You can't rightly expect a driver to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to fuel economy. It takes a huge amount of discipline to stay on top of the driving, but given the right tools, even a mediocre driver will do reasonably well.
Schneider National does a lot 
of evaluating before including a component as part of a fuel-efficiency spec.
Schneider National does a lot 
of evaluating before including a component as part of a fuel-efficiency spec.

In February, during the annual meeting of the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council, Steve Duley, vice president of purchasing at Schneider National, shared some of that company's fuel conservation strategies.

To a fleet with 10,000 company-owned power units and 13,000 drivers, fuel costs are second only to safety. Duley told attendees that the 2002 to 2010 emissions cycles cost the fleet dearly in fuel economy.

"Going into the first round of emissions reductions in late 2002, we were averaging the best fuel economy we had ever seen," Duley said. "Between then and 2010, we dropped about 5%, but we have that back now with the 2010-generation engines, and we're pretty happy about that."

Duley explained that historically, Schneider's cost portfolio per power unit has run about 60/40, with cost of ownership and maintenance accounting for about 40% of the trucks' lifecycle costs and fuel accounting for 60%. Today, he says, it's about 80/20."Fuel costs have always been the critical factor for tractor specs and supplier selection decisions," he says. "While emissions changes drove rapid acceleration in equipment ownership and maintenance costs, increases in fuel prices have made the fuel impact even more significant."

Schneider is constantly testing and evaluating emerging fuel-saving technologies and won't spend a dime on stuff that doesn't produce a return. Some of the returns are small indeed - less than 1% - but even in those cases there's some positive impact.

In addition to the obvious things, here's some of what Schneider has settled on as proven fuel-saving specs:

- 13-liter engines
- Smaller cab, shorter BBC
- Aluminum wheels, components, frame
- Reduced fuel / DEF capacity
- Tag axles with traction control
- Fixed fifth wheel to minimize trailer gap
- Horizontal exhaust
- Fuel-efficient tires
- Aerodynamic wheel covers
- Aerodynamic mirrors
Schneider also uses engine electronics to limit road speed to 60 mph (down recently from 63 mph), and it limits nonessential idling.
Emerging technologies currently or soon to be evaluated include:
- Side skirts on van trailers
- Additional electric auxiliary cooling units
- Predictive cruise control
- Tire inflation/monitoring
- Trailer skirts, tails
- Driveline parasitic losses/
vehicle electrification
- 5W30, 10W30, synthetic engine lubes
- Lower axle ratios and integrated drivetrain for lower engine speeds

From the June 2012 issue of HDT

About the author
Jim Park

Jim Park

Equipment Editor

A truck driver and owner-operator for 20 years before becoming a trucking journalist, Jim Park maintains his commercial driver’s license and brings a real-world perspective to Test Drives, as well as to features about equipment spec’ing and trends, maintenance and drivers. His On the Spot videos bring a new dimension to his trucking reporting. And he's the primary host of the HDT Talks Trucking videocast/podcast.

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