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Trucking delivers much of the food you eat, the materials that went into your home, and many other essential products. It transports most of the commercial cargo in the United States.

It’s therefore no surprise that according to the Energy Information Administration, transportation as a whole currently consumes 29% of the total energy used in the United States. Clearly, increasing the fuel economy of long haul and other trucking fleets will save money and help the environment—consuming less fuel and generating less pollution.

Drexan Corporation, seeking to aid long-haul trucking in Canada, was inspired by a 1985 study based on research from the early 1970s. This analysis indicated that nitrogen inertion can lengthen new tire tread lifetime by 26% and retreaded tire lifetime by 54%, compared to tires filled with compressed air.

These early-1970s findings needed to be confirmed and expanded in modern long haul trucking. The original study had many limitations including small sample size and changes in tire composition and construction since then.

Drexan’s goal was to reduce modern long haul trucking fleet operating costs, and they sought a careful analysis of a few important drivers of these costs, especially fuel and tread wear. These factors depend—at least in part—on tire inflation, oxidation, or both, and can be minimized by nitrogen inertion.

Nevertheless, Drexan realized that long haul trucking companies wouldn’t agree to switch over to nitrogen inertion unless they saw a large-scale study of the benefits and costs specific to trucking industry needs. For example, no company would appreciate having to scrap all of their tires for nitrogen inertion to work; it should work on tires already in use.

After obtaining a research grant from Transport Canada’s Freight Sustainability Demonstration Program, Drexan began a large-scale nitrogen inertion study pertinent to long haul trucking. The program’s needs—reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide clear environmental benefits through available tools, technologies, and practices— were complimentary to those of the trucking industry.

In 2007, Konrad Mech, then vice president of Drexan, reported on their study. They measured fuel efficiency, tread wear, and tire failure rates for many tires over a long period of time—for nitrogen-inerted tires and those filled with compressed air—and carefully calculated the costs and benefits for the long haul trucking industry.

Stay tuned for an overview of the study design and results. Nitrogen inertion is also available to typical drivers.

  1. Mech. “Results of a trial of nitrogen tire inflation in a long-haul trucking fleet.” Compressed Air Best Practices Magazine, September 2007, 7–13, 48–49.
  2. Mech. “Effects of nitrogen tire inflation on Canadian long haul trucking.” Final Report Prepared for the Freight Sustainability Demonstration Program, 12 June 2007 (revised), 27 pp.

Post Author: Michael Scott Long Ph.D.

Ph.D. Chemistry from Penn State University. Specialization in analytical chemistry, polymer science and nanoscience.

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