Energy-Efficient Timely Transportation of Long-Haul Heavy-Duty Truck

Joint work with Lei Deng and Mohammad Hajiesmaili from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Chuansheng Dong from McGill University, and Haibo Zeng from Virginia Tech.

In the U.S., heavy-duty trucks haul more than 70% of all freight tonnage, and they consume 17.6% of energy in transportation sector (including trucks, airplanes, pipelines, and railways) and contribute to around 5% of the greenhouse gas emission. Fuel cost is the largest operating cost (34%) of truck owners/operators, and reducing fuel consumption is critical for cost-effective and environment-friendly heavy-duty truck operations.

We recently developed three principled solutions to improve the energy efficiency of heavy-duty truck operation, by reducing the fuel consumption of idling and timely transportation. In our first work, we consider the problem of idling reduction under the uncertainty of vehicle stop time. We abstract it as a classic ski rental problem, and propose a constrained version with two statistics ┬ÁB- and qB+ , the expected length of short stops and the probability of long stops. We develop online algorithms that combine the best of the wellknown deterministic and randomized schemes to minimize the worst case competitive ratio. We demonstrate the robustness of the algorithms in terms of both worst case guarantee and average case performance using simulation and real-world driving data.

In the second work, we consider a timely transportation problem where a heavy-duty truck travels between two locations across the national highway system, subject to a hard deadline constraint. Our objective is to minimize the total fuel consumption of the truck, by optimizing both route planning and speed planning. The problem is important for cost-effective and environment-friendly truck operation, and it is uniquely challenging due to its combinatorial nature as well as the need of considering hard deadline constraint. We first show that the problem is NP-Complete; thus exact solution is computational prohibited unless P=NP. We then design a fully polynomial time approximation scheme (FPTAS) that attains an approximation ratio of 1+ \epsilon with a network-size induced complexity of O(mn^2/\epsilon^2), where m and n are the numbers of nodes and edges, respectively. While achieving highly-preferred theoretical performance guarantee, the proposed FPTAS still suffers from long running time when applying to national-wide highway systems with tens of thousands of nodes and edges. Leveraging elegant insights from studying the dual of the original problem, we design a fast heuristic solution with O(m+ n log n) complexity. The proposed heuristic allows us to tackle the energy-efficient timely transportation problem on large-scale national highway systems. We further characterize a condition under which our heuristic generates an optimal solution. We observe that the condition holds in most of the practical instances in numerical experiments, justifying the superior empirical performance of our heuristic. We carry out extensive numerical experiments using real-world truck data over the actual U.S. highway network. The results show that our proposed solutions achieve 17% (resp. 14%) fuel consumption reduction, as compared to a fastest path (resp. shortest path) algorithm adapted from common practice. We have also recently extended the above single-task solution to the case of multiple geographically-dispersed tasks.

In the third work, we propose a new design option, called opportunistic driving, to further optimize fuel consumption in face of time-varying traffic conditions. The idea is for the truck to strategically wait (e.g., at highway rest areas) for benign traffic conditions, to traverse subsequent road segments at favorable speeds for saving fuel and reducing hours of driving at the same time. We observe that the traffic condition and thus the speed ranges are mostly stationary within certain durations of the day, and we term them as phases where each phase is defined as a time interval with fixed speed ranges. We formulate the fuel consumption minimization problem under phased speed ranges, considering path planning, speed planning, and opportunistic driving. We prove the problem is NP-hard, and develop a dual-subgradient heuristic for instances of the scale of national highway system. We characterize conditions under which the heuristic generates an optimal solution. We carry out simulations based on real-world traces over the US highway system. The results show that our scheme saves up to 26% fuel as compared to shortest-/fastest- path baselines, of which 11% is contributed by opportunistic driving. Meanwhile, opportunistic driving also reduces driving time by 13% as compared to only optimizing path planning and speed planning. As such, opportunistic driving offers a favorable design option to emph{simultaneously} reduce fuel consumption and hours of driving. Last but not least, our results highlight a perhaps surprising observation that dynamic traffic conditions can be exploited to achieve fuel savings even larger than those under stationary traffic conditions.

Recently, with our collaborators, we have extended the work to consider the problem of minimizing the emission instead of the fuel consumption. We address the new challenge of the objective function being non-convex, by exploiting the problem structure and manage to develop an efficient solution with strong performance.

Overall, we believe that de-carbonizing heavy-duty truck operation is important for the sustainable development of the logistics industry and society. Our works serve as a call for participation.


  • C. Dong, H. Zeng, and M. Chen, “Online Algorithms for Automotive Idling Reduction with Effective Statistics”, IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems, Special Section on Automotive Embedded Systems and Software, vol. 34, no. 11, November, 2015. [PDF] (Its conference version appeared on IEEE/ACM DAC 2014.)

  • L. Deng, M. Hajiesmaili, M. Chen, and H. Zeng, “Energy-Efficient Timely Transportation of Long-Haul Heavy-Duty Trucks”, IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, vol 19, issue 7, July 2018. [PDF] (A conference version appears in ACM e-Energy 2016 as a Best Paper Award Candidate.)

  • Q. Liu, H. Zeng, and M. Chen, “Energy-Efficient Timely Truck Transportation for Geographically-Dispersed Tasks”, accepted for publication in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems. [PDF] (A conference version appears in ACM e-Energy 2018 as a Best Paper Award Finalist.)

  • W. Xu, Q. Liu, M. Chen, and H. Zeng, “Ride the Tide of Traffic Conditions: Opportunistic Driving Improves Energy Efficiency of Long-Haul Timely Truck Transportation”, in Proceedings of the 6th ACM International Conference on Systems for Energy-Efficient Built Environments, Cities, and Transportation (BuildSys 2019), New York, NY, USA, November 13-14, 2019. [PDF]

  • R. Zhou, Q. Liu, W. Xu, M. Chen, and H. Zeng, “Minimizing Emission for Timely Truck Transportation with Adaptive Fuel Injection”, in Proceedings of the 7th ACM International Conference on Systems for Energy-Efficient Built Environments, Cities, and Transportation (ACM BuildSys 2020), Yokohama, Japan, November 16-19, 2020. [PDF]