Shipping makes America go. Businesses, the government, and everyday people all rely on planes, ships, trucks, and trains to deliver their goods on time. But all that shipping takes a toll on the environment as well as the bottom lines of the companies who pay for it. However, some technologies are on the horizon that could make shipping more efficient and less expensive.
Advanced Truck Designs
Tractor-trailers are a ubiquitous sight on American roadways, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon, given how vital they are to American shipping. However, some companies have been working on making them more efficient. Car and Driver has reported on Wal-Mart’s “Supercube” tractor-trailer, which the company has been testing in Canada. It holds more cargo and is more streamlined than a traditional tractor-trailer. If the Supercube can catch on in Canada, similar designs could be employed in America.
In fact, advanced truck designs are already being explored in America. Road and Track reports that Cummins and Peterbilt have developed a higher-efficiency tractor-trailer. This truck averages nearly 10 miles per gallon, which doesn’t sound great compared to a typical car, but is actually a 54 percent boost in fuel economy over a traditional tractor-trailer.
More Efficient Ships
Cargo ships are vital for transporting goods across water, but they also tend to be big, lumbering fuel guzzlers. An article published through Hofstra University reports that container ships can burn through hundreds of tons of fuel per day.
With that massive consumption in mind, designers and engineers have been working on ships that don’t need as much fuel. One concept, reported by Gizmodo, is the uniquely shaped Vindskip, designed by a team out of Norway. The Vindskip, if built, would use technology pioneered in aeronautics to help it chug along. Its sharp, narrow hull is designed to create lift as the ship pushes forward through the water. If it works, the Vindskip ship could need 60 percent less fuel and produce 80 percent less carbon waste.
Another option is making ships bigger and bigger. It might seem counterintuitive, but larger ships can be more fuel efficient on a per-container basis. Wired has reported on a class of ever-growing container ships that aim for efficiency through scale. Implementing a mixture of these new approaches to shipping could make transporting cargo to and from the U.S. more efficient.
While ships and trucks have made leaps in fuel efficiency, trains remain the undisputed efficiency kings. According to Wired, CSX boasts that, on average, its trains can move 1 ton of freight 500 miles with 1 gallon of diesel. That equation is tough to beat. Shifting more to freight trains and away from less-efficient methods of transportation could save massive amounts of fuel.
New Flight Technologies
Planes are extremely efficient when it comes to time; they’re the fastest method of shipping available, but their fuel economy lags behind. National Geographic has delved into some futuristic flight designs that aim to make aircraft more efficient. To meet this goal, NASA and Boeing are attempting to use lightweight materials coupled with advanced wing designs. Another project involves redesigning airplanes’ hulls to reduce their drag, while maintaining interior space. These projects could be applied to cargo aircraft to make them more efficient.
Aircraft and land-based transportation are vital to the American economy, but still have lots of room for improvement. Efficiency advances like these could make shipping more affordable and easier on the environment.
This article was provided by Charity Bailey, current Environmental Studies student and champion of safer business practices. If you’re a business owner looking for an efficient shipping method, Charity recommends you ensure fresh shipments with Reefer trucking companies.