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NACFE: Preventative maintenance improves fuel economy

Dec. 16, 2015
Confidence Report shows preventative maintenance could generate fuel consumption improvements of 5-10%

Want to boost fuel efficiency? Preventative maintenance is key.

That’s according to the latest Confidence Report released Dec. 15 by Trucking Efficiency, a joint operation of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) and Carbon War Room. The report states fleets that implemented rigorous preventive maintenance programs saw fuel consumption improvements in the 5-10% range.

“There is evidence that properly maintained trucks will enjoy fuel economy,” said Michael Roeth, NACFE executive director. “The reason you do maintenance is to keep trucks up and running. It was common for people to tell us that trucks could lose 5-10% in fuel economy when maintenance was not attended to.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • Fleets view maintenance as important to their operation, but tend to look at it as a means for reducing downtime rather than improving fuel economy.
  • Strong evidence shows that properly maintained trucks will enjoy better fuel economy.
  • While reducing downtime is the main pathway to payback from investments in maintenance, adding information about the increased fuel economy enjoyed by well-maintained trucks can make investments in maintenance technologies, tools, bay space, technicians or software an easier sell across fleet management.

According to the report, benefits of proper maintenance include improved vehicle reliability and reduced breakdowns, increased resale value, enhanced driver safety and satisfaction, and reduced CSA violations and fines. Maintenance challenges include scheduling, tracking and ensuring compliance, and demonstrating a return on investment.

The report also identifies 10 components that impact fuel economy and looks at the role of maintenance in keeping those components operating at peak condition. The top components/systems that fleets mentioned are:

  1. Lubricants/engine oil
  2. Intake/exhaust system and diesel particulate filters
  3. Engine cooling
  4. Air compressors
  5. Wheel alignment
  6. Tires
  7. Fuel filter systems
  8. Aerodynamic devices
  9. Electrical systems
  10. Air conditioning

Most of the fleet managers surveyed for the report – 75% – said they saw a strong link between maintenance practices and fuel economy. 

“Even a vehicle that is running safely and reliably may still enjoy substantial fuel economy savings thanks to additional or more optimized maintenance,” said Denise Rondini, NACFE study manager and communications director.

Rondini added that technology solutions also play a role, particularly when it comes to predictive maintenance.

However, Roeth explained there isn’t “mature enough” information yet regarding predictive maintenance. He added that NACFE will invest in another Confidence Report that explores predictive maintenance in the future.

The full Confidence Report on preventative maintenance and past reports are available at truckingefficiency.org.

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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