The trucking industry is being buffeted from many directions with problems ranging from soft demand with resultant price pressures, record fuel prices and intense environmental scrutiny at all levels. If that was not enough, a driver shortage has required that trucking companies look to creature comforts in their trucks as one way to retain these employees.
In addition, improvements are being made in a number of areas—from aerodynamics to “creature comforts” to fuel efficiency. None of these areas are receiving more attention though than fuel economy and greenhouse gas minimization.
According to a 2002 study by Argonne National Laboratory, Class 8 trucks use 18 billion gallons of fuel per year. This usage is much higher than any other class of commercial trucks so it is understandable why efforts are being directed towards this area.
The quest for truck efficiency is neither new nor something that is only now receiving attention according to the Argonne National Laboratory researchers. “We used the Truck (1982) and Vehicle (2002) Inventory and Use Surveys (TIUS and VIUS) conducted by the US Census Bureau to examine changes in cargo-hauling commercial-trucks (CHCTs), by truck class, truck type, and fuel over this period,” says Dan Santini, Section Leader, Technology Analysis Section at Argonne.
“For the 20-year period, we estimated that there was a 27% system-wide average improvement in ton miles moved per gallon consumed among all trucks being used to carry cargo for commercial purposes,” says Santini.
One method truck manufacturers are using to improve fuel economy is by more aerodynamic styling and improvements in air flow. “We tested our Cascadia model truck in a wind tunnel and, using anticipated fuel costs and differing applications, its efficiency could save customers as much as $950 to $2,750 per year per truck,” said Michael Delaney, senior vice president of marketing for Freightliner LLC.
Fuel savings were calculated assuming each truck was driven 144,000 miles per year, with fuel at $3 per gallon, driving 60 miles per hour he explains.
Wal-Mart has set a goal of doubling the fuel efficiency of its new heavy-duty trucks from 6.5 to 13 miles per gallon by 2015, using improved aerodynamics as one method to achieve this goal.
Included in the enhancements are trailer side skirts that can reduce wind resistance and improve airflow around the trailer. Wal-Mart also plans to use improved aerodynamics for its tractors to reduce the fuel consumption as they indicate approximately two-thirds of all gallons consumed by its trucks can be attributed to overcoming aerodynamic resistance.
The Kenworth T660 has been recognized as a SmartWay program eligible truck model by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is a great compliment to the T660’s state-of-the-art aerodynamics and fuel efficiency,” said Gary Moore, assistant general manager for marketing and sales.
The EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership is a cooperative effort between the agency and freight transportation carriers to increase energy efficiency while significantly reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution.
Not only are the engine manufacturers working on fuel efficiency, the EPA has just announced that as a facet of its SmartWay Transport Program, the agency is looking to develop measurements for heavy-truck efficiency. The initiative is still in its early stages and there is no thought by the EPA to develop standards.
“We are working with the EPA through the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council as we already have standardized tests that were started during the 1970s,” say Glen Kedzie, Vice President Environmental Affairs and Assistant General Counsel for the ATA.
The EPA, in studies dating back to 1998, has recognized that motor vehicles of all types are major sources of greenhouse gases. It was with this in mind that emission standards were issued for 2007 and 2010 engines.
“The 2007 standards for particulate matter or soot are set at 0.01 grams per brake horsepower-hour (g/bhp-hr); Nitrous Oxide (NOx) is at 0.20 grams g/bhp-hr and Non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC) at 0.14 g/bhp-hr with the 2010 standards being 0.01 g/bhp-hr particulate matter; 0.2 g/bhp-hr oxides of nitrogen (NOx)” says John Millett, a spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency. The 2010 EPA standards represent a more than 90% reduction in each pollutant, compared to the 2004 standards.
The 2007 standard, combined with a requirement for the use of ultra-low sulfur fuel, have allowed the engine manufacturers to meet these regulations but in addition to the fuel, equipment including catalyzed traps, oxidation catalysts, NOx absorbers, and selective catalytic reduction systems are needed.
However, for the most part, none of the new engines have been in service long enough to determine how they will perform.
“At this time, we do not know how well these new engines will perform as they haven’t been on the road long enough,” says Ken Adams, Vice President, Maintenance for Jevic Transportation Inc. “One thing we do know is these new engines are more expensive than previous by between $4,000 and $5,500 and the new emission systems are more complex,” says Adams. While the 2007-compliant engines are entering service, many questions remain about the 2010 engines.
