That Big Truck Blog

An American Car Hauler's Blog


***This is an unbiased, hands-on independent user’s review of the Cummins ISX 565 (2002 Emissions) EGR engine used in a U.S. car haul application transporting new & used vehicles over-the-road. Placed in service May 2007, this review is my own personal experience from day one with the Cummins ISX EGR engine. This particular engine is pre-2007 emissions…before the advent of the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) engines. As noted in the title, this is an Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) engine…this review addresses the ISX EGR engine with the turbo-side EGR valve design as opposed to the later design which moved the valve and it’s troublesome internal parts to the cooler side of the engine.***

Turbo side image of 565 Cummins

The Red Engine...Cummins ISX 565 EGR Pre-'07 Emissions

Having just loaded my initial load on the new Cummins ISX 565 powered ’07 Peterbilt 379, I was working on a rendezvous with the baby brother in the Hagerstown, Maryland area to “test” the new engine on some rather hilly terrain on I-68 in western Maryland and West Virginia on my way back toward my Ol’ Kentucky Home . My brother operates a well-maintained 379 Pete with a 600 CAT mated to an AutoShift transmission. He has been in the biz, along with the most of the family, since before he could drive. CAT engines are his preference and he swears by the AutoShift transmissions…but this author just can’t seem to make that leap. Old School hard headed ??? Maybe. I just like my Fuller 18 speed. “Double Trouble’s” CAT is mainly stock…no Pittsburgh Power, BullyDog, or PDI tunes…as of this first test run back in 2007. Since then, he’s added a beautiful custom manifold and turbo to his freshly overhauled 600 CAT and it’s really brought the yellow engine to life. But that’s another story. This is about the red engine.


We meet up at the I-81/I-70 interchange and head west on I-70 to access the I-68 highway westbound. We are both loaded similarly with a mixture of cars & SUV’s destined to a familiar dealership in Kentucky. This route will take us across some pretty good pulls as we work on getting the cars to the market. Double Trouble is curious about the Cummins ISX power and obviously I am as well. This is not my first Cummins engine. Not by a long shot. Matter of fact, my first truck…a 1966 single-axle Dodge D900…had a NH185 Cummins thumping under those flop-out fenders. I remember misrepresenting my poor lil truck’s powerplant and calling it a “220 Cummins”…knowing full well the tag on the engine revealed my dishonesty. Alas, I have grown older & somewhat wiser resulting in my repentance from my youthful truth-strectching discourses where today, I just call it like it is. Later on in my car haul career, I will be intimately familiar with 350 Cummins, Big Cam models all the way up to Big Cam 4 with Step Timing Control (STC) and “low-flow” cooling, and N14 models. My family owned and operated everything in between in the Cummins offerings over the years in car haul, up to and including KTA600’s. So I’m not unfamiliar with the Chessie diesel engines and their history. But…this is my first ISX model. My last Big Cam 4 did me in with the Cummins brand for many years as I went over to the CAT crowd after falling in love with the 3406B model in an ’88 model 379 long hood. But, more recent developments in the EPA-over-regulated world we live in today, made for another adjustment to my available options for engine power in subsequent trucks & equipment. I dabbled in the Detroit line from 6-71 series (the infamous snail-paced, screamin’ bumblebee “238” Detroit that was very popular with the car haul companies back in the day), 8V-71 “318’s” and on up to the 92 series. I owned & drove both 6V-92 models as well as an “Double-O” V-8 version of the 8V-92 series…a 445 advertised horsepower owner-operator edition. I also owned & operated the series “60” Detroit Diesel engine in a 1998 model 379 Pete. Every engine has it’s quirks and characteristics. Spending time with them…driving and operating them in all kinds of terrain, weather and seasons…is the only way to offer really solid, reliable reviews on the engine. Dynos and testing in a controlled environment has it’s place, to be sure, but when the rubber meets the road, and the driver’s butt hits the upholstery…this is where it really matters. One manufacturer can advertise in leading trucking industry publications with full page glossy cover ads that their 600 hp engine is the “King Of The Hill”…but when an assortment of their own distributor truck engine shops cannot make the engine operate correctly and every make and model out there is leaving the “King Of The Hill” in the dust pulling up out of Indio, California coming east…that ad is as misleading and untruthful as I was in trying to hide the true horsepower rating of my first little truck’s powerplant. My own personal integrity was the only thing at stake in my youthful transgression…but when an engine manufacturer spreads manure that deep to grab more market for their stockholders, it cost a lot of people a lot of money to learn the lesson. Let’s get on with the impending “Race To The Top” to borrow an Obama education-related program phrase.

