November 2009


It still appears to be a buyer’s market for Class 8 trucks, according to a report from the truck dealers’ trade group. It’s been “a year of heavy depreciation for the highway sleeper market,” says the ATD/NADA Official Commercial Truck Guide.

Considering the depressed conditions, prices could have dropped even lower, says Chris Visser, editor of the guide. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that an extremely active export market helped keep the domestic supply of used trucks at a realistic level, which counteracted reduced demand,” he says.

Also in the report:

  • Mileage, not model year, was the determining factor in a used Class 8 truck’s value this year.
  • Trucks with less than 500,000 miles retained a moderately good percentage of their value.
  • Medium-duty trucks lost a substantial portion of their value throughout 2009, and mileage was not as critical a factor as with the Class 8 market.

Given the economy, it’s hard to measure the relative strength of any pre-buy this fall in lieu of the 2010 engines, but no one is forecasting any kind of truck sales increase early in 2010.

— Max Heine

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If you still have any doubt about how dangerous texting while driving is, a new study offers some comparisons.

A post from the Poynter Institute, a journalism education group, notes that 26 percent of teens admit to poking out messages while they’re behind the wheel, according to a Pew study. I bet the reality is higher than that, but what’s really scary are results from a Car and Driver magazine experiment.

Using a deserted air strip, an editor was tested under four circumstances on response time for braking upon seeing a brake light. Driving at 70 mph with full attention and no impairment, it took a half second to brake. It got worse with these handicaps:

  • Legally drunk, add 4 feet for stopping distance
  • Reading e-mail, add 36 feet
  • Sending a text, add 70 feet

Thanks to my Overdrive colleague Lucinda Coulter, who noted the Poynter item as well as this next bit of news.

The daughter of famous boxer George Foreman, Freeda George Foreman, is accused of crashing her Cadillac CTS into a garage, damaging it and five cars inside, according to KTRK-TV Houston. She wasn’t texting, but eating cake, according to what the garage owner told the TV station.

More than a few trucking books have arrived at Overdrive’s editorial offices over the years, but the most recent I’ve gotten is one of the best. It’s “Eighteen Wheels North to Alaska,” by Cliff Bishop. His long career in the West has included many years of driving truck in Alaska. Now, at 86, he’s published his memoirs “to retain some of the history of trucking in Alaska.”

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“A common sight on the Haul Road,” says Cliff Bishop’s new book on Alaska trucking.

And a colorful history it is. Some of the book’s 29 chapter titles give you an idea of the diverse ground he covers: “Earthquakes,” “Avalanches,” “Accidents” and “Alaska’s Inhabitants: Wolves, Bears and Characters.”

The “characters” include a young man who worked with Bishop and turned out to be a serial killer; a mentally ill, trigger-happy trapper; and a murderous would-be terrorist opposed to construction of the oil pipeline along the Haul Road between Prudhoe Bay and Fairbanks. For those who didn’t get enough of the Haul Road (the Dalton Highway) on the last season of the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers,” there’s a chapter on “Building the Haul Road” and another on “Alaska’s North Slope.”

The book also has dozens of black-and-white photos and an appendix of “Alaskan Drivers and Old-Timers,” listing hundreds of people. And yes, the list includes George Spears of “Ice Road Truckers” fame and, as readers of this space know, the driver with whom I rode in 2006 for a Truckers News feature on the Haul Road.

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Bishop's book provides a fascinating look at trucking in a rugged state.

Bishop himself qualifies for the list. He says he’s got his CDL reinstated and is hauling lumber. “It beats the hell out of sitting on my duff and watching TV,” he writes at the book’s conclusion. “I’ve got an old Ford diesel with a 3406 Cat engine with a 53-foot flatbed trailer. I must admit that I am enjoying it a lot. Maybe at age ninety I’ll make a sincere effort to retire. Or not.”

To order the book, visit www.publicationconsultants.com or www.amazon.com. The price is $19.95.

— Max Heine