The role of maintenance in fuel efficiency

It seems fitting with the recent release of the final Greenhouse Gas Phase 2 regulations to address the role of maintenance in fuel efficiency. The goal of GHG2 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the way to do that is to use less fuel.

Normally when we think about maintenance, we do it with the idea of keeping trucks on the road and avoiding CSA violations. We don’t usually make the connection between a well-maintained truck and better fuel economy.

But there is a connection. 

Trucks that are properly maintained are more likely to operate as they are designed. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency recently studied the subject and issued a Confidence Report on Preventive Maintenance that reported fuel savings of 5% to 10% are possible when trucks are properly maintained.

While you should be diligent in maintaining all components on your trucks, if you want your maintenance efforts to payoff in fuel savings, there are some areas where you need to pay special attention:

  • Engine oil: One of the jobs of oil is to reduce friction between moving parts. The better job the oil does in that area the better your fuel economy will be. Regular oil analysis will let you know about the oil’s viscosity, total base number, total acid number, etc.
  • Air system: A clogged air filter restricts the amount of air that gets to the engine. Air and fuel are the two things combustion engines need to operate. When air flow is restricted, the engine has to work harder. In today’s electronically-controlled engine, a severely clogged filter can cause more fuel to be injected into the engine. This can affect the exhaust and cause a regeneration of the diesel particulate filter.
  • Wheel alignment: When the wheels are out of alignment, tire rolling resistance increases so the engine has to work even harder to overcome the additional drag. We’ve all heard about instances when trucks coming from the factory were not properly aligned so you might want to check alignment as part of your pre-delivery inspection.
  • Tires: It has long been known that there is a connection between low tire pressure and reduced fuel mileage. For every 10 psi a tire is underinflated there is a corresponding 1% hit to fuel economy.

There are other components like the cooling system, air compressor, fuel system, electrical system and air conditioning system that if not properly maintained could reduce fuel economy.

Regular, proper maintenance is always the best practice since it keeps your trucks on the road. If that isn’t enough incentive to ensure all your trucks are on a regular PM schedule, think of the additional fuel savings. And even at today’s lower diesel prices, those savings will go right to your bottom line.

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