Channel 19

Todd Dills

‘Who’s inefficient?’ Four wheels or 18?

| December 10, 2010

So asks New Cumberland, Pa., resident and owner-operator Tom Bowers in a letter to the editor published in the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, in response to a letter from another area resident heaping the bulk of energy inefficiencies in the transportation arena on the back of the big rigs of the trucking industry.

Bowers’ argument for the comparable inefficiency of the auto industry, where fuel used per-pound moved is much higher than the same rate in  big-rig diesels, is one echoed in a column in this month’s edition of Truckers News by none other than Albert Transport independent owner-operator Henry Albert, Overdrive‘s 2007 Trucker of the Year and a man regular readers will no doubt be familiar with.

“The Enivronmental Protection Agency,” he writes, “for all its good intentions, was responsible for the light-truck, SUV and big-van craze of the 1970s on…. Automobiles represent the very low-hanging fruit for increased fuel mileage. Most cars get less than 30 mpg and do not carry much weight at all.”

Bowers spelled out the difference in his letter by comparing the fleet of 30 Toyota pickups getting a questionable 25 mpg that would be required to move 45,000 lbs. of freight to the one Class 8 tractor. He asked, Do we “really want the trucking industry to be as efficient as the auto industry? 

“Example: A. 1 big rig, 45,000-pound load, 3,000 miles @ 6 mpg = 500 gal x $3.25 = $1,625. That’s $0.0361/pound, $0.5416/mile, 0.0111 gal/pound. 

“B. 45,000-pound load requiring 30 Toyota pickups hauling 1,500 pounds each @ 25 mpg = 120 gal x $2.95 = $354. To move the same 45,000 pounds would require 3,600 gallons totaling $10,620. That’s $0.236/pound, $3.54/mile, 0.08 gal/pound.” Read his full letter here.

As the debate over the appropriateness of proposed EPA standards for heavy diesels goes on, folks like Albert, who are pushing current diesel efficiency to its maximum levels, continue to view the issue with concern, wondering whether the agency may be misplacing its attention. As Albert concludes, “The real potential for fuel economy gains remains in vehicles used for personal transportation.”

Read Albert’s full column in Truckers News.

See video of Albert’s address to the Overdrive/ATBS Partners in Business seminar at GATS in August 2010.

  • Rick Gaskill

    There are more efficient ways to move freight . While rails are more efficient there is a logistics problem . Current railyards are working at capacity and no communities are willing to accept new railyards .
    However , rail doesn’t face these problems shipping their highest volume loads like coal and grain .
    The same is true of river and seacoast transportation . Containers still have to be moved by truck to their final destination but many power plants and grain elevators are built next to rivers and can receive loads directly from barges .

OverdriveOnline.com strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.