Coming Trends in the Trucking Industry

April 24, 2014

Old Axle Design to Save Gas

In the May issue of Truck News, editor James Menzies talked about three noteworthy equipment trends observed at the Mid-America Trucking Show:

Use of dead axle tractors increasing

The 6x2 axle configuration, also called a "dead axle tandem" configuration because power is supplied to only one of the two rear tandem drive axles seems to be gaining greater acceptance in the trucking industry. While the technology has been around for awhile, its recent popularity seems to be driven by the potential fuel savings gained from the considerable weight reduction (about 400 pounds). According to a report by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, 6x2 tractors offer possible fuel economy of 2.5% to 6% over trucks with standard axle configurations.

The 6x2 configuration isn't appropriate in all driving situations and is not a preferred choice for heavy duty construction applications or for routes plagued by poor weather conditions. The potential loss of traction in wintry conditions or on uneven road surfaces may be the reason 6x2s are not permitted in some Canadian provinces.

Downspeeding dangers

The quest for greater fuel economy has led more truckers to adopt the practice of downspeeding. Running truck engines at lower rpms with faster rear axle ratios does improve fuel economy, but it also increases the torque loads on the vehicle's axles and driveshaft. Unless the truck has been built to withstand the extra torque - which can increase by as much as 54% - drivers are risking safety to themselves, their vehicles and other highway drivers for a relatively small 1.5% fuel savings. There is nothing inherently wrong with downspeeding if the truck has been spec'ed to accommodate the increased torque load.

High-tech trucking

The trucking industry has become increasingly automated, and the trend has made an impact on truck design and construction as well as navigation, reporting and tracking. Orders for trucks with automated transmissions are increasing with 30% growth expected over the next 5 years.

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