In a year like this, with a vile pandemic smashing our routines and dashing our plans, we still have a bright light or two. Among the brightest is the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, otherwise known as NACFE. In the midst of chaos and confusion, it’s lighting the road ahead. By studying our industry’s practices and technologies – existing and yet to come – the organization aims to provide reliable information and improve our industry’s day-to-day performance. The goal is maximizing truck efficiency, and you might be surprised by what can be gained.
The unbiased and not-for-profit organization has been doing that since 2010, and I’d like to pay tribute to executive director Mike Roeth and the rest of his people. Those include folks like my friend Kevin Otto, a very smart retired Cummins engineer, most of whom join the force on a project basis. There is of course a Technical Advisory Committee consisting of experienced fleet people from the likes of UPS, Ryder, PepsiCo, and Bison Transport. Together, they really are without any demonstrable bias. You can believe what they have to say in their various analyses. You can have confidence that the information they provide is the result of much consideration and careful examination. I certainly do.
It makes sense, then, that they produce what are called ‘Confidence Reports’ among many other research products. Here’s how NACFE explains them:
“Fleet owners and operators can substantially reduce their fuel bill by implementing any of a wide range of efficiency technologies. Through its Confidence Reports, TruckingEfficiency.org provides access to unbiased, third-party information on approximately 70 efficiency technologies, so that fleet owners and operators can identify which efficiency technologies might be appropriate for their fleet.
“For each report, the study team develops a Confidence Matrix to inform fleets of the study team’s confidence in the technology being studied vs. the payback a fleet should expect to receive from the technology. The Confidence Rating is based on the amount of information currently available about a technology and the payback of that technology in years.”
NACFE has been producing these reports since 2014, the first one being a look at the efficiency virtues of electronically controlled transmissions. Recently we had one on trailer aerodynamics and another on tractor aerodynamics. In between there have been reports on fuel-saving solar accessories for trucks and trailers, lightweighting, low-viscosity engine lubes, and tire-pressure systems, among others. In each case you’ll find real-world evidence of what works and what doesn’t work so well in lowering a fuel bill.
One of the latest is an updated version of its Confidence Report on low-rolling-resistance tires in both dual and wide-base configurations.
Looking to the Future of Efficiency
If you’re wondering about the future (who isn’t?), the organization’s Guidance Reports are invaluable models of depth and clarity.
"By providing information on emerging new technologies that are not yet available in production,” says Mike Roeth, “we believe the first generation of production technologies will perform much better and offer better return on investments."
So far most of these reports involve electric trucks, which makes perfect sense in 2020 when so many such vehicles are being developed and sent to market. The first analysis was called ‘Electric Trucks, Where They Make Sense’, and it wasn’t just a short essay. The subject is explored over the course of 117 pages. Other such reports examine an electric medium-duty truck’s cost of ownership, the required charging infrastructure, and most recently the regions best suited to electric trucks. The latter is useful in guiding not only fleets, but also utilities, governments, and truck makers.
If you’re trying to understand other options in terms of powering heavy trucks, an especially useful Guidance Report published last year probably answers every question you might have in its 150 pages – hydrogen fuel cell? Renewable fuels? Have a look at ‘Viable Class 7/8 Alternative Vehicles’.
The beauty of all this is that all these reports are downloadable for free. How is that possible? Who funds the organization? All manner of industry suppliers do, and more recently there has been philanthropic money via Climate Works, Hewlett Foundation and Black & Veatch. In-kind contributions include providing needs for the organization such as technical assistance, design and communications support, event delivery, etc. You could help, too, if you have the urge.
Completely unbiased, run by people who actually know what they’re talking about, I can’t say enough good things about NACFE’s work. There has never been a resource like it. Have a look at www.nacfe.org.