Truck Convoy Could Improve Fuel Efficiency

on Jul 01, 2014
Truck Convoy Could Improve Fuel Efficiency

Searching for fuel efficiency is something that every trucking fleet spends countless hours on. According to a report from Trucking Efficiency, diesel costs reached $0.64 per mile by 2012, which costs the industry more than the combined costs of wages and benefits for drivers. The latest innovation being considered to improve fuel efficiency stems from ideas used by NASCAR racers and bike riders, an electric truck convoy. The general idea is that two semi-trailers on the highway could travel close together to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency.

There are issues that stem from that, though. The biggest issue is that two trucks driving so close together is an accident hazard. If the truck in front has to break suddenly for whatever reason, the truck following will never be able to stop quickly enough, and a collision is bound to happen. A company called Peloton Technology has the solution, and it’s a system linking two trucks together electronically, so the lead truck controls the throttle and brakes on both.

While this idea has been thrown around in the past, one of the big objections from the trucking world on the driver side is that it would eliminate jobs. That’s not the case with the Peloton trucks, as they still require a driver in both trucks. The lead driver does do more of the work, but the driver behind still needs to steer. By doing this, jobs are maintained while fuel is saved.

In the testing process in Nevada, the system increased fuel efficiency for the trailing vehicle by 10%, but the lead truck also used less fuel (about 4%). On a flat, straight highway traveling 65 miles per hour, the two trucks combined to save 7%, which translated to an annual fuel cost savings of about $10,000 per truck. Of course, there won’t always be those ideal driving conditions, but the increase was large enough that the actual savings should still make a big impact.

This testing has been occurring in Europe for a few years, though it’s more autonomous. The technology is called SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), and it allows a vehicle to find a leader, link up and then follow autonomously.

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