It makes cents
The Barkow 708-S is one of the most common glass racks installed on Ford F250 pickups. The rack is 96 inches by 86 inches.
Business owners always have had to make educated decisions when purchasing a truck to haul glass.
Improvements to fuel efficiency during the years have included better diesel engines, lighter aluminum racks and more aerodynamic bodies.
Today, with the fast-growing price of gas, other considerations must be taken into account such as number of daily trips and simply the ability to not get lost.
"[Our customers] are planning their routes very judiciously," says John Weise, president of F. Barkow Inc., Milwaukee, which manufactures glass carriers and transports. "They don't double back, which wastes fuel, or get caught in traffic. We have a customer, and almost every single one of his trucks has a GPS device on the dashboard in an attempt for the drivers not to get lost."
Steve Brown is president of Unruh Fab Inc., Sedgwick, Kan., which makes glass rack bodies and trailers for the automobile and flat glass industries. Brown says he knows of nothing magical to help the miles per gallon.
"All of the customers said there is nothing out there that can be cost saving to them other than slowing down the vehicles," Brown says. "More and more people are going with lighter weight like aluminum racks, but steel is still the workhorse in the industry right now."
Most vehicles achieve their highest fuel economy at speeds of 35 to 50 mph. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, for every 1 mile per hour above 55 mph, fuel economy of the average vehicle drops 2 percent.
Monty Berger works in sales at Unruh. He says a certain kind of vehicle is needed to transport glass, so "you can't vary from the norm a whole lot. I am seeing guys taking their straight trucks and converting them back to flatbeds and pulling a trailer. They are maximizing their loads. Instead of sending out two trucks, they are sending one truck with a trailer."
Berger says the larger loads cut down on fuel mileage but still cost less than fueling two trucks.
The gas prices combined with the slowness of the economy has created another trend in trucks. People are holding on to them longer.
"The average age is 9.2 years, the oldest in recorded history from what I understand," says Paul Schodorf, vice president of sales for Schodorf Truck Body & Equipment, Columbus, Ohio. "The other reason is that in the past several years, Ford, Chevy and Dodge are making engines that last longer with less maintenance ... same with the transmission. With lighter weights and higher rust resistance, you don't see many rust buckets anymore. So, you can keep it longer."
Schodorf also says that the escalating price of diesel trucks and fuel is making those trucks less popular.
"Diesel trucks get more torque and power, and they are known for a long life," Schodorf says. "It used to be about $2,000 more. Now it costs about $4,000 more than it did or $6,000 more than a gas engine. It's hard to step up and pay more."
According to the American Automobile Association, Heathrow, Fla., gasoline prices rose 30 percent in the United States this year to a record $3.962 a gallon on May 29. The average price of a gallon of diesel rose to a record national average of $4.792 a gallon. For Europeans, those prices would be considered a bargain. Travel to Germany and pay $8.33, more than double 2002 levels. May 30 data from Bloomberg in New York shows a gallon at $9.69 in Norway. In that country, taxes are high in an attempt to slow use in the world's third-biggest exporter of crude oil.
State and federal taxes make up 11 percent of the pump price in the United States, according to the Energy Information Administration; in France and the United Kingdom, for example, taxes average about 70 percent.
Pim de Ridder, managing director of the International Automotive Glass Federation in The Netherlands, says taxes play a large role on the purchase of a vehicle in many European countries.
"What the topic is now in some European countries is the taxation involved in truck prices and petrol prices," de Ridder says. "I think our system of taxation on cars is rather different than in the United States. Almost 50 percent of the price I had to pay was tax."
Prices fluctuate across the continent. Gocurrency.com reports that German automobile prices are the most expensive in Europe. A Volkswagen Passat costs 40 percent more in Germany than in Greece. The second most expensive country for automobile purchases in the European Union is the United Kingdom. Finland has the best deals in the EU, according to the Web site report.
Worldwide, more vehicles are demanding fuel. According to London consultancy Global Insight, 887 million vehicles are on the planet, up from 553 million 15 years ago. It estimates the 1 billion mark will be hit in four years.
While more hybrid automobiles are taking to the streets, hybrid trucks haven't found a place yet in the glass industry.
Hybridcars.com reports that hybrid sales in April climbed above 3 percent of the total market for the second time. The first time, in May 2007, gas prices also spiked. This year, hybrid sales have increased 15 percent, while the overall market has declined by 8 percent.
Schodorf says a formula exists to calculate payback. A hybrid pickup or van costs between 20 percent and 40 percent more than a standard vehicle. Some federal tax credits exist along with the obvious savings in fuel. At this time, "the payback is simply not there," Schodorf says. "And there isn't enough demand for the manufacturers to build enough products to lower the price."
Smith Electric Vehicle, with world headquarters in New Castle, England, and Miles Electric Vehicles, Santa Monica, Calif., are bringing plug-in trucks to the United States.
Neither company has customers in the glass industry. Both believe that will change.
"We use everything on a Ford platform," says Mark Aubry, national sales director for Smith Electric Vehicles. "You can fully charge a vehicle in four hours. A single charge will give you 150 miles."
