It’s time to review

I am inspired by the Technology & Maintenance Council’s S.5 Fleet Management Study Group because it recently sent to ballot RP 540(T) “Proper Pilot Review Guidelines,” which, as the name implies, lays out a step-by-step procedure for a fleet to use for a pilot review of its vehicle orders.

Their first recommendation is for fleets to perform a “paper” pilot review. I took that to mean that the fleet would write down its specs and review them before submitting them to the OEM who will then turn those specs into a build order.

Having a paper pilot review, or spec review, presents fleets with a great opportunity to take a very close look at how they are spec’ing their vehicles in terms of fuel efficiency.  It is human nature to take the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to things. That might explain why unless a fleet has a specific problem when it comes time to spec new vehicles they just reorder based on last year’s specs.

But given the pace of technological change and the fact that new products are introduced at dizzying speed, it’s probably a good idea to take a step back and revisit your specs each and every time you order trucks.

Take something like electronic engine parameters. Our Confidence Report on that topic found that fleets that manage their electronic engine parameters could see fuel economy gains by optimizing those parameters. Yet many don’t.

Your dealership sales rep should be going over how these parameters can be changed to help you better meet your fuel economy goals. And if he or she can’t answer your questions, request a call with someone at the factory.

This spec review can be expanded to focus on other fuel economy related features like 6x2 axles, idle reduction devices, downspeeding, low rolling resistance tires. The list goes on and on.

In today’s competitive market, even with low fuel prices, every tenth of a mile more you squeeze out of a gallon of diesel is money to your bottom line. During the spec review remember to focus on the things that really make a difference. Sure you want nice interiors as part of your driver-recruitment efforts, but you should be spending more time on things that can impact vehicle performance. This is the time to take advantage of factory expertise to discuss difficult topics to make sure you get it right.

If you’re not happy with the fuel economy you’re getting from your existing vehicles, ask the dealer to call in a factory expert, not just an application engineer. Think of it this way. The application engineer is a lot like your family doctor. He knows a little about a lot of things that could go wrong with your health.  But once he or she discovers a problem, they may have to call in an expert who has in-depth knowledge of your particular problems. It’s no different with your OEM or dealer.

Once you’ve got your new specs set, follow the remainder of the steps in the TMC proposed RP: schedule a pilot review, select a location for the review, prepare for the review, conduct the review, develop a follow up plan and set vehicle delivery dates and conduct periodic reviews if you are taking delivery of vehicles throughout the year.

Fuel economy is a moving target. We’re striving to get fleets to 12 mpg in the not too distant future. Regularly reviewing your specs will help you make incremental steps toward that goal.

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