May 2014 - AKMI Corporation

Monthly Archives: May 2014

How the President has affected the Trucking Industry

President Obama made some headlines earlier this year in regards to the trucking industry on a couple of different fronts. These changes will have a trickle-down effect throughout the whole trucking industry from new truck sales to your diesel engine spare parts needs.

First, he has called for “$302 Billion over 4 years to reinvigorate the Federal Highway program” referred to as the GROW America Act.

Details on funding still need to be worked out and Congress will still need to approve this as well. Part of the funding, $150 billion, is set to come from corporate tax reform and will fill up “The Trust Fund” which the D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) pulls funds from to help individual states work on the Interstate Highways & roads. The Trust Fund could end up in the red by this summer, which could potentially delay multiple road improvement projects across the country.

Proposals for the remaining funds are still in question. Obama’s version would allow individual states to increase the amount of “Toll Highways” in their state to help fund road improvements. The American Trucking Association (ATA) would prefer to see a federal fuel tax increase as a way to fund “GROW.”

The ATA is worried that individual state “highway tolls” could potentially add over $9 billion in extra costs to the trucking industry. Also, it appears the states would regulate their own toll fees, instead of being federally regulated. Other funding options are being discussed, but not likely to be accepted.

Here are some key components of the “GROW America Act”

  1. Should reduce project approval timelines
  2. Greater emphasis on intermodal shipping
  3. More rapid environmental reviews
  4. Funding to bolster efficient and reliable freight networks
  5. Giving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration authority to recall electronic logging devices if the devices fail to meet certification requirements; and
  6. Making sure that drug offenders do not receive a commercial drivers’ license until they have completed a rehabilitation program.

There is still a lot of “kinks” to work out with this Act, but it’s great that the president is working to help improve the nation’s highways. Better road conditions mean less stress on trucks and longer lasting diesel engine spare parts.

Second, the president is calling for the next round of fuel efficiency for medium/heavy duty trucks. Approximately 1/3 (32.5%) of heavy duty trucks currently on the road have met ‘phase I’ or first-generation of clean diesel standards for model year 2007. It has also been reported that 15% of the trucks meet the more stringent standards for model year 2010.

The effects of this ‘phase I’ has shown significant improvements. Customer demand for fuel improvement have sparked OEM manufacturers to redesign/improve certain diesel engine spare parts to meet these standards, and more improvements are set to come.

In 2012 alone, it’s been estimated that clean diesel trucks on the road have reduced emissions of Nitrogen Oxides by one million tons and have reduced particulate matter by 27,000 tons.

‘Phase II’ plans to further improve on these reduced emission numbers as well as an increased mpg.

Over the last 10 years, reported emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses have been reduced by 99% for nitrogen oxides and 98% for particulate emissions. As it stands now, it would take 60 clean diesel trucks to produce the same emissions as a truck that was manufactured in 1988.

Sometimes government regulations can spark technology growth. Without these regulations, would the trucking industry have made these improvements to their trucks and replacement diesel engine parts?

Maybe, but the growth would have been at their own pace.

Hybrids on the Rise. Next up – ‘Flybrids’?

Recently I had been researching hybrid vehicles and technology to learn about them and maybe in future purchase a hybrid vehicle. While web surfing hybrids, I came across an article on website that caught my attention. The title was “Can flywheel technology drive out the battery from car hybrids?” The article discusses the potential of a flywheel-based Kinetic Energy Recovery System (Kers) that could potentially replace the battery in hybrids. These vehicles are known as “Flybrids”

Before discussing these ‘flybrids’, here is some information on hybrids that I found to be interesting:

  1. Hybrid technology was first used in 1900 and in 1901, Ferdinand Porsche developed the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid, the first gasoline-electric hybrid automobile in the world. An interesting notation that I had found on Wikipedia.
  2. The Toyota Prius was the first mass produced hybrid vehicle and helped create the current hybrid craze that is going on today.
  3. 7.5 million hybrid vehicles have been sold through December of 2013 since they became massed produced in 1997,  6 million of these are Toyota Motor Company owned between Toyota & Lexus brand names.
  4. In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the ‘Heavy Duty Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development & Demonstration Act of 2009’ for heavy duty plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  5. According to Pike Research, the estimated global market of hybrid medium/heavy duty trucks & buses on the road was 9,000 vehicles in 2010 and expected 100,000 vehicles in 2015. Coca-Cola Enterprises has the largest fleet of hybrid trucks in North America.

Hybrid heavy duty trucks can haul some weight as well. Freightliner Hybrid technology was boasting their new line of trucks having a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating up to 55,000 lbs, a range of 200-320 hp, with torque output ranging from 520-750 lb/ft. These trucks can move/haul just about anything standard diesel engine trucks can as well. If you are in market for a new truck, you should give a hybrid truck a second look.

Now I want to reflect on the ‘flybrid’ article a little bit more. Flybrids are not only for automotive vehicles. There are buses in London currently operating with flybrid engines as a test run, with some also expected in Northern Ireland also.

The concept of the flybrid is, the kinetic energy recovered during braking would spin a flywheel. The recovered energy is stored in the spinning flywheel, to be released upon acceleration. The amount of energy a flywheel can store depends on its mass and the speed at which it is rotating. Certain prototypes have provided up to 80 bhp boost.

Flywheels are lighter than batteries and are easier to dispose of when they go bad. A flybrid engine offers a prospect of improved fuel efficiency as well. Unlike batteries, you can charge a flywheel up & slow it down multiple times without the degradation of performance.

Car manufacturers such as Porsche, Jaguar, Audi & Aftermarket Volvo have begun to experiment with flybrid technology in recent years. Audi Sport’s flywheel hybrid, the R18 E-Tron Quattro, became the first hybrid vehicle to win the legendary “Le Mans 24 hour endurance race.”

As intriguing as this flybrid and Kers technology is, I would not expect a big exploding trend just yet for flybrids on the market just yet. Toyota themselves haven’t shown interest in flybrids, and the major companies who have do not feel the technology is ready for mass production at this time.

In another 5 years or so, you could be debating, Hybrid or Flybrid, when it comes to your next vehicle purchase.