Go Long

Feb. 10, 2015
Long-term predictions call for $6/gal. diesel

You’d have to be living in a cave not to know that diesel fuel prices have been falling. But if history is any indication, they won’t fall forever. In fact the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-term Energy Outlook shows that while the on-highway retail price of diesel will average $2.85 in 2015, by 2016 it will be back up to $3.25 a gallon. Longer term predictions are for prices to rise to more than $6 a gallon by 2040.

Regardless of the price of diesel you shouldn’t lose focus on improving your fleet’s fuel efficiency. Sure higher diesel prices make payback for some technologies shorter, but the price of diesel isn’t the only reason fleets should try to improve their fuel economy. Whether diesel is $4 a gallon or $3 a gallon when you improve your fuel economy you save money. It really is as simple as that.

NACFE has identified nearly 70 technologies that help improve fuel economy. And not all of them cost money. If you think — and I think you are being short sighted — that there’s no need to invest in things that will make your fleet more fuel efficient now, there are number of things you can do that cost little or nothing.

Consider some or all of the following:

  1. Tire pressure systems: If you don’t want to purchase tire pressure monitoring or inflation systems, then at least make sure your drivers are checking tire pressure on all tires during every pre-trip inspection.  There can be as much as 1% degradation in fuel economy for tires that are underinflated by 10 psi. While our Confidence Report on Tire Pressure Systems mainly focuses on tire inflation monitoring or inflation systems, there is lots of good information in there about why proper tire inflation is critical to fuel economy
  1. Electronic engine parameters: When was the last time you checked to see if your electronic engine parameters were set to maximize fuel efficiency? Are you using all the available options the engine makers have available to you to optimize your fuel efficiency? Check out our Technology Overview on the subject — and look for our full Confidence Report, which will be launched at the upcoming TMC meeting. Suffice it to say that when set properly electronic engine parameters can improve your fuel economy in a big way.
  1. Route optimization and reducing empty miles: Out of route miles waste fuel as do empty back hauls. Spend a little time making sure you’re using the best routing possible and that you’re finding loads to keep your trucks full on the back hauls.
  1. Preventive Maintenance: Wear and tear causes a truck’s performance to deteriorate over time. Regular preventive maintenance can help reduce the impact of that wear and tear on vehicles. Our Technology Overview on preventive maintenance found that some fleets have seen fuel consumption improvements of 5% to 10% by consistently and regularly maintaining their trucks.

Of course those of us at Trucking Efficiency think no matter what the cost of fuel, you should continually be exploring ways to make your fleet more fuel efficient. As much as we wish it wouldn’t happen, it’s a safe bet that at some point in the future fuel prices will indeed go back up. If you’ve done your homework beforehand you’ll be able to react quickly and start reaping the benefits of the many technologies that will save you fuel.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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