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Today trucks carry 70% of US commercial freight. [1]  The future of trucks and trucking matters to all of us. [4] Many existing technologies could benefit both the US trucking industry and the public and could be applied without delay. The relatively rapid turn-over of equipment in the industry—the current average age of US trucks is 6.7 years—means technologies could quickly produce an impact . Here is a list of existing technologies that could reduce total US greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, improve truck driving experience, and improve truck security.

Reduced emissions   9% of all US greenhouse gas emissions result from truck transport (22% of the 40% produced by the transportation sector). [12]
• Improved fuel efficiency [3]—Better trucks could almost double fuel efficiency from the 7 mpg best current ratings to 12 mpg as with the new Mercedes Actros. This could reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by perhaps 4% total in less than a decade.
• A flywheel system could store energy from braking to help in acceleration [9] and further reduce truck fuel consumption in stop and go driving.
• Improved loading schemes [11] More than 25% of the trucks on the road at any given time are driving empty. If this could be halved to 12.5% with the use of more clever dispatching, freight terminal schemes, and load-sharing, this would further reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 1%.
• Upgrade of US Highways [2] to improve efficiency. For example, reference 2 is a list of 250 highway bottlenecks. Is your city included?

Better technology and improved driving experience   A growing problem facing the US trucking industry is a shortage of drivers. A better, less wearing, driving experience would increase driver retention and make the industry more attractive to job seekers.
• Quiet [5] Today’s trucks are noisy both inside and outside. Better exhaust systems (and better compressive braking), better cabin design, better design of refrigeration compressors, etc could together produce quieter trucks.
• All-wheel steering [7] for more nimble truck handling.
• Automatic transmissions can dramatically reduce the driver workload and improve productivity. [15]
• Drive-by-wire (also called “x-by-wire”) [8] This would permit any qualified person to drive a truck because little physical strength would be required. Truck brakes and steering could be set to require very little input.
• Computer-aided driving—pedestrian avoidance, collision avoidance, improved computer-aided braking, foul-weather handling, etc could improve the driving experience and improve safety. [17]
• Rear-view video cameras would eliminate blind spots behind trucks. [14]
• Improved cell-phones and other communications channels carefully engineered to reduce driver distraction. [16]
• Better human-truck interface—a “glass cockpit” [13] A great deal of the instruments on a truck fail to convey their full import to the driver. Today’s driver must interpret the gauge readings and constantly check for any that are amiss. If all the sensor inputs were integrated by a computer and displayed on flat screens in a more meaningful and intuitive way, this would reduce distraction, confusion, and mistakes in the cab. Further, it could improve reliability by giving advance warning of pending problems so they could be addressed in a shop instead of on the road. The computer could also give verbal warnings as appropriate.

Improved truck security
• Tracking—As part of licensing requirements trucks could be required to be continually logged into cell phone or satellite tracking system. [12]
• Automated driver logs [6] linked with GPS data could automatically submit records to regulators—eliminating time spent on updating logs and ensuring that there is no fudging of the records.
• RFID driver’s licenses [10] Trucks could be engineered to only start if sensors detect a valid RFID driver’s license in the cab.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/...
[2] http://www.trucknews.com/...
[3] http://www.truckinginfo.com/...
[3] http://green.autoblog.com/...
[4] http://www.adl.com/...
[4] http://www.truckline.com/...
[5] http://www.donaldson.com/...
[6] http://www.logpro.net/...
[7] http://trucks.about.com/...
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/...
[8] http://www.yamar.com/...
[9] http://inhabitat.com/...
[10] http://www.dol.wa.gov/...
[11] http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/...
[12] http://gpstrackit.com/
[12] http://www.blueskynetwork.com/...
[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/...
[13] http://www.nasa.gov/...
[14] http://www.rearviewsafety.com/...
[15] http://www.allisontransmission.com/...
[16] http://www.atxg.com/...
[17] http://www.dailytech.com/...

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sugggestion: hybrid pickup trucks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama

    I'd buy one in a minute

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 06:12:24 AM PDT

    •  But.. (0+ / 0-)

      A hybrid pickup would be OK for the usual running around empty, but not for any driving with a heavy load for long runs--up mountain passes towing a load, or heavily laden truck bed, etc.  Sure, most pickups do run empty, but the drivers consider the possibility of running heavy, and most feel that they need to run at the speed limit or greater uphill and heavy.

      •  actually electrics produce mountains of torque (0+ / 0-)

        an electric or hybrid would do better in heavy load situations......Diesel Electric Locomotives anyone?

        Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
        I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
        Emiliano Zapata

        by buddabelly on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 10:35:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  GM already has one out, Ford will be next imo (0+ / 0-)

      http://www.gmc.com/...

      Dodge should have some of that Benz Tech laying around too....Benz has had a fuel cell van running in Europe for years.....

      Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
      I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
      Emiliano Zapata

      by buddabelly on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 10:33:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not a romantic subject but one as you say where (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, buddabelly

    many small improvements could add up. Thanks.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 06:30:15 AM PDT

  •  Better Trucks Would Be Trains for a Major Fraction (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, Kurt Sperry, adrianrf, Roger Fox

    of those we have on the road today. We have way too many trucks doing the work of trains.

    Then for the rest, absolutely yes better efficiency.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 06:39:54 AM PDT

    •  Freight rail can take lots of (0+ / 0-)

      trucks off the road and UPS 747's out of the air. Just based on fuels savings alone, it needs to be done.

      Taking 10% of the planes out of the air makes an Air traffic controllers day less stressful and the skys safer. Same for hiways and trucks.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 01:03:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, but (0+ / 0-)
    A growing problem facing the US trucking industry is a shortage of drivers.
    Terrible pay, terrible conditions (I wouldn't want to live in a truck cab for a week eating only in truck stops), and almost no time at home.

    Better dispatching and loading will somewhat reduce the number of trucks on the road and partly reduce the demand for drivers.

    Part of the driver problem is the good ol' American insistence on individualism.  If the drivers joined the Teamsters union (I know, problems both ways there) or joined into driver co-ops, or any way to work together, they could do better for themselves.  But they won't.  Also, new trucks cost a lot of money, plus the new technology in the first coupl'a years always has bugs.  Independent owner-operators are sometimes just a load or two away from insolvency.

  •  TSE eliminates a lot of emissions... (0+ / 0-)

    I was once a treehouse, I lived in a cake, but I never saw the way the orange slayed the rake... The Llama Song.

    by farmerchuck on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 08:16:51 AM PDT

  •  Good read. It's where the energy is being used... (0+ / 0-)

    Lots of folks read about thinks like peak oil or high energy cost and think the outsourcing + over the ocean shipping will suffer first. It won't becuase over the ocean cargo isn't a big part of the fuel/energy problem.

    Those last "miles to market" in trucks are the ones where the energy cost has the biggest impact. Anything that can be done to help conserve + improve should be done before it's too late -- namely sustainable communities that bring fewer goods.

    The folks who are barely getting by now can't absorb last-miles-to-market cost  increases on food, that's for sure.

  •  Nice diary detailing where the savings (0+ / 0-)

    come from. More importantly I saw no major holes in the claims made. Well done.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 01:05:25 PM PDT

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