## Fuel Efficiency Math

A number of months ago, I wrote a blog post that analyzed the fuel efficiency claims of CSX, which was expressed in ton-miles per gallon. While doing some other efficiency work, I stumbled upon a web site that nicely summarized the efficiencies of a number of transportation modes. Here is a table that summarizes that data by transportation mode.

 Transportation Mode Ton-Miles per Gallon of fuel Semi-Trailer Trucks (half loaded) 90.5 Semi-Trailer Trucks (fully loaded) 186.6 Grain Trains (Iowa to West Coast) 437.0 Grain Trains (Iowa to New Orleans) 640.1 Barge (Iowa to New Orleans and return with 35% load) 544.5 Barge (Upper Mississippi Southbound) 953.0 Barge (Upper Mississippi Northbound with 37% load) 243.0 Small Ocean-Going Ship (>30K tons Deadweight) 574.84 Large Ocean-Going Ship (>100K tons Deadweight) 1043.4

Here is what I take from this data:

I have read that one of the ways that Walmart achieves such remarkable distribution efficiency is by making sure that every load is full. This makes sense.

• Going downstream is easier than upstream.

This also makes a lot of sense.

• If you are going to ship freight on the ocean, use a large ship.

The efficiency of large ships explains the large increase in the number of enormous container vessels over the years.

I am an engineer who encounters interesting math and science problems almost every day. I am not talking about BIG math here. These are everyday problems where a little bit of math really goes a long way. I thought I would write some of them down and see if others also found them interesting.
This entry was posted in General Science. Bookmark the permalink.

### 4 Responses to Fuel Efficiency Math

1. akismet-5a3f6666545b653fecda53c66f863fbe says:

I’m puzzled why half-loaded trucks are more efficient than fully loaded. Is that a typo?

• mathscinotes says:

Typo. I have corrected it. Thanks!

Mathscinotes

2. Thank you for all of your post!
I’ll be using this in class next week (9th graders) to reflect on decision-making with mathematics. A great, relevant, and quick way to introduce the topic.

• mathscinotes says:

I love it when teachers use the posts. If there is a topic that you think would be interesting to cover here, drop me a note. Generally, I just grab stuff that I am working on.

Mathscinotes