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Roeth: The connection between maintenance and fuel efficiency

Sept. 6, 2023
Reducing downtime is the main reason fleets invest in maintenance, but the improved fuel economy also can help build the TCO case for investing in preventive maintenance.

As summer comes to a close, fleets should schedule their trucks for a thorough preventive maintenance service to ensure they are prepared for the rigors of winter.

But making sure trucks are ready for winter driving is not the only reason fleets should focus on PM service. A well-maintained truck logs more uptime, and it also tends to operate more efficiently. There is strong evidence that suggests that a properly maintained truck will enjoy improved fuel economy. With diesel fuel well into the $4-plus range, every tenth of a mile more from a gallon of fuel can be a big savings.

See also: U.S. diesel surges ease, average rises 1.7 cents

Interestingly, while many fleets view maintenance as important to their operation, they tend to look at it as a way to reduce downtime, not  to improve fuel economy.

Obviously, reducing downtime is the main reason fleets get payback for their investment in maintenance, but adding information about increased fuel economy can help to build the TCO case for investing in maintenance technologies, tools, bay space, technicians, maintenance software, and diagnostic equipment.

I advise fleets to start thinking of maintenance in terms of fuel economy benefits in addition to the obvious uptime benefit and positive impact on CSA scores.

Our Confidence Report on maintenance at NACFE identified 10 components or vehicle systems that are known to impact fuel economy and looked at the role of maintenance in keeping those components/systems operating at peak condition. I encourage you to review the report to learn more about these 10 components and their impact on fuel economy. It’s a relatively short report, so it’s a quick read!

See also: Roeth: Lest we forget decarbonizing with diesel

By adding up the fuel economy from the 10 components described in the report, fleets can see fuel consumption improvements in the 5% to 10% range when they implement a rigorous preventive maintenance program and then track and ensure PM compliance so that PM service is completed on all vehicles every time a PM service is scheduled.

While maintenance service needs to be performed on a regular basis, the upcoming winter is a good time to take another look at things like batteries/starters/alternators, tires, fuel water separator, air dryers, coolant freeze point, and wipers.

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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