Energy Conservation in
Richard C. Fluck
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Florida Cooperativa Extension Service / In lu ebt Food.ilrid Agricultural
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ENERGY CONSERVATION IN AGRICULTURAL TRANSPORTATION
Richard C. Fluck*
Energy is essential for transportation for modern agri-
culture. Energy is required for moving inputs to the farm
from their points of origin, for moving labor to and on the
farm, and for moving farm products to market. Further, farm
management requires transportation, and consumers must travel
to buy food and other farm products. Agricultural production
is specialized by commodity and geographic region, and farm-
ers are dispersed and distant from mar kets, contributing fur-
ther to tran sportation needs.
Total quantities of materials transported are consider-
able. Agriculturally-related transportation in the U. S. in
1975 was 63 million tons of agricultural inputs, 310 million
tons of agricultural products on and between farms, and 506
million tons of products from farms to market. The total
materials transported for food supply amounted to over 22
pounds per capital daily, as compared with food consumption
of less than 4 pounds per capital daily.
* Professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, IFAS,
University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
How important is energy for transportation? About one
fourth of total U. S. energy consumption, or about 18 Quads
annually (: Qu. ad is a .Quadrilli on Btu. or 1!;, 000,000,000,000,
000 Btu) is used for transportat i on. Moreover, transporta-
tion consumes over one half our liquid fuels.
How important is energy for agriculture and the rest of
the food chain? The food chain consumes .,bout 12 Quads of
energy annually. About 13% of that amount, or about 1.6
Quads annually, is used in transportation. Table 1 accounts
for about 0.77 Quads; the remainder is used by consumers
driving to supermarkets, restaurants, etc. Note the impor-
tance of trucks and the importance of on-farm transportation
(air transport, relatively minor for agriculture, is omitted
from Table 1).
Table 1. Energy consumption for U. S. agricultural and
food transportation, quads per year
Pipeline Truck Rail Water
----- ----- ------------------------"""' "'~'~"~ "'""'" -I~I"~'--~--- ~ ~ ~ --~-----' --------- -- -
inputs to farm 0.0003 0.0608 0.0016 0.0067
transportation 0 0.2835 0 0
farm products 0 0.1470 0.0385 0.0061
processed foods 0 0.1361 0.0372 0.0018
Total 0.0003 0.6274 0.0918 0.0146
An examination of how trucks consume energy in moving
materials will help in understanding the importance and com-
plexity of the energy connection. Table 2 shows not only the
direct energy input for fuel but also the indirect energy
inputs required for providing the other items necessary for
operating a tractor-trailer truck.
Table 2. Energy requirements for trucks
Item Btu/ton mile % Total
Fuel 1702 76
Taxes and licenses (supports 166 7
roads maintenance, construction)
Depreciation 138 6
Tires and tubes 69 3
Repairs and services 83 4
Insurance and safety 42 2
Other 55 2
In general there are three areas of energy consumption
associated with any mode of transportation: the energy con--
tent of fuel and associated fuel production energy, energy to
construct andc maintain the vehicle, and energy to provide
the roadways for the vehicle to carry out its journey. Table
2 includes the first two areas for trucks, the most important
mode of transport for the food chain. Table 2 also shows an
important measure of the energy efficiency of transport modes,
energy intensiveness, measured in Btu/ton mile.
Energy intensiveness varies greatly with mode of trans-
portation. Table 3 shows typical values for different modes
Table 3. Energy intensiveness of various modes of freight
t ransportat i on
Energy intensiveness, Btu/ton mile
Ai r 11,000-70,000 12,000
Truck 690-6200 2,500
Rai 1 275-1400 800
Water 70--2000 470
Pipel i ne 275-4200
Modal shifts, i.e., from air to truck, can conserve
energy. Doing so, however, may also introduce penalties
and/or produce advantages other than energy conservation.
One such shift, from truck to rail, has been widely promoted.
Limitations to offset energy savings with this modal shift
may include rail car inavailability, poor railroad condition,
increased fresh produce losses, increased delivery time, and
Transportation energy conservation practices which may be
considered by managers within the food chain, from farmer to
consumer, are many. They fall into three categories: tech-
nology, management practices, and institutional changes.
Technology for Reducing Transportation Energy
1. Intermodal systems
a. Trailer on flat car (TOFC, piggyback). Recent DOE
tests resulted in 2630 Btu/ton mile for truck compared
with 1175 Btu/ton mile for TOFC.
b. Containerized freight (containers on rail flat cars
and on ships or barges).
c. Railroaders (proposed system with vans with dual axle
highway and single axle rail wheels which could be
connected in a "train" for rail use or used singly
with a tractor gn the highway). Fuel mileage was
found to be 19 mpg on rails versus 5 to 7 mpg for
2. Semi-truck technology
a. Aerodynamic aids, including air deflectors on cabs,
gap-filling devices between tractor and trailer, etc.
