We’ve been talking quite a lot about fuel economy, and there’s a reason for that. It’s no secret that the trucking industry is in the midst of a sea change of sorts. As a number of new technologies and aerodynamic advances make themselves more available, fleets are tapping into new ways of shaving percentage points off of their miles per gallon.
Today’s modern fleet employs everything from aerodynamic tractors and trailers to auxiliary power units for sleeper-cabs, a variation of wheels and tires, incentive programs, and so much more.
One such company out of southeastern Wisconsin is running around 80 Peterbilt Model 579 tractors. Some of their latest models come equipped with Eaton UltraShift automated-manual transmissions. These AMTs (which we have covered before) manage to add a few tenths of fuel economy to their fleets overall mpg footprint.
While adopting the auto shifting transmissions in the early 2000s may have induced a little heartburn amongst fleet truck drivers, today many wouldn’t even know how to operate a completely manual stick-shift.
Thinking Beyond the Tractor
While finding incremental improvements under the hood is certainly one method of shaving off more miles per gallon, many operators are thinking beyond the tractor. The aforementioned Wisconsin operator equips their trailers with rear vortex generators, gap reducers and durable side skirts. This saves them another 1 mile per gallon on average when in use.
For many, devices like Air Tabs can be much more economical when compared to the complicated trailer tails. A rear vortex generator might ring in around $400, while trailer tails could cost a fleet anywhere upwards of $1,000 or more.
Anyone riding a motorcycle behind a trailer equipped with Air Tabs can tell the difference. Without them, the turbulence behind the trailer is quite noticeable. The air behind an aerodynamically equipped trailer, on the other hand, is very calm and stable.
Ribbed-aluminum side skirts not only offer a durable way to improve fuel economy, but they look good as well. We’ve all seen trailers barreling down the road with flimsy, dingy-looking side skirts. These advanced variants take care of that. When using these technologies bumps your economy from 6.5 to 7.7 mpg, that’s no small number.
More Than Just Equipment
For many, especially those operating in a work-truck or heavy-haul operation, fleets must find ways to save fuel that go beyond side skirts and vortex generators. When you are talking about vocational operations, vehicles are both big, wide, tall and customized. Engines are required to run hard, so it becomes harder to squeeze out minor fuel gains.
One such example might be a pair of Kenworth T800 trucks equipped with Cummins 550-hp diesels. These vehicles may be equipped with lowboys designed to move heavy equipment from one project site to another. When you are talking total tractor-trailer load grosses ranging from 80,000 to 200,000 pounds, high mpg numbers are not very realistic.
For fleets who find themselves in this situation, idling is key. For truck drivers, when they come into the office, the trucks should be turned off. After all, starters are a lot cheaper to replace when compared to the amount of fuel being burned through.
Another way to slay the idling beast is to ensure an engine isn’t running when it isn’t operating the power take-off to control various pieces of equipment. Another option is to equip the work truck with diesel-driven electric welding rigs. These can be used to run various pieces of equipment without burning through the vehicle’s standard running fuel.
Finally, when heavy-haul fleets combine effective route planning with idle-saving measures, the fuel savings is compounded. The best way is to figure out a route that avoids left turns wherever possible.
In the end, educating your fleet truck drivers and technicians on the most effective way to conserve fuel economy, no matter the application, is the best way to get the most bang out of your fuel’s buck.