By ERICA GIES
Published May 18, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO — The backbone of U.S. commerce, given America’s vast distances and reliance upon highway transportation, is the combined fleet of 500,000 U.S. long-haul trucks. And to many Americans, the macho trucking life holds a certain romance. It has, to be sure, its drawbacks, not least the pollution from all those rumbling diesels. But new technologies are emerging that should at least mitigate some of that.
A U.S. safety law requires truckers to rest for 10 hours after 11 of work, and most sleep in their cabs rather than paying for a motel. Traditionally truckers have idled their rigs while sleeping, keeping the engine going to provide heating or climate control and other creature comforts. This practice, along with workday idling, uses more than two billion gallons, or 7.6 billion liters, of diesel fuel a year, according to research at the Argonne National Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy.