September 13, 2014

The data presented in this post results from work accomplished by the Pew Charitable Trust.

I have a client located thirty-seven (37) miles from my business office. Fortunately, my commute to their facility is via our interstate highway system.  It is absolutely amazing what I see traveling those seventy-four (74) miles most days of the work week.  I see people reading the morning paper, ladies applying makeup, every third person talking on the cell phone, texting, people reading a book and TONS of people, mostly younger individuals, rocking out to the music they undoubtedly love.  One unmistakable fact—you can’t miss the number of “big rigs” moving across our country.  Regardless as to the time of day, they are out in force.

Let’s take a look at several very interesting statistics relative to transportation:

  • The transportation sector accounts for seventy percent (70%) of all fuel consumption in the United States.
  • Medium and heavy-duty trucks, using 2011 figures, represent seven percent (7%) of all vehicles on the road but consume twenty-five percent (25%) of the fuel used by all vehicles.
  • In 2013, trucks consumed 2.7 million barrels of petroleum per day.
  • Fuel is the single largest cost of owning and operating heavy-duty trucks, with the average cost per vehicle being $73,000 per year.
  • The average fuel consumption for an “eighteen-wheeler” is six and one-half (6.5) miles per gallon.
  • Goods and services provided by these trucks account for an average of $1100.00 per year in added expense for each consumer. This is indirect cost passed on to the purchaser.

These facts to me are definitely eye-opening.  In August of 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finalized fuel efficiency and emission standards dictating café standards of 54.5 MPG for light-duty trucks and passenger vans.  These fuel consumption regulations become effective in 2025.  In September of 2011, the first-ever standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks were finalized by the same agencies.  This standard covers a time period of 2014 through 2018.  Data is now being accumulated for the purpose of further defining the action.

These standards hope to bring about the following beneficial conditions:

  • A $50 billion reduction in fuel cost to transportation companies. Truck owners would save approximately $30,000 per year per truck.
  • A reduction in carbon pollution by 270 metric tons per year.
  • A net fleet savings of $0.21 per mile every thirteen months.
  • Saving 1.4 million barrels of petroleum per day.
  • Reduction of indirect cost to consumers of $250 near-term and $450 short-term.
  • Reduction of air-borne particulate saving health cost by $1.3 billion to $4.2 billion by 2030.


I think these goals are achievable but do present engineering challenges to auto and truck designers and manufacturers. We are now seeing great efforts towards compliance with designers looking at the following areas:

  • Design of more efficient engines.
  • Using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) methodology to investigate air flow around truck bodies.
  • Lighter composite structures and materials to reduce the overall weight of cabs and trailers.
  • Using alternate fuels such as CNG (compressed natural gas), fuel cells and on-board hydrogen production.
  • Reduction or elimination of “idle” when a semi-truck is stationary
  • Disengagement of rotating gears when a truck is stopped.

All efforts are exploratory at this point but great progress is being made to meet the requirements.  I would love to hear from you relative to this post.



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