As we approach the first good pull after entering I-68, my CB lights up with Double Trouble advising me to “get in it”. I am hesitant to give it everything since it’s a new engine but it does have some miles on it since I had to move it around the southeast and various shops preparing the rack and picking up new trailer, etc. It’s not like it’s right off the line in Columbus, Indiana…or Mexico ? About half way up the “rest area” hill, I close the gap between the 600 CAT and the ISX 565. Steadily advancing, the Cummins overtakes and passes the brother’s 600 CAT. I pick up my radio mic and accuse him of sandbaggin’ and he replies that he’s all out. This same scenario plays out on all the rest of the hard pulls across I-68 (and there are several if you know the highway). I’m still reserving my elation celebrations because I think Double Trouble may be playing with me. He swears to this day that he was not and that he was all out. So, the initial impression of pulling power on the ISX 565 Cummins EGR engine vs the ’05 model 600 CAT (both engines completely stock) is:

1. That Cummins has twisted the horsepower ratings to satisfy some EPA-related regulations or
2. The Kingly Crown was prematurely awarded to an undeserving yellow motor or
3. The CAT’s driver was playing with the Cummins driver or
4. The Cummins driver is a better driver

I, personally, would attribute all four of the above but little brother might argue that point. Maybe he won’t read this. 🙂


About this first driving impression of the Cummins ISX 565 in hilly terrain, I have to note the Cummins InteBrake (engine braking) is really far above anything I have used previously. What goes up must come down and there are some pretty good downgrades on I-68 too. I have driven this truck now for some 340K miles and the engine braking is as good as it gets, IMO. Again, comparing CAT to Cummins…I have not encountered a descent that I cannot ease down sans foot brake at posted truck speed limits, regardless of load weight thus far. My CAT experience with B-models and a new C16 I bought in 2000…engine braking was very inadequate as compared to this ISX InteBrake. The Cummins ISX rates a big plus in this category…a very important category for several obvious reasons. At 340K miles, my drive axle brake linings are still knee-deep. But even more important than the cost savings on brake re-line intervals, are the safety aspect and the overall comfort that comes with the peace of mind of knowing that the InteBrake has got your back with heavy loads.


OK…back to the real world of driving and operating the Cummins ISX 565. My racing days are well over. I think I found a few blue hairs mixed in with my well-worn grey coif when I looked in the mirror this morning. I’m all about squeezing all the fuel mileage I can out of a gallon of the Petro Stopping Centers #2 ULSD. I might get in a hurry when it comes to supper time and the belly’s grumbling but I’m Laid Back Larry when chauffeuring the Petey Cruiser down the road. You may even find yourself muttering things under your breath if you should find yourself behind me on a 2 lane road. I try to keep with posted speed limits and I find lately, I have to watch or I’ll find myself under the limit. Retirement in south Florida, driving in the left lane of I-95 with my left turn indicator stuck on as I rocket down through Fort Lauderdale at 45 mph…my future it seems.

