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More than 50,000 people attended the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

Each August, almost 50,000 people attend the nation's second largest trucking event, the Great American Trucking Show. Many of the newest products on display are designed to improve maintenance, operations, and safety. Here are a few that I found particularly worthwhile for concrete producers.

Older engines all use mufflers, not the diesel particulate filters (DPFs) needed for the latest emissions. Here's a muffler that saves fuel and lasts awhile. Whenever I find a device that claims to provide significant fuel savings, I ask if they had their claims verified using accepted SAE-TMC tests. Usually, that ends the conversation.

Not so with the Liberator Exhaust (888-400-0075, www.getliberator.com). This muffler has an internal flow area of 30 square inches, almost 10 times the typical muffler. Its open structure lowers required boost pressure. The net effect, confirmed by SAE J1321 tests done by the Mieden Technical Center in Northville, Mich., demonstrated “an 80% confidence level that the Liberator system produces at least a 3.67% decrease in fuel consumption.”

That's the SAE-TMC test procedure I insist on before I acknowledge anyone's claims. The test requires fuel in a special tank be weighed, not measured by the gallon. That negates any effect of temperature expanding the fuel. (Hot fuel has less energy per gallon than cooler fuel, but pound for pound, there's no difference.) Under certain circumstances, the tests demonstrated more than 7.67% more fuel mass consumed with OEM exhausts than with the Liberator system.

ValvePal (781-436-3292, www.valve pal.com) is a small, creative company that manufactures tire accessory products. Tire gauges can go out of calibration by as much as 10% to 20% by bouncing around in a toolbox or in a truck. That can mean a potential blowout, even if you recently gauged your tires. At best, under-inflated tires mean higher fuel consumption and increased wear.

For less than $200, a small fleet can own the ValvePal Gauge Testing Station, a bench-mounted device that can quickly, easily, and accurately calibrate any air gauge.

More demands are placed on batteries with idle reduction and increased accessory use. The Odyssey Extreme (800-538-3627, www.odysseyfactory.com) battery uses absorbent glass mat (AGM) technology to hold ultra-thin, pure lead plates in position. The fiberglass mats hold the acid electrolyte. Vibration resistance is improved.

A pure lead battery allows deep cycle capability (400 cycles at 80% depth of discharge) while outperforming other starting-lighting-ignition (SLI) batteries with 1150 CCA and 1500 amp discharge at zero degrees for five seconds. Ordinary batteries use a lead-calcium alloy, which adds strength but cuts current flow.

The importance of safety devices and safe practices hit home recently when a friend, a safety-conscious shop superintendent, fell off the back of a truck he'd been working on. He hit his head and suffered brain damage. That's one reason why I was impressed with Sturdy Steps (262-527-6797, www.sturdysteps.com).

The line of six sturdy auxiliary step designs can bolt or weld virtually anywhere you need an extra step or two. Instead of climbing from the ICC bar into the body, imagine how much easier and safer it would be with steps above and below the bar. Sturdy Steps can be attached almost anywhere safety would be improved by lessening climbing distance.

Green Grease from Omni Lubricants (www.greengrease.net) is regularly featured on Speed Channel's Two Guys Garage. The product, available in cartridges, pails, kegs, and drums, is a waterproof, tenacious synthetic polymer NLGI grade 2 grease. Being synthetic, its drop point is over 500° F. It resists washout, high-impact shock loads, and centrifugal separation. This makes it ideal for U-joints and heav-duty chassis.

PACCAR (425-468-7400, www.pac car.com) announced it will soon offer the 12.9-liter PACCAR MX engine in Kenworth and Peterbilt Class 8 trucks. PACCAR subsidiary DAF in Europe will manufacture early engines, but production will shift to PACCAR's new engine factory in Columbus, Miss., when it is completed.

The new engine will allow both makes to enter the highly competitive, 13-liter segment, which includes many ready-mix trucks. Testing to U.S. emissions standards is ongoing, so final ratings are not available. In Europe, the MX engine is rated up to 515 hp and 1850 lb-ft for on-highway use.

By the end of this year, PACCAR will have more than 20 million miles of real-world testing completed in a wide variety of applications. Testing is being done to 2007 EPA emissions standards using cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and diesel particulate filters, but without catalytic reduction. This leads me to believe that introduction to North America will take place well before 2010 emissions regulations, probably in early 2008.

Michelin Tire claims to have reached a plateau with today's technologies, so it developed Durable Technologies (800-847-3424, www.michelintruck.com). It combines new casing features and tread engineering designed to increase useful tread life and lets given size tires carry more load or the same load at lower pressure for a better ride.

The XDA5 drive tire uses a unique regenerative tread design with three dimensional Matrix siping that provides added strength when the tread distorts in any direction. When the tire wears to 10/32-in., an additional rain groove appears, lasting until 4/32-in.

— Paul Abelson if a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association. E-mailtruckwriter@anet.com.