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Seven tactics to improve fuel efficiency

May 3, 2024
Fleets can improve their fuel efficiency with driver training, establishing preventative maintenance schedules, and by reducing engine idling and drag.

Fleets sometimes ask about the one thing they can do to improve their fuel efficiency. This is a fair question, as fuel prices were the third highest-ranked issue for the trucking industry according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2023 Top Industry Issues report. Additionally, 59% of respondents to Motive’s Physical Economy Outlook 2024 report were concerned about the rising cost of insurance, fuel, and maintenance.

But the reality is there is no one solution to recommend for every situation.

While that might seem like bad news, there are a variety of components and best practices fleets can choose to implement that will positively impact their fuel economy.

1. It starts with spec’ing

When ordering new trucks, it is a good idea to do a thorough spec review with the dealership’s salesperson to discuss new features and options that are available. This is also the time to make sure that the trucks you are ordering are spec’d for the types of loads and routes you run. While having some commonality of specs makes servicing easier and reduces the number of parts you need to carry in inventory, spec’ing all your trucks the same can mean that only some are operating in an inefficient manner in some duty cycles.

Read more: How to spec the most fuel-efficient sleepers

2. Consider adding aerodynamic devices

Aerodynamic drag takes a big toll on fuel efficiency. Adding aerodynamic devices, such as ConMet’s TruckWings, to both the tractor and the trailer can pay big dividends in fuel saving. You can see a drag reduction of 1-10% depending on the devices you add and that results in better mpg.

3. Reset engine parameters for fuel economy

Make sure that you are optimizing your engine parameters for fuel efficiency, especially in the areas of vehicle speed limits, engine speed limits, and idle reduction. If you previously have not used engine parameters to optimize for fuel economy, you can see fuel economy improvements in the 5-8% range by doing so now.

4. Investigate downspeeding

Downspeeding the engine is one of the primary powertrain-focused strategies for improving fuel economy. Downspeeding allows the engine to operate at its most efficient rpm level while generating minimal horsepower. Downspeeding can result in a 2-3% fuel savings.

5. Reduce idling

Drivers needs to be comfortable in the cab during their rest periods, but there is a wide variety of options for reducing idling while still keeping them comfortable, such as auxiliary power units. When you reduce idling by 10%, you gain about 1% in fuel economy.

6. Train drivers

Drivers should be a key part in your fuel efficiency strategy. The way a truck is driven greatly influences mpg. Some sources say that drivers have as much as a 30% influence on fuel economy. Things like speeding, hard braking, and not using cruise control can reduce mpg. You can use telematic devices to track driver behavior and coach them on how they can drive in a more efficient manner.

7. Don’t overlook vehicle maintenance

Vehicles that are well maintained are going to operate more efficiently. Make sure that trucks come in for their scheduled maintenance service and track maintenance compliance so that trucks don't slip through the cracks and miss essential maintenance.

With diesel fuel hovering around $4 a gallon, now is a good time to take actions that will improve your fuel efficiency and add money to your bottom line.

About the Author

Denise Rondini | Director of Communications

Denise Rondini is NACFE’s director of Communications. Her responsibilities include handling NACFE’s internal and external communications efforts as well as media relations. She also is on the teams that develop confidence and guidance reports. Denise has 40 years of experience in the trucking industry as editor of several industry publications. She is also president of Rondini Communications, a full-service communications firm specializing in the trucking industry. She is the recipient of SAE International’s 2019 Environmental Excellence in Transportation Award.

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