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6) How To Do Bookkeeping and Other Necessary Paperwork
7) What You Need to Know About Loadboards
8) Companies That Lease Beginning Owner Operators
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10) Truck Driving Schools
Subject: Misrepresentation of online advertising of Blackrock Evolution Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).
Complaint: I researched APU's for about a year and in September 2008, finally decided to purchase a Blackrock Evolution because 1) It is available with a 5.2 kW generator, 2) It has an optional “Quiet Comfort” kit, 3) It has a programmable digital electronic control unit (ECU) with a battery monitor, which keeps the batteries charged 4) There is a nearby service center, and 5) It has higher BTU's than any other APU I researched. The old control unit had a battery monitor, but it only told you when the batteries were low, it did not keep them charged.
After the APU was installed on my truck, I was told the one I purchased did not come with an programmable digital ECU. I was told mine was an older model (Rev 6), and if I wanted the programmable digital ECU, I would have to upgrade and purchase one for about $1,200.00 to $2,000.00 (every time I was told I could purchase it, I was given a different price). When I purchased the APU, no one told me it was an old unit. Blackrock uses the term "Rev" to mean "Revision".
It took many phone calls and communications with both Blackrock and their dealer, Cleveland Brothers, before I got any satisfaction from either; then it was only from Cleveland Brothers, Blackrock never even responded to my certified letter of complaint.
Why I feel the programmable digital ECU should have been on the APU I purchased:
I have screen shots of Blackrock's website, stating that the programmable digital ECU is standard, not an option or an upgrade.
Since I contacted Blackrock on 24 September 2008, concerning this matter, they added one web page, buried under “News”, stating the battery monitor is a retrofit option for
I cannot prove the added or changed pages were added or changed after I called Blackrock, but I can show screen shots of Blackrock's various web pages, or screen shots of various pages of their pdf files (e.g. user guide) showing dates ranging from March 2008 to August 2008 (before we purchased our APU). All of these pages either list the ECU as a feature, or omit it as an option. Not one of them say anything about an upgrade or being available only on certain “revisions”. In the Evolution User Guide Version 1, Rev 1, http://www.blackrockapu.com/EVO-User-Guide.pdf which describes the operation of the ECU, it is not listed with the other options under the options section.
I have been researching APU's for about a year. One of the ones I looked at was a Blackrock. I thought I would like the Blackrock for several reasons, among them the high BTU's; the many features of the digital programmable digital electronic control unit (ECU), with new battery monitor which keeps the batteries charged; and the fact that there is a Cleveland Brothers Equipment service center within 20 miles of where I live, which is an installation and repair center, but not a dealer; the Quiet Comfort option; and the availability of the 5.2kW generator. The Hunker, PA facility is over three times that far from me.
After looking at Blackrock's web site and reading all of the information numerous times, I called, the contact person listed on Blackrock's web site, at Cleveland Brothers Hunker, PA facility.
When I asked the contact person a couple of questions about the unit, he referred me to Blackrock's web site for details. After calling him several more times gathering additional information, I finally decided the Blackrock Evolution, with the Quiet Comfort option, was the APU I wanted. I asked him if he had one in stock, or if it had to be ordered. He said he had one in stock. I asked if it had a 3.7 kW or a 5.2 kW generator, and he said it had a 5.2kW generator.
On 28 August 2008, I called Owner Operator Services, Incorporated [OOSI] (a division of Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association – OOIDA), to apply for a loan. I was faxed the paperwork. I filled it out and returned it on 02 September. Upon learning of our loan approval on 04 September, I called Cleveland Brothers and scheduled an appointment for installation. The appointment was scheduled for 15 September. This date was chosen as I was leaving on vacation on 18 September and I would be able to pick the truck up before I left, as I was told the installation would be finished on 17 September.
I notified OOSI that we would be picking up the truck on 17 September, and was told that after we inspected the unit and it met with our approval, the money would be wired to Cleveland Brothers, and that it would take about two hours for the transfer.
