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March 23, 2015
Investing in technology can bring a competitive edge

It’s not unusual for large fleets to invest in technology. They see it as a way to gain a competitive advantage.  As a result they are usually the first ones to try out technologies that promise fuel savings. And they can afford to do some testing or to try out the technology on a small portion of their trucks to evaluate it in the real world. In some instances they even conduct SAE type testing, wind tunnel analysis or even computational fluid dynamics analysis.

Our NACFE fleets are good examples of those that have made the investment in technologies that help improve their overall fuel efficiency. In our annual Fleet Fuel Survey, we ask fleets what kinds of technologies they currently are using on their trucks. Technologies include tractor and trailer aerodynamics, 5th wheel position, low rolling resistance tires, aluminum wheels, APUs, diesel fired heaters, limiting speed, optimizing routes and more.  This report will be updated and results announced in a press conference in early May at ACT Expo.

I certainly understand that smaller fleets and owner-operators don’t have the same flexibility when it comes to testing the effectiveness of fuel saving technologies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve the fuel economy of your trucks.

There are things even a one truck owner-operator can do to maximize his fuel economy. Henry Albert, owner of Albert Transport, is no stranger to most of you. For years he has been making strides in improving his fuel efficiency. Speaking at a recent press event, Albert said, “My goal is to do as well as I can on fuel.”

I think that’s the key. If everyone tried to do as well as they could on fuel, they’d start seeing fuel efficiency improvements. And just to remind you not all fuel saving technologies cost money. Reducing speed even a little bit will result in gains in mpg. Optimizing your engine’s parameters is another thing that costs little. Our recent Confidence Report found that fuel savings can be as high as 5-8% when parameters are set that focus on accelerator maximum vehicle speed, cruise control maximum vehicle speed and idle shutdown timer parameters.

Albert, who said he recently achieved 9.995 miles to the gallon for an entire quarter, relies on more than speed and engine parameters to achieve these results. He has also invested in technology solutions that are helping him get closer to his goal of driving across the country while achieving 10 miles to the gallon.

I’ve met many other “hyper” mpg owner operators and small firms achieving similar numbers of fuel efficiency.  In fact, holding that nozzle at a truck stop while paying up to $1,000 of your own hard-earned money for the fuel is a huge motivator!!  Looking forward to meeting a few of you this week in Louisville at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

If you’re thinking you’re too small to realize any fuel efficiency gains, think again. Start by doing things that are cost-free, and then look at what the big guys, and even some smaller ones, are doing. See where they have had success and consider adopting at least one fuel saving technology that makes sense for you. I promise you’ll be glad you did.  Any improvement in fuel economy is money in your pocket.

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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