Sunday, January 3, 2010

Future Truck: Catching Up to the Sixties

"Future Truck"
Chris Davis, Discovery News > Tech News (January 2, 2009)

"Businesses can be so busy doing what they do, they don't have time to do what they do, better. Take the trucking industry. Things that have been around since the sixties (the cab mounted roof deflector to be specific) still aren't fully used some forty years later. And there are plenty of other right now ways to improve truck energy efficiency that aren't rolling down the road (see for yourself, take a drive).

"When the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) delved into this under-attended corner of the energy efficiency movement, they found some surprisingly simple opportunities, and the reason for the industry's reluctance to grab these opportunities.

"Why the reluctance? Lack of reliable information and lack of trust. There's been no place to go for reliable information regarding truck efficiency. There have been plenty of snake oil salesmen, though, selling fuel additives and other things that haven't lived up to the hype. No reliable information, lots of snake oil, no trust. To address these problems, RMI launched the North American Council for Freight Efficiency in November, vowing to work with stakeholders from across the industry to get sensible solutions on the table for truckers...."

A key phrase there, I think, is "fully used." I'll get back to that.

"No reliable information, lots of snake oil, no trust." That sounds like a pretty good summary of where professional truckers and trucking companies stand, when it comes to implementing newer technologies. I hope that NACFE lives up to its promise.

A 'hats off' to the author, for the implicit assumption that truckers and trucking companies want to run more efficient operations.

Sure, it's 'just common sense:' What for-profit company would want to spend any more than necessary on fuel and equipment? That goes double for independent truckers, for whom profitability is a whole lot more personal. Even so, it's good to see an article written with (apparently) the assumption that saving poor, delicate little Mother Nature doesn't require tight controls on capitalistic oppressors.

Sixties Technologies "Still Aren't Fully Used"

I don't make a point of tracking trucking, but I do notice the big rigs now and again. Chris Davis is right: not every truck has all the bells and whistles that a sixties supertruck would have.

The gaping hole I see is - that big, gaping hole under the trailer part of a semitrailer. I can't remember when I've seen the rigid skirt between the fore and aft wheels that tests showed - about four decades back now - reduced wind resistance, and so increased mileage.

On the other hand, quite a few tractors - I think that's the word for the front part of a semitrailer - have fuel tanks, lockers, and smoothed steps filling the gap between front and rear wheels: another place where something like a skirt reduces drag.

The roof deflectors aren't as common as their could be - although I've seen them on rigs where they're the tallest part of the vehicle. I suppose it's time-consuming, stowing and unstowing the things for each load: and time is one thing that truckers don't, I understand, really don't like to spend.

Photos of trucks in central Minnesota:

Sinclair Lewis Avenue, near the armory. September 13, 2009.

Just in time for winter: fresh paving. October 21, 2008.

A traveling MRI truck at Sauk Centre's St. Mike's. These days, thanks to this sort of setup, folks in small towns get pretty good medical help. January 30, 2007.

(from the Sauk Centre Journal Archive)

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