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ORNL Launches Nationwide Heavy-Duty Truck Efficiency Test; Single Wide Tires a Prime Focus

The performance of single wide tires is one of the main areas of focus of the test. Shown here are Michelin X-One tires. Source: Michelin.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has launched a nationwide test of heavy-duty trucks that will include special monitoring equipment on six instrumented tractors and nine instrumented trailers.

During the next 12 months, these specially equipped tractor-trailers, owned by Schrader Trucking Company of Jefferson City, Tenn., will haul freight across the United States on regular truck runs.

Data acquisition systems will be on board to measure each vehicle’s performance, including vehicle and engine speed, engine torque and fuel consumption. Performance data will also take into consideration such physical factors as wind speed, direction, road grade, precipitation and other conditions that vary during long-haul truck runs.

One of the prime areas to be studied is tire performance with the use of new generation wide-based single tires produced by Michelin. Standard dual tires mounted on drive and trailer wheels—along with steer tires mounted on tractor steer axles—will also be tested for comparison purposes on some of the trucks.

Earlier interstate tests by ORNL’s National Transportation Research Center found that gas mileage increased nearly 3% with use of wider single tires on tractor-trailers. Bill Knee, who headed the study, said the change also allows widening of the trailer frame by six inches, providing a much more stable configuration. (Earlier post.)

Special equipment on the instrumented trucks includes a weather station, GPS antenna, a self-weighing system, and a tire inflation monitoring system.

Data collected will support modeling efforts for trucks of the future, and will be made available to automotive engineers in the trucking industry as they work to develop more energy efficient and safer trucks. The data will also help the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) efforts in supporting future investments in energy-efficiency technologies.

The project is a partnership effort between ORNL, Schrader Trucking, Michelin and DOE’s Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies. ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.




"Earlier interstate tests by ORNL’s National Transportation Research Center found that gas mileage increased nearly 3% with use of wider single tires"

Wow what a big increase 3% and we are importing about 60% of our oil. Sorry, this might help a little but it would be a drop in the bucket while our troops are still dying in the Middle East every day.

If we really wanted to move frieght around with less oil, we should rebuild our rail system with high-speed electrical engines. They have these in Europe and Japan already. Our rail system here in the USA is a bad joke.

How could we pay for this new rail system?
We could save 2 billion dollars a WEEK by bringing the troops home NOW!.

Kyle Dansie


Easy Kyle...3% is pretty big.
A 25-50 cent tariff on imported oil could support a lot of projects, including what youve mentioned. However I dont think anyone is looking for 100+mph tankers of anything.


Super singles have been in use in Europe for years too on top of the rail systems....

Mark A

"our rail system here in the USA is a joke"?
What is the basis of your observation? From what I know, our rail systems are fairly efficient. That is proven by our relatively low food costs, nationwide, compared to other countries. GM's Electro-Motive locomotive division has been evolving and making great gains in efficiency. What are we to do, scrap all our current rail lines, and locomotives, and replace them with European designs?? We could send a family to Jupiter, and back, probably cheaper than that!

But back on topic, 3% would be a major gain for a long haul truck. I have seen a few of these trucks pass me, recently, with the super single wheels. The only concern I have, is that I also see alot of shredded tires on the freeway I travel on, from the big rigs. I see remnants of tires, at times every 1/4-1/2 mile. Are these tires less susceptible to blowouts? And if not, how would they affect the big rigs safety/control if they do blow? Maybe this test will answer that.

Tim Russell

Kyle, Only about 1/2 of Europe and Japan's RRs are electic. You can look it up on Wikipedia which has a transportation section for each country. They use diesels all over the world for rail roads.

One of the reasons why we don't have electric rail ways here is the cities are far apart and the transmission losses alone would eat up much of the power. More power stations, probably be coal fired as the US has plenty of it. The "coal drags" to fuel the power stations would cut into the capacity for other freight I guess too.


