U.S. freight volume remains steady
The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.2 percent in September from August, continuing a pattern of little fluctuation since January even as other indicators, such as Gross Domestic Product and employment, showed an uptick in economic growth, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported last week.
The September level (109.2) in the bureau's Freight Transportation Services Index
(FTSI) is 15.8 percent above the April 2009 low during the recession, but 4.2 percent below the all-time high last December.
The FTSI measures the monthly changes in freight shipments for trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and aviation in tons and ton-miles. All modes showed some increase in business, with the exception of freight rail, which showed a significant decline.
On an annualized basis, freight shipments rose 0.1 percent from September 2011 and 11.5 percent from September 2009, but remain below the level in September 2006 (111.2) prior to the recession.
The flat September figures suggest that the peak shipping season for the holidays could be subdued.
High school students develop fuel-saving winglet
A team of high school students from Middletown, Conn., has developed a winglet for Boeing 737 planes that adapts to take-off, landing and cruising modes to increase the potential fuel savings.
Their device, dubbed the Falcon Tip for their high-school's mascot, recently won a U.S. Department of Transportation competition for innovative aerospace and science research.
Normal winglets are fixed at a 26-degree angle to reduce drag when flying at cruising altitude. Engineers say the devices save 3 percent on fuel consumption.
The students - Miraj Rahematpura, Christopher Muckle, and Mario Chris - figured out that changing the winglet's angle during a plane's ascent and descent could produce even further reductions in drag and further fuel savings.
They have developed a winglet that can be moved without adding too much extra weight or mechanical complications to the 737's wing. Computer modeling indicates that the Falcon Tip could reduce the amount of jet fuel consumed by 10 percent, according to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood's "Fast Lane Blog."
Spread across the global fleet of 737s, the annual savings amount to 600 million gallons of jet fuel - or about $2 billion -- and a 7 percent reduction in carbon emissions, the students estimate.
Now, it's up to Boeing to see if it wants to implement the new design. If it's a success, there's no reason the adaptive winglet couldn't spread to other types of aircraft. - Eric Kulisch