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A day at the track

BLAINVILLE, Que. - The rigs were at it again this September, tooling around Transport Canada's test track in Blainville, Quebec equipped with various hardware that might reduce fuel consumption, inclu...


READY TO ROLL: Two types of trailer skirts and a TrailerTail wait for sun and their turn on the track during the recent EnergoTest.
READY TO ROLL: Two types of trailer skirts and a TrailerTail wait for sun and their turn on the track during the recent EnergoTest.

BLAINVILLE, Que. –The rigs were at it again this September, tooling around Transport Canada’s test track in Blainville, Quebec equipped with various hardware that might reduce fuel consumption, including trailer skirts, energy-efficient tires and an exotic something called a “corrected paramagnetic precession fuel processor.”

This year’s trials, with a dozen products and that many more new practices that fleets wanted to try on the researchers’ list, was a follow- up to the hugely-successful EnergoTest 2007.

Fleets, with their resources, teamed up with FPInnovations- Feric Division, with their organizational and research expertise, plus supportive federal and Quebec government agencies, to test products that promised to reduce fuel consumption.

FPInnovations formalized last year’s inspired effort with the creation of Project Innovation Transport (PIT).

It has six fleet partners already -Bison, SLH, Bourassa, Robert, Herve Lemieux and the SAQ (Quebec’s version of a liquor commission) -with more poised to sign on.

Last year, Transport Canada donated the track time and kept the media away.

This year, PIT paid the piper and called the tunes; the test campaign cost about $250,000.

Eighty per cent of that came from the private sector, underscoring the value of fleets pooling their resources around PIT.

PIT declared a VIP day on Sept. 9 and Truck News was at the track with the PIT team, drivers, fleet representatives and even the inventor of the Aero-Tail, a trailer extension that reduces aerodynamic drag.

Inventor Lee Telnack recalls his brainstorm in a snowstorm: “The inspiration came during a road trip. We were in a bad snowstorm and driving so close to a tractor-trailer we could only see the tail lights. I could see the vortices in the snow and we were being pulled toward the trailer.”

Realizing that it cost the truck energy to pull his car, or even just air, he set out to build a device that would let vortices slide off the back of the trailer.

The most recent version, made of tubular aluminum and rigid plastic, lies tight against the trailer doors at low or no speed and can be folded out of the way for cargo access.

At speed, it opens automatically. Last year a competing device, called TrailerTail, yielded a 5.1% improvement in fuel economy.

VIP day was rainy and Feric had delayed the Aero-Tail trial ’til better weather came; the strict fuel consumption test rules forbids slopping around the track in the rain.

Fortunately, some PIT members had requested less formal fuel consumption comparisons of some engines:the 15-litre, 485-hp Detroit DD15; the 15-litre, 565-hp International ProStar with Cummins ISX; and the 13-litre, 435-hp Mercedes MBE 4000.

So even though the equipment being trialed was idle, we did watch trucks zoom around the 6.4-kilometre oval track.

Fun fact: Just as the drivers hit the 1.6-kilometre long, 38-degree steep curves at 100 kilometres an hour, they must take their hands off the steering wheels -for the entire curve.

No wonder the hot lunches tasted so good and the country air smelled so sweet between trials.

Itmar Levine, the director of maintenance with Bison Transport in Winnipeg, flew in to watch some of the trials and extend his knowledge of the benefits of the Freight Wing trailer skirt, which reduced fuel consumption by 7.2% in EnergoTest 2007. Those results gave Bison the confidence to begin progressively installing Freight Wings on 850 trailers, starting last year, under a 50/50 cost-sharing agreement with Transport Canada’s eco- FREIGHT program.

“The drivers tell you ‘What a difference’,” says Levine, who also notes,”The windier it is, the better the results you get with the skirts.”

This year Levine wanted to see what kind of fuel savings Freight Wing might obtain when installed on both 53-foot trailers in a long combination vehicle configuration. “We were interested to see that if we got a 4-5% fuel improvement with one trailer, what would you get with two?”

Three ArvinMeritor representatives -two from Ontario and one from Kentucky -were on-hand as well.

“We are here to eyeball the situation and consider technologies we could bring in next year,” says Brampton-based district sales manager Daniel Gagne. One idea

for a trial he mentions concerns the Meritor Tire Inflation System. “We would like to see how MTIS works in preventing loss of fuel efficiency.”

Rob Jokai, transportation technician with FPInnovations Feric in Vancouver also flew in to assist with the trials.

“I will be working with PIT in Western Canada, so it will be good to get some first-hand experience with PIT here, and with the tests. We are trying to get more representation through the whole of Canada for PIT,” he said.

PIT partners benefit first from the trial results and expertise within PIT to apply the appropriate technologies.

However, PIT will make public selected results from EnergoTest 2008 at CamExpo in Quebec City in November, and expects to publish all of the results sometime next spring.


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