Where Are You Going?


North and south, speed limit is 60 but most are traveling at 65 to 70.  Trucks, cars, van, all makes and models going somewhere.  To work, maybe, home or on vacation, coming from a vacation returning home.  Trucks delivering gas, general freight, picking up freight. Pickup trucks pulling RVs behimd them.  RVs pulling pickup trucks behind them.  Disabled car on the side of the road, blown tire.  The flashing lights of a tow truck can be seen half a mile down the road, coming to their aid. Where are you going?  

Buses, dump trucks, tankers carrying all types of liquids, all shapes and sizes, going about their way. Some say if you see a truck on the road late into the night, on weekends, and holidays, that driver is working!    

Heading towards the city, traffic thickens. Brake lights are seen in the distance as it slows to under 55.  Cars moving in and out of traffic, jockeying for the front, hurrying to work. An occasional horn is blown to let someone know they are drifting into another lane. The loud roar of a truck’s Jake Brake passing as it slows to exit the highway.  A motorcycle or two can be heard over the sounds of the traffic as the tires meet the road.  

So tell me, where are you going?

Gliders 101: Five common questions about glider kits answered


Glider kits in the midst of the assembly process at Fitzgerald Glider Kits’ Byrdstown, Tenn., plant.  Today’s glider kits are taking off, offering the same amenities and similar resale value and warranties as dealer trucks.  One of the biggest attractions lies under the hood: Pre-EGR Detroit 60 Series engines. 

Despite the industry’s lackluster truck sales since the recession, Cookeville, Tenn.-based Fitzgerald Glider Kits has seen sales double each year since 2010, and it expects the trend to continue in 2014.””>Though Fitzgerald concentrates its builds and engine programming on fuel economy and maintenance ease, its sales point to a growing trend for its owner-operator customers: the desire to run a new truck powered by a pre-exhaust gas recirculation engine.  Also, gone are the concerns from 20 or 30 years ago about gliders’ quality and resale value, says Jay Burgess, a buyer for Insurance Auto Auction, a used truck reseller.


 Glider bodies, chassis, rear-ends and wiring are fully assembled and delivered to manufacturers such as Fitzgerald, the largest glider maker in the United States, and Ervin’s, the second-largest, which then install the engine and transmission.  Builders like Fitzgerald and Ervin’s have helped spur demand for new and used gliders.  What’s the most popular glider equipment? Fitzgerald stocks its own engines, obtained from truck teardowns or salvage companies, says Tommy Fitzgerald, owner and vice president.  It remachines and rebuilds them with remanufactured components.  Fitzgerald uses only 2003 year-model or older 12.7-liter Detroit Series 60 engines that are torn down and rebuilt in-house.  It couples them with remanufactured Eaton-Fuller transmissions purchased from Eaton.  Ervin’s buys Freightliner “powered gliders” with remanufactured Detroit engines, 2003 and older, already installed, says Ken Eggen, director of business development.  The company also uses reman Eaton-Fuller transmissions from the factory.

 Why buy a glider?  Three key benefits of buying a glider are lower upfront cost and the potential for both lower maintenance costs and improved aftermarket value, says Eggen.Ervin’s sells Freightliner Coronado and Columbia models, and they cost about 10 to 15 percent cheaper than a similarly spec’d factory truck. Gliders offer simple way to natural gas use: Glider kits can give owner-operators an easier, cheaper way to delve into natural gas power than buying a new dedicated truck off the lot, and for about $50,000 cheaper than a new natural gas truck off the lot.  A Coronado from Fitzgerald starts at about $109,900, and its Peterbilt 389 starts at $126,500.  Compared to a similarly spec’d factory truck, that’s about 25 percent cheaper, says Tommy Fitzgerald.  Initial equipment costs aside, Fitzgerald concentrates its builds on lower cost of ownership through fuel economy and lower cost of maintenance. “We set the engine up to where it can be more efficient,” says Tommy Fitzgerald.  Fuel economy benefits, he says, are achieved through special programming of the engine’s electronic control module and from the external and internal parts used in the engine rebuilding process.

‘Semi terrified’? How about ‘Hell on Four Wheels’ instead …

Friday, March 7, 2014
Posted by Greg Grisolano

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

’Twas a dark and stormy night, and an unsuspecting motorist is menaced by an “antisocial bully driving an 18-wheel death wagon.”

Sounds a lot like the plot for “Duel” Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film in which Dennis Weaver is stalked by a mysterious trucker. While originally a made-for-TV feature, the film’s success prompted a theatrical release. The plot devices were so effective, Spielberg would go on to crib them for his landmark blockbuster “Jaws” in 1975.

While “Duel” went on to become a commercial success and launch the career of one of Hollywood’s most famous directors, it also did for the public perception of truck drivers what “Jaws” did for Great White sharks – turned them into objects of fear and derision.

However, the scenario I’ve laid out isn’t expressly from “Duel,” but rather comes to us from a recent column in The Ashville Citizen-Times, under the byline of columnist/aspiring novelist Ted Alexander.

