DALLAS, TX – To help its customers maximize fuel economy over the life of their equipment, Volvo Trucks North America is rolling out a far-reaching program called Fuelwatch that encompasses everything from spec’ing and maintenance to driver training and fuel efficiency analysis.
“The high cost of fuel is the biggest issue facing our industry,” said Scott Kress, senior vp of sales & marketing, at a press conference here at the Great American Trucking Show. “More than 1,900 fleets went out of business in the first six months this year largely due to the dramatic rise in fuel prices. That’s why we’re taking a comprehensive step with Fuelwatch, addressing specifications, maintenance, driver training, and vehicle performance together so we can squeeze every possible mile out of every gallon of fuel.”
Kress noted that Fuelwatch is being rolled out in two stages, the first being available to customers immediately with the second planned for next year.
The first stage starts with Volvo’s Predictor software tool, so customers and their dealer can select the most fuel-efficient spec for the job, taking into consideration terrain, desired cruising speed, vehicle loading, application and other factors. The goal is to ensure the right combination of all drivetrain components, including gear and axle ratios, transmission, and engine ratings to ensure optimal fuel economy, performance and productivity, said Kress. Next comes scheduled preventive maintenance, which is critical, he stressed, as a lack of proper attention to wheel alignment as well as fuel and cooling systems can each reduce fuel efficiency up to 3%, while air system losses can result in a 4% hit.
The second stage of the Fuelwatch program is more complex – and customers will have to pay for it. Volvo plans to use its Volvo Link and Sentry onboard monitoring system in combination with a special “logged vehicle data” software package it has used in-house for four years to give fleets “granular analysis” of fuel economy performance truck by truck and driver by driver, said Bill Dawson, senior vp-customer satisfaction. That data then informs the driver development piece of the program to help maximize the amount of time spent in the engine’s “sweet spot” to achieve the best fuel economy.
“We know from our experience, however, that even the best spec’d and maintained truck can deliver poor fuel economy if the driver lacks the knowledge and training to use it efficiently,” Kress said. “The driver has the biggest impact – good or bad – on fuel economy.”
“We need to raise the bar, to look for ways to deliver incremental fuel economy improvements to our customers that will save them money over time,” added Seth Gruber, Volvo’s director of business solutions. “We must help our customers not just on the vehicle side but on the operations side, where more human factors are in play. We want to make sure everything possible is in place for them to achieve better fuel economy.”