"Our primary clients are in the fleet industry," says Jeff Boyd, chief operating officer of Miles Electric Vehicles. "They are complete DOT [Department of Transportation] compliant and meet all National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations."
Aubry says all U.S. vehicles will be made in Fresno, Calif. The plant has the ability to produce 12,000 vehicles a year. He says he expects to reach capacity in 2009. The cost of the vehicles will typically be double of a standard truck, but the cost difference can be made up on costs per mile, he says.
"A midsize truck typically costs 30 cents a mile to drive with fuel and maintenance over 20,000 miles," Aubry says. "One of our vehicles can cost you less than 10 [cents]. If you can cut your cost per mile by two-thirds, you can see how quickly you can recover that initial cost."
While Smith Electric sells small, medium and large trucks, Miles Electric produces one low-speed, extended cab pickup that starts at $18,000 before options.
"We entered the market in 2007 and sold about 500 units," Boyd says. "This year we anticipate selling about 3,000 units both here and in Europe. We're expanding exponentially. As the price of gas goes up, along with the awareness of global warming, an alternative vehicle makes sense. A truck operates at about 3 cents a mile. The overall cost of ownership is a compelling argument for fleets nationwide."
Clean and lean
Besides keeping the truck tuned up, changing the oil and filters regularly, and maintaining proper tire pressure, a common sense tip for helping fuel economy is simply to carry less weight. An extra 100 pounds can reduce mileage by a half mile per gallon, according to consumer information on Virginia.gov. Take the time to remove glass, mirrors and sealant tubes from past jobs along with general trash.
On the job site
Have you ever arrived at a site, only to find you've left a work order or job spec back at the office? Ford Motor Co. is looking to solve that problem with its 2009 work trucks. Available this fall, the trucks will feature an in-dash computer that allows users to access documents stored on their office computer networks. The 2009 F-150 pickup, F-Series Super Duty truck and E-Series van will also feature the Crew Chief system to allow small fleet owners to efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers to job sites and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records, according to Ford press material. To read more about the Ford work trucks, go to Page 90.
13 tips to maximize safety, minimize risk
1.Mandate drivers' use of seatbelts 100 percent of the time.
2. Always use manufacturer-provided glass securing systems.
3. Adhere to-and document-regular maintenance schedules and procedures.
4. Avoid fast starts and sudden stops.
5. Maintain extra-assured clear distance. A loaded truck takes longer to stop.
6. Upgrade tires to the highest quality grade.
7. Read vehicle owner's manual and follow recommendations.
8. Regularly check tire pressure to maintain rigidly.
9. Provide each vehicle with a safety kit that includes a flare kit, fire extinguisher, reflective triangles, reflective vest and a first aid kit.
10. Install interior-front safety bulkheads in vans.
11. Do not remove front glass stops.
12. Install back-up alarms in vehicles.
13. Outlaw driver distractions: Ban cell phones, text messaging, smoking, eating and other distractions when employees are behind the wheel of company vehicles.
By Paul Schodorf , one of the owners of Schodorf Truck Body & Equipment, Columbus, Ohio.
Truck safety tips
*Necessary lights and reflectors
*Full lower splash panel
*Fixed front load stops
*Glass carriers should be mounted about 18 inches off the ground to allow for easy access and clearance of obstacles such as tall curbs or snowdrifts.
*Do not overload a vehicle
*The GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of the vehicle is the true guideline to how much weight it can bear.
*Evenly distribute the weight on your carrier.
*Glass should not be unloaded on sloping ground where the safe lean on the load is reduced.
*Front load stops, when used properly, limit movement of the glass, as well as act as an additional barrier against road grime.
*The glass should be at the front of the carrier, up against the load stop, whenever possible.
*Full lower splash panels protect glass from road grime and keep it cleaner. Lower splash panels can also reduce the possibility of breakage from stones or other objects in the road.
*Make sure the glass is pinched between the rubber on the carrier and the self-locking stakes.
*The cleats on the stakes should line up with the slats at all times.
*Straps offer another layer of protection and stability for securing glass. Double check to make sure the vertical stakes were designed for your glass carrier and fit properly. Different manufacturers have varying standard heights.
*Self-locking stakes can prevent the stake from bouncing out of the ledgeboard and falling into the road or traffic.
*Ledgeboards need to be checked periodically since they carry the burden of 95 percent of the weight of the glass.
*Check to be sure the welds have not failed.
*Be sure you discuss the appropriate ledgeboard width for your application.
*The bolts securing the glass carrier to the vehicle should be checked for tightness on a monthly basis.
*All bolts and nuts should be greased monthly.
*Large, hand-tightened wing nuts should be secured properly.
*The wingnut tightens the cleat to the stake, which in turn secures the glass to the carrier. Do not use pliers to tighten wing nuts and do not over-tighten.
Excerpts from the October 2007 issue of Glass Magazine written by John Weise, owner and president of F. Barkow Inc., Milwaukee.