Alexander recounts a recent encounter he had on an icy stretch of (presumably) North Carolina highway, with what he describes as “an outlaw who balanced his life on the edge of a razor.”

Although he doesn’t specify a date or location of the incident, Alexander says he was attempting to pass other vehicles in freezing rain conditions late one night, when “a rapidly approaching 18-wheeler” appeared in his rear view mirror. Despite gunning his engine up to speeds of 75 mph on those icy roads, Alexander said he was unable to make his way back into the right lane for some time, drawing the ire of the trucker, who, according to Alexander, executes the “Duel” sequence of speeding around his vehicle and then slowing down almost to a crawl, before refusing to allow him to pass.

Alexander said he eventually pulled over to the shoulder and tried to call 911, but couldn’t get a connection. Then things start to get really weird.

About a half-hour after the initial encounter, Alexander’s back to driving down the road, when he sees the same trucker exiting to a nearby truck stop. He decides to follow the guy into the parking lot “to get close enough to see what the driver looked like and write down his plate number.”

His description of the driver – “a rotund little man – an attack muffin; the Wizard of Oz in a baseball cap, quilted vest and plaid shirt” – reads like something straight out of central casting for the part of “Truck Driver.” (Also, if you know what the phrase “attack muffin” means, please email me – Urban Dictionary doesn’t even have a definition …)

Alexander then breathlessly recounts how this “attack muffin” starts savagely kicking the tires of his own trailer, before he looks up and makes eye-contact with the author. After the driver bellows and starts walking toward him with a wrench, Alexander makes tracks. He then concludes his tale with a warning that this blood-lusting trucker is still out on the prowl.

When I first read it, I had more than a few questions, so I reached out to Alexander at the email address provided with his article. I wanted to ask him about the encounter (Where, exactly, were you? When, exactly, did it happen? Has anything like this ever happened to you before?) I also wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was taught early on that you ought to make every effort to ensure the other side has a chance to have their say in print. He’s yet to respond to my request.

There are bad actors and bad drivers out there, in both 18-wheel and four-wheel vehicles. But in that spirit of giving the other side a chance to be heard, I present to you a little “creative non-fiction” of my own – Mr. Alexander’s encounter with the menacing trucker, told from the truck driver’s perspective.

“It was 10 o’clock at night. The temperature was holding steady at the freeze line, and the rain was turning to sleet. I was making my way through the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, trying to find a place to park before I hit my 11 hours for the day.

Luckily, I know there’s a little truck stop not more than an hour up this state road, and with the weather turning bad, it’s liable to be pretty crowded on a night like tonight. Knew I had to find a (relatively) safe place to get to, and soon. Since I don’t have an APU, I can only idle for five minutes every hour to keep my sleeper warm. Gonna be a cold night when I finally get to stop.

Fortunately, the roads haven’t gotten bad yet and I’m able to drive the speed limit. But I guess the mere mention of looming weather conditions has a lot of folks out here driving scared. Lots of slow traffic making driving tricky. I’m trying to pass a few slow-moving four-wheelers, when one of them suddenly cut right in front of me in the left-hand lane.

I flashed my high beams to let him know I was coming up behind him, because it seemed obvious to me he didn’t look too close before changing lanes. So here we are, in less than ideal driving conditions, with a gaggle of slow-moving geese hemming me in on the right, and a wannabe Dale Jr. directly ahead of me.

So this four-wheeler pulls into the passing lane, and now he won’t get back over. He’s just sitting in the left lane slowing me and everyone behind me down. We’re barely matching pace with the cars in the right-hand lane. Now I’m stuck playing the world’s worst game of Follow-The-Leader. First he’s slowing down, now he’s speeding up. Still doesn’t get over.

After a few miles of this chicken dance, I drop back behind him, flash my lights and hit the air horn, hoping he’ll pick up the pace and break us free from this bottleneck. Finally, the driver makes a move to the right lane. I’m able to build up enough steam to pass him, but almost immediately have to slow down because the road conditions are worsening. The speedometer drops to 50, then 40, then 30. I glanced in my mirrors and saw Hot Wheels pull over to the side of the road. Conditions must have been too much for him.

About a half hour later, I’ve finally made my exit. I saw the white lights of the truck stop and pulled into the fuel island. I get out to do a walk-around and check my truck and trailer. The snow and ice is caked in the wheel wells and hanging from my trailer. It didn’t look like the truck stop had any parking spaces left, and I was right up against my hours, so I started venting, kicking the hell out of my tires.

Here’s where things got kind of creepy. We’ve all had that feeling of being watched, and as I was messing with the tire, I was overcome by a sense of foreboding. The hairs on the back of my neck started standing up, and it wasn’t from the cold. You spend enough time on the road, and you’ll develop a sense of when danger is near. I’ve had too many buddies and fellow truckers get accosted at truck stops and restaurants not to be at least a little cautious about some situations, particularly after dark on a night like that.

