Tackling Climate Change by Design





he transport industry plays a vital role in the Australian economy given the country’s vast land mass, dispersed population and production centres and Australia’s abundance of trade in minerals, energy and agricultural base. The trucking industry is an especially important component of the Australian transport sector, due to the significant logistical efficiencies it fulfils in servicing the demands of non-bulk and bulk freight consumers.

Climate change has presented the community, industry and governments globally with a need for a revolutionary policy approach, with the establishment of commodity and financial markets aimed at facilitating the allocation and the rights to emit greenhouse gas emissions. This has seen the Australian Government express its commitment to the introduction of emissions trading, and greenhouse gas reporting will become mandatory for some companies in 2008/09.

Net greenhouse gas emissions from trucks totalled 14.4 megatonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (Co2-E), which gives a proportional contribution of the trucking industry to a total Australian net greenhouse gas emissions of roughly 2.5%.

The AirRoad Group is a privately Australian-owned company specialising in transporting high-technology products and associated 3PL services. AirRoad started operations in 1989 and is proactive in doing its bit for the environment and its customer base. According to AirRoad’s chief engineer Michael Egan, there is a lot of things that can be done in transport to reduce carbon emissions and implement sustainable technologies.

Mick has been designing trailers for AirRoad for over 8 years. Long before the focus on carbon trading and carbon management, Mick was at his drawing board with a focus on designing trailers that would be freight friendly and more efficient, amongst other considerations, with larger cubic capacity and all the while remaining within the B double and B triple parameters.

Safety and stability are also key considerations, which include independent suspension of AirRoad’s own design that provides a lower centre of gravity, and the ability to split the (pantechnicon) trailer into two decks. The two-deck split into 1.8 metres and 2.2 metres significantly reduces freight compaction during long-distance journeys and over less desirable roads. This has a positive impact in relation to freight and carton damage, resulting in significantly less damaged freight, which is evident in AirRoads externally audited DIFOT, claimed to be highest in the industry. An additional advantage of this trailer design is that drivers experience better stability on the roads coupled with more freight capacity, allowing AirRoad to carry more freight than any other trailer. This leads to better fuel economy per tonne of freight, a plus for the environment as well as safety for the drivers.

Initially, the pantechnicon trailers were designed and built purely to reduce running costs and provide clients with cost savings. For example, one AirRoad prime mover tows in cubic capacity between 35%-50% more freight, using the same amount of fuel. More freight and the same amount of fuel is another positive when considering carbon management.

While initially AirRoad trailer designs were not motivated by climate change or carbon trading schemes, they certainly contribute solutions to this new and increasingly important management consideration. Additionally, more and more companies are intentionally choosing suppliers who assist them in reducing their overall carbon footprint. AirRoad is in line to be one of the preferred transport companies in the supply chain service industry.

Mick Egan is taking an engineering approach to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including the benefits of best management practices, operational improvements and further advanced technologies in future trailer designs.

AirRoad’s special trailers have travelled a total distance of approximately 18 million kilometres without any complications in terms of design, and its stability has proven itself with no roll-overs.



Fuel efficiency

A focus on technologies that can improve fuel efficiencies has been a key consideration at AirRoad well before it was a hot buzz topic or a socially responsible or politically correct consideration of a company to be concerned with the impact on the environment. Mick Egan has explored energy loss in trucking for many years and believes that improved aerodynamics can radically enhance truck fuel efficiency at highway speeds.

Examining the coefficient of drag (Cd), the measure of aerodynamics resistance, is an area where Mick has spent his energy along with others in the industry to obtain small efficiencies. "Something as simple as standard roof deflectors which have been used on prime movers since the 70’s, when added to a cab with no aerodynamic devices will improve fuel economy by up to 6%" said Mick Egan. "In the 80’s truck manufacturers began offering integrated cab-roof fairings with closed sides. This design resulted in improved efficiencies of up to 15% compared to a cab with no roof devices."

AirRoad also put the concept of closecoupled trailers in use with their B-doubles and B-triples, which adds to the efficiencies compared to the road train concept, where trailers are 2 -3 metres apart, causing air turbulence and resulting in reduced fuel economy.

Tim Paine, chairman of the AirRoad Group added: "We are absolutely proactive in our efforts to improve fuel efficiencies that result in positive benefits to environmental considerations. Cost savings may be a driver, however, the ‘being green’ is also a motivating factor. We know we are an integral component of our customers’ supply chains, and with a growing focus across all sectors about the environment, companies do want to choose someone who is doing their bit."

"Cost savings can be significant with truck design issues, impacting fuel economies that are measurable and significant, delivering several thousand dollars per annum in fuel costs", said AirRoad Group’s managing director, Malcolm Thorpe. "Some of the basic changes that can produce dramatic results are wide-based tyres and inflation pressure.

"Simply replacing dual tyres on trucks with wide-based tyres can improve truck fuel efficiency, as it reduces rolling resistance and tare weight. Some recent tests, based on the Michelin wide-base tyres, demonstrated fuel economy improvements of 3.7% to 4.9% compared to the nearest equivalent dual Michelin tyre," he said.

"And simply maintaining the correct tyre pressure reduces rolling resistance and fuel consumption, caused by tyre under-inflation. We educate our drivers and owner-operators on these simple considerations, which do impact on fuel efficiencies which do result in positive environmental impacts."