June 28, 2012

The following sources were used as information for this blog:

1.)      Cielo Electro-Kinetics by Steven Suggs, March 2012

2.)      Estimation of Fuel Use by Idling Commercial Trucks, Paper No. 06-2567,by Linda Gaines, Anant Vyas, John L. Anderson: Center for  Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory


4.)      TRUCKS THAT WORK by the National Wildlife Federation 2011


 Unless you have been living in a tree, you know that heavy trucks have basically overtaken our Interstate highway system.  I have a fairly short commute each day; i.e. 45 minutes one way, and even at 0600 hrs they literally dominate the roads.  I’m not complaining—not complaining at all because I know they are extremely valuable to our economy, or what’s left of it.  I try to stay legal to avoid “county Mounties” and “Tennessee’s Finest” so 70 to 75 miles per hour is just about my speed on any one given day.   These truckers blow by me as though I were standing still.  I mean these guys are really hauling in the truest since of the word.   Some months ago I acquired a new client and since that time I have been thinking about transportation and what trucking companies put up with on a daily basis.  My client has designed and produces a device called a “hydrolyser” which is applied to a “big rig” for the purpose of extending gas millage.  This device produces hydrogen and pumps that hydrogen into a chamber where it is mixed with diesel fuel.   We have been able to produce, on average, a 27 percent improvement in gas mileage with a fully loaded 53 foot rig.  Let’s take a quick look at transportation, specifically Class 7 and Class 8 freight haulers.

First, a quick definition as to the various classifications.   The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines the following categories:

 As you can see, there are basically eight (8) categories from minivans to trucks weighing over 33,000 pounds.  Each classification is determined by the weight of the vehicle–called the gross-vehicle-weight (GVW).  Gross weight is defined by FHWA as follows:   “Gross vehicle weight means empty vehicle weight plus cargo weight”. The classes were formulated over 50 years ago when truck transport was not very prevalent.  At that time, most of our goods were transported by rail.    The charts below will indicate the number of commercial trucks on our highways as well as the fuel of choice for those trucks.

It is readily apparent that, for classifications 7 and 8, the fuel of choice is Diesel.  The overwhelming number of Class 8 trucks runs on diesel fuel whereas the majority of trucks within classifications one through six run on gasoline.  One sobering fact may be seen from the following chart:



The fuel consumption of a category eight truck is only 6.5 miles per gallon.  Can you imagine the quantities of diesel fuel used on an annual basis for companies such as UPS, FedEx, Covenant Transport, DHL, US Express, etc.?   Well it’s tremendous.  


There are other fascinating facts we might take a look at right now:


  • Trucks haul sixty-nine percent (69%) of all freight tonnage and collect 84 cents of every dollar spent on domestic freight transportation.
  • There are almost nine million people in trucking-related jobs, including over three million truck drivers.  Most of these drivers are not associated with large carriers but are independent owner-operators.  Eighty-seven percent (87%) of fleets operate with less than six trucks.
  • About fifteen percent (15%) of driver jobs are in manufacturing sector with factories across the United States.
  •  Heavy duty vehicles account for only four percent (4%) of traffic on the road, but they use twenty percent (20%) of the fuel consumed in the US. 
  •  Heavy-duty truck fleets turn over twice as fast as the light-duty automotive with trucks needing to be replaced approximately every three years.  The newest truck will travel between 150,000 and 200,000 miles per year.       
  • Fifty percent (51%) of the trucks in the class 8 category use eighty percent (80%) of the fuel.
  • Fuel is very often the number one expense with usage being between $70,000 and $125,000 per year.
  • The profit margin for most long-haul trucks is generally between one and two percent (1—2%).
  • A twenty percent (20%) improvement in fuel economy can save between $14,000 and $25,000 per year per rig.
  • Idling of heavy vehicles, in particular trucks, has become a subject of great interest in the past few years because of the large quantity of petroleum used and emissions created without any productive movement of goods accomplished.   In 2000, for example, Argonne National Laboratory [Argonne] estimated that over 800 million gallons of diesel are used annually just for overnight idling of sleeper cabs.
  • A majority of non-sleeper truck tractors (512,000) are employed in short trips and may idle while waiting for loading/unloading and during stops for meals and other breaks. In terms of average annual miles, 400,000 such trucks travel over 50,000 miles, with 23.4% of annual miles in trips longer than 200 miles. An additional  113,000 truck tractors travel 40,000–50,000 miles annually.
  • If we actually consider the impediments to improved gas mileage, we see the following

Engineers and development firms are definitely working on improving the average forty-two percent (42%) efficiency of a rig such as the one you see in the above graphic.  Please note the targets associated with each energy loss category.  The DOE goal is fifty a percent (50%) improvement or sixteen percent (16%),which is attainable, hopefully within my life-time.   I say within my life-time for the following reasons: 

  • At the present time, the United States imports fifty percent (50%) of the oil we use.    We represent twenty-five percent (25%) of the world’s oil usage with only five percent (5%) of the worlds’ population.  In 2010 we imported 4.3 billion barrels of crude.
  • According to the British Petroleum Statistical Review, world oil reserves are considered to be 1,333.1 billion barrels.  Of this sixty percent (60%) or 754.2 billion barrels are located in the Middle East.
  • U.S. oil reserves will be depleted in approximately ten (10) years.
  • Depletion of all world proven reserves will occur in approximately 45.7 years. 
  • In 2009, the world consumed eighty-four (84) billion barrels per day—per day.

