Usher Transport

Safety savvy bulk hauler ushering in Eaton's UltraShift® PLUS transmissions

“Due to the nature of our loads, materials are always shifting, especially on hills. The added extra seconds that you get after releasing the brakes with Hill Start Aid allows us to keep moving forward without having to worry about a car a few feet behind the trailer.”

Keith Judd
maintenance director, Usher Transport


Usher Transport is a 300-truck tanker fleet based in Louisville, KY, with terminals and other facilities located throughout Kentucky, as well as Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey, Illinois and Delaware. Bill Usher, Jr., president, heads the familyowned company that was founded in the mid-1940s.

The company specializes in short and midrange loads that are typically within a 500-mile radius of the terminals. When requested, Usher will make deliveries and run dedicated equipment to the West Coast and Canada.

The Usher fleet mainly consists of Freightliner tractors, including 20 new 2011 Cascadia models. Model year 2006 through 2010 Volvo tractors make up the remainder of the fleet.

Customers range from small to medium-sized businesses to Fortune 500 Companies like Chevron Products Company, Marathon Corporation, Ashland Chemical, Westlake Chemical and Conoco Philips.

With that customer base, a large portion of the company's business deals with the safe and efficient transport of petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation fuel, bulk oils and solvents. The company also transports corrosives, oxidizers, dry bulk and flammables on the chemical side of its business.


Due to the hazardous nature of most of those loads, safety is a top priority at Usher Transport, and the 65-year-old tank carrier has the hardware to prove it.

Accolades include the American Trucking Associations President's Award in Safety Management, Merit Awards for Highway and Personnel Safety from the National Tank Truck Carriers association, a trophy for Safety Excellence from HEIL Trailer International, as well as customer recognition from Ashland Chemical Company and BP Global.

To keep capturing similar awards and recognition in the future, Keith Judd, maintenance director, says he always factors in safety when specifying new equipment.


That's also why he's been specifying Eaton automated transmissions for the past four years, including the new Eaton UltraShift PLUS Linehaul Active Shifting (LAS) model with his most recent new truck delivery. He has another five new trucks scheduled to arrive in May – again all with the newest generation of Eaton automation.

"The Eaton UltraShift PLUS transmissions that we are using are working very well with our safety and vehicle program that we utilize when ordering new equipment," adds Judd.

The new Linehaul Series of UltraShift PLUS automated transmissions have been designed to provide operators with the ideal combination of fuel efficiency and performance. Available in both overdrive and direct-drive models, the transmissions feature new clutch technology and intelligent shift selection software that employs grade sensing, weight computation, and driver throttle commands to make intelligent shift decisions for efficient, safe and profitable vehicle performance.

The transmissions also feature Hill Start Aid, which prevents rolling while on steep grades. This allows all drivers to have a controlled launch – knowing that the truck won't roll back.


Judd is especially complimentary when discussing Hill Start Aid. "The drivers really like that feature," says Judd. "Due to the nature of our loads, materials are always shifting, especially on hills. The added extra seconds that you get after releasing the brakes with Hill Start Aid allows us to keep moving forward without having to worry about a car a few feet behind the trailer."

Because the UltraShift PLUS transmissions do not require the use of a clutch pedal, Judd adds that his drivers can now better concentrate on driving safely by not having to worry about shifting. "They do not have to think about 'hey I need to shift now.' The transmission does all of the shifting for you," he says.

That same shifting is bringing along an added bonus at Usher Transport. Judd says he is seeing as much as a half of a percentage point in fuel consumption improvements that he attributes to the new transmissions. "We are now getting around 7.5 miles per gallon," adds Judd. "We're looking for this to get even better as we begin breaking in the new trucks."

Enhancing his safety program and generating fuel economy improvements make for a very good spec, believes Judd. But, he adds, Usher has at least one driver who says yet another feature is the best of all.

"He was stuck in a huge traffic jam because of a serious wreck that occurred a few miles away from where he was driving," says Judd. "So he was inching along for about four hours at five miles per hour."

"He has since made it a point to praise the automated transmissions because he never had to use the clutch pedal. That helped make an awful situation a little bit better for him. Otherwise he said his leg would have been hurting for days."

Thanks to Judd and his good standing driver, Eaton can now make yet another excellent case, albeit an unexpected one, as to why more and more fleets should be switching to automation.

Not doing so, apparently, may leave them without a leg to stand on.