Tag Archives: NHTSA

Potential Reactions to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Phase 2 Rules

Earlier this month the White House, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration put out their final “Phase 2” rules for greenhouse gas/fuel economy for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles.

The rules are set to cover all semi-trucks, vans and large pickup trucks. They will also govern buses and work trucks manufactured during the model years 2021 – 2027. Once the standards have been completely phased in, future tractor-trailer combinations will be required to knock a full quarter percent off of their carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption when compared to an equivalent vehicle with a 2018 manufacturing date.

What it Covers

When it comes to what kind of equipment you buy and how that equipment will function when getting the job done, these rules will apply. While there were some negative early reactions, most of the response has been positive. The fact is, fuel economy and carbon emissions are a reality, and the trucking industry is facing them head on.

With the United States facing some serious challenges in greenhouse gas reduction, manufacturers and government agencies will need to partner up to develop innovative new solutions to fuel economy and emissions problems.

For many, building on existing industry leadership will be crucial in this endeavor. Many major manufacturers are already showing support for regulations designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.

What many wanted to see in the new rule was a collaborative effort. They expected the final rule to provide clear, long-term targets that apply not just to the engine, but to the entire vehicle itself. They also wanted the rule to give industry players enough time to adapt and choose how to achieve the reductions in a way that doesn’t harm their business.

Potential Engineering Challenges

There are also engineering feats to consider. Although many are proud of their achievements, manufacturers understand that it will take a serious effort, backed up with a lot of brain power, to achieve a 25% reduction in both emissions and fuel consumption.

Considering big players like Cummins and Daimler have already proven their capability in meeting Phase 1 efforts, getting to Phase 2 shouldn’t be extraordinarily difficult. With industry players getting to work with the EPA and NHTSA during the draft review process, the final rule is able to better clarify how it impacts the needs of both motor carriers and their customers.

Trailer makers are, of course, definitely a concerned participant in the conversation, and the final ruling does include trailers. Some trailer manufacturers have called the final eco2 targets “more stringent,” but are vowing to find ways to comply.

One manufacturer, Great Dane Trailers, has reported working on some of the lightest reefer and flatbeds on the market. While they expect to see a jump in initial acquisition costs, they do note that their customers will see improvements in their cost of ownership over the long-term.

What Does the ATA Say?

Unsurprisingly, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) quickly came out with an extensive statement evaluating the GHG proposals. According to their statement, they “developed and adopted a set of 15 guiding principles.” These guiding principles would serve as parameters for inclusion once the rule was finalized.

They went on to express pleasure that their concerns were heard and included in the final rule. A few things they recommended included:

  • Adequate lead time
  • Technology development markers
  • National harmonization of standards
  • Manufacturer flexibility

In the end, the ATA reports that they will continue to work with the EPA and NHTSA, though they did highlight transparency and accommodation to industry-sensitive concerns as sticking points. As the GHG Phase 2 rule is rolled out, we’ll see how this story evolves over time.

The fact is, improved fuel economy is a goal that shouldn’t be hard for stakeholders to unite around. While the new targets may represent a challenge to some in the industry, most are focused on meeting their goals in a way that has a minimal impact on fleets or other industry participants.

The Full Story on Under-Inflation and Fuel Economy

As the Greenhouse Gas Phase 2 rules are getting fleshed out, automatic tire inflation systems are being considered as a major fuel-saving technology. As it stands right now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will offer compliance credits to any OEM that installs these systems.

According to industry insiders, the decision was based on information gleaned from a Department of Transportation (DOT) study completed between 2008 and 2010. The study revealed that on average fuel economy improved by 1.4 percent when wheel-mounted and valve-stem mounted tire pressure monitoring systems were used.

It’s About More Than Underinflating

There is little doubt that trailer automatic tire inflation systems help in reducing downtime costs associated with flat tires, but what can be said about their contribution to fuel economy?

We’ve all heard of the old adage that 10 percent under-inflation can cause a 1 percent degradation in fuel economy, mainly due to the increased rolling resistance of softer tires. But what exactly does this mean?

You need to isolate whether you are talking about one tire, all 18 tires, just the tires on the truck or just the tires on the trailer. Would all or one of them have to be under-inflated in order to see a 1 percent drop in the truck’s fuel economy? It might be a little bit more complex than that.

