Taking the high road

As far as Rob Hancock is concerned, Wabash National's participation in the SmartWay Transport Partnership is a win-win situation.

“You offer a product that meets a customer and an environmental need,” said Hancock, vice-president of product engineering for Wabash. “You're doing the right thing for the customer as well as the environment. It's definitely a good thing. One of the real cores of our company is innovation, and this fits really well with the core of that.”

In a one-month span ending September 27, each of the largest US trailer manufacturers — Utility, Great Dane, and Wabash — received the SmartWay certification from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which in 2004 established the voluntary partnership with various freight industry sectors that establishes incentives for fuel-efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Utility was the first with its 4000D-X dry van, followed by Great Dane, and then Wabash with its DuraPlate dry van.

“We believe in the EPA's goal of reducing fuel costs, conserving energy, reducing emissions, and improving the environment,” said Craig Bennett, Utility's senior VP of sales and marketing. “This is another first by Utility recognizing our continuing efforts to make enhancements to our product line that result in lower fuel costs, less weight, and higher productivity.”

This was the first year that trailers were eligible. Previously, most of the major tractor OEMs qualified as SmartWay-certified: International (Prostar and 9200), Mack (Pinnacle), Freightliner (Columbia and Century), Volvo (VN Series), Kenworth (T2000 and T660), and Peterbilt (387/386).

Requirements for trailer certification:

  • Base trailer: dry van trailer of 53' length or greater.

  • Weight specifications: Lightweight trailer option with weight saving technologies.

  • Aerodynamic trailer package: trailer side fairings and trailer-mounted gap fairings or trailer end fairings or boat tails.

  • Tire specifications: low-rolling resistance tires (duals or singles) that provide a 3% fuel economy benefit, relative to mid-range rolling resistance tires.

Hancock said Wabash, in collaboration with Freightliner LLC, completed extensive road testing of several aerodynamic devices using the American Trucking Associations Technology and Maintenance Council Fuel Consumption Procedure before selecting the most beneficial combinations.

“The tire part of the SmartWay equation we've offered for quite a while,” Hancock said. “Tires were pretty straightforward. The other things were more involved, but we really wanted to spend the time to understand how could we best apply them and how could we quantify the benefit.

“It was a lot of work. People look at trailers as a box. They're a lot more complicated than things I worked on in the automotive sector. It took plenty of work to figure out the right devices, how to assemble them, how to do that economically, and test the different variations with data we were comfortable relating to our customers.”

Tractor requirements

Requirements for tractor certification:

  • Base tractor: sleeper cab.

  • Full aerodynamic package: aero profile tractor, integrated cab roof fairing, aero mirrors and bumpers, cab extenders; and fuel tank side fairings.

  • NOX/PM specifications: 2007 model year engines.

  • Tire specifications: low-rolling resistance tires that provide a 3% fuel-economy benefit, relative to mid-range rolling resistance tires.

  • Idling control readiness: OEM must offer options that allow elimination of overnight idling by the main engine. Some options include: generator sets, auxiliary power units, direct fired heaters, battery-powered HVAC systems, and automatic engine start/stop systems.

The US EPA Certified SmartWay label may be used at point-of-sale and applied to the interior of the tractors and trailers by the manufacturers.

The program originally was designed for carriers, logistics companies, and shippers. Out of the approximately 650 companies in the program, 34 were chosen this year for SmartWay Excellence Awards honoring organizations that integrate innovative strategies and technologies into their business operations, resulting in reduced energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.

SmartWay director Mitch Greenberg says there currently are no awards for trailer and tractor OEMs, but that may come as the program evolves.

“Anyone can be a part of the program, particularly if they're willing to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency,” he says. “But not everybody has the ability or the desire to improve by a lot or really extend their environmental performance. That's what the awards are designed to do — recognize companies that have pushed the envelope and helped SmartWay become a better program. It's to highlight the best of the best.”

To become a SmartWay partner, carriers must:

  • Measure current environmental performance with the SmartWay Transport FLEET (Fleet Logistics Energy and Environmental Tracking) Performance Model for carriers.

  • Commit to improve that performance within three years.

  • Sign the SmartWay Transport Partnership Agreement.

To become a SmartWay partner, shippers must:

  • Assess the current proportion of goods dispatched with SmartWay Transport Partner Carriers using the FLEET Performance Model for shippers.

