Fuel Savvy

More fuel savings seen in trucks’ future

New regulations focusing on fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction are expected

Equipment 10 years from now will be much more fuel-efficient thanks to technologies coming into acceptance and others yet to be introduced, executives forecasted at “SuperSession: Tomorrow’s Trucks and Trailers,” at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas last August.

New regulations focusing on fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction are expected in the near future from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which have agreed to work jointly on the project.

Cummins expects improvements in waste heat recovery, which is the “most promising” area for over-the-road applications, according to Jeff Jones, vice president of sales and marketing. A little more than 40 percent of diesel’s energy is used in moving the truck, while the rest is lost through exhaust and cooling. “We all need to work together for fair standards that promote the right technologies,” he said.

Freightliner is working on several areas to improve trucks, said Benjamin Smith, manager of product strategy for Freightliner Trucks. Predictive technology is showing good results by using GPS to read topography a mile ahead and then adjusting cruise control and cooling systems. “The truck is smart enough to know not to gun it going uphill,” he said. The goals are to take unnecessary loads off the engine and save fuel.

Hybrid trucks are “pretty expensive because of all the componentry” and don’t return the extra investment quickly yet, even with up to 10 percent fuel economy savings, he said. Still, “we’re investing in it, and we’re getting there,” Smith says. Freightliner also believes there can be fuel savings of 2 to 4 percent by minimizing parasitic losses; this means finding electrical sources, such as from a reefer’s power unit, to further remove the engine from powering auxiliary systems.

Trailer makers also are responding to fuel efficiency challenges by improving aerodynamic features, says Craig Bennett, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. Most of the industry’s improvements to meet the standards of EPA’s SmartWay program have been voluntary, but other changes are being mandated in California by the state’s Air Resources Board.

Common efficiency products for trailers are low rolling-resistance tires, tire inflation systems, side skirts, wide-single tires, roll-stability systems and any lightweight options, Bennett said. Utility’s top three fuel-saving options on trailers built this year are low rolling-resistance tires (ordered on 80 percent of trailers), tire inflation systems (60 percent) and side skirts (30 percent).

– Max Heine