At a time when fuel prices are on a rollercoaster ride, it is imperative for everyone to contribute to reducing fuel consumption. This is especially true for trucking companies, which rely on gasoline to provide their primary service. Transporting products and materials is not possible without fueling trucks, whether it is an 18-wheeler or small delivery van.
Fortunately, there are ways that trucking companies can save fuel costs by improving gas mileage ratings. The following is not anexhaustive list of things to do to save on fuel costs. However, these do represent many gas-saving alternatives through equipment modification and behavior changes.
Idling is significant, especially for diesel-powered trucks, off-road equipment and buses. Besides, many states have commercial vehicle idling regulations to address issues with toxic air pollution.
Turn the engine off – even for short stops, too much idling can increase costs. Avoid too much warm-up times when first starting the truck.
Invest in an electric APU – electric power typically comes from high-capacity absorbed glass mat batteries that replace starting batteries. These are good for powering climate control trucks. Some systems include a diesel-fired heater and can cost up to two-thirds less than a diesel APU. Power needs are not covered over a 34-hour restart period; however, drivers going home once a week can benefit from these systems.
Buy a diesel powered heater – This is especially useful in northern climates where a full-function diesel APU that could cost up to $9,000. An electric APU heater will keep the cab warm while using approximately one quarter of the fuel that is required for the diesel APU.
Use a DC air conditioner – to cool the cab when resting is low. Battery-powered air conditioners can be used with high-capacity batteries. A fuel-fired heater works for comprehensive climate control rather than leaving the truck idling.
Install automatic start/stop engine system – to shut off engine trucks after a certain amount of idle time. Additionally, these systems can be tied to a thermostat that turns on once the cab goes below or above a set temperature level. Some systems are designed to measure internal and external temperatures. This allows interaction with cooling and heating sources, engine block heat and outside air to keep the cab at a comfortable level.
Forward thinking trucking companies understand that buying tires is more than a line item expense for business. Rather, tire purchases are an investment and should include best practices that can help extend tread life and control fuel costs.
Use low rolling resistance tires – While deeper lug tires typically last longer, extended use can decrease fuel economy. Improvements to fuel economy are possible with shallow lugs that decrease rolling resistance.
Run wide based tires – these have proven useful in delivering better fuel economy than dual tires.
Monitor tire pressure – this seemingly basic maintenance practice can go a long way to improving fuel economy. Monitoring systems will watch the pressure of each tire and provide alerts inside the cab when one becomes underinflated.
Check wheel alignment – as part of periodic maintenance practices to achieve optimal fuel economy. Doing this can also maximize tire life.
Make sure tires match application – using tires uniformly for different applications will significantly decrease the fuel economy.
Improve Driving Strategies
Making improvements to driving strategies is not only good for safety, but can also help to reduce the cost of fuel consumption.
Use tools to route trucks – Short, practical truck routes can help to save annual fuel costs. Most navigational aids can save 10 or more miles each week with direct routes to street level addresses and eliminate out-of-route miles.
Carefully plan fuel stops – by using in-cab navigation systems that provide real-time information on points-of-interest. Drivers can find the closest and cheapest fuel locations that coincide with their route.
Enroll in programs that allow bypass of toll booths and weigh stations – Extra fuel is burned when stopping and accelerating. There are programs that offer toll collection to avoid stopping at every designated weigh station and/or toll booth.
Maximize cruise control – Finding the engine’s sweet spot, or peak torque zone, provides optimum horsepower. The engine will run more efficiently even at 65 mph. Additionally, truck drivers can avoid wasteful use of the throttle in cruise control mode while climbing hills.
Avoid excessive acceleration – by letting the momentum of the truck carry it over a hill. Watch the boost gauge to get an exact reading when hitting the throttle.
Use of Aerodynamics
Efficient and successful trucking fleets are utilizing the power of aerodynamics, which have can be linked to fuel savings.
Select aero-designed models for new truck purchases – The design of the hood, under-hood breather, fenders, mirrors, front bumper and more have been perfected for smoother operations.
Add a roof fairing – to a reefer or van application that has a mid-roof or flattop tractor. This will smooth the flow of air even if an aftermarket roof fairing is installed. Some test show that adding a full roof fairing with extenders/side shields to some applications can improve fuel economy by 15 percent.
Add an undercarriage or tail fairing – the use of aerodynamics works wonders with add-ons such as side skirts and the trailer tail to reduce drags. This can also help with stability in crosswinds. Undercarriage fairings installed on the rear of a trailer helps with the drag. Usually, a primary component is installed to deflect air away from axle plumbing.
A tail can reduce the drag that is created by the vacuum when a tractor-trailer is traveling at high speeds. Some trucks can get a one mile per gallon boost when the trailer tail is used with side skirts.
Have side skirts installed on van or reefer trailers – This will also minimize the level of drag produced when air swirls under the trailer. According to EPA verified testing, side skirts can deliver 7.4 percent in fuel savings.
Select a lower sleeper roof – a stand-up sleeper that has a full roof fairing is not necessarily the most fuel-efficient choice for trucks. Compared to a dry van or reefer, the stand-up does not deliver the best results. A more likely choice for liquid bulk operations is to use a mid-roof sleeper for aerodynamics. Since the mid-roof is lower than the stand-up, it is a good fit for loads that usually do not rise above a mid-roof. A flattop might prove to be an even better choice for some high-density load haulers.
Analyze Fuel Data
Analyzing fuel data can expose additional fuel efficiency opportunities where trucking companies can save thousands of dollars each year.
Analyze fuel consumption trends – Try to determine whether miles-per-gallon failure is from excessive urban driving or a change in the length of a haul. A general rule is if there is more than a 0.5 mpg drop, there are maintenance problems. Validate ECM readings, which can be wildly optimistic. Start calculations by documenting the gallons bough at a fill-up and odometer readings.
Look for correlations in isolated data – Many things that affect fuel economy is recorded in ECM readings. Use this data to notice changes in top gear time, average travel speed, idle time, shifting, idling and DPF regenerations. Those trends should be compared with the fuel economy for the same period.
Look at fuel consumption patterns by route – run trials for fuel usage with dedicated runs that can easily occur via the interstate or shorter route that has a lot of stop-and-go-traffic. Look for the most efficient routes for time and fuel consumption.
Cost control is a common term in the trucking industry. However, waste control – particularly in fuel consumption – should be the primary focus. Along with money and equipment, fuel is often used inefficiently. This hits trucking companies where it matters most unless more is done to control how much fuel gets wasted on the road.
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