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What lies beyond the low-hanging fruit?

The trucking industry is about to step into a bold new age for fuel- and weight-saving technologies.



The trucking industry is about to step into a bold new age for fuel- and weight-saving technologies.

Let’s face it, all the low-hanging fruit has been harvested. Think of all the easy-to-deploy and inexpensive technologies that have become mainstream over the past five years in an effort to curb high fuel costs?

Wide-base tires are now commonplace, and so are trailer side skirts. Trailer tails will be too, once the government gets its act together and allows for their use.

All the truck manufactures have within their stables extremely aerodynamic tractors that slice through the air with ease. Even aerodynamic mud flaps are available.

The question becomes, what next? It seems all the obvious solutions have been developed, deployed, proven out and widely adopted. But fuel continues to be the highest operating cost for fleets and owner/operators.

It seems OEMs and component manufacturers are already working hard on the next generation of fuel-saving technologies.

One of the more promising technologies is waste heat recovery, which will allow the excess heat created by the engine to be captured and then used to power certain functions of the vehicle, decreasing the load on the engine.

Another intriguing technology is the use of 6×2 axles, which until recently would seem unthinkable in Canada, with our wintery conditions. However, advancements in electronics are making 6x2s a more compelling proposition, even here in Canada.

Fleets can save about 400 lbs by running a dead axle, increasing payload or improving fuel economy by more than 2%. This solution won’t work for everyone, but the 6×2 is a standard spec’ in Europe, including in some of the most rigorous applications.

Electronics can now shift the weight of the load onto the powered axle in low traction situations, automatically and transparently to the driver. I saw a demonstration of Meritor’s soon-to-be-released 6×2 SMARTandem this past month and was impressed by its capabilities.

Truck operators are going to have to get creative when it comes to ferreting out further fuel savings and productivity improvements from their equipment. Government needs to keep out of the way when some of these systems and technologies are brought to market, provided safety, infrastructure and environmental health aren’t put at risk.

As always, there is no magic bullet that will deliver double-digit fuel savings, but there are still plenty of opportunities for incremental improvements. Some of these emerging technologies, like 6×2 axles, will require fleet owners and owner/operators to take a leap of faith and abandon some of their preconceived ideas.

Stepping outside of our comfort zone and doing things differently than what we’re accustomed to is never easy, but it’s necessary to stay ahead of the game.

I, for one, am interested to see what the next big thing will be, now that all the no-brainers have been exhausted.


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3 Comments » for What lies beyond the low-hanging fruit?
  1. Bruce Peck VP Business Development, Innovative Hydrogen Solutions says:

    Hello James,

    Actually there is a ‘majic bullet’ that delivers double-digit fuel savings. It’s called the I-Phi (Innovative-Partial hydrogen injection) by Innovative Hydrogen Solutions – http://www.innovativehydrogen.com. As many are aware, there has been a lot of ‘snake oil’ sold in the hydrogen market sector. IHS has several 3rd party testing results that have proven huge reductions in fuel and emissions. Our end users are averaging 18-21% fuel savings & equal or greater reductions in NoX, PM and CO2.

    Due to our technology being pre-combustion & hydrogen burning 14 times faster than diesel our 4 season electroliser has delivered some astounding results. We currently have an owner operator who have gone 3 yrs. without replacing an EGR and others who have gone 80,000 miles on the same oil, while saving 18+ % on their fuel.

    Any fleet owner or owner operator will benefit significantly using our proven, reliable method of reduced fuel , maintenance and emission reductions.Be sure to check us out. With out us, you’ll be out, “Out of pocket $$$” that is.

    Bruce

  2. Jonas Jones says:

    By “aerodynamic mudflaps” I believe you are referring to Eco-flaps. Thank you for recognizing that our technology is part of the “low hanging fruit” solution to reducing fuel useage.We are also part of the safety solution as we are recognized for reducing blinding road spray.Eco-flaps are the most cost efficient way to positively impact your fleet today. I suggest your readers that haven’t already retrofitted do so by contacting us. Just Google Eco-flaps.

  3. Craig Walters, Director of Sales, Escalate International Inc. says:

    James,

    We also believe that new technologies are the key to solving these challenges within the industry. We have recently been appointed the exclusive distributors of the Start FEED Unit (Fuel Efficiency and Emission Device) in North America.

    The Start FEED unit is a patented device, which is in use and being tested all over the world. Our goal is to bring its benefits to North America. The Start FEED Unit applies a high-voltage electric current (at a specified frequency and wavelength) to break long-chain hydrocarbon molecules (at ambient temperature) into shorter, lighter more volatile molecules. Fuel that has been reconditioned by our unit burns more efficiently thereby reducing emissions, improving fuel economy and reducing engine wear.

    In verified third party testing (i.e. ELASIS (FIAT Group) EPA city (FTP-75) and highway (HFET) test protocols), the Start FEED unit has been confirmed to provide double-digit increases in fuel mileage as well as reductions in CO (up to 72%), un-burnt hydrocarbons (up to 43%) and particulate matter (up to 73%). We

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