Life On The Road
When fuel conservation becomes risky business
Just when you thought driving over-the-road couldn’t get any more dangerous, along comes reports that some four-wheelers are driving crazier than ever, apparently in an attempt to conserve fuel during the ongoing run up in gas prices.
The ATA is advising fleet safety directors to tell their drivers about the dangerous practice of “drafting.” Drafting in-volves driving a car closely be-hind a truck in order to take advantage of the reduced wind resistance so the car propels forward with less energy.
“Few driving behaviors are more dangerous on our highways than drafting,” says ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “Drivers who practice this unsafe behavior are often out of the field of vision of the truck and are unable to see around the truck.”
Graves went on to say that drafting is “un-safe, illegal and significantly increases the chances of injury and death.” This dangerous practice puts everyone at risk and “must not be considered a viable means of extending fuel mileage,” Graves adds.
Due to high fuel prices, drafting as well as other dangerous practices, such as over-inflating tires and coasting with the engine off, have been promoted on several Web sites. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says all motorists must condemn these unsafe behaviors.
In other fuel-related news, idling truck engines may soon become a thing of the past. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that idling trucks consume 960 million gallons of diesel fuel annually in the U.S. and burn about 0.8 gallons per hour, and the toll on the environment is enormous. Consequently, a number of companies are devising products, including batteries, control systems and auxiliary power units, which are meant to save money on fuel and help clean up the environment.
For a complete rundown of id-ling technologies and their costs, visit the EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/otaq/smartway/idlingtechnologies.htm.
Here’s a sampling of a few products:
• Mack Trucks Inc. is the first manufacturer to offer the Idle Free Hybrid System, which relies on batteries that provide stored electrical power for heating, a/c, TV, microwave and other amenities. The batteries have a long life and can be recharged in three ways.
• IDLE SMART is a programmable, electronic control system that monitors temperatures inside and outside the truck. It automatically starts the engine, increases engine speed to boost efficiency, monitors system, heats/cools the cab, and shuts the engine off.
• The RigMaster Power is a stand-alone device that provides heat and air conditioning to the cab, heat to the engine and electrical current for appliances. The bunk heater/air conditioning unit mounts inside the bunk with two 110-volt receptacles. The main unit mounts on the trailer’s rail and consumes about 0.2 gallons per hour.
Sources: Roemer Report (used with permission), ATA, EPA