Aaron Marsh/Fleet Owner
Considering total cost of ownership mdash both fuel and maintenance costs mdash going with a 2017 truck can save your fleet money according to a fleet leasing and analytics company

No matter the cost of fuel, new trucks can still offer savings

July 7, 2016
Fleets fret a good deal about the cost of fuel, and understandably so — it's one of their biggest and most variable business costs. But regardless of whether diesel prices stay low or even were to spike suddenly, new power units can still save you money.

Fleets fret a good deal about the cost of fuel, and understandably so — it's one of their biggest and most variable business costs. But regardless of whether diesel prices stay low or even were to spike suddenly, new power units can still save you money.

So says Fort Lauderdale, FL-based truck leasing and business analytics firm Fleet Advantage. "Even though the price of fuel could go up significantly, if it were to do that, a new truck really offsets it because it brings your maintenance costs down to brand-new truck first-year maintenance," contends Mike Spence, the company's senior vice president of fleet services.  

Most analysts' and consultants' predictions for the price of oil this year don't herald a fast, dramatic climb upward, to be sure, and neither does Fleet Advantage. "We don't anticipate that diesel is going to go from about $2.40/gal. now to $3.40/gal. anytime soon, but I think we've discovered that the world economy doesn't work very well on $35/bbl crude oil prices," Spence says.

Even so, he walks through just such a scenario, particularly given new, more efficient model year (MY) 2017 trucks being produced. If a fleet is running trucks 100,000 mi. per year and getting about 6.8 mpg, that's approximately 14,700 gal. of fuel needed and thus an additional cost of around $14,700 if fuel were to bounce upward suddenly by $1.00/gal. Once you roll in maintenance costs as well, though, moving from a 2011 day cab to a 2017 day cab, total savings due to better fuel efficiency and less maintenance work out to about $19,700.

"So regardless of what happens with the price of fuel, there's big savings in changing your asset model and moving out of these older vehicles that are quite expensive to run and into a new 2017 truck, which kind of resets your maintenance costs per mile," Spence tells Fleet Owner.

Fleet Advantage analyzes data from its customers' maintenance records and the trucking industry at large. The company calculates for fuel savings with diesel at $3.00/gal. and $4.00/gal. depending on if a fleet is running model year 2011-2017 trucks as well as total cost of ownership of that range of trucks at the two fuel price points. For example, with diesel at $3.00/gal., moving from a 2011 day cab to a 2017 day cab would save $6,425 in fuel costs alone, Fleet Advantage calculates; at $4.00/gal. for diesel, that same 2011-to-2017 truck replacement would save $8,566 in fuel costs.

Fuel savings
@ $3.00/gal. for diesel

Current vs. MY 2017 day cab

Fuel savings
@ $4.00/gal. for diesel

Current vs. MY 2017 day cab

Current model year

Current MY cost

MY 2017 cost

Approx. MY 2017 savings

Current model year

Current MY cost

MY 2017 cost

Approx. MY 2017 savings

2011

$46,802

$40,377

$6,425

2011

$62,402

$53,836

$8,566

2012

$45,662

$40,377

$5,285

2012

$60,883

$53,836

$7,047

2013

$44,577

$40,377

$4,200

2013

$59,435

$53,836

$5,599

2014

$43,478

$40,377

$3,101

2014

$57,971

$53,836

$4,135

2015

$42,373

$40,377

$1,996

2015

$56,497

$53,836

$2,661

Total cost of ownership
@ $3.00/gal. for diesel

Current vs. MY 2017 day cab

Total cost of ownership
@ $4.00/gal. for diesel

Current vs. MY 2017 day cab

Current model year

Current MY cost

MY 2017 cost

Approx. MY 2017 savings

Current model year

Current MY cost

MY 2017 cost

Approx. MY 2017 savings

2011

$80,133

$60,433

$19,700

2011

$95,713

$73,885

$21,828

2012

$75,092

$60,433

$14,659

2012

$90,313

$73,885

$16,428

2013

$72,080

$60,433

$11,647

2013

$86,938

$73,885

$13,053

2014

$70,045

$60,433

$9,612

2014

$84,538

$73,885

$10,653

2015

$66,577

$60,433

$6,144

2015

$80,701

$73,885

$6,816

Source: Fleet Advantage

"The tables at the bottom tell the real tale, though," Spence says. "Rather than just looking at fuel, you're looking at the total cost to run that vehicle." Of course, there's less of a total cost reduction in going from a newer model year such as 2014 or 2015 to a 2017 truck. Still, replacing a MY 2015 day cab with a MY 2017 one will save about $6,144 in total ownership costs with diesel at $3.00/gal. or $6,816 with diesel at $4.00/gal.

"For every dime the cost of fuel goes up per gallon, that ends up costing about $1,400 when you're running 100,000 mi./year and you're up around 6.8 or 6.9 mpg," says Spence, noting that there's a compound annual growth of about 2.5% fuel economy per model year for heavy trucks. "The big savings in new technology is the reduction you see in running costs," he explains, "and that technology is rolled in over a shorter period of time."  

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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