volte-face on compliance with EPA2010. To quote the guidance statement: “As part of the expanded relationship with Cummins Inc., Navistar plans to offer the Cummins ISX15 engine in certain models, expanding the company's vehicle lineup and on-highway market opportunity. Navistar plans to introduce the Cummins ISX15 engine as a part of its North American on-highway truck line-up beginning in January 2013.”

Navistar spokesman Steve Schrier told Transport Topics that the initial availability of Cummins power will be in International ProStar, PayStar 5900 and 9900 Series.

July 26, 2012

Shell SuperRigs: Super Show and Top Charity Event

Each event SuperRigs outdoes the previous year’s event with new faces and new trucks, or old faces with new and improved trucks. And Todd and Beth Roccapriore's entry in the name of driver John O’Keefe was just such a truck, an all-new themed dump truck that was totally different from the Peterbilt they swept the boards with two years ago at the SuperRigs in Lexington, VA.

As always with the Shell Rotella SuperRigs, truckers from all over the United States and Canada win nearly $30,000 in prize money plus packages from Shell and Speedco. This year support for the 'All Roads Lead to Joplin' rebuilding project made it a charity event, as well as a chance to show off some absolutely outstanding iron and vie for a chance to be included in the 2013 SuperRigs calendar.

July 7, 2012

Told you so . . .

In the unfolding saga, Navistar says it is to abandon its EGR-only emissions solution to meet EPA 2010. It will adopt the same selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to handle NOx as its competitors. Incoming president of Truck and Engines Troy Clarke said in a July analysts’ call that the company wouldn’t be making an about-face but simply going forwards. “This announcement is not about going back, it's not about backing up, it's about going forward," Troy Clarke Navistar's president of Truck and Engine said in a brief call on the morning of July 6.

Despite wrapping it in a new tech term: In Cylinder Technology Plus, it is an about-face of the first kind, and there are so many ramifications that it’s difficult to know where to start.

From a personal standpoint, I will start with a New York analysts meeting where I was invited to speak in late 2010. There I was asked to comment on the truck engines emissions picture at that moment and the prospects for truck and engine sales. It fast became an International Engine bashing session and ultimately led to my losing my job at Heavy Duty Trucking as my remarks ticked off Navistar management so severely. They accused me of trying to manipulate Navistar stock price.

As it turns out, the company didn’t need my help. Its value, precisely because senior management blindly pursued Advanced EGR (A-EGR) as its preferred emissions solution has seen its value halved since.

May 26, 2012

Sturman Cycle Engine Ready to Go

Sturman Industries’ revolutionary engine design and the supporting Sturman cycles that make the camless engine both highly efficient and fuel agnostic are close to being ready for real-world exposure. In a recent two-day Fleet Retreat at the company’s Woodland Park, Colo., headquarters, senior managers of some of the nation’s major truck and bus fleets were shown Sturman’s Air Controlled Engine (ACE) technology, which consists of electronically controlled hydraulic fuel injection and camless inlet and exhaust valve actuation.

The benefits of the technology, which has been under development for two decades since the introduction of the first Sturman fuel injector with digital valve control, include optimized fuel efficiency, emissions compliance with no aftertreatment devices and the ability to burn diesel, natural gas, ethanol and even ammonia with no mechanical changes to the engine.

In fact, no changes are required at all in switching fuels providing the correct injectors are installed for gaseous or liquid fuels. The control system recognizes within one cycle what fuel is being presented and optimizes, through closed-loop control, the injection timing and valve lift and phasing to ideally suit the engine to the fuel.

May 7, 2012

Mean Green Volvo Sets World Record – 147 mph

At Wendover Airport near the Bonneville Salt Flats, Swede Boije Ovebrink powered his hybrid Volvo VN race truck Mean Green to a new world record for the standing start km and established a record for the flying km for hybrid diesel trucks.

Running Friday, April 27, in modified diesel, class C (trucks over 1,000 kg), Mean Green ran 147.002 mph in the flying km, and 95.245 mph in the standing 1 km, establishing two new world records. Additionally, it ran a 22-mph flying km under electric-only power, using the 200-hp motor that is part of the truck's parallel hybrid system to prove it really is a hybrid. These world records were officially timed to seven decimal places by world-class timing crew ChronoLogic under the watchful eye of David Petrali of the United States Auto Club, the sanctioning body for the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile), the governing body for all autosport world records.

April 17, 2012

Freightliner's New Concept Truck “Revolution.”

The Mid America Trucking Show was a winner this year. Held in late March in Louisville, Ky., this was the 41st annual event and it was extremely positive, with new trucks, new components, new fuels and new people. In a first for the 30 years I’ve been attending the show, this was the first time a true concept truck was revealed.

