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Truck Drivers & Fuel Efficiency

Last Updated: Nov 12, 2015

What New Drivers Need To Know About Trucking and Fuel Efficiency Techniques:

There are various ways that a truckers driving habits can directly affect fuel mileage and fuel efficiency.

Fuel economy has been shown to vary wildly depending on the skill of the driver.

Many companies offer fuel bonuses, in the form of cash or prizes, for truck drivers that achieve certain levels of efficiency.

Trucking companies and the industry in general have been making technological and design improvements to increase fuel mileage.

Better fuel mileage, on a larger scale, is generally accepted to influence both the U.S. economy and the environment in positive ways.

A general movement on the federal level is ongoing to increase the fuel mileage of new trucks, in addition to increasing fuel efficiency of existing Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV's).

How Can Truck Drivers Get Better Fuel Mileage?

  • Change Your Driving Style:

    • Avoid Accelerating Quickly:

      Hard and fast acceleration is known to burn fuel faster than slow and smooth take-offs. Maintaining a steady speed and leaving a larger following distance, (just "going with the flow"), ahead will help reduce the accelerate-brake-accelerate routine.

    • Proper Shifting Techniques:

      Keeping the engine's RPM in the lower range while upshifting or downshifting will yield the maximum torque (a measure of the turning force on an object such as a bolt or a flywheel), in turn yielding the maximum fuel mileage.

      Keeping the RPM's real low in the first few gears and progressively running the RPM's higher as you get into the higher gears will allow the next gear to begin in the maximum torgue range.

      Additionally, the trucking industry as a whole has been moving towards either automatic transmissions, or 10-speed manual formats.

    • Reduce Idle Time:

      Whenever possible and safe, shutting down the truck will obviously burn less fuel than idling in place for extended periods of time. We recommend only doing this when the truck is not in motion.

    • Reduce Excessive Braking:

      Paying close attention to what is coming ahead, as well as proper route planning, can decrease the amount of braking necessary. Excessive braking is a mileage-killer, naturally increasing the need for more frequent acceleration.

    • Reduce Speed:

      Most speed studies have shown that miles-per-gallon decrease by 8% by traveling 65 mph instead of 55 mph. Increasingly, many trucking companies are using electronic speed limiters on their fleets to hold their trucks in the low-to-mid 60's, anyways.

  • Use Of Technology For Route Planning:

    By now, most truck drivers are using some form of electronic route planning, through a combination of GPS units and mobile apps. The shortest distance between points is not always the most efficient, when considering things like construction, road congestion, etc. The electronic age has given drivers access to unprecedented amounts of information to use for route planning.

    In addition, taking into account the topography (the surface shape of the land, the ups and downs) can save fuel by avoiding excessive inclines whenever possible. There are many apps and GPS software that will help in this aspect, including regular old maps and road atlases.

  • Daily Inspections:

    Ultimately, drivers are responsible for the condition of their trucks. Aside from routine scheduled maintenance, things that could negatively affect fuel mileage include worn and under-inflated tires, clogged air filters, and delaying oil changes. Dust and dirt build-up can also hinder filters and electronic components and fuel efficiency.

    Additionally, keeping the trucks fluids at proper levels, and ensuring that all moving parts are properly lubricated and greased will decrease the work that the engine has to do, and decrease overall friction, helping fuel efficiency in the process.

  • Properly Adjusted Loads:

    While still following laws regarding axle weights, there are small adjustments that can be made in positioning the cargo for better fuel efficiency, namely keeping the weight as far forward as legally allowed.

Benefits To Truck Drivers With Good Fuel Efficiency:

  • Many trucking companies offer "fuel bonuses" to drivers who reach certain fuel efficiency thresholds, or rank near the top company-wide.
  • Cash bonuses are the most common rewards offered, and some companies give away cars and motorcycles to their super-savers.
  • Next to labor, fuel is a trucking company's largest expense, and drivers who successfully reduce that expense will generally also benefit from good standing within the company, and possibly a higher pay rate and more miles and-or leeway.

Fuel Mileage And Changes To Tractor Trailers:

To offset rising fuel prices, and comply with federal regulations, the trucking industry and companies have been investing in various technologies and methods to reduce fuel costs:

  • Companies are increasingly depending on technology, using software programs to improve routing, log speed and engine performance, and even shut down engines to reduce idling.
  • Fleets are being upgraded to newer, more fuel-efficient diesel, hybrid, and natural fuel trucks.
  • Aerodynamic improvements have been made to trucks including front-end redesign and wind deflectors and trailer skirts for improved airflow around tractor-trailers.
  • Many companies already use speed limiters on their fleets, and there is increasing pressure by federal regulators to make them mandatory.

What Are The Broader Impacts Of Decreased Fuel Use?

  • The Economy:

    1. Simply put, the less fuel used to transport goods, the lower the cost to transport them.

    2. The lower the cost to transport goods, the lower the end consumer cost of those goods (generally, not without exception.)

    3. The lower the end cost to consumers, the more they are generally able to consume.

    4. The more consumption, the higher the demand, and increased need for manufacture and transport of goods (See step 1).

  • The Environment:

    Carbon-based fuel (wood, coal, oil, and natural gas) emissions are generally accepted scientifically as a direct cause for increasing greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. It may seem that there is an extensive debate happening on climate change and its causes. A vast majority of the scientific community accept this theory as the most probable, so we'll use that.

    Changes in a drivers habits, along with upgrades and improvements to technology, are reducing not only the amount of fuel burned, but the emissions escaping into the atmosphere.

    Burning less fuel results in less harmful emissions released into the atmosphere.

  • Dependence On Foreign Oil:

    For better or for worse, much of the oil used for fuel comes from foreign countries. Most of the world's oil reserves are concentrated in the Middle East, and 72% is controlled by OPEC, a handful of oil-producing countries.

    Reducing overall fuel usage will lessen the effect of foreign price and supply controls, again helping the U.S. economy as a whole.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • CMV:

    Commercial Motor Vehicle

    A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

    • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
    • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
    • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
    • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
    • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

    HOS:

    Hours Of Service

    HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

    OWI:

    Operating While Intoxicated

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