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January 31, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Super Trucks Demonstrate Super-Sized Freight and Energy Efficiency

Working with the U.S. DOE, teams of truck and engine makers in the SuperTruck program have pushed the efficiency envelope to new levels.


If you’re sizing up that tractor trailer rolling down the road beside you, consider that according to the American Trucking Associations, 70 percent of the nation’s total freight tonnage moves by truck, and in 2015 that translated into about 10.5 billion tons of freight. That’s a "ton" of stuff, and it takes over 30 million trucks to haul it; about 3.63 million of those are the larger tractor trailers, and they travel over 170 billion miles to bring us everything we need.

With numbers like those, it’s easy to see why efficiency and fuel savings are top considerations every day, and why truck and engine makers are investing heavily in making the next generation of trucks even more efficient.    

Working with the U.S. Department of Energy, teams of truck and engine makers in the SuperTruck program have pushed the efficiency envelope to new levels, compared to a 2009 tractor trailer truck combination, demonstrating in 2016 a 50 percent improvement in freight efficiency (tons of cargo x miles per gallon), and significant gains in engine efficiency exceeding 50 percent brake thermal efficiency. All these challenges had to be met while achieving U.S. EPA’s stringent, near-zero emissions requirements for particulate matter and emissions of nitrogen oxides. 

Cummins, Daimler and Volvo teams all met or exceeded their SuperTruck Phase I project goals, all using the newest generation of clean diesel technology engines in these uber-efficient demonstration trucks, that achieved freight efficiency gains ranging from 76 percent to over 115 percent.   How did they do it? Enhanced powertrains, smaller lighter weight engines, reduced friction and weight for engine components and making the combustion process more efficient.

Now these leading engine and truck manufacturers are moving into Phase 2 of the program to achieve gains in freight efficiency as high as 140 percent over baseline levels. Diesel engine efficiency gains, advanced transmissions, some electrification of certain aspects of vehicle operation, tires, vehicle aerodynamics and connected operations are all areas for future improvement.  

American commercial vehicle and engine manufacturers currently have a technological advantage on a global level when it comes to efficiency and emissions.  And the good news for today’s truckers is that many of these technologies and advancements are finding their way into current generation trucks, to deliver fuel savings and lower emissions now.



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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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