On 12 September, I took the truck to Cleveland Brothers to leave it to have the installation done. On 16 September, I called Cleveland Brothers and was told the truck would not be ready on the 17th. I told them as I was leaving on the 18th, I would have to wait until the 22nd to pick up the truck. They said that would not be a problem. I did not call OOSI and tell them that we would be picking up the truck at a later date.
The contact person started the APU, and showed me how it had been installed, how it worked, etc. When he picked up the control unit, I asked for the operation manual and for him to show me how to program the unit. He said the APU was not shipped with an operation manual, but he had one faxed from Blackrock and gave it to me. He said they would mail me a copy of the original. The one they faxed and the one they mailed to me were copies of the one from the website, and both had the operating instructions for the programmable digital electronic control unit.
He also told me the control panel was not programmable. He said that he had just discovered that Blackrock had upgraded the control panel to a programmable one, but it would cost $1,800.00 to $2,000.00 dollars, and I would have to pay for it if I wanted it.
As OOSI had already paid for the unit, I took the truck home. Immediately upon arriving home, I called Blackrock's customer support and spoke with service representative, Julie Adams, and asked about the programmable digital ECU. I was told that Cleveland Brothers had ordered the APU they installed on our truck in February 2008, before the control unit had been upgraded. Ms. Adams told me to talk with Cleveland Brothers, but there was nothing Blackrock could do, except to sell me the upgrade.
I asked her how I was supposed to use the control unit which came with our APU, as the instructions were all for the new programmable digital ECU. She faxed me seven pages of a user manual containing the instructions for the control console that came with my APU. The faxed copies were almost unreadable, and the “pictures” were just black blobs.
However, on Blackrock's web site, it had a PDF of the user manual for the Evolution, which explained in detail how to program the digital electronic control unit. I had downloaded and printed this manual. I had read it several times before I decided to purchase the Blackrock Evolution. The document properties show this manual was created on July 15, 2008.
There was also a news release on Blackrock's website, dated 27 March 2008 introducing the Blackrock Evolution. In that release, it states, “it comes standard with the same robust, high performing features as its big brothers, including a battery monitor to keep batteries charged and an electronic control unit that can be programmed to perform a wide range of functions.” The news release also lists the options, but once again, the ECU is listed as standard, not optional, and does not say anything about it only being on certain revisions.
Also, Blackrock has a picture of the of the programmable digital electronic control unit on their web site and I have a screen shot of the image properties, which shows it was added to Blackrock's web site on 29 July 2008. No where on their site, did it show or mention the control unit which came with my APU.
The Cleveland Brothers contact old me the only recourse I have is to purchase the programmable digital electronic control unit at Cleveland Brothers cost. He then told me to wait and he would see what he could do.
On 24 September, I checked Blackrock's web site and found it had been changed. The digital programmable electronic control unit is now listed as an option – on one page only – the other pages (specifications chart, specification sheet and press release), still do not list the programmable digital ECU as an option. There were also two web pages listed under “Update”. One says the battery monitor is a “Retrofit Option for Blackrock APU Revs. 1 – 10. The other upgrade page says the APU electronics have been moved to “a protected environment”. However; both the product specification chart, the product specification sheet, and the press release are still on the Blackrock web site.
Also on 24 September, I had not heard from Cleveland Brothers contact, so as I am a member of Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), I called them about this matter. Blackrock is a corporate supporter of OOIDA and I thought they could give me some advice regarding this issue. I spoke with a man named Bruce, explained our problem and sent him some of the screen shots. He told me he would call me back. When he called me, he told me he had spoken with “the owner” of Blackrock and told him of our problem. Within 15 minutes of my being informed of Bruce's call to Blackrock, the Cleveland Brothers contact called me and told me told me that Cleveland Brothers would order and install the ECU. I asked if there be any charge, and he said, that although he didn't think it was right, there would be no charge.
On 25 November, having not heard from Cleveland Brothers, I called just to see the when the ECU would be in. The contact told me that it could not be shipped for several more months yet. He also told me that Cleveland Brothers would only pay for the installation, not the programmable digital ECU. When I told him that is not what he told me in September, he again started saying that I knew what I was buying and that after I got home, I decided we wanted something better. If that were the case, why would I have asked him to show me how to program the programmable digital ECU while I was still at Cleveland Brothers facility dealership when I was picking up the truck on 22 September and then immediately call Blackrock as soon as I got home?
