Each year, Heavy Duty Trucking's editors pore through the pages of the last 12 months of product announcements we've run in the magazine and click through the pages of Truckinginfo.com, in search of the most innovative, significant and useful equipment and other items to honor as our Top 20.
It's not an easy job, and we get help from a number of real-world fleet executives and maintenance chiefs to narrow it down.
In writing up the descriptions for this year's winners, I was struck by a few trends:
1. Fuel efficiency. Trailer side skirts, a transmission that claims it will be thriftier with fuel than competitors, an aerodynamic truck van body and a drivetrain that takes the concept of "gear fast/run slow" to new heights made the list this year.
2. Productivity. Truckers in some applications want to squeeze every pound they can out of the truck to get more payload, so we see lightweight drive axles and a lighter suspension for lowboys. There's a decking system to fit more freight into the oft-unused top part of a van trailer, and a new less-expensive, easy-to-install onboard scale that can help operators get the most load possible without going over the legal limit.
3. Keeping tabs on equipment. There are several telematics systems in this year's awards that send real-time data from the truck to alert fleets to problems with the vehicle, among other things. There's also reefer fuel monitoring and a versatile handheld diagnostic tool.
4. Drivers. We've got new in-cab navigation devices, EOBRs, electronic inspection reports and the latest collision-avoidance and mitigation system.
5. Longer-life equipment. Fleet managers like products that say they'll stay trouble-free longer, such as a brushless fuel pump that's supposed to last 20 times longer than a conventional pump and a steer tire guaranteed to go 30% farther. Plus, a tool to help keep wheel bearings adjusted properly will help tires last longer and keep the wheels on the truck where they belong.
We're handing out the awards this week at the Technology & Maintenance Council's annual meeting in Tampa, Fla. You can read about the winners in the February issue of HDT, or see the online listing here.