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Got a Million-Mile Engine?

Jerry Kissinger and his 1991 Mack SuperLiner with a million-mile engine.

“All That’s Trucking” blog by Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief

How much is a million? A children’s book says it would take 23 days to even count to a million and that a goldfish bowl large enough to hold a million goldfish could hold a whale. For truckers, a million miles is about 10 years.

Shell is looking for engines that have made it a million miles (running their Rotella oil, of course, at least for most of their lives) with their original pistons, liners and rings. And they honored the first member of this new Million Mile Haul of Fame at the Mid-America Trucking Show, in a rather spectacular way.

Jerry Kissinger drove his 1991 burnt-orange Mack Superliner with its million-mile Mack E9 V-8 engine into the West Hall at the Kentucky Fair and Expo center with lights-a-blazin’ and multiple horn effects.

Kissinger’s rig, nicknamed “Thumper,” is well known on the show truck circuit. Check out this photo of Thumper from photographer Roger Snider at “Ultra Rigs on the Road.” But the driver and small fleet owner is known just as much for his charity work as for the rig. He’s a huge supporter of the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

And he’s a sharp businessman, as well. He’s a third-generation trucker, and his small family-owned fleet, Independent Operator Inc. out of Cottage Grove Wis., hauls mostly dairy products. The 22-truck fleet, seven of which are company trucks, primarily hauls for Schreiber Foods and is one of the cheese giant’s longest-running carriers.

“We’ve got a really good little niche,” he told me following the Shell presentation. During the recession, he said, “It never slowed down for us. People gotta eat.”

Kissinger was presented with a Shell Rotella Million Mile Haul of Fame leather bomber jacket, an engraved key chain and a certificate of achievement during a special ceremony in front of fellow truckers and the trucking press (who had just enjoyed a rather elaborate April Fool’s stunt.)

Expect More Million-Milers

Of course, a million-mile engine is not as rare as it used to be. Kissinger says he has a couple more in his fleet, Cat engines in Kenworth W900s, one with 1.4 million.

“This is my third truck I went over a million miles on,” he told the audience. “My first was in 1984-1992, when it was unheard of to have a million-mile motor.”

A Volvo VN 630, powered by a D12 engine, last year retired with celebrity status among the drivers and mechanics of Alabam-based AAA Cooper Transportation (ACT). The truck logged 1.5 million miles in seven years without an engine overhaul.

Detroit Diesel says the B50 life – an engineering term that means the point at which half of the engines are still running and half require rebuild – of a Detroit Diesel engine is 1.2 million miles.

Paccar’s MX13 claims a B10 life of 1 million miles, meaning 90 percent of MXs should still be running after covering a million miles in over-the-road service.

And at MATS, Navistar’s Jim Hebe talked about a MaxxForce 13 that was torn down after 400,000 miles, and examination showed it to be almost like new. Its projected life was 1.4 million miles, he said.

HDT Equipment Editor Jim Park puts it this way: “Twenty years ago, customers were grateful if an engine went 500,000 miles. Today it’s deemed a failure if it won’t make that mark.”

HDTSenior Editor Tom Berg pointed out that in the ’80s and ’90s, the ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council’s fleet-manager members pushed engine and truck builders to produce the million-mile road tractor. That was reality by the late ’90s, he told me.

And as Park added, “A decade from now, million-mile engines will be as common as dirt.”

Before Kissinger’s entrance, Shell had a special unveiling of the “10-Million-Mile-Truck:”

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