Keep It Neutral

Aug. 28, 2015
Reduce truck weight and then add it back for better fuel economy

When I bring up the subject of reducing weight in Class 8 over-the-road tractors and trailers, I usually get comments about how lightweighting only makes sense for bulk haulers because they tend to reach maximum weight limits most of the time. For them every pound taken off the tractor or trailer is an extra pound of payload they can carry.  But everyone else, No, I have other big things to tackle first.

But I contend — and the findings of the study team that produced our recently released Confidence Report on lightweighting confirm — that there are more benefits to lightweighting than the ability to carry more cargo.

If you look at lightweighting in the bigger context of freight efficiency, you’ll see that it has value for all kinds of fleet operation. Let’s start with the fact that over the past decade emissions regulations and driver amenities have added about 1,000 pounds to a tractor no matter what application it is used in. And there is no telling at this point what the impact of GHG Phase 2 is going to be on vehicle weight.

That kind of additional weight is unavoidable as manufacturers have no choice but to meet these emissions mandates and fleets have to amp up the creature comforts on their trucks to find and retain drivers given the acute driver shortage.

And while you may not need the increased payload carrying capacity you get from lightweighting, decreasing the weight of the tractor or trailer can mean more creature comforts or better still more technologies like trailer skirts that add weight but improve fuel economy.

Rather than look at reducing vehicle weight only because it gives you increased payload - look at it as a way to add other technologies that pay dividends in other areas — happier drivers, better MPGs. Think weight neutral. Give up some weight in the initial spec but gain it back when adding that APU or boat tail. But the end result is no weight gain when all is said and done.

There are a host of ways to reduce weight in your tractors and trailers from spec’ing smaller sleepers to running with a single fuel tank to moving to 6x2 axles to using wood composite trailer floors and aluminum wheels. Our report contains a list of weight reduction options for both tractors and trailers so you can see exactly where you can reduce weight.

Even if carrying more cargo is not a concern for you, I wish you’d consider lightweighting because it just makes good sense.

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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