With my attention turned to fuel mileage rather than racing, let me share some factual information for your comparison. Let me qualify the following statistics before I post them. Many of you that are not exclusively in the car haul biz with dedicated “stinger-steered, full-sized” auto transporters may find the following mpg values very low. If you owned and operated this type of equipment for any amount of time, you will understand why the numbers will seem extremely low when compared to other type of trucking operations. I hear mpg figures from folks claiming to get almost 10 mpg with “freight” trucks…box trailers, etc. I cannot speak to that. But I can speak to the car haul business and the horrible aerodynamics inherently designed into the combination units. Loaded or empty…one can liken driving a car haul stinger unit to pulling a trio of large parachutes down the highway. If there is a niche in trucking that produces even worse mpg values, I do not know what it is. I’ve heard cattle racks have similar problems…I don’t know and cannot speculate. I can speak with authority about this particular car haul application and I can do it having operated virtually every kind of engine make and model from the smallest to the largest on-highway engines over the past 40 years or so. This is an actual, unbiased review and I have no reason to skew any of this information. I would only be kidding myself. Facts are facts and here they are:

Year 2007:  Annual Average: 4.887 mpg
2nd Quarter: 13431 miles   2792.00 gallons  4.81 mpg
3rd Quarter:  27498 miles  5567.47 gallons  4.94 mpg
4th Quarter:  31006 miles  6316.85 gallons  4.91 mpg

Year 2008:  Annual Average: 5.065 mpg
1st Quarter:   20550 miles  4279.43 gallons  4.80 mpg
2nd Quarter: 18762 miles   3592.71 gallons   5.22 mpg
3rd Quarter:  27587 miles  5305.60 gallons  5.20 mpg
4th Quarter:  22766 miles  4515.53 gallons   5.04 mpg

Year 2009:  Annual Average:  4.878 mpg
1st Quarter:   19861 miles   4040.59 gallons  4.92 mpg
2nd Quarter: 18063 miles   3584.37 gallons  5.04 mpg
3rd Quarter:  20703 miles  4204.29 gallons  4.92 mpg
4th Quarter:  18259 miles   3946.16 gallons  4.63 mpg

Year 2010:  Annual Average:  4.608 mpg
1st Quarter:   14952 miles   3383.17 gallons   4.42 mpg
2nd Quarter: 20386 miles  4458.26 gallons  4.57 mpg
3rd Quarter:  14792 miles   3057.14 gallons   4.84 mpg
4th Quarter:  14674 miles   3187.16 gallons   4.60 mpg

Year 2011:  2 Quarter Average:  4.84 mpg
1st Quarter:   14842 miles  3270.63 gallons   4.54 mpg
2nd Quarter: 12616 miles   2453.56 gallons   5.14 mpg

This is an overall mileage figure of 4.855 mpg since the truck was placed into operation in May 2007.

Things to consider about these figures:

1. I do NOT like to idle my truck.
Mainly I have this perception that it’s not good for the life of the engine. No person that knows me would classify me as a tree-hugger and I personally believe the world would be a much better place to inhabit if Al Gore and his man-bear-pig mouth had never opened. But sometimes the planets align and in this instance, my no-idle policy for my own equipment might make Mr. Gore grin but it is not because of his rantings. I feel it’s better for my bottom line if I don’t idle the truck anymore than necessary. That being said…PTO operation.

