ECM Settings Can Make or Break Your Fuel Economy

Go beyond factory engine settings for maximum fuel efficiency

This time around when I set up my new smartphone I customized every setting to suit my lifestyle and my business.  I believe in personal efficiency, that time is money and neither should be wasted.  Going through this process was a bit of a learning curve for me because on previous models, I generally worked within the factory settings.  My first experience with a smartphone was unadulterated out-of-the-box efficiency when compared to the blackberry that it replaced.  I was a happy camper and left well-enough alone.  Learning to customize the settings saved valuable time and improved efficiency.  I now consider myself an expert on all the settings and occasionally change them as needed to correspond with the task at hand. I also appreciate all the expert advice available to discuss how the settings can impact my phone’s performance. 

I open with this story because it is analogous to my business philosophy of gaining the maximum fuel efficiency from every truck.  Gaining maximum fuel efficiency must include learning and experimenting with different engine parameters and setting them according to the truck's duty cycle to achieve maximum fuel efficiency.  In my experience, many fleet managers accept OEM factory engine settings and the resulting fuel economy is the fuel economy that the truck is capable of achieving.

When you download the engine parameters you will end up with 22 pages of seemingly nonsensical settings that can be changed, enabled, modified and tweaked to suit your operation.  Downloading and adjusting engine settings has become a large part of the value proposition for some fleet managers.  Some have realized gains of as much as .4 MPG by adjusting the settings.  If you are a fleet manager, it is well worth your time to learn the many functions of your engine parameters and to adjust them so your trucks run at optimum efficiency. 

Keep in mind that a .4 MPG improvement saves you $3,000 a year per tractor from a feature that carries no upfront costs.  It is no wonder that NACFE has rated programming parameters as one of the highest rated technologies to incorporate for fuel efficiency.  According to Mike Roeth, of NACFE, there is documentation of as much as 8% fuel economy improvement.

Although confusing, fleet managers who wish to address their engine parameter settings can request help from their dealer or purchase the software from the manufacturer for around $500.  If you purchase the software, I recommend that you set one truck, monitor the results and keep detailed records of your adjustments.  The top three settings to address would be the Road Speed Limiter, Progressive Shift and Idle Time. Business intelligence is also available today to help show the results of modified settings – and what it means to your bottom line.

If your settings result in improved fuel economy you can save time by making a template and uploading the new settings to the remainder of your fleet. 

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