My method for saving fuel and adding payload capacity

March 1, 2008
I have come up with my own simple solution to help all fleets cut unnecessary vehicle weight: Have drivers thin down

In the Last few years, there have been significant changes throughout the industry with regard to business procedures. Fleets have been applying new technologies and operating strategies to help drive down operational costs, while at the same time increasing overall efficiency, enhancing driver safety, and delivering a higher level of customer satisfaction.

A key focus has centered on reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Fuel represents the second highest operating expense for many fleets.

To this end, fleets are doing a wide range of things. Some are adding idle reduction technologies, devices, and policies on idling time. Others are taking advantage of truck stop electrification systems to provide in-cab heating and air conditioning.

Automatic tire inflation systems, which monitor and continually adjust tire air pressure, are finding increased use. By maintaining proper tire pressure, these systems not only save fuel but also extend tire life.

Then there's improved vehicle aerodynamics. Truck, body, and trailer manufacturers have devoted extensive attention to streamlining the profile of their equipment. This enables the air to flow around the vehicle more efficiently, causing less drag. Thus, less energy is needed to move the vehicle, reducing fuel consumption.

For older trucks and trailers, there are numerous aerodynamic add-on devices.

Fleets are specifying lightweight components and options for fuel savings, as well as replacing dual tire and wheel assemblies with wide-base tires. With all this comes the added benefit of increased payload capacity.

Because drivers have a large influence on fuel economy, fleets are creating incentive programs and bonus opportunities to reward drivers for achieving specific fuel economy targets. Change behavior, change results.

In addition, fleets are reducing their governed speed.

There seems to be an infinite number of route planning programs available nowadays to help fleets ensure that truck routes are optimized for productivity, utilization, and operation efficiency.

I have come up with my own simple solution to help all fleets cut unnecessary vehicle weight: Have drivers thin down.

I am surprised that this strategy is not more widely employed. Slimmer drivers save weight for fuel savings and more payload capacity.

A driver weighing around 370 pounds is about the same weight as an APU (auxiliary power unit) system or a dual tire and wheel assembly. A driver tipping the scale at around 260 pounds is near the weight of a wide-base tire and wheel.

Clearly, not all drivers are overweight. But I'm sure you would agree a good number are. Industry studies indicate that approximately 73 percent of drivers are overweight, and more than 50 percent are “obese” — traditionally considered a person that is more than 20 percent over their ideal weight.

Weight issues, especially when combined with poor eating habits and a lack of exercise, often lead to serious health problems. These can result in a shortened life span and reduced quality of life.

For the employer, there are the costs associated with obesity-related health issues, increasing health-insurance premiums, and lost productivity.

It might be time to put programs in place to help your truckers, and all employees for that matter, adopt a healthier lifestyle. You'll most likely need to offer rewards, as well as “punishments,” to make this happen.

It is worth the effort, though, as everyone benefits.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

View more Refrigerated Transporter news relating to alternative fuels, idle reduction, fuel conservation, fuel economy and diesel fuel prices.

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