 There is no doubt that we are a civilization that runs on petroleum products but we have better wake up and start the process of conservation.  We really need to get serious about this.  The clock is ticking.  Just a thought.




June 14, 2012

You will notice my blogs, just about always, deal with education and technology.  I am very comfortable with these subjects and certainly enjoy writing about R&D and technological developments affecting our daily lives.   I actually know a little about these having been there, done that, got the “T” shirt.  I stay away from “hot button” topics such as abortion, contraception, gay marriage, etc. because I feel these subject are extremely personal and, quite frankly, why would you want my opinion?   Politically, I’m a registered Independent.  I vote for the person and not the party.  Definitely conservative when it comes to all matters financial.  I do not have a “base”.  My hero, Sir Winston said: “If you aren’t a liberal by the time you’re 20 you don’t have a heart.  If you aren’t a conservative by the time you’re 40, you don’t have a head”.  (His words not mine.)   There is a great deal of truth to that statement.

I’m going to “break ranks” right now and voice an opinion relative to a statement made the other day by President Obama.

“The private sector is doing just fine”

Again, his words—not mine.  Ladies and gentlemen the private sector is NOT fine, not fine at all.  I do consulting work for a company that has two manufacturing locations in the same southern city and travel between them two or three times per day; checking on robotic processes for a critical assembly.   I have been amazed over the last three months to see men and women canvassing the roadways for discarded cans, setting up “flea market” locations in their yards and just walking the streets going door to door seeking one day odd jobs.  Two days ago I was headed to “plant two” and noticed my gas tank was nearing empty.  I stopped for fuel and while filling up, a gentleman came up to the island and started looking through the trash cans.  Now this guy did not look to be homeless.  He was dressed in a fairly nice fashion; was wearing a knit pullover Polo shirt; had on a pair of kaki pants AND shoes.   I ask him if he was OK.  “Just looking for scrap metal I can sell to get a little money.  I was laid off several months ago.  My wife and I are scratching to keep things together.”   I offered to give him five dollars but, much to my surprise, he said no—not after handouts. 

 I have a buddy who has been out of work for eight months and is now selling his household belongings on eBay.  He holds a BS in accounting from a four year university.  Fifty-eight years old and been around the block more than once—definitely not a rookie.  Make no mistake, in this economy; you’re behind the “8-ball” if you are over fifty and looking for a job.   I have another friend who is a machinist by trade.  A remarkably talented individual, forty-eight years old with twenty-nine years of experience.  He has been out of work for eleven months.  The company he worded for relocated to Mexico.  OK, one more example and I’m done.  Another friend of mine owns a metal fabricating operation in Chattanooga.  They specialize in fabricating stainless steel piping and stainless steel assemblies for power utilities and the pulp and paper industries.  Two years ago, he employed fifty-seven people and worked two shifts.    Today, he has a crew of twelve people and desperately tries to give them five days per week. 

I don’t want to be mean about this, but I feel what President Obama really meant was,  he is just fine, Congress is just fine, the lobbyist are just fine, the Wall Street types are just fine, investment bankers are just fine, but the private sector—I don’t think so!


June 12, 2012

Several days ago I scheduled a short trip to visit a prospective client in Cumming, Georgia.  I knew that Cumming was just north of Atlanta but needed to know what exit to take off of I-75 south.  Needing gas anyway, I stopped at my local BP to fill up AND purchase a Georgia map.  I was somewhat surprised when the attendant told me they no longer sold maps.  “Everyone has a GPS now, no need for maps anymore” was his reply.

 I suppose everyone on the planet has seen the YouTube video of the lady walking while texting.  She is at a mall; absolutely absorbed in the process while heading towards a fountain “planted” in her direct path.  In she goes –head first.   Fortunately, she was not physically injured but I’m sure her pride was definitely affected.  (By the way, she sued the mall for not posting signs indicating the position of the fountain and for releasing the video.  I have no idea if she won or lost. )

These two examples illustrate how technology is affecting our behavior and how we modify our behavior to make accommodations, necessary or otherwise.  One of the biggest problems we have in Tennessee is texting while driving.  The death rate on our highways elevates each year due to this dangerous practice.  I would hazard a guess that none of the messages sent while driving are critical and could certainly wait until the automobile is stationary.   Technology seems to dictate making us the slave and not the master.   Seemingly, we lose control when these communication devices are available.  The urgency does not escape us and we react. 

Our two oldest grandchildren, ages twenty and eighteen, spend hours each week on Facebook.  They both have hundreds of friends, not to mention family, they communicate with on a weekly basis.   I have actually been in their presence as they talk to each other, using Facebook, while sitting on the same couch.  Go figure.   Psychologists in the United States indicate there are 350 million (yes million) people addicted to Face book.  This addition is called F.A.D or Face book Addictive Disorder.  I strongly suspect there is a comparable addiction to Twitter and YouTube. 

