In June, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced its plans to introduce new fuel economy standards for medium and heavy duty trucks. Currently, the standards require fleets to reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent by 2018. The new standards will required a 24 percent reduction in fuel consumption for all large pickup trucks, vans and buses built between 2021 and 2027.
With the Transportation industry responsible for 28 percent of the country’s carbon emissions, trucks play a major role in contributing to greenhouse gas. According to the EPA, the new standards will save roughly $170 billion at the pump and cut CO2 emissions by one million metric tons. Truck manufacturers like Daimler, Volvo and Mack are already working to make trucks more efficient because they know there is a direct relationship between how much fuel you use and how much money you make.
While many fleet managers are adopting GPS technology with performance monitoring to help them keep track of fuel consumption and MPG, there are other technologies that will make inefficient drivers just as efficient as the very best.
One of the easiest way to reduce fleet fuel consumption is to make trucks more aerodynamic. Wind resistance is the ultimate killer of fuel economy. Technology like “Trailertrails” fit on the back of the trailer and improve stability to cut wind resistance. Rounder edges, lower noses, smaller gaps between the tractor and trailer also have the potential to significantly reduce wind resistance.
A prime example of a fully aerodynamic truck is Walmart’s WAVE concept truck. This truck’s aerodynamic cab and carbon fiber trailer make this truck unlike any other large truck on U.S. highways. The trailer’s convex nose not only reduces drag, but also adds additional cargo space. Walmart says that the carbon fiber trailer is about 4,000 pounds lighter than the conventional one, which allows it to carry larger loads.
Rolling residence is another drag on fleet fuel efficiency. Using one wide-base tire in place of two narrower ones can reduce fuel consumption up to 10 percent. Wider tires reduce resistance by limiting the amount of weight that is distributed on each tire.
While wide-base tires have been around for nearly two decades, many fleets have yet to adopt the wide-base tire. Concerns about irregular wear and poor tread life discourage fleets from adopting the technology. Not to mention the issue of roadside failure. If a tire blows, the truck is down. With these concerns, it is understandable that fleet managers are resistant to the idea of fully committing to wide-base setup.
Brian Buckham, senior marketing manager at Hendrickson’s trailer division, says the wide-track axle eliminates the compromise associated with 77.5-inch axles used with 2-inch-outset wheels.
“With the wide axles, the center of the tire load is centered between the bearings for optimum bearing loading,” he says. “That gives best bearing life, tapered spindles are acceptable without the need to derate them for the outset, and because the spring centers can be wider and the sidewall of the wide-single is stiffer than a dual, you’ll improve stability.”
Battery-powered rigs aren’t feasible yet due to the cost and range that electric vehicles yield. However, many fleets comprised of medium duty trucks are already using hybrid technology, especially because of the fixed nature of their routes. Market Research by Navigate predicts that the sales of hybrid commercial vehicles will rise from less than 16,000 in 2014 to 160,000 in 2023.
Hybrid technology has a lower adoption rate in heavy duty fleets due to the fact that semi manufactures are still figuring out how to make a hybrid semi. However Daimler recently introduced its Freightliner SuperTruck. The Supertruck is a hybrid diesel truck that uses an electric motor to assist its 11-liter engine. During a 312 mile drive through Texas, the truck averaged 12.2 mpg with a freight load totaling 65,000 pounds with an average speed of 65 mph.
With the upswing in the market and acquiring credit beging easier, this may be the time to retire some of the older rigs and begin replacing them with rigs equipped with some of this new fuel saving technology. Hybrid trucks may still be too expensive, but technology like wide-based tires and aerodynamic design solutions are still in reach. Paired with GPS technology you will see a significant reduction in fuel consumption and cost.