I looked over my shoulder and I saw that same four-wheeler, ol’ Dale Jr., from earlier. He was just sitting behind the wheel, staring at me. It got my dander up. Especially when he knew I’d spotted him and recognized him.

I didn’t know what this guy wanted, but it was obvious to me that this jack-wagon wasn’t there for fuel or coffee, so I hollered at him, and made for my cab. I keep a wrench there, mostly for repairs. But I’ve had to grab it a time or two in the past to make some rowdy punk think twice about trying to roll me for my wallet. I started toward the the car, because I wanted to get close enough to see if I could a plate number off this guy, just in case he decided to go psycho.

When he saw me coming closer, he hit the gas and tore out of there. The dirt and salt was covering his plate so I couldn’t get a read on it. It shook me up pretty bad. I probably should have called the cops and told them there’s a maniac out there, driving crazy and stalking people coming off the highways.

I went inside and let the manager of the truck stop know about it at least. Told them to keep an eye out for that guy and his vehicle. After hearing about my day, the manager ended up letting me park in an area that’s normally off-limits. I climbed in my sleeper and prayed he wouldn’t come back and mess with me or my rig. Thankfully, he didn’t come back, and I count myself lucky I haven’t come across him since.

Ask any driver and they’ll tell you one of the worst parts of the job is dealing with four-wheelers who don’t know how to drive, who change lanes at the drop of a hat, or drive too fast or too slow for conditions. But it’s even worse when you’re menaced by some yahoo who follows you for 30 miles when all you’re looking for is a safe port in the storm.”

Pilot settles to repay owed funds with interest, CEO says checks issued

Pilot Flying J has agreed to a settlement for the roughly 20 class-action lawsuits brought against it since allegations surfaced in April that the company had been defrauding carriers out of millions of dollars in owed fuel rebates.  According to court documents Pilot has agreed to pay all of the amounts owed to the lawsuits’ plaintiffs plus 6 percent interest on the principal owed.  Moreover, Pilot is responsible for paying administrative and accounting fees, attorney’s fees and court costs. Pilot has also agreed to be “permanently enjoined” from withholding rebates deceptively from customers.  Pilot Flying J owner and CEO Jimmy Haslam wrote an open letter to customers last week saying the truck stop chain has already performed internal audits on all of its 3,000 diesel contracts and has sent checks to customers who were owed money repaying them in full and with interest.  He also said the company had as of June 30 ended all manual rebate calculations.  The manual rebate calculations were the source of the alleged fraudulent activity, as rebates were not calculated automatically but by a Pilot salesperson.  In a statement released July 16 after the settlement, Haslam said Pilot will issue supplemental checks to customers for “any additional interest not included in the original calculation.”  According to the class-action settlement, any Pilot customer can join the class of plaintiffs and have Pilot perform an audit on their account.  Per the settlement, Pilot must perform internal audits for the affected accounts to determine how much is owed, which will then be confirmed by independent accountants selected by the court.The settlement agreement, however, is not an admission of guilt, the court documents say.  A judge in Arkansas court approved the settlement agreement — Click here to view the entire document filed with the court.  Haslam’s July 12 letter also said six members of the company’s sales team have either resigned or have been terminated since April 15.   The company has added several new hires to its sales division.   “We understand that Pilot Flying J still has lots of work to do to regain your trust,” Haslam wrote in his letter.   “We are taking aggressive measures to restore, preserve and protect customer relationships.”

Diesel reverses downward trend (and highlights from 1,000

Diesel reverses downward trend (and highlights from 1,000 weeks of diesel prices)

May 14, 2013

This week marked the 1,000th week that the Department of Energy had reported a weekly national average diesel price, and in it, the price of on-highway diesel rose 2.1 cents, bringing a 10-week period of consecutive price drops to an end.However, this week’s price is still 13.8 cents below the same week in 2012. Overdrive sister site CCJ has long list of highlights from the 1,000 weeks that the DOE has been reporting fuel prices, including trends from the 2008-2009 recession, the lower volatility of the 1990s and when diesel crossed the $2 a gallon mark for the first time (September 2004).  Since September 2004, it’s been above $2 every week except a stretch of 10 weeks in December 2004-February 2005.  It crossed the $3 mark for the first time just 13 months later in October 2005 in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For more highlights and regional information from this week’s prices, see CCJ‘s report.

2007 Kenworth W900L

2007 Kenworth W900L

When you have been on the road for as long as I have and you feel as if you are on your last leg, this is what you reward yourself with. This 2007 Kenworth W900L is a top of the truck that most drivers decide to purchase when their career as a truck driver is coming to an end. You reward yourself with something you only dreamed about. This “large car” is the ultimate in comgort and the design demands respect. When you pull into a truck stop or at a customer, other drivers comment on the color, paint design, lights, stacks (pipes) and wheels. If you an owner operator and purchased a trailer with your truck, it may have the same design as the truck. There are drivers that take pride in their ride and dress both tractor and trailer the same way! I can only imagine this sitting in my driveway. One day!