Trucking can learn from the auto industry

Nov. 28, 2016

Two recent reports found that passenger cars increased fuel economy to 24.8 mpg while also exceeding greenhouse gas emissions standards.

I say if they can do it, so can the trucking industry.

There is no magic or voodoo involved in what automakers did to get these results. They did things like down size engines, reduce vehicle weight, use turbochargers, focus on aerodynamics, add idle stop-start functions, and improve transmissions.

And these are things that are also available to the trucking industry.

In fact the fleets in our annual Fleet Fuel Study have already made investments in many of these technologies. As a result they averaged 7.06 mpg, in 2015 a 3% increase over 2014. The average for all U.S. fleets is around 5.83 mpg.

So I am heartened by this news from the auto world because it means that consumers understand the importance of reducing the carbon footprint and appreciate the benefit of more miles per gallon even with today’s lower fuel prices. In fact 2015 set an all time record for auto sales in the U.S. Consumers are not holding onto their cars to avoid the cost of these new more environmentally friendly vehicles because they understand the benefit of the fuel economy gains.

Truck owners should be able to make the same leap but not all of them are. In many cases they don’t trust the information they see and they are not clear about the payback for investing in fuel efficiency technologies. I am not naïve, I understand that trucks are not cars and the math is different when you are looking at something you use in your personal life vs. something you use to make your living.

Still many of the technologies on the market today to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions have reasonable payback periods. I am confident saying this because we have studied many of them and have sifted out the facts from the marketing claims and looked at results in real world use.

We have a real interest in seeing trucks get to the 12-mpg mark but we also know that has to be done at a reasonable cost. Check out our Confidence Reports at to learn more about technologies and operational practices that can make your fleet more efficient without breaking the bank.

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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