After much discussion, the Cleveland Brothers contact agreed to initiate a three-way phone call with himself and his “boss”, Tony, myself and Blackrock on 02 December. By 12 December I had heard not one word from the contact. If he were having difficulty getting the call together, he could have called and told me that. By not contacting me at all, I can only surmise that he was avoiding me and thought that if he put this off long enough, I would go away.
I told him I have supporting documents showing the information about the ECU was posted on Blackrock's web site before our purchase. We agreed I would fax him copies of the supporting documents, and he would contact Blackrock on our behalf and see if he could get them to pay for the ECU. I promptly faxed the documents to him.
Also, on 12 December, I started calling other Blackrock Dealers. Every one that I contacted told me that they could get the ECU within days, the shortest being overnight and the longest being a week. One dealer wasn't sure how long it would take and he said he would call me back. About an hour later he called me and said he had called Blackrock and they told him they could ship the ECU to him the following day.
One dealer I contacted wanted to know why I was inquiring about ordering a programmable digital ECU when I had purchased an Evolution. He also thought the APU should have come with the programmable digital ECU and didn't understand why we needed to purchase one. When I explained my story to him, he was so appalled by our treatment that he called Blackrock and spoke with Amy Hartley (another service representative, and Rick Shaff (Blackrock's president) on our behalf, to no avail.
On 15 December, having heard nothing from Cleveland Brothers, I called Blackrock and spoke with Amy Hartley. She told me that Blackrock had no intention of giving us an “upgraded” programmable digital ECU. I told her I had supporting documents, and she gave me her email address, and I sent the documents to her. She told me she was going on vacation for two weeks and 19 December would be her last day before leaving.
After sending her the new information, I did not hear from her, so on 18 December, I sent her an email and asked if she received the documents. She emailed back that she had received them.
On 08 January 2009, after waiting for Ms. Hartley to return from her vacation, I called her, and left a message on her voice mail. She did not call me back. On 13 January, I called and Ms. Hartley answered the telephone. She told me that Blackrock's position had not changed – they still will not do anything to help me in this matter. She told me I could purchase a programmable digital ECU, if I wished. She went on to say that this decision had been made after a discussion with her supervisor, Rick Shaff. I asked her about the documents I had sent her showing they advertised the ECU before we purchased the APU and she only stated that. “We (Blackrock) still stand by our decision.”
I believe that I should have received the new “updated” programmable digital ECU, as no where on Blackrock's web site was there any mention of an older control unit, an upgrade or an option (until 24 September), and in doing my research, I thought I was going to get the programmable digital electronic control unit, since that is what was described on Blackrock's web site, especially as all the information on their website is dated well before the date we ordered our Blackrock.
As stated earlier, I asked the the Cleveland Brothers contact if the Evolution they had in stock had the 3.7 or 5.2 kW generator. He told me it had the 5.2 kW generator – it doesn't; it has the 3.7 kW. I have no proof of this conversation, so I am not making an issue about it. I only mention it to demonstrate my total experience in purchasing this APU. I did not notice that it was the 3.7 until several days after I got home.
I have been having some other trouble with this APU – it won't start. I called Cleveland Brothers near my home to make an appointment to have it worked on. One of the reasons I bought this (see first paragraph of overview) is because Blackrock has a service center near me. When I called them today, they told me they did not work on APU's and never had. They said I would have to take it to Hunker, PA (the place where I bought it).
Now instead of going 20 miles to have it worked on, I will have to drive 70 miles. I could have purchased other APU's, but their service dealers were too far away, and I wanted one close to home, among the other reasons stated earlier.
On my way home from picking it up in September, the plug for the engine heater fell on the ground and I was dragging it down the road, until it was discovered.
When I got home, to my horror, I found that most of my air lines were burnt from the APU exhaust. The installer had no consideration for the truck components when he put the APU on. I had to reroute the APU's exhaust lines, add insulation and replace my airlines on the truck.
