What exactly is a "gizmo?" I define it as an unspecified object that you don’t know the proper name for and have little confidence that the product will actually work.The trucking industry has seen its share of gizmos over the years . . . most often under the guise of huge fuel savings or major cost savings of some type. In a recent Fleet Owner magazine story, I reviewed some gizmos that have gone on to become indispensible and others that should remained identified as “gizmos.”
Here’s a few gizmos that I have seen through the years that either failed or their true value is still up for debate:
Rote Lube -- A device installed on a driveline to continue to lube the u-joints to improve life and reduce failures. I was forced to use it and it was a huge failure; cost too much and the real issue was greasing procedure.
Anti-spray brushes on the side of trailers -- Many folks tried these in hopes that they would solve our splay and spray for passing vehicles; this did not last very long, that’s what wipers are for. Although I understand they’re mandatory in some northwest states.
Centrifugal oil filters -- Used in conjunction with everyday media filters, this was an additional filtration that may or may not have been needed. Seems we did quite well without them in the past – and currently. If it is standard on the current engines, OK, but retrofitting has no value.
Washable engine oil filters -- Who wants to wash out an oil filter? I think we like to unscrew them and screw on a new one. Now, I believe WIX Filters made a Detroit Diesel oil and fuel adapter to convert from sock filter to spin on gizmo, which was one that worked.
CNG LNG, Hydrogen -- Add-on gizmos that improve fuel economy on retrofitting to an engine were more work, and efforts to save what?
Brake drum coolers -- Added to the hubs to cool off brake drums, why? To extend life. Immeasurable in my opinion.
Fuel saving thingies (another name for “gizmos”) on the side of air fairing, trailers, hood of vehicles -- Do they really work in the real world, or just in a wind tunnel?
Flaps with thousands of holes -- Do they really work in the real world? The sales pitch rumor was up to 2 miles per gallon savings. Really?
Wheel covers -- Gizmos around the tandems. Do they really work, and are they worth the expense and aggravation? Looks like a safety hazard to me. What happens when one falls off and hits a vehicle?
Nitrogen filled tires -- Yes, tires will run a little cooler, but they also will with proper air pressure.
Gizmos That Work
Automatic slack adjusters -- Started as a gizmo; now cannot live without them.
On-off viscous fan drives and non-metal light weight fan blades -- start-stop gizmos work great on reefers and off road equipment in cold country.
Air shields -- started as a gizmo and SOP today.
Fuel heaters – intank and external; very useful. Check out this video on the Arctic Fox version.
Tire inflations systems on trailers -- a gizmo that developed into a good factory option.
Solar panels -- now becoming factory options.
Quick release glad hands for trailers – very popular and useful.
Bottom line -- Evaluate gizmos with a common sense approach. Maybe try a few, but if it is not an option at the factory or has little promise of becoming an option, then retrofitting gizmos almost never works out in the long term. It increases monthly spending, and if the gizmo does not work or cannot be justified in terms of ROI, then your best move may be to just say “NO.”
Please click here if you would like to read my full list of good and bad gizmos in Fleet Owner magazine.
I would love to hear your opinions on trucking gizmos that work or are to be avoided . . . and be looking for my next Double Coin Tires post on fleet management best practices.
Darry Stuart is a guest blogger for Double Coin Tires. He founded DWS Fleet Management Services in 1999 and has helped many fleets, both large and small, improve their bottom line. He advises his clients on tires (here's what he thinks about Double Coin), but devotes most of his efforts to personnel and organizational issues.