Speed Limits

When driving down the road in your car, you find that you are stuck behind a semi-truck and trailer. Most people are in such a rush that they get angry at the driver and pass the truck when possible. You don’t want to admit it, but as you’re passing the semi-truck, you want to shout to the driver to go faster and move along. What most drivers don’t know is that 70 percent of trucking companies have speed limiters on their trucks. Why would trucking companies want this? They don’t want their drivers to do less due to the lower speed, but because of greater safety.

The American Trucking Association is pushing for all semi-trucks to have this limiter put on immediately. The ATA has previously petitioned the government about the limiters and the federal highway safety regulators proposed the use of the devices in 2011. However, the the proposed regulation has been stalled for years because of cost analyses and government reviews.

Why is it safer for tractor trailers to have a speed limiter? The ATA wanted the speed limiter in place because of the trucks tires. Almost all truck tires have been built for a maximum sustained speed of 75 mph. Most of the US have speed limits for all drivers in place that are 70 and below. There are states that do have a higher speed limit in place. 14 states, mainly west of the Mississippi River, have speed limits of 75 or greater. Texas, Wyoming, Utah, and South Dakota have limits of 80 or higher.

What is the safety issue for this excessive speeding? Many tractor trailers go throughout the US going over the 75 MPH that their tires are designed to handle. If the temperature of the tire becomes too high, then the tire can blowout and can cause a wreck.

Just remember the next time you pass a tractor trailer that they aren’t going slow because they want to, they are doing so to make the road safer.

Trucks Going On a Diet

Here recently we have seen a decline in diesel prices that have stayed relatively low. For a long period of time, this was not the case. We were seeing record highs in the prices and they continued to increase. Because of the steady increase we were seeing, many companies were looking into ways to increase fuel efficiency while improving durability as well. Victor Marquez, Alcoa VP & General Manager of transportation Products, stated at this years ATA show that the company has many products, both in service or development, that could clear the way for more than a ton of additional payload. Many components, such as frame rails, drive shaft tubes, suspension mounts, and door skins can be made with aluminum to achieve these weight saving feats. Not only will these aluminum components lessen the weight, they are much more durable than traditional metals used. Since aluminum will not rust, it will stay stronger longer with minimum maintenance.

Aluminum is about 45% of the weight of steel, so trucking components like door skins and internal structures can save about 60 pounds per truck. An aluminum drive shaft and fifth wheel can save about 100 pounds each without the loss of structural integrity.

In addition to using aluminum as an alternative metal, Alcoa unveiled a new alloy, called VersaCast that outperforms aluminum by at least 40%. VersaCast can be used for critical structural parts in commercial trucks, such as mounting brackets for suspension systems.

A typical Class 8 truck weighs about 17,000 pounds. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, states that the powertrain accounts for 24% of the weight of the truck, and the body structure accounts for 19% of the weight. By replacing almost 50% of the truck with lighter and stronger material, the overall performance and efficiency of the truck improves.

Extend Tire Life and Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency and tread mileage go hand and hand. This can be great for drivers, or not so great. Sadly when one is bad, chances are so is the other. Jim Park, equipment editor, has given four easy steps where we can improve your tires tread life and increase your fuel economy.

  1. Keep tires properly inflated – This may seem like an easy task to complete, but you’d be surprised how many truck fleets are not within range of an acceptable level of inflation. Making sure the level of inflation is a tough task, but The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration surveyed fleets about their tires. Less than half of the 35,000 tires tested were within an acceptable target pressure of +/- 5%. This shows that tires are not well maintained in the trucking industry. Peggy Fisher, president of Tire Stamp Inc. states that tires that are under inflated by 20 psi will lose 2% in fuel efficiency and increase tread wear by 25%.
  1. Take advantage of technology – We are now beginning to see the technology where we are able to inflate any tire at any trailing wheel position, and soon we’ll be able to have this system on all tires on all fleets. Following a two-year test of automatic tire inflation and pressure monitoring technologies, Chris Flanigan of the FMCSA’s office of analysis shows that these systems will decrease the total annual operation costs per truck by as much as $600 to $800.
  1. Keep tractors and trailers aligned – According to Fisher, the biggest cause of fuel consumption for a vehicle is tandem axle parallel misalignment, in layman’s terms, all of the tires aren’t aligned. This can easily eat up about 2% of fuel consumption.

4. Vehicle speed – With the shortage of drivers and loads of work needed to be completed, creates conditions where running 55 MPH does not seem practical. The problem is, for every mile over 55 MPH, fuel economy will be cut by about 2%. If trucks were able to run at a constant 55 MPH, we would see an improvement not only in fuel efficiency but also the life of tire tread.

Technology Payoffs

The HDMA  Breakfast is in its 25th year where truckers and trucking companies come together. Here they have great opportunities to network and a keynote address is given by an industry leading executive. At this years convention, Olof Persson, President of AB Volvo and Chief Executive Officer of the Volvo Group will be discussing Volvo’s viewpoint and direction for their future growth.

In Persson’s keynote address, he explains that technology is playing a large role in the industry and will continue to open new doors for Volvo as a company. This technology helps increase safety, improve environmental sustainability, better integration of trucking systems, and advancing “connected truck” platforms. All of these improvements are important trends that now affect the industry and are needed to be successful.

The “demand of safety” is constantly increasing, and is evident here in the U.S. This is caused by several terrible accidents last year that involved trucks. To combat this, Volvo is still working to perfect its “360- degree awareness.” This advanced monitoring system can become reality in five to ten years. This system will be able to predict what moving entities it’s scanning might do next, that way the truck can provide suggested actions to avoid accidents. If the driver doesn’t respond, system will automatically steer or brake if need be.

The world is always looking for ways to become more “green.” We know that fuel is a non-renewable natural resource, so working towards a way to use fuel more efficiently is a must for all trucking companies. Persson states, that if the industry does not work toward being more “green” now, we (truckers, our society and the environment) will be at a loss.

The last two points, integration and connected trucks, go hand in hand. In terms of technology, trucks are now fitted with systems that allow people to view how the truck is running. This allows us to create more truck components that are designed for each other to work seamlessly. To help with the connectivity of the trucks, most of the trucks are now are online. These trucks are equipped with remote diagnostics systems that allows the truck’s computer to evaluate themselves, while in operations, and make adjustments as necessary.