I don't see companies like Circuit City and Best Buy (for example) using rail to get goods from their distribution centers to the stores. I don't see similar companies getting goods from Panasonic or RCA by rail to their distribution centers. Now using rail to get a mass of goods from a port on the west coast to the main warehouse for one of the manufacturers seems reasonable but since they will then push out goods in much smaller quantities to dozens of different companies with distribution centers in many different locations, completely replacing the entire system with rail would be a huge endeavor...the energy costs alone (of laying all the tracks required) would be significant.

John Ard

Singles can't hold as much weight as duals so most owner-operator truckers won't even consider them (my father and most of his friends are owner-operators). A 3% gain in fuel economy, while significant, doesn't justify buying new wheels and not being able to haul as much in most truckers' eyes.

Rafael Seidl

Kyle -

while Europe's rail systems might be more advanced for passenger service at the national level, long-distance rail freight is not competitive with road transport. Rail was long considered a strategic military asset, which led to incompatible voltages and frequencies, signalling, even track guages, in various countries. The result is that both locomotives and drivers still have to be changed at each national border. The wait states reduce the average speed of a freight train from Rotterdam to Milan to just 18kph.

There is a long-running EU prgramme to upgrade the 30 most important trans-national connections in an effort to shift freight back onto rail. In this context, it would be valuable to have unmanned self-propelled freight cars featuring accurate redundant positioning systems and network connectivity with automated traffic controllers. Even slipstream convoys of mechanically decoupled cars are conceivable, but safety concerns mean this type of technology is still a long, long way off.

John Ard -

you are right in that double tires offer greater total tread width. However, not all trucks transport very dense goods and hence, truly heavy loads.

Those that focus on rapid delivery of low-density perishables like fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, for exapmple, would benefit.

hampden wireless

You wrote:
Singles can't hold as much weight as duals so most owner-operator truckers won't even consider them (my father and most of his friends are owner-operators). A 3% gain in fuel economy, while significant, doesn't justify buying new wheels and not being able to haul as much in most truckers' eyes.
That is simply not true. The whole point of the new tires is that they can carry the same weight as two of the old ones. They use enhanced materials to make that possible.
The downside is if you loose a tire you have only one left on that group and no margin of safety.


Hmm... Well, history says that rail transport of goods in the USA was killed off by pure politics. The trucking lobby was very powerful then, even if long-haul trucking was much less efficient than rail. This also helped fund our once fantastic interstate system (a good thing). This is still the case today, although the lobbying money comes from big oil as well. Why? Why not use much cleaner diesel-electric rail transport for heavy goods instead of smoke belchers on our very crowded highways? Why not transport spillable toxics on non-passenger rail only instead of right through populated neighborhoods surrounded by people in cars?

Easy. Think if the transport system is mostly (non-perishables excepted of course) a rail to warehouse, then delivery truck to destination topography again instead of long-haul truck to destination. The delivery truck mileage is a fraction of that of the long-haul. Meaning we could again use battery electric delivery trucks again, as we did in the early 1900s.

The time on most routes would be similar. Delivery trucks KNOW the area traffic and roads much better than out of state trucks. Also, watch long-haul trucks go through the passes on I-80 in a Wyoming winter sometime. Those that aren't in the ditch are moving exactly 5 mph. And there are tons of them. About 3% are old hands at trucking, but still are at risk from the other 97% cranked up on trucker speed and crapping their pants.

Rail is slowed artificially by "noise ordinaces" or other lame political restrictions to actively lessen rail usage. Amtrak is a pawn for this because the less efficient they are, the more goverment money is used to bail them out. Negative incentive. I'll take the sound of a diesel locomotive at 3am over those mother f****** truck air-brakes anytime. BLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTT!!! I've lived next to both, trust me -- you can sleep through the train, but not that Zeus-fart that rattles your teeth all the sudden.


when was the last time you saw a tractor trailer with new tires on it? It seems to me that the biggest limiting factor here will be long term safety. If you are running a truck, you are going to get every dollar out of everything you use, including your tires, what happens to the 3% fuel gain when the tire is 90% bald? most truckers will continue to rotate the bad tires UNTIL a blowout, precisely because you CAN do that with dual tires. I like the idea, but safety, and what are they going to cost to replace?

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