Also I paid an extra $350.00 for the "Quiet Comfort" kit. According to the Blackrock manual, the Quiet Comfort kit:
reduces the APU's already quiet sound to a mere whisper with this innovative sound reducing enhancement.Neighbors parked on either side of a truck equipped with a BLACKROCK® APU product will barely know its there when it's running. This enhancement makes the sound so quiet, talking on a cell phone and being heard is never a problem.
Also, they plumbed the vents into my existing truck vents, and when I am driving and turn on the truck A/C, it won't blow air in the bunk.
When I picked the truck up in September, I was told that the installed wired the APU so that it could not run when the truck is running. Guess what? You can run both at the same time.
If anyone is interested in seeing my supporting documents, let me know and I will be glad to post them.
On 23 January, I mailed certified, return receipt letters to Rick Shaff, President of Blackrock and Jay Cleveland, Jr., President and CEO of Cleveland Brothers.
Also on the 23 January, I got the APU started. The weather had warmed up to about 35º. On the 24th, it again started. After running for 4 hours, it just shut off. No discernible reason.
An hour and a half later, another person from Cleveland Brothers called. He said he was Product Support Manager. He told me that Cleveland Brothers would order the ECU and as soon as it arrived and we could schedule an appointment to have it installed, at no charge. I asked what “no charge” meant and he said, “It means, you pull your truck in our garage, we put the ECU on the truck, and you pull out of the garage, and you won't be charged for the unit or the installation.” I told him that would be fine, and asked to get that in writing. He told me he would have the initial contact person call me and get our email address and send an email verification.
I never did receive a written verification.
On 28 January at 1:35 p.m., having not heard from the contact person, I sent a text message, asking why I had not heard from him.
The contact person called on 29 January, and said he had been told to call me. He said the programmable digital ECU had been ordered by another Cleveland Brothers facility and should arrive no later than Monday 02 February. He said he would call and schedule an appointment to have it put on when he knows when it will be there. I told him that the APU wouldn't start and he said they would also take care of that when they put the ECU on. He said it would take about 8 hours to install the ECU.
On 05 February he called and said that the other Cleveland Brothers facility called him and told him the ECU would not arrive for about another week. He said again, he will call me when he gets the ECU, but he doesn't know when that will be, or if it will be longer than a week.
On 19 February, I called the contact person. He was out of the office, so I left a message on his voice mail, asking him to call me.
He had not returned my call by 23 February, so I called him again. Once again I had to leave a message on his voice mail, asking him to call me.
On 26 February, the contact person's co-worker from Cleveland Brothers at Hunker, PA called and wanted to set up an appointment to have the ECU put on. I made the appointment for Monday, 02 March and took the truck there on that morning to have the programmable digital ECU installed, I told him I had been having trouble starting the APU, the freon had all leaked out, and it was plumbed wrong.
Late in the evening on March 05, (4 full days), they called and said it was ready. When I went to pick it up, they had installed the programmable digital ECU, and fixed the freon leak. They did not charge me anything. They gave me no paperwork. They said they had not even written a work order. Sounds to me as though the wanted to cover up the fact that they bought and installed the programmable digital ECU.
I still have never heard from Blackrock regarding the certified letter of complaint I sent on 23 January. Some customer service!?
Now here's the kicker! After telling me for 5½ months that the Blackrock Evolution model I purchased was an older unit and was not supposed to have the programmable digital electronic control unit, I received a letter from Blackrock on 27 February, about a programming adjustment that needed to be made to the programmable digital electronic control unit. The cover letter said, “Enclosed you will find Service Bulletin 17. This Service Bulletin is applicable to your Blackrock APU Serial Number ...” and gave the serial number for my unit.
If my APU was not supposed to have this programmable digital ECU, then how could the Service Bulletin apply to my specific unit, by serial number – not model?
As far as I am concerned, that letter just goes to show I was right all along, and my APU was supposed to have the programmable digital ECU. What do you think? I would not recommend a Blackrock to anyone.
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