2. I operate a PTO-driven car carrier with a multitude of hydraulic cylinders and valves to operate during each load-unload sequence.
There is a LOT of PTO time logged on the truck’s Road Relay engine monitoring device. That fuel is primarily wasted away from the mpg figures. Some accounts say 1 gallon per hour when idling. I do NOT idle during PTO time…I adjust the throttle up to a suggested 1000 to 1100 rpm for power take-off operation. Probably more fuel being used at higher rpm’s, wouldn’t you think? In extreme hot or cold weather, I will throttle the engine to access heat or air conditioning when needed. (Please allow me to go off on a Dennis Miller-esque rant on the no-idling laws produced by a bunch of bureaucrats that have zero clue about trucking. I really believe they (the lawmakers and enforcers) do not care anything about the human life inside that truck/sleeper during these extreme climate time. But if you had a pet inside that truck and it was made uncomfortable to the point of heat exhaustion, I am positively certain someone would bring charges against the driver that did something so neglectful. Go ahead and turn your head, Mr. Bureaucrat and you as well, Mrs. Enforcement…it’s the truth. And dare I say…if you were the one placed in the single digit winter in Strowbridge, Massachusetts waiting overnight for a load the following morning…I am betting that you too would get that heat blowing across your goose-bumped buttocks when the time came.’ve installed an APU…auxiliary power unit? You did, huh? After a minimum of $10,000.00 USD and about 6 months use, it gives you nothing but tortuous headaches and high repair bills. That is until the APU company goes belly-up because of all the warranty cases outstanding and the owners decide to cut and run just exactly like the 5th-amendment-pleading corporate heads of the most recent scandal involving “greenness” in the Solandra solar panel joke where half-a-billion taxpayer dollars were thrown to the windmills. The only good that I can see that may very well come of all this is the rallying cries are being heard now for the turning out of the EPA’s fluorescent energy-saving light bulbs and locking the doors…start over time, I’ve heard in the past week. And don’t look down your nose at me or folks like me…you are no more of a conservationist than I. I love the outdoors and am a crusader for keeping the earth as it was intended. But not at the expense of the human race. Hypocrites buzzing around the world in private jets, stopping long enough to preach about how I should not leave a carbon footprint by idling my truck for a few minutes to get a little heat. Hard to say what has happened to this world today…nothing describes the supposedly educated self-righteous attitudes of today better than an old George Carlin quip…telling of some PETA  idiots stepping over a half dozen homeless humans lying in their own urine in the street just to spit on a woman wearing a fur coat. Rant temporarily suspended…continue with review.)

3. As mentioned earlier, the aerodynamics of a car carrier are the absolute worst.
By design, today’s car carriers are no better aerodynamically than the very first “stackable, articulating deck” carriers in the beginning. Laws have changed over the years allowing larger combinations but this only worsens the problem for fuel efficiency. My particular carrier combination being used currently is at 45500 pounds empty weight. So we are somewhat loaded even when empty by many comparisons. The many upright tubes and cross braces produce multiple wind dragging surfaces whether loaded or empty. And in today’s economy, one cannot run a carrier empty. Back in the day, I remember working at Dixie Auto Transport in Jacksonville, Florida. You picked your outbound load to a dealer mostly in the southeast U>S. and expected to “rattle” home, which meant to come home empty. The rates were such that an owner/operator could do that…back then. Back haul? What’s that? Times change. Detroit melts. The south rises again. Plants from Nissan, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen and BMW spring out of the fertile southern ground. Ends are tied together and the battles begin. Company after company folds and goes out of business while the drivers migrate once again to their latest roosting spot…same job – just a different color truck usually. You cannot operate this costly equipment on a one-way haul today.

4. These figures were mostly taken from operations in some of the most mountainous terrain in the eastern U.S.
Undoubtedly, I could squeeze out another full mile to the gallon if I operated exclusively in a state like Florida. Maybe even more but that is yet to be determined. I have kept a close eye on some of the southern runs into and out of Florida and how my fill-ups went. I find it hard to gauge accurately tank-to-tank fill-ups. I believe longer spans such as the ones produced above will bring the most reliable reports. Fuel mileages are obviously better in flatter ground and my averages trend upward during the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

I’ll just add this to the fuel mileage part of this review…this truck/engine combination has produced better than average mpg figures than any of my previous truck/trailer combinations. Consistently better mileage thus far. Better than the older high-5th wheel combinations with lighter, shorter trailers; better than any other stinger combination with 3 and 4-car headracks and full-sized high-side stinger trailers; better than the one lonely Boydstun “quick loader” I owned with a CAT engine. That may come as a surprise when you are saying that ain’t so great mileage…and I agree with you…but if you know car haul, you understand that working a combination like this, operating in some of the worst mpg-robbing terrain on the east coast day in and day out, bumping 5 mpg ain’t so bad.

More to follow…including maintenance issues, Cummins repair facilities reports, repair records, etc. as well as that pesky, very expensive EGR valve that Cummins knows is a faulty design.


September 25, 2011 Posted by | Auto Transport Trailer Review, Car Haul, CUMMINS ENGINE, General Auto Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment