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Managing Your Trucks’ Fuel

15 Tips to Decrease Usage and Save Money

You don't have to own a vehicle to be aware of the basic and undeniable fact that fuel is expensive.

There is a direct link between fuel usage and the bottom line, and nobody knows that better than the people managing big trucks. Fuel comprises a huge part of the expenses in any company that involves transport. Ultra-competitive business climates, along with increasingly stringent regulations, force you to pay attention to fuel usage to achieve the highest possible level of efficiency.

 efficient

New rules took effect in 2015 that demanded an overall 20 percent increase in the fuel efficiency of trucks. The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issue the standards, which call for more efficiency increases in future years.

 

Fuel and the Different Truck Classifications

Fuel economy among the many different classifications varies widely depending on loads, roads and condition of the trucks. Each one has an uncountable number of moving and critical parts such as the engine, axles, transmission, battery, tires and computer and electrical systems, yet none of them affects the cost of operation as significantly and consistently as fuel. As experts in the trucking industry, we at Empire Truck & Trailer see the need for more information about how to save fuel.

15 Tips for Conserving Fuel

It’s the everyday factors of fuel consumption you can exert some small measures of control over, with the idea that if you hit all or most of the goals, the collective result will be more gas in the tank and dollars in the bank.

You can't expect the price of fuel to drop by much or for long, so it is only logical to implement all the savings methods possible. Here are 15 tips you can use to keep more fuel in your trucks’ tanks for longer:

1. Regular Maintenance Saves Money and Fuel

Regular maintenance minimizes the cost of operation and maximizes fuel efficiency. Besides saving fuel, good maintenance practices prevent expensive repairs and down time as well as prolong the life of a truck and keep it performing most efficiently. The use of low-friction lubricants has become widespread since fuel gets wasted during the friction process. It is important to schedule and do basic maintenance at regular intervals — for example, changing fluids, greasing axles and replacing worn parts.

Another important thing regular maintenance does for trucks is ensure their compliance with the many applicable regulations. A well-kept truck and fleet also helps to maintain a clean safety record and makes DOT inspections go smoothly.

The best option is to partner with a trusted, full-service professional on a maintenance plan. Empire Truck & Trailer provides scheduled maintenance at designated intervals, preventative service and programs under which we manage and schedule all the maintenance and/or monitor fleet condition. However, drivers, owners and managers can also help prevent unnecessary repairs and find small issues before they become problems by doing basic tasks regularly, such as clean the trucks, look at fluid levels, check tire pressure and do a general, visual inspection.

2. Even Speeds Consumes Less Gas

Many big trucks have a state- or company-imposed maximum speed limit, which varies in a range of 55-80 miles per hour. The lower and more constant a speed the truck can maintain, the better and more consistent fuel economy a driver will get, and cruise control helps that happen.

MPH

Acceleration and varying speeds use excess fuel. Generally, an increase in speed of one mile per hour reduces fuel efficiency by 0.10 mpg. To run a truck at 75 mph uses 27 percent more fuel than when it is operated at the almost-universal highway speed for trucks, which is 65 mph. All those statistics proven industrywide can be applied to your own business to extrapolate an estimate of what you stand to save through the various fuel-conservation measures.  This is especially important since most tractor-trailer trucks yielding an average of just six miles per gallon.

3. Idling Is the Enemy

When a big truck is left to idle it can quickly erodes fuel efficiency. Some companies instill a limit on how long its drivers may leave a truck running because it helps them to more accurately predict fuel usage. It is recommended that the engine should idle no more than five minutes when a driver either starts or finishes a trip.

It is estimated that discretionary idling in the United States collectively wastes 1.1 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year. Research is underway to find new ways to keep sleeper cabs comfortable without having to run a truck. There is also technology available to monitor, limit and stop idling, and many companies and drivers use all available resources to avoid traffic congestion whenever humanly and technologically possible.

4. Rubber Hits the Road — and the Tank

The basic principle that proper tire inflation contributes to overall fuel efficiency applies universally to all rubber-tired vehicles, but especially big trucks since they can have up to 18 tires or more depending on the rig. Many drivers already take it upon themselves to do a quick walk-around inspection of the tires before leaving, but many wonder if it is worth the time and trouble to check each one with a gauge or to invest in a tire-monitoring system. Most experts agree from a fuel-economy and safety perspective, the answer in both cases is a definitive yes. Tires inflated to as few as 10 psi under the recommended level will affect fuel economy by as much as one percent.

Tires

The temperature at which the tires operate makes a difference in how much fuel is used as well. Cooler-running tires save money over the long run. As far as tire types go, ribbed on the drive axles has been proven to provide better fuel economy than lugged tires. Relative to the tires, alignment also contributes to better fuel economy because a truck or trailer out of alignment will create drag that slows the truck and crushes fuel efficiency.

5. Weight Matters

The more a truck weighs, the harder its engine will work to carry it up hills, accelerate and do other maneuvers that use excess gas. Manufacturers and owners do their best to make the trucks lighter as to spend the weight on paying load rather than heavy-duty components. Some of the common techniques used include:

  • Aluminum versus steel or iron wheels and axle hubs
  • Composite versus steel axle leaf springs
  • Aluminum versus iron clutch housing
  • Aluminum versus steel cab frame

6. Have a Good Load-Distribution Strategy

Several aspects of how the load is situated in or on the truck affect not only fuel efficiency, but also safety. Stack the uneven parts of a load toward the front of the truck box/bed or trailer neck to improve stability as well as aerodynamics, if applicable.

