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Fault codes and new technology installed in tractors can help technicians better diagnose problems before they become costly for fleets.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, maintenance matters

May 17, 2018
Good fuel economy starts with a good preventive maintenance program.

Good fuel economy starts with a good preventive maintenance program. At least that is what Jerry Mead, executive director of innovation at Phillips Industries and former executive at US Xpress, said when speaking at NACFE forum sponsored by Flow Below during this spring’s TMC Annual Meeting.

He spoke briefly about things like air filter and tire maintenance and making sure the truck was maintained on a regularly scheduled basis. His basic premise is if you fail to make sure your trucks are properly maintained it doesn’t matter what else you do, they will not operate in a fuel efficient manner.

Our Confidence Report on preventive maintenance offers some best maintenance related practices including the following.

  • Start by reviewing OEM and component supplier recommendations: At the bare minimum you should be doing what the vehicle and component suppliers recommend for proper maintenance procedures and intervals. But that is just a starting place. You may need to make changes in maintenance frequency depending on your vehicle’s duty cycle, loads carried, terrain, etc.
  • Consider using the Recommended Practices developed by TMC: Some of the greatest maintenance minds in our industry attend TMC meetings and sit on committees in which the RPs are written. The recommendations that come out of these task forces are not pie in the sky, but rather are based on real world experiences of actual fleet maintenance managers.
  • Perform maintenance on an ongoing basis and in a consistent manner:  For maintenance to be truly effective it needs to be done regularly and the same way. Consider developing an electronic form that walks the tech through a PMI and also develop a step-by-step process for each different maintenance procedure. Then make sure your technicians are trained on the way you want specific maintenance procedures performed.
  • Invest in technology that allows you to schedule and track maintenance compliance: When you do this it is impossible for a truck to slip through the cracks even if it is out on the road. A maintenance tracking system will show missed PMs so you will know at a glance which trucks missed a needed PM service so you can make sure they gets taken care of as soon as possible.

Our report indicated that a properly maintained truck could see a 5-10% improvement in fuel economy. But there are other benefits of ensuring your trucks are well maintained including improved vehicle reliability and reduced on-road breakdowns, enhanced driver safety and increased driver satisfaction and a reduction in CSA violations and fines.

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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