Friday, January 11, 2008

Where you gonna put the teeth?

For those of you who have been on pins and needles waiting for the unveiling of the latest and greatest International truck – the cat is officially out of the bag.

TruckNet member “Giddy_Up_Go” pulled off a coup that probably has corporate spies within the trucking industry OEM community green with envy.

The long and short of the story is that while getting his Cornbinder serviced in Fort Wayne, IN, he stumbled onto a couple of the new International Lone Star. The “official” unveiling wasn’t supposed to happen until next month.

Never fear, Giddy_Up_Go snapped some choice picks with his camera phone and posted them for your viewing pleasure here.

Given its retro style and PT Cruiser reminiscent grill design, it’s certain to draw a love-hate relationship on the road.

I studied, pondered their choice in styling. I personally have mixed emotions. I can appreciate the need to break from tradition to set yourself apart.

But, come on International. What were you thinking? I mean seriously, where are you gonna put the teeth on that grill?

So much for the homebrew

A month ago I was in the market for a quality used automobile, and for a brief time my wife became increasingly sure I was about to go insane.

I began my search online, and before long I was sizing up fuel economy and experiencing the usual hubbub surrounding a vehicle purchase.

For a brief time, I was sure I wanted to buy a vehicle that runs on diesel fuel, but this is where I was forced to go on the defensive. Toward the end of 2007, the national average diesel price was about $3.40 per gallon in our part of the Midwest. Gasoline prices were at $2.90 at that time.

My wife asked a relevant and sane question, “Why would you buy a diesel car when diesel is 50 cents more than gas?”

I considered a careful response and chose to answer with one word, “biodiesel.”

“Huh?”

With an excited look on my face, and with a slight scowl on hers, I climbed onto a soapbox and launched into a sales pitch on renewable fuel made from plant oils, animal fats and restaurant waste.

I raved that we could grow our own feedstock in the family garden and that I could build a lab to produce biodiesel in the garage. The plan, I said, would be as simple as moving our second car outside the garage and replacing it with lab equipment.

Any of you who have ever suggested something to your spouse along the lines of “let’s park the car outside and make our own biodiesel in the garage” could probably relate to my wife’s reaction: “No.”

I am quite happy with the performance of the gasoline-powered automobile I bought to end the discussion. Although it gets 30 miles per gallon on the highway, I am convinced I could have saved money in the long term, gotten better fuel mileage with a diesel engine, and reduced our wear and tear on the environment.

Maybe next time around I will be able to make a better case, but for now, the garage remains a pretty good place to park a car ... and store my soapbox.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Truckin’ Marines

Justifiably, much has been said about American truckers who streamed into Iraq as contractors to help support the early years of the long “War on Terrorism.” They went through hell, often without adequate armor or other protection, and none came home unscathed.

Recently, the U.S. Marine Corps news site begins a three-part series on Marines who now carry out the vital supply functions and, when needed, switch from wheeler to warrior in a moment.

As the first part of the three-part article says: “It takes a special Marine to sit in the turret of the front vehicle in a convoy, 1st Platoon commander 2nd Lt. Lee Stuckey said. He only puts men up there who have the moral fitness to make the right decisions in a split second. These Marine realize one bad shot, one accident, one killing of an innocent civilian, and they have just created more terrorists in the area.”

To check out the series, click here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The real cost of oil remains to be seen

The price of crude oil surpassing $100 per barrel has broken a major psychological barrier, and some oil traders believe the price will only go up from there.

Hundred-dollar oil is a hurdle few of us were thinking about a few years ago, but the weary world jumped over it on the second day of January and somehow landed on its feet.

Some traders in oil futures believe that crude could hit $200 per barrel in a year or so.

Perhaps we’ll learn more about ourselves and our thresholds in the near future should the trend continue upward. If the predictions are true, the toughest tests are yet to come.

A few decades from now, when historians look back at 2008 they might point to our short-sightedness about the $100 and $200 hurdles. Someone might even laugh at how we thought $100 oil was expensive.

But no one is laughing at the present time except for the people profiting from oil.

That old cliche, “If you bought it, a truck brought it,” is likely to have more significance for the average consumer in the years to come because the cost of business has to be passed along in some form.

Hypothetically, when a loaf of white bread hits $7 and we pay a $25 fuel surcharge to hire a plumber, analysts will be able to say that oil prices played a part.

We all hope we don’t end up in a breadline somewhere, but it is not reassuring to know that in January 1999 – nine short years ago – the average price for a barrel of oil was $12 and a loaf of white bread was 87 cents.

Maybe the price of oil is supposed to skyrocket out of reach until we as a society are forced to incorporate alternative forms of energy into our daily routines. But how much is that going to cost?