Fall Semester

Goals:

  • Reduce wind resistance by approximately 2% leading to fuel saving of $750 per year per truck.
  • Keep cost per unit such that the pay-off period is less than 5 years.

Requirements:

  • Functionality of the parts to be re-designed must be improved or at least maintained.
  • Easily implemented into existing structure.
  • Applicable in multiple truck models.
  • Meet regulations / standards for trucking industry.
  • Low maintenance requirements.
  • High reliability.
  • Develop backup system in case of failure.
  • Functionality of system in low light environment (i.e. night, fog, rain, etc).
  • Greatly improve safety.

Other Considerations:

  • Obtain wind resistance data from actual trucks.
  • Perform scale model experiments in Calvin wind tunnel.
  • Evaluation mass production options and marketability.
  • Adaptability for drivers to the new system.
  • Research other fuel efficiency systems.

Approximate Estimations of Fuel Savings:

  • Assume linear relationship between wind resistance and fuel economy.
  • Total cross sectional area of truck: 108 sq. ft.
  • Cross sectional area of mirrors: 1.8 sq. ft.
  • 2% reduction in wind resistance.
  • 100,000 miles per truck per year @ 8 mpg.
  • Annual fuel savings of 250 gallons per truck.
  • Annual savings of $750 per truck.

Recent Financial Data:

  • Tractor trailers logged 143.6 billion miles in the United States alone at an average of 5.9 miles per gallon.
  • 24.3 billion gallons of diesel fuel or 600 million barrels or oil
  • At $100 per barrel of crude oil, the direct economic impact is 57 billion dollars per year
  • 2% of wind resistance => 1% reduction in fuel savings.

Spring Semester

Update

This spring is when we begin work on production of prototypes and further the analysis completed in the first semester. We the spring semester with a meeting to organize our schedules and begin seperating responibilities. We organized a meeting with Equity Inc. (local trucking company), and acquired more hardware from Gentex Corperation, including a camera and several monitors. We will continue working on desings for the rear-view monitoring system as the semester progresses.

Testing Underway

In an effort to explore the possibility of trucking companies possibly implamenting our system, we have installed a camera and monitor on at truck at Equity. A prototype bracket was constructed to make this test possible. After a week on the road, and a converstaion with the driver, we will evaluate the experience and continue researching aspects of the design that may need to be revisited or modified. Below are some images of the installed prototype.


Research

As the semester continues to wind down and we continue to research other aspects of the project. We are beginning to better understand where our project, and the result of our project, will fit into the larger scheme of future fuel regulated transport. A study put together by Union of Concerned Schientists presents several different ideas and options for improving fuel economy. Take a peak here

Final Results and Senior Design Night

Now that the semester is finished the results of the project are final. At the beginning of the project, the main focus of this project was to analyze the amount of fuel savings that could be obtained by removing several of the blind spot mirrors on semi trucks. Toward the end of the semester the main focus of the project shifted more toward the safety aspects of the proposed system. In order to test the system we worked very closely with Equity Transport. Equity allowed us to mount our prototype system on one of their truck and we then were able to get feedback from the driver about the functionality of the system. After the driver had the system for several weeks we got some great feedback. That feed back was related to several questions that were asked and a summary of the responses are as follows:

  • Effectiveness of the system: Based on the drivers use of the system, he feels that the camera and monitor did a better job covering the blind spots overall. Roger described that the monitor eliminates the blind spot and notes the similarity to a convex mirror. In the drivers opinion the systems rating was a 7 out of 10
  • Adaption: The issue here was how long it would take the driver to get used to the system? The first day was kind of tough for him to adjust his angle of view from looking to the side and now focusing on the mirror, but on the second day he found himself using the system all the time and he began to rely on the monitor more than his mirrors.
  • Adjustment: The driver seemed to have no difficulty adjusting to our system. The newer system takes away the time to look from the side mirror and back on the road. Looking at the monitor only requires a quick glance down and then Roger was able to refocus on the road. This quick glance down, compared to the longer time it takes to look at the conventional mirrors, and improves the safety for the driver.
  • Location of the monitor: The positioning of the monitor is based on a personal preference of the driver. Our driver preferred the monitor in the middle because it reduced the time it took for him to look to the side and back on the road keeping his focus on the road.
  • Long term effect: In the driver’s personal opinion, he could see the camera and monitor replacing the side and front blind spot mirrors to improve the safety of the trucks during long hours of travel.
  • Blind spots: The system completely eliminated all the blind spots. This was important because it provided the driver with an additional view that the normal mirrors could not provide. This was beneficial in traffic because the driver could see the cars as they were coming from the sides on the monitor which was not visible using the mirrors. The system was also beneficial in a backing situation. As the trailer begins to angle with respect to the cab the camera and monitor provided continuous viewing of the trail throughout the turn.

After completing the testing to calculate the fuel savings the following numbers were calculated. The total system cost was estimated to be $1300.00, and the percent fuel savings was calculated to be, optimistically, 0.5%. This value is taking into account a 600 hp engine, traveling 100,000 miles per year, with a fuel efficiency of 6.725 miles per gallon. The 0.5% savings calculated, leads to a $284.00 savings in fuel per year, per truck at $4.00 per gallon diesel. The annual savings from fuel leads to a payback period of roughly 4.5 years. This savings is small when you consider the individual truck, but when we begin to look at a fleet of 250 trucks, the savings can approach roughly $70,000 per year.

Another area affected positively by our system addresses is the number of accidents per year. Due to the increased visibility and reduction of blind spots, there is great potential for a large reduction in semi truck accidents. This reduction in accidents will not only save lives, but could also greatly reduce the number of lawsuits for a trucking company, saving much more than $70,000 per year.