Undoubtedly the star of the show was the Freightliner concept truck “Revolution.” (exterior shown here, interior shown above) It is like those forward-looking concepts that make the auto shows so interesting. This one, though, is a heavy truck and a radical offering. Remarkably, it is a fully functioning vehicle, a tractor that starts, runs and drives down the road. It’s based on a Freightliner Cascadia, with the standard running gear, but featuring some under-the-skin innovations, like the Daimler/Detroit transmission and a self-sensing 6x2/6x4 drive.

March 29, 2012

Kenworth Right-Sizes New Model

The number says it all. Kenworth's new and best-kept-secret, the T680, falls midway between the T660 and the year-ago launched T700. The 660 has the traditional narrow cab at 75 inches, while the T700 has the 90-inch cab out to the full width of the regulation. The T680 falls squarely in the middle with an 82.5-inch cab.

The T680 was launched at the recent Mid America Trucking Show. Sister brand Peterbilt shares the basic cab construction in its model 579, also launched at the show. Both are highly tooled stamped aluminum with complex panels joined by Henrob fasteners to create a rigid aluminum cab structure. The rivets are blind and no heads stand out on the smooth cab surface except at the rear corners to aid repair there. In this, the T680 falls between the T660 with its largely exposed Huck-bolt rivets and the smooth aerospace bonded structure that is underneath the sleek panels of the T700.

March 12, 2012

Shell's Natural Gas Production Surpasses Oil

This year, Shell will produce more natural gas than oil for the first time in the 50 years it has been involved in natural gas production.

This astonishing fact underscores Shell's involvement in alternative fuels, especially natural gas as compressed (CNG) or as a liquid at -160 degrees C (LNG). To emphasize this commitment, Shell has embarked on an adventurous program that will see a natural gas infrastructure developing over the next five to 10 years, says James Burns, Shell's LNG manager in the United States. Burns was speaking at a Shell press briefing, held February in Park City, Utah, on the company’s involvement in natural gas and other forms of alternative energy around the world.

Natural Gas
Later this year, Shell will open the first LNG corridor in the NAFTA region, with LNG fueling stations in Calgary and Edmonton and a refueling midway point in Red Deer, Alberta. This is not a demonstration program, says Burns, but a fully fledged alternative fuel option for fleets servicing the busiest cities in the western Canadian province.

March 7, 2012

What a sports car!

A star at the Los Angeles Auto Show was the Mastretta MXT, launched to the Unites States market at the mid-November show. Not only is this pocket rocket a highly desirable car at a price promised to be very low for such a high-performance machine, but it is made just outside of Mexico City – the first ever Mexican designed and manufactured sports car.

And what a sports car it is!

The car is the inspiration of company president Carlos Mastretta and technical director Daniel Mastretta, and it is the first car from this design and development company of Mexican city buses. The MXT is based on very sound engineering that has been refined by several of the top manufacturers of high end sports and GT cars.

Mirror, mirror on the truck . . .

Mirror, mirror on the truck . . .

At a task force on Inclement Weather and Visibility held at the Spring meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) in Tampa, this week, the loss of rear view vision during heavy rain for drivers of heavy trucks was a concern. It seems that drivers calling in to the Dave Nemo Sirius radio show complain that in heavy rain, they have a choice of either seeing to the rear or seeing to the front, but not both.

Consultant Jerry Hubbell, the task force chairman, said, "Basically they are saying that as they put the wipers on, the additional flow of rainwater obscures the image in the mirror." Hubbell then showed with some fluid dynamics illustrations the flow of the air around the windshield "A" pillar with and without the mirror. Easily seen was the huge wake behind the mirror that draws water and road dirt back on to the mirror surface.

As a result, Hubbell is pushing forward with a Recommended Practice (RP) – that's what TMC does – to let fleet and maintenance managers know about the problem. The RP will explore ways to deal with the problem so drivers don’t have to stop and use a towel and a bottle of Windex to restore rearwards vision. The issue is also being addressed by truck makers and mirror suppliers, but that is no help to drivers today.

Rodney Franklin from Calhoun, Ga., based RRR Transportation said that at his fleet, they had addressed the problem using a compressed air device from Air Vizion. Basically, it’s a sprayer that fits into the mirror head with an air supply that is piped through the electrical lead space in the door hinge area and then up through the mirror pedestal to the sprayer atop the mirror. The air is "Teed" from the seat suspension and there's either a manual button to spray, or an electronic timer that blasts the mirrors on each side on a regular basis. "The drivers love 'em," says Franklin.

However . . . I have another solution and offered it to Hubbell.

When I moved to Southern California, I set up a glamor shoot of some incredible Peterbilts operated by Bill Frampton of Artesia Ice. The eye-candy tractors and stainless steel trailers were used to haul bagged and block ice around the Los Angeles basin. I called the evening before the shoot and was told by Frampton that there was a chance of rain the following day. "We'll have to cancel," he said, "I don't take my trucks out in the rain!"

