Roll on, efficiency

Roll on, efficiency: Tires and fuel efficiency

Any time we talk about increasing the trailer part of the fuel efficiency equation, the conversation immediately turns to aerodynamics and light-weighting. But let’s not forget that the proposed rule making also mentions low rolling resistance tires and tire pressure systems.

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE, white paper entitled “Costs and Adoption Rates of Fuel-Saving Technologies for Trailers in the North American On-Road Freight Sector” also focused on the fleet cost savings for those technologies.

Specifically focusing on pressure systems, the two organizations stated in the white paper that “inflation is a pivotal factor in determining the rolling resistance of tires … . Both the fleets and tire manufacturers emphasized that trucking companies are increasingly interested in installing tire pressure management systems—not only for the improved fuel efficiency but, perhaps more important, to improve safety and increase tire life.”

The organizations also reported that monitoring systems are currently being installed on one-tenth of new box trailers, while automatic inflation systems are roughly three times as popular and installed on nearly a third of new trailers. That adoption rate is gaining steam, according to Bill Wakefield, Meritor’s director of sales, and Brett Penzkofer, the company’s vice president and general manager—trailers, who sat down with Fleet Equipment during an event that toasted the manufacturing of the one millionth Meritor Tire Inflation System (MTIS) by PSI.

“We’re well past the early adopter phase of this technology. The word is out,” Wakefield said. “It’s not just us promoting the technology; the users are promoting the technology, the government is promoting the technology and new [greenhouse gas] regulations are promoting the technology. We’re going to see that adoption rate grow quickly.”

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While the exact percentage of MTIS market penetration varies by trailer type, Penzkofer said that, overall, MTIS has more than an 80% share of the automatic tire inflation market. Meritor expects Greenhouse Gas regulations to be a catalyst for increased demand.

“It’s an easy technology to employ to hit the GHG credits,” Wakefield said. “When you get into aerodynamic components, it can be difficult to do the math to figure out which components you want to deploy in which applications. Each fleet will have different preferences for whether they want to use side skirts or boat tails or something on the front end between the cab and trailer.

“Automatic tire inflation systems are easy. If you employ the technology, you’re going to get the GHG credit and savings. I think it was a smart thing to include low rolling resistance tires and tire inflation systems in the proposed rule making because they are simple to employ.”

The proper combination of fuel saving technologies is going to be the key for achieving fuel savings. “Overall, the tire inflation system business payback is remarkable,” Wakefield said.

NACFE’s Executive Director Mike Roeth agreed in his speech during the PSI one-millionth event, mentioning that the organization’s very first report in 2013 was on tire pressure systems. In 2014, the organization studied 14 fleets’ spec’ing habits. NACFE found that those fleets saved a combined half billion dollars in fuel costs with technologies like pressure inflation systems, AMTs and aerodynamics.

“Whether you like them or you don’t, fuel economy regulations are here. It’s the first fuel economy regulations that this country is dealing with, but together, we can make money with this GHG regulation,” Roeth said. “The future for trucking is bright. It’s about technologies that save fuel and save money. Yeah, they’re going to have an up-front cost, but if we do it right, they’ll perform.”

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