In August 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced brand new mileage standards for commercial vehicles, prompting transportation vehicle manufacturers to look deeper into the advantages and properties of aluminum to help expand their ability to meet the federal government’s demands. The challenge was to design commercial vehicles that could accommodate a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the same percentage. The deadline for these new standards is 2018, meaning that manufacturers would have to make swift changes, conduct testing and work to achieve these goals in an expedited time frame.
Before the new EPA standards were posted, the average professional tractor included approximately 1,000 pounds of aluminum. Due to the strength, durability and other advantages of traditional aluminum frames as used in other areas of the transportation industry, designers knew that they could count on custom aluminum extrusions and other aluminum parts to meet their goal. Whether the vehicles were used to haul thousands of pounds of goods across the country or deliver packages to consumers at the local level, the challenge was officially on to create more efficient solutions for commercial vehicles.
Aluminum & Transportation: How Much Is 20 Percent?
For several decades, aluminum has been a huge benefit to the transportation industry. While truck and trailer frames were traditionally made of steel, it is not uncommon today to see steel, aluminum and a combination of steel and aluminum being used by various manufacturers. With the EPA demanding a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas, and with more designers turning to custom aluminum extrusions with post extrusion operations to create the lighter weight parts that they require, it is important to understand just how much of a difference 20 percent will make.
For the trucks being built between 2014-2018 under the country’s first-ever fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions regulations, experts have determined that we could potentially save as much as 530 million barrels of oil and reduce emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons each year. The changes in fuel consumption have caught the attention of trucking companies and owner-operators alike, bringing a brand new appreciation for the properties of aluminum and a new standard in traditional aluminum frames for the heavy commercial class, over the road trucking industry.
Other Benefits of Using Aluminum
In addition to providing commercial vehicles with lighter frames and better fuel mileage, there are other benefits associated with the use of standard and custom aluminum extrusions in class 8 truck design. Both the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have evaluated the properties of aluminum and its performance with commercial transportation vehicles and have found that aluminum has a great potential to reduce vehicle weight, boost fuel economy, reduce emissions and provide a safe driving experience for everyone involved – including the general public.
The most recent published studies by the Department of Energy (DOE) revealed that:
- ALUMINUM has the potential to reduce vehicle weight by 40-60 percent
- NEW HIGH-STRENGTH STEEL can reduce vehicle weight by up to 10 percent
- PLASTIC/COMPOSITE options have not advanced enough to provide equal benefits and safety at this time
Combine that data with the fact that aluminum is naturally anti-corrosive, is environmentally friendly, can be recycled infinitely without losing its inherent properties and is the most recycled metal on the planet – and you’ve got yourself a solution that most people would be willing to support. Factor in the ability of aluminum to create standard and custom aluminum extrusions at a fraction of the cost compared to steel and other metals, hold up to post extrusion operations and the fact that it is perfectly designed for a variety of finishes, such as paint, powder coatings and anodizing, and it’s no wonder that so many manufacturers would likely start designing traditional aluminum frames even without the EPA requirements.
Even more benefits associated with the properties of aluminum include:
- ability to increase payload due to decreased weight of the tractor and trailer
- reduced fuel consumption which translates to reduced overhead costs for owner-operators and trucking companies
- lower maintenance costs to allow for larger payloads and fewer back-and-forth trips and miles on the truck, wear and tear on brakes and even on tire treads
- increased durability, reducing the need for repairs due to rust, corrosion from road salt, salt spray, chemicals and other corrosive materials
- higher resale value compared to other commercial vehicles that don’t use aluminum components due to consumer demand and improved condition over time
- totally recyclable, meaning that commercial vehicles made from aluminum will never get tossed into the local landfill
To find out more about how the natural benefits and properties of aluminum are helping the commercial trucking industry, or to learn how custom aluminum extrusions with innovative post extrusion operations and finishings are revolutionizing the way people do business, contact Silver City Aluminum. Our many years of providing superior custom aluminum products to our clients all around the world have helped us to increase our standards of quality control and give each customer the personal attention and service required to meet or exceed their expectations. Give us a call today at 508-542-7200 and find out how our standard and custom aluminum extrusions can help you meet your industry goals.