Zero In on…Fuel Efficiency

With all the talk of alternative fuels and battery-electric trucks, it’s easy to forget that decarbonizing your trucking operations can and should begin with today’s diesel trucks. In the Greentech education session at Truck World, panelists shared some insights on how to improve fuel economy and decrease emissions using diesel powered vehicles.

Adam Wolk, director of maintenance with Challenger Motor Freight explains that small gains can add up to big time savings.

Adam Wolk: Almost, to be honest, John, any percentage, right? At Challenger we’ve got 750 power units. Add owner-operators into that and it makes it north of 1,000 we spend tens of millions of dollars in fuel every single year.

So, if you can give me one point on $10 million worth of fuel, that’s $100,000. So if something’s worth half a point, and it can be demonstrated by verifiable data, you know, some trucks win, some trucks won’t, but on balance, we’re gonna get you know, half a point, it’s a big chunk of change.

Put that across the fleet, and you put that across North America, and that’s a lot of fuel. So honestly, I’m interested in almost anything, as long as it can be demonstrated and I don’t have a threshold.

There’sa wide array of technologies available on the market that promises to deliver those kinds of savings. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency provides reports that look to determine which of those work and which don’t. Here, Dave Schaller, industry engagement director with NACFE, speaks to the technologies getting the greatest traction.

Dave Schaller: For instance, things like AMT transmissions are way, way up. Now. A lot of fleets are going to lower viscosity engine oils, a lot of fleets going downspeeding to some really low axle ratios.

Fleets are not are taking off – or simply not adding – silly parts like bug deflectors and things on hoods. The OEMs — Volvo’s new truck worked their tails off to make it highly aerodynamic. Don’t go adding a bug deflector. It screws up the aerodynamics and probably screws up your air intake now on top of the hood.

Don’t do those kinds of things there are negative. So we’re seeing more and more fleets are avoiding that completely. I know it’s not for everyone in Canada, but certainly low rolling resistance tires have taken a pretty significant jump in acceptance.

There are also low-tech ways to improve fuel economy. According to Johan Agebrand, director of product marketing with Volvo Trucks, North America, just slowing down will provide some savings and driving styles that take advantage of the available technologies, like the shift patterns of an AMT will take it even further.

Johan Agebrand: That will bring speeds down — that’s the biggest factor of all of it. I mean, we’re talking about 80,000 pounds, not a small footprint trying to go through the air.

So that’s really where you have the number one. And then number two is the powertrain. And really, here it is, how do you utilize it then? And we have a lot of customers that, you know, AMTs; I can drive better than AMTs and unsynchronized transmissions. You learn to drive in a certain way, right?

So when you come to a hill with an unsynchronized transmission, you’re not going to be entering that hill at 850-900 rpm because you’re gonna be like, yeah, I’m gonna get stopped. I’m gonna stop and I gotta start over, I’m gonna get hung up on this hill.

So there’s a lot of technology today that takes away certain issues and changes how you should behave. So automatic manual transmission, it can enter a hill at 900 rpm, no issues, it will never miss the gearshift.

So there are things like that that comes into it with the new technology that people need to know, how do I utilize this? Downspeeding is another one that many people misunderstand; a lot of people see it as just going slower. It has nothing to do with the speed of the vehicle. Everything to do with the speed of the rpm on the engine, nothing else.

Back to Challenger, Adam Wolk discusses some of the must-have spec’s on the Challenger fleet.

Adam Wolk: We apply pretty well every aerodynamic option when it comes to skirts. Low rolling resistance tires, we spoke about that, that can be a bit of a challenge sometimes with the drivers because low rolling resistance means closed shoulder, closed shoulder means okay, am I going to get stuck in the snow?

So that can always be a bit of a chat a bit of a discussion? Let’s just call it that way. The optimal rpm range for the loads that are typically carried by the truck. So, you know it’s no secret we have a fair number of Volvos Johan, and I have considerable discussions as far as the gear ratio for the loads that we’re carrying.

Is this going to be running 80,000 pounds consistently? Is it going to be running 60,000? What does your customer haul? Are you going to be running LCV so you’re going to be up to 110,000 or 120,000 pounds or you know, north of 60,000 kilos for the for the Canadian measurements?

Gearing is very, very important — you want the optimal. We also do the predictive cruise options which can be disconcerting for drivers. Sometimes you’re on cruise — and we bonus for that — we very much incentivize our drivers for fuel economy both through our telematics and through the truck.

Predictive cruise can be challenging. Your truck will feel like it’s losing powers to crest a hill but what’s going on is it knows that the hill is coming to go downhill afterwards and it’s going to back off the fuel before the driver typically will. And yeah, that’s just a little tiny fraction, but all those fractions add up.