The overall fuel economy of your vehicle is depending mostly on the axle position of the under-inflated tire. The fact is, drive and trailer axles contribute more to overall fuel economy than the steer tires. So don’t look there to get the most savings.

What is Recommended?

It’s no secret that most fleets are not very good at tire pressure maintenance. One European study revealed that 12 percent of fleets routinely run under-inflated tires compared to whatever said fleet’s inflation guidelines are.

Another DOT study from 2003 showed that only half of all commercial truck tires were inflated to within 5 psi of the recommended pressure. A full 1 out of 20 were more than 20psi under-inflated and a fifth of dual-tire assemblies differed by more than 5 psi.

So the question remains: What exactly is the recommended tire pressure? There is only one official reference to tire pressure in any industry manuals and that is the tire makers’ load and inflation tables. The information can be found through the Tire Industry Association.

These tables are standards that are consistently maintained and designed to provide guidelines as to which tires can carry what types of loads. Keep in mind that these guidelines speak only to the minimum pressure required to support the load, so tires that are being operated under the guideline are running at below the threshold of their load.

Potential Problems

It can be reasonably concluded that any tire that is run below the minimum standard in the load and inflation guide is technically under-inflated. Under-inflation of this kind can result in tire damage. Whether it be through tread separation or increased flexing in the sidewalls leading to a zipper rupture, running with under-inflated tires is a serious safety issue.

Under-inflation also causes tire flex as they are rolling down the highway. Tire flex not only could damage the tire, but it also affects the truck’s overall fuel economy. Additionally, you may get uneven wear on any number of tires, which could spell additional problems if you are using retreads.

In the end, you’ve got to make the decision that is right for your equipment in relation to the type of loads you are running and terrain you are running it over. While you may realize some savings with under-inflated tires, you’ve got to make sure you adequately weight the risks to the benefits.

In the end, whether you choose to use automatic tire inflation systems or not may not even be up to you. If the EPA and NHTSA go through with the new GHG rules, fleets will have greater incentive to make the switch.

Challenges Facing Trucking in Late 2015

It’s true that 2015 has been a year of opportunities for trucking. But just as we’re talking about an industry hitting the $700 billion revenue target, headwinds remain.

Freight demand is higher than ever, yet trucking is facing challenges on several fronts. Increased recruiting expenses, truck purchase and maintenance costs, regulatory burdens, and lost productivity are all stressing forces on fleets. Today we’re going to take a closer look at each area trucking needs to focus on as we move into the latter half of the year.

Recruiting New People

We’ve been talking about it nearly non-stop, and there’s a reason why. The truck driver shortage is real. According to the most recent numbers from the American Trucking Association (ATA), the nation needs roughly 96,000 truck drivers per year, just to keep up with demand.

If these continue as they are now, expect that number to swell to 240,000 by 2022. While there are a number of factors contributing to the shortage, overall it remains a vexing problem.

Budgets for fleet recruiting departments have also risen. As the employment situation begins to get direr, carriers are increasing their sign-on bonuses and mileage pay as they struggle to put truck drivers in a cab.

Regulatory Burdens

Fiscal pressures are increased when regulations tighten. Fleets have had to deal with a number of changes in the Hours-of-Service (HOS) model. Each change brings a shift in productivity and an adjustment to the schedule.

Several other regulatory changes might also further constrain trucking. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) are set to release new standards aimed at reducing fuel consumption in Class 8 trucks by 29 percent, between the 2014 and 2018 model years.

This change could result in the cost of buying and maintaining a new rig increasing exponentially. As things get more complicated under the hood, expect them to get more complicated in the wallet.

Lost Productivity

As HOS and other regulations have worked their way through the system, driver and asset productivity have fallen. After all, fleets must view both their equipment and their truck drivers’ time as perishable commodities.

Although HOS has been placed on ice by a Republican Congress, like any high-investment, low-margin machine, big rigs and trailers need to be kept in continual productive motion. In order to keep the bottom line from feeling any negative impacts, fleet managers are segmenting their drivers’ time.

Another major productivity problem is in wait time. As shippers get squeezed due to a lack of capacity, truck drivers often find themselves spending a disproportionate amount of time waiting at loading docks.

Rail Problems

Trucking isn’t the only industry grappling with a rapid increase in freight volumes. Service recovery on the rail lines has also stalled. Intermodal, carload, and grain movements have all seen year-over-year growth in the double digits.

While some may be quick to think the problem lies in the rail itself, this isn’t so. Railroads continued to see heavy investment through the recession, and today the investment activity going into maintaining the system is still at record levels.

