Fuel economy optimization through truck design

Published in the October 2018 issue of Fleet Affiliation

Fuel is often one of the larger operating expenses when running a vocational fleet. As the leader of a fleet, you are likely continually asked to reduce costs - often through fuel reduction. The good news is that this can usually be controlled directly through proper truck design; and as the designer, it is imperative to understand the complete goal. If the goal is solely focused on fuel reduction, the productivity and efficiency will suffer - resulting in increased costs, reduced reliability, and increased maintenance. Designing a work truck that has a balance of productivity and fuel economy can often lead to a reduction in operating costs.

Where to begin?
Begin with understanding the functional requirements for the intended output. There is often a balance between performance and functionality. Next, with functionality in mind, define payload and auxiliary equipment requirements. Move on to performance: maximum speeds, starting grade ability, range considerations for duty cycles. Use this information. Options are available and, under the right circumstances, can contribute to operational cost reductions.

However, it is important to note your selections must be applied to the right circumstances. Applied incorrectly, they might increase overall cost without realizing any performance or functional improvements.

Let’s look at an example. A designer may believe advanced aerodynamics contributes to fuel reduction, but hasn’t looked at the functional and performance data. In this example, the truck operates in an environment that rarely requires it to exceed 40 miles per hour. Aerodynamic technologies would have little effect in this operating environment, thus adding unnecessary cost. On the opposite spectrum, if the data shows excess highway speeds and usage, aerodynamic packages are a viable option that can reduce fuel consumption.

Reduced weight reduces fuel burn
It takes energy to move mass. Reduce the mass and you can reduce the amount of energy required to move. There are a few options to reduce mass.

  • Lightweight components and truck bodies are becoming more common in truck design. This is an excellent opportunity to reduce weight without sacrificing functionality.
  • Onboard fuel storage. Fuel is heavy. A gallon of diesel weighs approximately 7 pounds. Take a look at the drive pattern. Is this vehicle centrally fueled every night? How much fuel is consumed during a shift? There is no reason to have 100 gallons of onboard fuel storage for a centrally fueled vehicle that burns 30 gallons a shift.
  • Technology advancements. We are often guilty of spec’ing trucks with items simply because the items have always been there. As an example, the past decade has brought tremendous improvements in battery technology, yet one might continue to spec trucks with four batteries, although two batteries would be sufficient for the required functionality.
  • Powertrain management. Larger power carries heavier weight penalties. Powertrain optimization has become easier. Many truck dealers have software that can input your data to determine optimized engine, transmission and final rear end configurations.
Ultimately, weight reduction will have a direct impact on final fuel usage. 

If you would like to discuss this, or any other fleet issue with the NTEA contact Chris Lyon, NTEA Director of Fleet Relations, at info@ntea.com.

Want more insight?

 Join us at The Work Truck Show® 2019 for sessions, events and opportunities designed for fleets.