Fuel Smarts

Survey: Speed Reduction, Driver Training, Progressive Shifting Give Best Fuel Efficiency Payback

December 11, 2012

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A survey of fuel efficiency initiatives found that the best payback came from cutting highway speed, training drivers and progressive shifting. Not surprisingly, these actions, along with recording engine data for greater driver feedback, also were the most commonly implemented among the carriers surveyed.
Reducing speed and driver training were two of the fuel-saving strategies fleets said were most effective.
Reducing speed and driver training were two of the fuel-saving strategies fleets said were most effective.

The study was sponsored by third-party logistics provider Transplace, PepsiCo and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The survey of more than 65 transportation carriers was designed to gain insight into the implementation of EPA's SmartWay program and other fleet fuel efficiency initiatives.

More than 75% of the carriers in the survey have implemented driver training, SmartWay-verified tires, reduced highway speed, progressive shifting, recording engine data for driver feedback, and aerodynamic mirrors.

Other initiatives, including tire pressure monitoring systems, gap reducers, alternative fuels and a vehicle battery system for heating and cooling, had a more limited deployment across the fleets. Some fleets have implemented such initiatives with expected ROI, and other fleets are either still evaluating these initiatives, have not evaluated them, or have had more mixed results following implementation.

The least common SmartWay initiatives were nitrogen-filled tires, truckstop electrification, advanced trailer end fairings and verified retrofit technologies, although a number of fleets were considering or evaluating them.

Technologies that mostly were rated "below expectations" included single-wide tires, particulate filters, and vehicle battery systems for heating and cooling.

On wide-base single tires, fleet comments ranged from "everyone wants them for the fuel savings" after initial driver resistance to payback being below expectations due to retread and maintenance and problems with lack of supply on the road for breakdowns and lower trailer resale value.

"We designed this survey, which grew out of the PepsiCo sustainability team, with key input from leading shippers and carriers such as PepsiCo, Con-way, J.B. Hunt and Western Express," said Ben Cubitt, senior vice president, consulting and engineering, Transplace.

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