  • Commit to ship at least 50% or more of their goods with SmartWay Transport Partner Carriers.

  • Assess and commit to improve their facility transportation emissions within three years.

  • Sign the SmartWay Transport Partnership Agreement.

To meet their goals, all partners must create and submit an Action Plan describing how the shipper or carrier will achieve commitment, and report progress toward achieving the goal to EPA annually.

“In essence, you commit to save fuel by adding idling control technology or better aerodynamics, better tires, better logistics — anything that would make sense to a trucking company or carrier that would allow them to save fuel and reduce emissions,” Greenberg says. “For shippers, they typically don't own any trucks directly so they can't make those type of improvements. But they agree to ship more goods with carriers that have joined the program, so it creates a market-based relationship between shipper and carriers. The better everybody's environmental performance gets, the less of a transport footprint a shipper would have.”

Complementary relationship

Greenberg says the complementary relationship between shippers and carriers maximizes the opportunities for partners to support one another in achieving mutual environmental goals. He says there are tangible benefits because shippers can better understand their environmental transportation impact, reduce the environmental impacts of freight operations by simply choosing to do business with SmartWay Transport Carriers, join a community of leaders and enhance their public image by joining the SmartWay Transport Partnership.

And he says carriers can better understand the environmental impact of their fleet operations, reduce their environmental impact by using recommended technologies and strategies, save money by incorporating fuel-saving strategies into their fleet operations, become preferred carriers of SmartWay Transport Shippers, and join a community of leaders and enhance their public image by joining the SmartWay Transport Partnership.

Greenberg says SmartWay-approved equipment, such as aerodynamic bumpers and mirrors on a tractor, can generate fuel reduction of 10% to 20% more than trucks without these devices. For example, aerodynamic bumpers and mirrors on a tractor help conserve fuel by reducing wind resistance. Each qualified truck can produce savings from 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of diesel per year, which would result in a gain up to $11,000 annually.

According to the EPA, US companies and organizations use nearly seven million trucks and 20,000 Class 1 locomotives to transport over nine billion tons of goods each year, worth nearly $7 trillion.

The EPA says that moving freight accounts for 20% of all energy consumed in the transportation sector. Trucks carry about 66% of all freight shipped in the US, while rail carries about 16% (water, pipeline, and air transport account for the rest). Together, truck and rail transport now consume over 35 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year.

The EPA believes that while burning fuel is necessary to move goods efficiently by truck and rail, some of that fuel is wasted due to inefficient practices such as excessive idling and using trucks with poor aerodynamic design. That wasted fuel translates to wasted money for freight transport companies and increased emissions released into the environment.

Burning this fuel, the EPA says, produces emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases create a gaseous “blanket” that prevents ultraviolet rays from leaving the earth's atmosphere, resulting in a “greenhouse,” or warming, effect, which is a major part of global climate change. Consuming 35 billion gallons of diesel fuel produces over 350 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

The EPA says that burning this fuel also produces nitrogen oxides (NOx), a contributor to ozone formation, or “smog”, and particulate matter. Ground freight contributes 40% of transportation related emissions of NOx and 30% of particulate matter emissions.

Greenberg says the EPA plans to set more ambitious performance targets for the SmartWay-recognized tractor-trailer combination in the future. The EPA also is developing guidelines for recognizing other vehicles such as delivery vans, in which hybrid technology can dramatically improve fuel efficiency.

Hancock applauds the program, but says the government could enhance it by offerings grants or credits for users of the devices.

“We haven't seen these devices in the past because they're expensive,” he says. “As the scale increases, you'll see the cost come down — as you would with any product. If the government would give some type of grant or credit for users of these devices, it would be a big step forward. I know they're considering that in Canada to try to spur the technology and get people into it.

“You look at tractors. They've done a lot of things aerodynamically and they've done it for all right reasons, and you also get a high utilization rate on your tractor. Depending on how you use a trailer, if it's not a dedicated haul, you don't really get a high utilization rate, and so it's a lot of cost to put into a product you're going to use less than 80%, less than 50% maybe.

“If there were parties out there that would encourage the use of the devices financially, I think that would help push the whole thing along. If you look back at the ‘80s, that's what happened with higher efficiency furnaces and insulated houses, and that's why a lot of people did it.”

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