Potential fuel savings are 3-8%; however, one aero-
dynamic engineer has stated that a $2-5000 investment
in aerodynamic aids such as the following would reduce
fuel use by one-third.
1. Front cab and gap streamlining
2. Trailer construction utilizing interior posts and
3,, Skirts on sides of truck
4. Streamlined "boattail" rear
5. Solid bottom plate
b. Temperature-actuated cooling fans save about 3% of
c. Radial ply tires save from 3 to 12% of fuel
d. Fuel economy engines may save as much as 20% of fuel.
The following should be considered:
1. Switch from gasoline to Diesel
3. Intercooling or aftercooling in conjunction with
4. Idle timers to permit shutting off the engine after
cool down without unnecessary idling
5. Speed control through governors or other devices.
e. Synthetic oil, fuel-saving conventional oils and
multigrade gear oil can reduce friction and save
f. Multiple trailers may save 5% for double bottoms and
28% for triple bottoms
The fuel efficiency of loaded semi-trailer trucks has
increased to 5.9 mpg from 3.5 to 5 mpg over the past 10
3. Railroad technology
a. Aluminum rail cars may save 15%
b. Wheel bearing seals may save 6%
c. Diesel exhaust waste heat recovery may save 8%
d. Rail-wheel adhesion improvements may save 5%.
4. Pipelines may be used for solids in addition to fluids.
a. Solids in a slurry, i.e., coal slurry
b. "Tubexpress" is a proposed grain pipeline system using
wheeled capsules filled with grain moved in a pipeline
by air pressure. Requires two pipelines, one of which
returns empty capsules. Lower energy requirements
than rail are claimed.
Management Practices to Conserve Energy
1. Selection of optimum speed. Energy consumption varies
with speed, typically decreasing to a minimum as speed is
increased above zero, then increasing with -further
increases in speed. Semi-trucks typically require 2% more
fuel for each mile per hour above 55.
2. Selection of vehicle.
a. In purchasing a vehicle, consider fuel consumption and
size as well as other characteristics.
b. In choosing a vehicle for a particular use from among
available vehicles, consider fuel consumption.
3. Substitution of communications for transportation. Make
a telephone call rather than a trip, if it's information
you need. Use two-way radio. Advances in communications
and information technology make some transportation
4. Route optimization
a. Select the most fuel-efficient route (not necessarily
the shortest route) between your origin and destina-
b. With multiple destinations, select the most fuel-
efficient route and ordering of stops.
5. Vehicle loading. Load your vehicle as near to capacity
as possible; this results in minimum energy intensiveness
or maximum fuel efficiency per unit of payload.
6 ... oad con t ro::l Use higher an .al ysi s fertilizers remove
moistu. rte from commodities, and process on- -farm or earlier
in the food chain to: minimi:.::e the total load to be trans-
ported ,. whene' river pos::! a : i ie: e.
:[::ins. t..utional ChIanges to Conserve Energy
Ind ii:i. v:idu i..ials might wior k with o there ind : i vi duals or groups or
work rwi:i.'thi.n the political process to malke changes in slome: of
the folllow.':i ng areas.:,
1.. U:ni form st r:.rictions among states for truck loads and
di mensi ons..
2. De:regulat:ion or liberalizing of truck load and dimension
li mi ts.
3. Better roaads roads which are straighter, shorter, and
have lower slopes, better surfaces, and require fewer
starts and stop::s; wi ll save fuel.
4. Reduction of crossca haul:i ng. Whenever cooperation between
persons results in agreements to trade similar or identi-
cal products rather than each hauling their products in
opposite directions, fuel savings will result.
5. Production of crops and livestock nearer to population
centers will reduce transportation requirements and fuel
This public document was promulgated at a cost of $223.57, or 44.7 cents per copy, to provide information on energy
conservation in agricultural transportation. 12-500-84
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL
SCIENCES, K. R. Tefertller, director, In cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this Infor-
mation to further the purpose of the May 8 and June 30,1914 Acts of Congress;and Is authorized to provide research, educa- IF
tional Information and other services only to Individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex or
national origin. Single copies of Extension publications (excluding 4-H and Youth publications) are available free to Florida
residents from County Extension Offices. Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers Is available from
C. M. HInton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of Florida, Galnesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this
publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability.