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Dealing with projected high fuel prices

June 21, 2023
The U.S. government has forecasted increased fuel prices due to production cuts from OPEC+ and Saudi Arabia. What technologies can fleets invest in to get the jump ahead of price hikes?

It looks like crude oil prices may be going up again, at least according to an article I saw in FleetOwner's affiliate, Bulk Transporter. The article said that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) "lowered expectations for global oil production after OPEC+ and Saudi Arabia announced cuts. OPEC+ says it will extend reductions to crude oil production through 2024, and Saudi Arabia plans to make an additional voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day in July."

In addition, EIA also expects there to be record consumption of liquid fuels and that consumption will "establish new record highs in 2023 and 2024."

All of us remember the basics from our Econ 101 classes. In case you've forgotten, lower supply and higher demand equals higher prices. According to the article, EIA raised its forecasted crude oil prices for the rest of this year and 2024. "EIA now expects crude oil to average $79 per barrel in the second half of 2023 and $84 per barrel in 2024—an increase of $1 and $9 per barrel, respectively, from last month's forecasts."

Fuel is one of the largest expenses fleets have, so any increase in fuel costs significantly impacts profitability. Right now is an excellent time to review how you are improving your fuel efficiency and to make changes that will allow you to increase the mileage you get from a gallon of fuel.

Some things are no-brainers. Check your engine parameters. Are they optimized for fuel efficiency? If not, consider making changes since this is a no-cost, easy fix. What about your routing? Are there ways you can make that more efficient and reduce empty miles?

There are also some investments you can make that pay back big dividends in fuel savings. One area to look at is aerodynamic devices for both the tractor and the trailer. Reducing aero drag can lead to fuel savings in the 1% to 10% range depending on the device(s) chosen.

Anything you can do to reduce idle time also leads to fuel savings. Make sure you look at what you are doing to meet drivers' needs to be comfortable in the cab while cutting down on idling the truck's engine. There are lots of options.

See also: How to keep drivers cool this summer without idling

Don't forget about the tires. Low-rolling resistance tires are a good option, but as important as ensuring they are at their proper inflation pressure. Tire monitoring/inflation systems help ensure tires are at the proper inflation levels, which not only saves fuel but also reduces tire wear.

I could go on about the various option available for improving the fuel efficiency of your trucks because NACFE has identified 85 technologies and practices that do just that. But each fleet has unique needs and different fuel economy goals, so I suggest you review the various options and choose the ones that make the most sense for you.

One other piece of advice. Talk to fleets and drivers that are consistently getting 10 MPG or more. Many of those fleets have participated in our Run on Less events. Fleets from the first Run averaged 10 MPG in long-haul applications, while those in Run on Less Regional were at 8.4 MPG

See also: Veteran drivers teach how to reach 10 MPG

Even as the industry is beginning its transition to zero-emission freight movement, we know that diesel trucks will be on the road for at least a few more decades. Getting more miles from a gallon of diesel is part of the decarbonization of trucking—not to mention a big money saver.

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.

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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