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Act now to mitigate rising fuel prices

March 9, 2022
It's not too late to start taking steps to improve your fleet’s fuel economy and freight efficiency.

Diesel fuel prices were $4.104 the week of Feb. 28—hitting a nine-year high. Fuel prices are expected to rise following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine if countries impose sanctions that will block exports from Russia. I am sure we are all hoping there is a swift end to the situation in Ukraine, but for now we are faced with fuel prices that are high and likely to go higher.

I have written in the past about the need to focus on fuel efficiency, regardless of the price of a gallon of diesel. I am heartened to see that some fleets and owner-operators have already taken actions to improve efficiency.

See also: Oil markets volatile amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

If you are not one of those fleets that has already made the investments in technologies to improve fuel economy, I once again encourage you to do so. There are some things that require an initial cash outlay to improve efficiency, but the good news is that those investments have a decent return on investment and will lower the total cost of ownership of an asset.

Aerodynamic devices on both tractors and trailers reduce drag and lead to fuel savings. Lower rolling resistance tires also are a good investment. Consider coupling those tires with tire pressure systems for even more efficiency gains. Reducing idling is another way to be more efficient. Obviously, this needs to be done keeping in mind drivers and their need for creature comforts as well as comfortable living conditions when they are on their breaks.

If investments aren’t in the cards, there are still things you can do to wring more from a gallon of diesel fuel. Start by adjusting the electronic engine parameters on your tractors. There are settings that focus on maximizing fuel efficiency. All it takes is time to make those adjustments; there is no additional cost.

The next no-cost solution is to slow down. Governing speed at both the pedal and when the driver is using cruise control can result in significant fuel savings. Work with drivers on their driving behavior so they drive with fuel efficiency in mind and encourage them to spend more time in cruise.

While I do not own a crystal ball, it does not take someone with special insights to predict that we are not likely to see diesel prices come down significantly any time soon. It's not too late to try to mitigate the pinch of those increased fuel prices by taking some simple steps and making investments to improve your fuel economy and freight efficiency. Start today and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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