Trucks at Work

The quest to find more fuel efficiency

It may seem more than a little ironic to be searching out more methods for improving the fuel efficiency of commercial trucks at a time of record-lower fuel prices. But that’s exactly what the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) is up to – with plans to kick such efforts into overdrive later this year.

During a conference call with reporters to tout its latest “confidence report,” entitled Determining Efficiency, NACFE Executive Director Mike Roeth talked about a “national fuel-economy roadshow” being planned for October this year – and event called “Run on less.”

“Run on less” is conceived as a six-stage cross-country run from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. as a way to determine the most fuel-efficient Class 8 truck, highlighting the technology, practices and driving skills that make upper-most fuel efficiency a reality.

“We’re in a period here where we’ll be releasing a major study every month,” Roeth said – confidence reports that aim to disseminate “best in class” findings about any number of components and technologies to the entire trucking industry.

“One new area for us is how to determine the efficiency of technology,” he added. “We see our place as helping fleet owners figure out what to buy with respect to multitude of technologies becoming available to meet GHG [greenhouse gas] regulations. The big challenge we see over next 10 to 15 years is how to pick technologies in such a regulated marketplace.”

[That’s a big challenge, especially for OEMs, as Roeth detailed in a video a few years ago.]

Another are Roeth said NACFE is focusing on is the development of more “payback calculators” for motor carriers to use.

“At the end of this year we’re going to engage industry best practices around payback calculators,” he explained.

“Because for fleets to adopt a technology, they will need a payback analysis/ return on investment case,” Roeth stressed. “What percent fuel economy improvement will they get? How do they determine what fuel mileage percentage they will get?”

It’s also important for fleets to understand their current operation, he pointed out, then take all the fuel test data they can get, plug that in with their trucks, route, business practices, and put into calculator to figure out what they can get in terms of better fuel economy and savings against their investments.

“We’re beginning to dig into this with prior research – and there is a ton of it out there – and interview different players in the marketplace,” Roeth emphasized. “One of the challenges is that while a fleet is focused on how device affects their particular specs, manufacturers want to figure out how device work across hundreds of different vehicles and powertrain combinations. And in both cases, that [new technology] needs to be tested against real-world operation.”

The challenge right now is that there is no one place for fleet to go get answers, he explained.

“So we’re trying to consolidate information into a place where people have confidence in the reporting,” Roeth noted. “We are trying to bring all the data out so it will work everyone. And we’re focusing on OEMs as well [because] it is quite common fleets don’t trust manufacturers to bring all of the available data to them. So we’re trying to get OEMs to share more and build more confidence in them.”

And if all of this works as planned, the entire trucking community – including owner-operators and small fleets as well as the big operators – should benefit. That would be a very good thing.

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