Like cars and SUVs, trucks benefit from upgrading to keep up with current trends and best practices. The auto industry is always searching for ways to make vehicles lighter, more powerful, and more energy efficient. This is certainly true for passenger vehicles, but these changes are also significant for trucks. After all, trucks are much heavier than non-commercial passenger vehicles, and they log many miles transporting consumer goods from coast to coast. Although the quest to make trucks better never ends, here are some current trucking trends to make note of that will produce a faster, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly fleet.
Converting to Alternative Fuels
Just like alternative energy, alternative fuels can cut down on energy costs and reduce one's carbon footprint. There are a number of alternative energy fuels, according to the US Department of Energy, that can replace gasoline when it comes to powering trucks. One popular option is biodiesel. Biodiesel is a renewable source of energy, which means that unlike fossil fuels, it's not limited in quantity. Biodiesel comes from either animal fat, vegetable oil, or recycled grease from cooking. Ethanol, produced from corn, is mixed with gasoline to power trucks. Hydrogen, which can produce virtually zero emissions, is used to power fuel cell trucks. Natural gas, which is available in abundance, is both cleaner and cheaper than gasoline. Propane, which has been used in trucks worldwide for many years, is now appearing in American trucks.
Making Older Trucks More Energy Efficient
Instead of making drastic changes like buying an entirely new fleet, upgrading or altering parts of your fleet at semi truck body shops is the first step to having a more eco-friendly fleet. With a few simple minor alterations, you can change the most critical components of your trucks to improve their fuel efficiency or aerodynamics. For instance, modifying your engine to operate on an alternative source of fuel instead of gasoline is an affordable and effective way to make older trucks more fuel-efficient.
Improving Aerodynamics and Shape
Another way that trucks are improving is by changing in shape. Research shows that at lower speeds, such as driving around town, about 20% of a car's (or truck's) fuel gets spent on moving the vehicle through the air. On the highway, nearly 80% of a vehicle's fuel is used to push its weight forward. Therefore, today's trucks are becoming lighter, more powerful, and more aerodynamic than ever before, which goes a long way in making them more efficient and even reducing the frequency of visits to the repair shop, as a lighter weight and more efficient design takes less of a toll on a truck's parts. Simple design changes like adding curves, edges, and angles, and even changing the shape of the outside mirrors, is shaving weight and drag from trucks.
Alternative energy is the wave of the future, and that applies to the trucking industry, too. Electric trucks are a hot commodity right now, as they consume far less fuel than standard trucks. This can save significant amounts of money for trucking companies, as the cost of fuel can get very expensive. Many electric trucks, like cars, are outfitted with hybrid motors. This means that they can operate primarily on electricity but switch over to conventional fuel when necessary. Electric trucks exist in many varieties, including everything from commercial vans and delivery trucks to large tractor-trailers. An added advantage (and incentive) for operators to make the switch to electric trucks is that laws regulating truck emissions are becoming more stringent as there is a push to move away from gasoline and fossil fuels. Electricity is one type of fuel that gets a nod of approval for its environmentally-friendly nature.
Better Trucking Technology
As with passenger vehicles, technology is making significant improvements in the world of trucking. Driverless and semi-autonomous trucks are in production, and although more research is needed, early models appear to be safe and more fuel-efficient than their peers. The majority of trucks on the road are also equipped with GPS and navigation devices. This dramatically reduces the likelihood of drivers getting lost, which minimizes possible safety hazards, unhappy customers, and wasted time or fuel. GPS systems also help trucks find alternate routes around traffic and congestion, which prevents fuel consumed from idling. Electronic logging devices, which record a driver's log without him or her having to do the manual labor, are also making improvements in the trucking industry.
Demand for consumer goods never stops, which brings the potential for business growth and opportunity. But despite this positive trend, the trucking industry is simultaneously encountering the need to make trucks more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly. Changes to truck shape, alternative fuel options, and more advanced trucking technology are all improvements that are revolutionizing the way truckers operate on the road today. The good news is that change doesn't have to be drastic, and it doesn't have to be expensive. With just a few simple modifications, truck fleet owners can retrofit their existing fleet to make trucks more fuel efficient and be on their way to riding the trucking wave of the future.
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