Results of Largest Ever Fuel Economy Benchmarking Study Released

February 20, 2012

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency has released the results of its first fleet fuel efficiency study, representing 75,000 OTR tractors and 130,000 53-ft trailers from eight fleets.

The study highlights successful applications of products and practices that provide fuel savings during real-world usage. It analyzed the adoption of 60 known technologies and practices available to fleets over the past eight years.

Fleets participating in the study were C.R. England, Challenger Motor Freight, Con-way Truckload, Frito Lay, Gordon Trucking, Ryder, Schneider National and Werner Enterprises. To illustrate the scope of the study, in 2010, participating fleets ran a combined 3.1 billion miles and consumed 496 million gallons of fuel.

The goal of the study was to illustrate technology implementation experiences from uptake to full implementation -- and in some cases rejection, and to identify best practices shared by these fleets in terms of how they manage their fuel expenses and take advantage of opportunities to reduce them.

The study also offers insights for others considering the adoption of these products (widebase single tires, trailer aero devices, anti-idle hardware, etc.) and practices (driver training, routing software, etc.) and gives feedback to manufacturers on customer requirements and expectations for future products. The report found that these fleets saved on average $4,400 per year or $22,000 in fuel expenses over five years.

"The economic value that the NACFE Fuel Efficiency study represents to us is significant as it provides specific ideas for execution as we continue to lower our fuel costs," says Mike O'Connell, national senior director for fleet capability at Frito Lay, and NACFE board chair. "The environmental opportunities are equally exciting, and since our fleet is known for its environmental leadership, we look forward to receiving both economic and environmental benefits from this report."

Fuel Economy Guinea Pigs

Fleets that took part in the study were all early adopters of various fuel savings practices and technologies, and they continue to profit today from those experiences. Some early adopters of certain technologies later rejected them as either too costly in terms of acquisition cost versus percentage of fuel saved, too expensive to maintain, or simply ineffective. Some later reintroduced previously abandoned technologies as subsequent generations of the product improved and became more cost effective.

While specific products or technologies were not identified during the press conference (savings accrued by individual fleets were not quantified for the study, just the adoption and retention rates), the study reveals very wide acceptance and retention of some technologies, while others were widely adopted by some fleets, but not others. Further, it was shown that acceptance and ramp up rates varied across participating fleets, indicating that while some found certain technologies useful, others did not.

"We tried to drill down to the actual "value" of each technology or practice as experienced by individual fleets, but found that to be too difficult within the structure of the study," said O'Connell. "Instead, we chose to gauge the effectiveness of each by the fleets ramp-up and retention rates. That a fleet kept a certain technology in service was a signal that the fleet saw some value there."

Among the study's findings were:

~ When the study began in 2003, about 30 percent of the available technologies were adopted. Current adoption rates are significantly higher.

~ Between the time fuel peaked in 2008 and declined in 2009, fleets continued to invest in fuel saving technology and even increased their adoption of various technologies after fuel prices subsided.

~ Average fleet fuel economy showed a 2 to 3 percent decline during the period following the first round of EPA-mandated emissions reduction regulations, but in comparisons between adopters and non-adopters of various technologies between 2007 and 2010, fuel economy showed improvement in fleets with greater acceptance of fuel saving technology than those without.

As a stand-alone tool, the benchmarking study would be valuable to fleets lacking the resources of the very large participating fleets.

"I can tell you, fleet that don't have the resources of a Werner or a Frito Lay could quickly apply some of the practices and technologies illustrated in the study and feel much more confident that they will work in their application," says Steve Phillips, senior vice president of operations at Werner Enterprises and NACFE board member. "There are just so many products on the market today. Werner looked closely at the comparisons from the seven other peer fleets, and when we saw other fleets using technology we dropped, it made us ask a lot of questions about why some products worked here and not there, and vice versa. This study is a great way to take advantage of a lot of accumulated expertise."

NACFE Academy

Dovetailing with the release of the benchmarking study report, NACFE will offer an online learning environment called the NACFE Academy, where industry personnel can learn about technologies and practices that are improving the efficiency of North American goods movement.

The Academy will be the Council's virtual source for successful applications of new products and practices that provide fuel savings during real-world usage. Findings will include technology benefits, their specific applicability in real-world duty cycles, adverse consequences in use, and other important data.

"Through our unbiased approach to aggregating information on fuel efficient technologies, we are adding direct value to the fleets' bottom lines and helping suppliers communicate the value of their offerings in the marketplace," says NACFE Executive Director, Mike Roeth. "The NACFE Academy offers a creative, e-learning place for this information sharing."

The initial report from the NACFE Academy, a 2011 Fleet Fuel Study, "Real Fleets. Real Experience" will be available as of February 20th as a document for download, as an online course and in a question-and-answer session with the study team in a small group webinar.

"The study can be purchased as a package that includes the report for download, an online course that will help bring the findings to life, data sets on adoption and a question-and-answer session with the Study team in a small group webinar," Roeth says.

It can found on the NACFE Academy website at www.nacfe.org

Who is NACFE?

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency is a non-profit organization dedicated to doubling the freight efficiency of transportation industry by improving the quality of information available to members and by highlighting the success of high efficiency technologies.

Formed by Industry, NACFE's mission is to:
- Help Define freight efficiency metrics
- Build and maintain easy-to-access to information
- Evaluate improvements to configurations and maintenance
- Develop new methods and gather information
- Rate technologies or methods
- Educate drivers and fleets
- Predict efficiency gains of combinations

For more information, contact Mike Roeth, Executive Director
Email: mike.roeth@nacfe.org
Phone: 260-750-0106
www.nacfe.org