ORNL Making More Fuel Efficient Trucks

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When you think about tractor trailers, you likely don't think about the way the trucks are made, or even what it takes to fill them up at the tank. Think about this - building better trucks could help us in the future.
So how you ask?

As our Whitney Daniel explains, a local study is trying to put the math to this to show us the more efficient the trucks, the less we all pay for our products in the long run.

It's pretty interesting. When we think about high gas prices, we usually think in terms of the fuel we put in our vehicles. We don't think about fuel efficiency for the trucking industry and how it's effecting our bills at the store, but we should, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is finding a way to bring that concept into perspective with a year-long study that starts now.

"This study will identify opportunity for us to increase efficiency in the trucking sector," said Ray Boeman from the NTRC.

That, in turn, will decrease the price of products for you.

"I don't think the average consumer actually appreciates what the impact of increased fuel prices actually means to them in terms of the goods that they buy," Boeman said.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is conducting a study to help drive those prices down.

"We're very interested in establishing a national data archive," Bill Knee from ORNL said.

It's called the "Heavy Truck Duty Cycle Project" -- a study that uses instruments to track the truck's location, fuel consumption, driving and weather conditions. They'll collect 62 channel's of data in 12 months with 10 trailers and 6 trucks. That information will be calculated to determine what truck companies should do to improve efficiency. For example - through a pilot study the company found a three-percent improvement in fuel efficiency using one wide-tire instead of two standard size.

"We're looking to validate the fuel efficiency using this thicker tire," Knee said.

The pilot study was controlled, though. This time, ORNL is collecting real-world data from a local trucking company based in Jefferson City.

"Schrader's is going to be doing its normal everyday activities so we're not going to be able to have the luxury of following it from North-South, East-West," Knee said.

So, researchers can figure out which methods will save the trucking company the most money so you can save too.

"Will help them become more economical and then that benefit will then be passed on to the consumer," Boeman said.

ORNL is partnering with Schrader trucking out of Jefferson City. They're also working with Dana of Kalamozoo, Michigan and Michelin of Greenville, South Carolina.