The problem with railroads is one trucking is quite familiar with. There simply aren’t enough crew members out there to fill an employment void. Additionally, new EPA regulations mean there will be only one locomotive manufacturer until 2017, which could squeeze supply.

Capacity Crisis

The fact is, the market is at a capacity tipping point. The strength of demand doesn’t look to ease anytime soon. At best, seasonal peaks and/or unknown events could cause series of capacity crises.

Furthermore, contract rates are moving up. Total shipping costs are expected to rise further in 2016. To add insult to injury, another set of regulations is likely to hit in 2016, which could further muddy the picture.

It’s no secret that despite strong gains, trucking has some challenges to face. How well it’s able to meet those challenges depends on the actions of a number of people, from fleet managers to politicians. What the future holds is anybody’s guess.

Why Highway Hypnosis Is Every Truck Driver’s Achilles’ Heel?

Think about it. This is a type of job in the logistics industry requiring a ton of caffeine either in the form of energy drink, coffee, dissolvable, gummy, or pill. And loads of it – all to ensure that a driver doesn’t fall asleep behind the wheel. It’s a sad state when we see those driver’s ed videos about the truck driver who gets lulled into a meditative state, driving for hours and hours only to meet his or her horrible end in a head-on collision or a trip down a massive hill and explosion at the very bottom of a chasm. All by itself, it fits the mold of your standard horror movie!

This Is Why the White House Has Recently Nominated a ‘Sleep Specialist’ to Head the NHTSA

Highway hypnosis is no joke. It’s every truck driver’s worst nightmare. Each logistics corporation faces the prospect of a truck driver falling asleep at the wheel and causing some horrible accident, and the fact remains: such a truck driver can’t help but get fatigued. Logistics is truly a tough job.

Why do you think highways have those rest stops? Truck drivers do use them all the time. The problem, though, is that there are deadlines, and truck drivers can’t liberally use their time at their leisure to make sure they don’t rest their foreheads on the steering wheel while managing 60 miles an hour on the open road. It’s a lose-lose situation for these truck drivers, basically.

Hail Mark Rosekind, the new head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a federal crash investigator – and even better, a “sleep and fatigue specialist” – capable of really understanding what makes our truck drivers tick.

The Basic Credentials of Our Possible New NHTSA Head

Truck drivers all over America need the help to keep their eyes open, obviously, which is why Rosekind makes such a dent on the subject. Having been a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board, this is a man with such in-depth knowledge to know just what our drivers need to stay safe while operating their semis.

Moreover, he’s an innovator, implementing technological solutions, a chief scientist and President of a company dedicated to finding revolutionary ways for drivers working in the logistics industry to combat fatigue and highway hypnosis. That company is “Alert Solutions.” Understandable name.

Rosekind Is Not the Head of the NHTSA…. Yet

He has to get a pass by the U.S. Senate, and then he’s good to go. Given his credentials and the endorsement by our United States President, though, the chances are good.

With him on board, though, you can bet we can get some insight on research and development for higher safety standards among logistics companies. This goes well beyond the need for caffeine pills or Monster drinks, just so you know.

As a graduate of Stanford and Yale, Rosekind doesn’t play around. With his work at NASA, leading initiatives to develop a fatigue countermeasure program, studying all sorts of human factors in aviation, you can only imagine if he can make sure an astronaut or pilot doesn’t fall asleep behind the wheel, he can probably do the same for just about any truck driver out on the highway.

And without a doubt – we need that kind of expertise.

What the NHTSA Does

The truth is evident that highway hypnosis may forever be an issue we will always combat. That’s why the NHTSA is an agency focused on research and policy. Additionally, safety recalls and oversight of fuel economy standards are key priorities, hence making the agency not only a right-now type of solution for every single driver, but a long-term environmental remedy for thousands of trucks out there consistently burning fuel.

I Think It’s Safe to Say….

We’re in good hands. We have to be. When we’re out there on the road – whether as a residential driver, or a commercial operator – there’s always that chance that something can go wrong. It’s a highway. It’s hypnosis. People get sleepy all the time.

As long as we have a team there to always find ways to minimize the danger, we’ll always be on the right track. The right people make a difference. Our drivers will always succeed at their truck driving jobs, even when it’s tough. Moves like this from our President remind us that our livelihoods are the most important thing to the American Dream.