Lighten Up

Too much weight is a bad thing for trucks as well as for people. With trucks, less vehicle weight lowers rolling resistances and/or allows trucks to carry more cargo. Lower rolling resistance improves fuel economy, while carrying more cargo improves profitability.

Unfortunately changes made to Class 8 vehicles to meet 2007 and 2010 emissions requirements added about 800 lbs. to each tractor. Other safety and driver amenity features are believed to have added another 400 lbs.

Unless the U.S. federal government allows higher weights beyond the current 80,000 lb. federal limit — which is doubtful — fleets will continue to focus on trying to spec the lightest trucks possible to either improve fuel efficiency or carry more cargo.

Some fleets, like bulk haulers and those who gross out to the legal limit for at least part of their trips, are very conscious of weight. Tank trailer manufacturers are well aware of the weight sensitivity of these fleets and have taken steps to reduce the weight of their products. We estimate that highly weight conscious fleets may be willing to pay about $8 per pound of weight saved for a new truck or trailer.

Other fleets that gross out some of the time are interested in weight reduction but to a lesser degree. These fleets may pay $3 per pound of weight saved for a new truck or trailer. And, of course, there is the vast segment of the market that is not sensitive to weight and isn’t likely to pay anything for lightweight features.

In addition to the heavier weight of trucks, freight is getting denser. High fuel prices have led to manufacturers packing goods tighter to have more pieces per cube, which makes boxes and pallets denser. Shippers and third party logistics firms are also exploiting technologies to get more pallets per trailer, which increases the weight per cube.

We think all of these factors are going to make the need for lightweight tractors and trailers more urgent. And we selfishly hope that reducing the weight of the base vehicle will allow fleets to invest in some fuel efficiency technologies that may add weight even as they increase fuel economy.

Going forward we believe more fleets will focus on weight reduction and even be willing to pay more for trucks that weigh less.

To test our hypothesis we are undertaking a Confidence Report on the subject of lightweighting.

All of our Confidence Reports are based on real-world data and that’s where we need your help. We’d like to talk to you to find out your position on lightweight components and the value you place on components that weigh less and therefore improve your fuel efficiency or allow you to carry more cargo. We’re also planning to investigate key emerging products and technologies for lightweighting trucks and trailers.

Andrew Halonen, owner of Mayflower Consulting, and Rob Swim, a strategic marketing specialist, are heading up the team, and are waiting to hear from you. Contact Andrew at [email protected].   

There are also sponsorship opportunities that allow us to continue to be the unbiased source of efficiency technologies and their adoption in the market. For more details contact me [email protected] or 260-750-0106. Help us make a difference.

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