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U.S. Transformational Trucking--Environment and Efficiency in Freight Mobility

AUTHOR: Sahl, Amanda; Simpson, Mike; Kawai, Hiroko
DOCUMENT ID: 2009-19
YEAR: 2009
DOCUMENT TYPE: Report or White Paper

The American trucking industry moves 60 percent of America’s goods using 3.5 million tractors and 5.3 million trailers. Yet despite their ubiquity, tractor-trailer designs have remained fundamentally unchanged for fifty years. Within the trucking industry, long-haul heavy-duty (Class 7 and 8) trucks offer particularly great efficiency potential. Despite accounting for less than half of the nation’s trucks, Class 7 and 8 trucks account for almost 80 percent of trucks’ fuel consumption. Their size, speed, and poor aerodynamics mean Class 7 and 8 trucks are laden with “low-hanging fruit” (cost-effective efficiency and retrofitting opportunities). The complexity of the industry and its culture have been the primary barriers to realizing this efficiency. The industry has found efficiency improvements difficult to invest in, and when OEMs, fleets, and owner-operators have been able to, they’ve been reluctant because they don’t trust efficiency data (nor projected payback). Regulations have also discouraged the greater use of high productivity vehicles and diverted resources from efficiency. According to a recent analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute, the technology already exists to double trucking efficiency.

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