Almost half a billion dollars. That’s how much money 14 fleets saved last year by investing in a variety of fuel efficiency technologies.
Our annual Fleet Fuel Study found that fleets saved on average $9,000 per year per truck with payback periods of two and a half years on their technology investments. The studied fleets are achieving 7 mpg on average — well above the national average of 5.9 mpg — with 2015-model year trucks reaching as high as 8.5 mpg. This just proves that we are well on our way to reaching the 10 mpg milestone.
This high level of efficiency was reached because the fleets adopted a combination of technologies and practices. Some technologies like aerodynamic fenders, bumpers and mirrors have near universal acceptance and adoption. Other things like vented mud flaps, tractor wheel covers and two-speed fan clutches are beginning to be used on some trucks as these fleets test their effectiveness in their operations.
Each fleet is different and has different fuel economy goals so there is no one solution that will work for everyone. However the adoption of fuel saving technologies has grown from 18% in 2003 to 42% in 2014.
Some technologies saw a significant increase in adoption from 2013 to 2014: clutched water pumps (3% in 2013 to 14% in 2014) and automated manual transmissions (26% in 2013, 38% in 2014). In fact Con-way Truckload now has 48% of its fleet spec’d with automated manual transmissions. Other fleets have told us they too are moving to electronically controlled transmissions for fuel economy, safety and for driver recruiting and retention.
Another big area where fleets are making significant investments is in driver training. Industry estimates are that drivers can have as much as a 30% influence on a truck’s fuel economy. Fleets are recognizing this and are both adopting technologies that lessen driver influence on fuel economy and getting drivers to realize they can help reduce fuel use. Look for a Confidence Report from us later this year on driver coaching.
The fleets in our study represent 4% of the overall- heavy-duty over-the-road vehicles in North America. Think about what would happen to fuel economy numbers if the owners of the remaining 96% of the trucks on the road today were to beef up their investments in some of the 68 commercially available technologies we’ve identified as improving fuel efficiency.
I am happy to report that many fleets — including Con-way Truckload, Frito Lay and Schneider are pursuing fleet-wide savings by following recommendations from our Tech Guide and Confidence Reports. It’s gratifying to know that the work we are doing is making a real difference.
With lower fuel prices this year, it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of savings fleets will see when we do the next study. One thing is certain these leading fleets will continue to make investments to increase their fuel efficiency because none of us can count on diesel fuel price being low forever. And savvy fleet owners know that any gain in fuel economy gives them a competitive advantage.