Innovation Spotlight: UTC SimCenter

Technology and Innovation

About four years ago, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga welcomed the SimCenter for Computational Engineering to its campus in our hometown. This research performed at the SimCenter utilizes computer simulations. The SimCenter can develop fluid dynamic models that simulate the actual design of a prototype. Without building a prototype, this computer model can also determine how a design would perform under specific conditions, accounting for numerous variables.

This is the same kind of technology that has been used in the space program and in the military. We are applying similar principles to our industry. We are discovering some amazing facts through these efforts with the SimCenter. Additionally, we have been able to work with our vendors in developing prototypes and products that reduce wind resistance and add to our overall fuel efficiencies. The research from the SimCenter has assisted us in working with our vendors to aerodynamically close the gap between the trailer and the cab. We believe we can still achieve greater gains here as we perfect the design in that space.

For example, the SimCenter research that focused on a gap-closure design between the cab of the truck and trailer showed the potential increase for a significant increase in fuel efficiency.

According to estimates by the EPA’s SmartWay program, U.S. Xpress has saved 63,179,217 gallons of fuel and prevented 701,289 tons of CO2 in 2008 alone.

“We believe that conservation is good business,” said U.S. Xpress Chairman Max Fuller, who noted the company’s focus on research is one of the key elements to its approach with green initiatives. “We have been very fortunate to have worked with National Center for Computational Engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The computer simulation models generated by these researchers allow us to test possible prototypes before they are manufactured. The computer simulations save on research and development costs which lead to the production of a more effective prototype, especially in the area of aerodynamic improvements.”

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