In a nutshell, lightweighting in trucking is removing weight from truck components to enable trucks to carry more freight, increasing the payload and making trucks more efficient. Lightweighting requires endless trial and error experiments to develop components that are lighter than current products.
The North American Council for Freight Efficiency is a major player in the quest to double freight efficiency. Its board members include people from Schneider, Black and Veatch, UPS, Geotab, Shell, PepsiCo, The Kenworth Sales Company, Daimler Trucks, Navistar, Great Dane, Cummins, Michelin and Meritor. A powerful group driver for lightweighting.
If the future of transportation is electric, and a battery powered vehicle presently weighs 2,500 to 5,000 pounds (about 2267.96 kg) heavier than its equivalent diesel truck, the world and the NACFE have a tall order to fill. The trucking industry has tried using lighter truck frames made of aluminum but that failed to be strong enough to withstand the rigors of trucking.
However, strides are being made in lightweighting. For instance, producers of truck wheels have managed to drop the weight of wheels by 5 pounds each, which NACFE considers significant.
Frame cross members made with lighter materials are showing promise. New ideas being worked on are a film to replace paint on trucks, new frame development, and lighter weight composite truck cabs. As more and more battery electric vehicles populate North American highways, there is a race to lower car and truck weights in a timely fashion as our earthly home is becoming less and less inhabitable as weather events increase worldwide eg. hurricanes, typhoons, floods, and wildfires.
Although it seems like it will take many years to restore the earth to a point where we once enjoyed good weather and relative safety, we owe it to the future generation to do whatever we can to improve the earth. For now, technology marches on and new ideas are already forming to make a difference. Benefits of electric vehicles include greater range with periodic charging, requiring lighter suspension components, better acceleration, improved handling, shorter braking distances will improve safety, reduced tire wear meaning lower cost, and improved cargo capacity to haul greater loads.
Mixing metals and plastic to lighten the vehicle and new material processing techniques are continuously being explored and updated. Lightweighting is catching on with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and could be the road to our future. But for now, motor on safely and with caution while conditions change and work to improve all our lives thanks to lightweighting.