Star Truck Rentals

Midwesterner Values Eaton Automation

“The transmission makes all of the shifting decisions for you, and the shifting is always right where it needs to be. The whole driveline, in fact, is just much better protected. It's perfect for our rental fleet.”

David Bylenga
executive vice president, Star Truck Rentals


Star Truck Rentals has been around so long, no one is quite sure who founded the company. Current owners, however, are fairly sure there was a Mr. Star, after whom the company was named some time around the 1860s.

In 1916 Harry, Peter and Andy Bylenga purchased the company with money that they borrowed from their mother. Their descendants – William, Thomas and David Bylenga – run the place today with headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich., and 17 locations throughout Michigan and northern Indiana.

As a NationaLease affiliate, Star Truck Rentals provides a diverse list of customers with long-term leasing, short-term rentals, fleet maintenance, safety and compliance consulting and used truck sales. The company's lease and rental fleet consists of some 2,000 power units and trailers, and Star will typically refurbish its fleet with roughly 200 new trucks every year.

A recent order included 15 new Freightliner 26-foot straight trucks, with most of the units ticketed to spruce up Star's daily rental fleet.


"From a daily rental perspective you will quite often be dealing with someone who is not an experienced driver," says David Bylenga, executive vice president for Star. "That inexperience significantly increases the potential for a breakdown due to driver error."

Those same breakdowns can be costly, notes Bylenga, adding, "We're not making any money on a vehicle that is in the shop for unnecessary repairs. Instead, they need to be on the road where we and the customer are both making money."


To best bring about that scenario, Bylenga has been a longtime proponent of automated transmissions. That is also why he specified Eaton's UltraShift HV medium-duty transmissions on his new Freightliner trucks.

The Eaton UltraShift HV transmission is a fully automated transmission for Class 6 and 7 vehicles with diesel engines in the 195 to 260 horsepower range. The HV is capable of handling torque capacities up to 660 pounds per foot and loads up to 33,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

Key features and benefits of the UltraShift HV transmission include Hill-Assist, which automatically minimizes rollback on up to 10 percent grades while the operator makes the transition from the brake pedal to the accelerator. This feature benefits the driver in both uphill and downhill stop and start situations. Additionally, the UltraShift HV transmission's two-pedal design eliminates manual shifting allowing operators to keep both hands on the wheel for safer, less stressful vehicle operation.


"With Eaton automation you do not have to worry nearly as much about blowing out a clutch or a transmission," says Bylenga. "The transmission makes all of the shifting decisions for you, and the shifting is always right where it needs to be. The whole driveline, in fact, is just much better protected. It's perfect for our rental fleet.

"That's a big reason why we have been spec'ing Eaton's automated transmissions for years, and why we will continue to spec them in the future."

The customer support he's been getting from Eaton has also been a factor.

"Eaton has been very proactive in working with not only us, but also with our customers," says Bylenga. "Their reps help everyone understand the characteristics of an automated transmission. I have a lot of faith in Eaton and love the way they support their products."

The fuel economy benefits further add to the appeal of an automated transmission, says Bylenga, especially when you compare the Eaton models to an automatic, torque-converter design.

"Pure logic says the fuel consumption is going to be a lot better in that you do not have a torque converter that contributes to parasitic energy losses," adds Bylenga. "It only makes sense that it will be more efficient."

Just as logical, he adds, are the inherent safety benefits of automation. "You have two pedals instead of three," he notes, "so that's one less thing you have to worry about when driving."

While Bylenga, who started his trucking career as a mechanic close to four decades ago, may not know the exact name of his company's founder, he hasn't forgotten his roots.

"Because of my maintenance/ mechanic background I have always especially liked Eaton's concept of automating a manual transmission," says Bylenga. "If you have to get into one, they are very user-friendly. Conversely, if you have a problem with an automatic transmission, it's normally a bigger problem and a more costly problem."