The engine works harder to haul a tall, narrow load than it does for a short, wide one. The shorter stack will also be less top heavy and less prone to a tip-over. It is crucial to secure any tarps or other covers as tightly as possible to the truck body and load because any flapping material will create drag and can give way under the pressure of invading air.

7. Work with the Wind

Wind has long been the enemy of fuel efficiency, but the industry continues to develop new technology and solutions that reduce wind resistance and increase fuel efficiency. For example, trailer skirts, load covers and special attachments for the rear process air flow for less overall wind resistance.

Manufacturers are already experimenting with general suggestions such as smaller mirrors and using cameras instead, lower front ends and smaller gaps to reduce the amount of wind that passes over or through the truck. For every two percent reduction in aerodynamic drag, you can achieve a one percent improvement in fuel efficiency. 

8. Know Your Fuel’s Characteristics

When you fill the tank, leave a little breathing room for the fuel because it will expand as it heats. Heat transfer from the sun or the engine increases the fuel temperature, and if there is not ample room within the tank to account for the expansion, fuel can overflow and spill. It is not necessary to leave a lot of room. It is just a matter of not filling the tank to the very top. Topping off also adds a bit of extra weight that affects overall fuel economy.

It gains a little fuel in your favor to gas up in the early morning hours because the fuel is cooler and denser, and there is literally more gas in a gallon early than in the afternoon or evening after it has expanded. Each gas-pump nozzle usually has a notched setting for high, medium and low flow. The most gas-saving setting is low because the less speed the fuel achieves, the less of it vaporizes during the delivery process.

9. Drivers are Deciders

Driver training and education make a big difference because an experienced, confident, trained and motivated driver can make as much as a 35 percent difference in the miles per gallon achieved. They are a company’s biggest expense, but they can also be the biggest asset, too.

Drivers

Many entities study and research this factor, and the results show that even a one-day training session for drivers can increase fuel economy by a collective five percent. Nearly any expert resource you can consult points to the importance of drivers to achieving fuel economy or any other initiative.

10. It’s All in the Attitude

Some companies purposefully create a culture that emphasizes rewards and incentivizes fuel efficiency. It can pay off in savings to deliver the message that saving gas is a priority mission.

Cash, accumulated time off or smaller prizes can motivate drivers, as well as games, fun spiffs and general recognition, appreciation or light competition. Other businesses may take a harder-edged approach and dole out penalties or discipline if the desired efficiency is not achieved.

11.Break the Braking Habit

Another commonly known fact about gas and diesel-powered vehicles is that the more you stop and start the more fuel the motor uses.

Using forward momentum to propel the truck up and down hills, and then slowing well before a stop to allow momentum to decrease naturally before using the brakes can make a significant difference in fuel consumption — as well as the wear and tear on the brakes.

12. Road Surfaces Play a Role

Drivers of experience know that some surfaces can drain fuel economy — for example, when tires spin or slip on gravel or on a wet or oily road.

The answer, of course, is a slow approach to avoid slippage and make sure every little drop of fuel during the acceleration process gets used to move the truck forward.

13. Upgrades Boost Efficiency

New trucks and their improved technology, such as motors, transmissions and aerodynamic design, save fuel and money over older equipment.

Finance and lease options put new equipment within reach, and strategic replacements or rebuilds on old equipment yield better performance and fuel economy. Lease deals can be a way to use the latest equipment since some of them include or can include automatic upgrades to new models.

14. Technology Creates Improvements

New developments also hold promise to increase big-truck efficiency even more. The kinetic-energy recapture system (KERS) available on new trucks and as a retrofit is an example. It harnesses the energy trucks lose as they coast down hills or to a stop and has the potential to save about 15-25 percent in fuel costs, depending on conditions.

KERS

Regenerative braking is another emerging technology that seeks to capture and store the energy trucks lose. Other promising research includes dual-clutch transmissions and waste-heat recovery systems.

15. Small Steps Lead to Big Savings

A little goes a long way, especially when it comes to fuel economy:

  • High gears generally save more fuel than lower gears. An incremental speed-up-and-slow-down process uses the high gears more than a start-stop method, so keeping the mindset to use higher gears whenever possible can shave dollars off the fuel cost.
  • Turn off the air conditioning at any opportunities when the driver can be comfortable by opening the windows, especially during stop-start driving.
  • Expect and account for better fuel economy in warmer months than in cold ones. Colder air is denser air, so the truck will work a little harder to cut through it than it does warmer air. The difference in fuel cost can run eight to 15 percent.
  • Fuel economy on new trucks will improve by a few percentage points after the machine has gone through its break-in period, usually about 10,000 miles.

Expert Partners, Broad Resources Nearby

Empire Truck & Trailer offers decades of experience with all sizes, types and brands of on-highway trucks as well as trailers. We have new and used class 3-8 trucks, parts and service, repair, preventative maintenance plans and a deep inventory featuring many brands. For added convenience and emergencies, we also have 24/7 emergency road service and mobile-repair.

We have locations and professionals throughout Arizona and California to find new and better solutions for our clients. We have become an industry leader because we partner with clients and help them achieve their goals through excellent service, knowledge and skills.

For more information and to find the right equipment for your operation, contact us today.

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