“Though the engine may be basically the same in 2010, it will be the after treatment of the exhaust that will be significantly different,” says Joe Suchecki, Director of Public Affairs for the Engine Manufacturers Association. “In addition to other devices, it appears that a Ureabased system will be used to meet the 2010 emission standards, but that raises as many questions as it answers,” say Suchecki.
He points out that there is currently no distribution system in place to provide Urea to truckers, but one is under development. Also unanswered are questions about how this system will be monitored on a truck. “What happens when the Urea tank runs dry and the truck is still on the road? Will the engine shut down?” asks Adams.
Another problem with adding a Urea system to a truck involves what Adams calls “Frame Rail Real Estate.” “If we have to lengthen the frame rail to hold the tank, what does that do the need to keep 23 inches or less between the tractor and the trailer to reduce air turbulence,” says Adams. He also expresses concern about the added weight for the Urea storage vessel and its related hardware.
One of the answers for both air quality and fuel savings is the use of hybrid technology. While previously only available in automobiles, Eaton Corp. has announced that it will begin offering hybrids for trucks. “We are starting commercial production of a hybrid system for trucks up to 33,000 GVW after we have completed significant field tests with this type of truck in many varied applications,” says Kevin Beaty, Business Unit Manger, Eaton Hybrid Power Systems.
Beaty explains that hybrid systems comply with emissions regulations while reducing fuel consumption and improving drivability. These should appeal to both the light- and medium-duty market segments. There is a weight penalty of about 400 pounds but the hybrid does not require more room within the frame rails.
Eaton’s medium-duty Hybrid Electric Power System uses a Fuller automated transmission with a parallel hybrid system. It incorporates an electric motor/generator located between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission.
Eaton’s system recovers and stores in batteries energy normally lost during braking. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed, or to operate with electric power only and can provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations.
Eaton is developing a hybrid system for Class 8 trucks but has not yet released an availability date.
Idling consumes a lot of fuel, and while the hybrid would help solve that problem, other developments are underway. A study by the Argonne National Laboratory estimates that as much as 8% of fuel used by trucks is consumed in idling. A further incentive is the spread of anti-idling laws in various parts of the US.
“While fuel cell technology is under study, it will not likely come to the market within the next five years due to concern about cost and durability,” says Dane Roth, a spokesperson with International Truck and Engine Corporation.
“Cummins ComfortGuard is an Auxiliary Power Unit driven by a small diesel engine that can produce power while the main engine is off, significantly reducing fuel costs, emissions and noise,” says Cyndi Nigh, On-Highway Communications spokesperson for Cummins Inc. “The Department of Energy awarded Cummins Power Generation a cost sharing contract to develop and commercialize a 10 kW Solid Oxide Fuel Cell system for a wide range of commercial applications,” says Nigh.
The solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) power system will provide virtually silent power with significantly lower fuel consumption and exhaust emission than existing generator sets. Additional benefits will include higher reliability and lower maintenance than required by today’s systems.
“There are about five different types of APUs and we will likely use more than one as our requirements vary by type of truck and the nature of the operation,” says Adams.
Other sources for “Hotel” power are small diesel engines and plug-in power sources available at some truck stops.
Carriers and their drivers are asking for “creature comforts” and the manufactures are meeting the challenge. One example is offered by International. Some of the “creature comforts include back-lit steering wheel controls for the most common features that a driver uses, red floor lighting to be used while driving at night, microwave cooking, refrigerator storage, HVAC controls and radio controls from the sleeper control panel, satellite radio, operable sleeper windows and a variety of seating options,” says Roth.
While GPS units have been in automobiles for several years, Kenworth is now offering one in certain of its tractors. “The Kenworth GPS navigation system offers enhanced operational efficiency for the driver through audible point-to-point navigation with touch screen technology and an integrated MP3 player enabling drivers to upload and play their favorite music through Kenworth’s sound system,” Mike Dozier, Kenworth’s chief engineer.
And the use of increased electronics is not limited to MP-3 players and GPS systems. “From an electrical viewpoint, the current onboard technology is typified by increasing the use of “smart” electronic modules for control of subsystem functions such as HVAC, Instrument Panel and body control functions such as lights, wipers and turn signals,” says Roth.
“There is a corresponding growth of in-vehicle data networks that provide the circuits and protocols for intra-vehicle communication between the various electronic modules and the use of electronics allows for on-board diagnostics of these truck subsystems,” adds Roth.
Through a combination of new and old technologies, truck efficiency and comfort are clearly on the road to major improvements that will provide benefits for drivers, fleet operators, and the environment.