So there you have it: the perfect fix for rain on the mirrors . . .

February 27, 2012

The Power of Integration

To demonstrate the power of integration, Volvo Trucks North America leadership enlisted the help of Volvo’s marine division, Volvo Penta. Their point was to show how the vertical integration of engine, transmission and control system can work miracles – whether on land or water. And they showed the paradigm changing Inboard Propulsion System for the marine world to demonstrate the potential from integration of an innovative concept with the latest control technology .

The star of the show-and-tell was the revolutionary Volvo IPS (Inboard Propulsion System), a through-hull propulsion developed by Volvo Penta about five years ago. Unique to Penta, the drive system puts the propeller ahead of the drive unit, which is located through the hull instead of behind as in a conventional inboard engine/outdrive or using a long shaft with P-brackets and rudder.

IPS mounts propellers on horizontal shafts, parallel to the hull. IPS has a host of advantages: It puts the puller propellers – contra-rotating on Volvo Pentas – in water undisturbed by the gear casing. And because they are parallel to the hull instead of being at an angle dictated by the 10-15 degree down angle in a conventional shaft configuration, there is no tendency to lift the rear of the hull and thus force down the nose. This means less water friction, less energy wasted lifting the boat and less drag on the hull. It also allows for a little additional optimization of the hull shape reducing or eliminating the “rocker” to compensate for shaft angularity.

February 6, 2012

Free tires and 11 mpg

Just recently, I stopped in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where I spent one of the finest days I can remember touring Mesilla Valley Transportation with Jimmy Ray, the co-founder and equipment guru of this dry freight carrier. Mesilla Valley, or MVT as they call it, is a stand-out fleet, one of the largest in New Mexico and West Texas. It’s just a stone’s throw away from historic Old Mesilla, a particularly noteworthy monument to the pioneering west.

MVT itself is a pioneer in many ways. It probably has the best fleet fuel mileage of any trucking operation in North America.

January 16, 2012

Detroit Axles Debut

The first product announcement since the launch of the remade Detroit brand is a comprehensive line of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicle axles. David Hames, general manager, marketing and strategy for Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) says the new Detroit branded axle made Detroit a third supplier to competitors Dana and Meritor. However, unlike those Tier One suppliers, the Detroit axles will only be available in Freightliner and Western Star, Thomas Built buses and products from the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (step vans and motor home chassis and other specialized products)

The axles are manufactured in the United Sates, co-located with the production of the DD13, DD15 and DD16 engines in the Detroit Diesel facility in Redford, MI.

January 6, 2012

From noise-cancelling headphones to vibration-cancelling truck seats

Premier audio manufacturer Bose has been a feature at trucking events for the last several years. But the company is not there to promote its highly superior automotive sound systems. Instead, it has a traveling exhibit that showcases the Bose Ride System, the ultimate truck seat suspension.

At first sight, it’s a curious diversification for the company famous for sound, but the seat suspension technology draws heavily on the basic math and design talent that have made noise-cancelling headphones such a popular product. Think of the seat suspension as a vibration-cancelling technology.

Instead of the usual air spring and shock absorber of the conventional air-ride suspension seat, the Bose Ride System uses a super fast acting, active electromechanical actuator to cancel out the vibrations that find their way to a truck driver even when a suspension seat is specified.

January 3, 2012

Timely Trucking Tip

Here’s a timely tip from Bruce Purkey, one of the leaders in the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Purkey is also a consultant and a designer/manufacturer of all things electrical on a vehicle chassis. He is president of Purkey’s Fleet Electric and can be reached at 800-219-1269 or online at
Battery care
With winter now in full swing across much the country, we wanted to provide some helpful advice on dealing with frozen batteries.
As you can see in the chart below, a battery that is at a full state of charge is almost never going to freeze. However, if a battery is discharged, it will freeze very easily. With all of the electronic components on a truck, there are two things that should be done before parking a truck for an extended period of time:
1. Make sure the batteries are at a fully charged state and test good.
2. Disconnect the ground cable from the battery pack. This will eliminate parasitic loads.

Good batteries should be capable of holding a good state of charge for at least six months. If the ground cable is left connected to the battery pack, the pack will be discharged in one month.

When a battery freezes, the water in the electrolyte expands and can break connections and/or cause other damage inside the battery. Never attempt to charge a frozen battery. If you are suspicious of a frozen battery (sides will be "puffed out") or you cannot hear the electrolyte slosh around when you shake the battery, you must allow the battery to thaw out before attempting to charge the battery. When hooking up a charger, make the connections to the battery with the charger unplugged, then plug the charger in away from the battery.