Another incredible advance, linking your smart phone with your PC.  This allows you to receive e-mail on your “mobile” while away from the office.  Now I really like this one except for the fact that I’m always working—always!  There never seems to be a waking hour that I am not on call.  This means I am always “reachable” and people expect a return message, night or day.   This, as you might expect, can be a real pain and there no longer is the excuse, “I was away from the office.”

I think behavioral modification first came with the Home Shopping Network, then e-Bay, then Amazon, now Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.  I can’t imagine what might be next but it seems to me millions of hours are blown away each year as we allow these technologies to overtake our lives.  Remarkable and useful as they are, should we not be involved with more meaningful pursuits?  If we don’t do otherwise, would we all be more than wet?  Just a thought.

 Data for this blog is derived from NASA TECH BRIEFS, “Changing How We Fly”, June 2012, Vol. 36, Number 6.

If you travel at all, you are more than familiar with domestic transportation in our country.     It is a given fact that commercial airlines have become “bus service” for millions of people in the United States.  I traveled from Atlanta to Bangor, Maine this past week for $309.00—round trip.  I’m not too sure I could have done that traveling by bus or train and it would have taken at least twenty-four hours one way.     Even more amazing are the facts concerning international travel from the United States.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that last year alone, U.S. and foreign air carriers transported an estimated 168.1 million passengers between the United States and the rest of the world.  The FAA also estimates there will be one billion passengers by 2024.  An amazing number considering rising fuel costs, much more crowded air space, outdated systems and increasing environmental concerns.  How will we handle these conditions?  The answer is technology!  Technology will address these areas in the following manner:

  • Green Aviation—Acceptance and use of biofuels
  •  Modification and design of wings and wing tips providing increased efficiencies
  •  A new generation of aircraft engines designed for noise abatement while running on biofuels
  • Lightweight composite structures reducing the need for “heavy metals”. (NOTE: One remarkable benefit for using composite materials is the ability to make needed repairs quickly.)
  • Better and more refined management systems to accommodate heightened safety and smoother flow of  passengers

 I would like to address only one area of investigation with this paper, “green aviation”.


When we talk about green aviation, we address our responsibility for the impact of aviation on the environment, which includes carbon footprint, other emissions and last but certainly not least, noise.  Last year, ASTM International published new rules overseeing the specifications for jet fuel allowing the use of biofuels on all commercial flights.  The revision to standard D7566, “Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons”, includes requirements for synthetic fuel components manufactured from hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids ( HEFA ) produced from renewable sources.  This standard allows new components to be manufactured from jatropha camelina, and fats, combined with conventional aviation jet fuel.  These synthetic fuels must be able to function in desert heat or in cold temperatures up to 40,000 feet.  The Boeing Company has been leading the push for approval of synthetic paraffinic kerosene (Bio-SPK) jet fuel and is testing algae and camelina-based fuels.   France-based Airbus is helping to develop a second-generation of biofuels, known as biomass, which will avoid competing with food resources.  Boeing recently flew the world’s first commercial airplane from Everett, Washington to Paris using biologically derived fuel.  The 747-8 Freighter’s four GE GEnx-2B engines were powered by a blend of 15 % camelina-based biofuel mixed with 85% traditional kerosene fuel ( Jet-A).  There was no need to make changes to the airplane, its engines, or operating procedures to accommodate the biofuel.  I think this is truly fascinating.  There also were significant reductions in carbon dioxide and NoX emissions resulting in carbon footprint reduction for the aircraft.    A recent report indicated the carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft engines is approximately 20% more than previously thought.   These emissions could hit a whopping 1.5 million tons by 2025. Far more than the worst-case predictions of the International Panel on Climate Change.     If you’re looking to put that number in perspective, the European Union currently emits 3.1 billion tons of CO2 annually– that’s the entire 27-nation, 457 million person EU.   The report, “Trends in Global Aviation Noise and Emissions from Commercial Aviation for 2000 to 2025,” is among the most authoritative estimates of the industry’s growth in emissions.   It was produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Eurocontrol, the Manchester Metropolitan University and the technology company QinetiQ.   They used a variety of models to calculate current fuel use, then projected out to 2025 based on these findings and anticipated increases in air travel.  Their assessment, if correct, certainly indicates changes are necessary to bring about modifications bringing down CO2 and NoX emissions.  GE, Boeing, Airbus, Pratt & Whitney and other manufacturers of airframe and engines are definitely on the correct path to aid efforts in accomplishing this task.  In short—THIS PROBLEM WILL NOT GO AWAY AND BIOFUELS SEEM TO BE ONE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM.  I mention this to indicate you will be hearing additional information in the upcoming weeks and months, so don’t be surprised when these remarkable advancements occur.

I would like to recommend you  access the following web site to learn more about the General Electric aircraft engine that accomplished the above-mentioned performance:


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