Thanks - figured I would get some good info.
For now, I think I'll attribute it to the newer style plates breaking inside the batteries (most all have checked out as a dead cell...) and the newer ignition systems, fuel pumps, etc.
I like George's idea for the battery tester, but I know I will not keep up with checking the batteries until too late.... I will keep a better eye on the gauges prior to starting, but unfortunately only the truck has that gauge. Guess some manufacturers don't see the need for that...
Thanks for all the input