Maintaining a more fuel efficient fleet is more important than ever as the transportation industry releases 27% of America’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The large vehicles and long routes of the trucking industry provide many opportunities to adopt green technology and increase fuel efficiency.
As an added bonus, having a more eco-friendly fleet is also better for your bottom line. It’s not shock that using less fuel - likely one of your highest expenses - will cost you less money.
"Every year the North American trucking industry spends $40 billion too much on their fuel bill,” says the North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s Mike Roeth. “We can cut this significantly with the right efficiency technologies."
There are a variety of ways fleets of any size can cut down on fuel usage, and here’s a look at some of the latest trends:
Crunching the numbers on Heavy Duty Trucking’s “50 Top Green Fleets” reveals that alternative fuel is quickly becoming the staple of eco-friendly fleets. Alternative fuel usage is common among the greenest fleets, with the most popular choice being natural gas.
Although growing in popularity, natural gas might not be the right choice for every fleet looking to go green. Tom Patterson, director of commercial vehicle business development at Ricardo, recommended taking a good look at your fleet’s needs before deciding on an alternative fuel source.
“You look at things like duty cycle. Short haul versus long haul, for instance, can drive you to a decision of CNG versus LNG,” he said. “It’s all about total cost of ownership. Fleets need to look at what’s the most suitable technology for their application, and then they need to make sure they know where they can get fuel, and how much the fuel costs. Then they can make decisions about the configuration of the vehicle.”
There’s another big factor to consider: Where can your drivers refuel? Charging stations, natural gas at the pump, and other green technology support aren’t universal, so find out what’s available on your routes before making any big investments.
8% of total fuel is used on idling. Idling is often necessary to keep drivers warm or cool when they are sleeping, so you might not be able to cut down on idling time, but you can cut down on the energy used during idling. There are a range of options to drive down fuel usage without sacrificing driver comfort.
Extra insulation is an easy, and relatively inexpensive, way to save on fuel. Thicker windshields, insulated curtains, and solar-reflective window coverings keep the cab comfy without relying as much on the heating or cooling system.
A small aesthetic change could also make a big difference. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that trucks painted white needed 26% less energy than trucks painted black to cool off.
You move the heating and cooling off of your fuel source with a battery-powered HVAC system. Pairing a battery-powered HVAC system with an automatic engine start/stop system allows drivers to charge the HVAC with the truck stopped.
Refrigeration units - another source of idling power use - are also becoming more fuel efficient. Recently Thermo King announced plans to offer a self-powered refrigeration trailer in the US.
Driver actions can affect fuel use by 20%, so making sure your drivers have the right training can make a big difference in fuel consumption.
Veteran truck driver Mario Enriquez shared his secrets for averaging nearly 10 miles to the gallon in his rig with Forbes earlier this year.
"Just take it easy," he says. "I don't gun the engine, I just gradually give it the gas."
Taking it easy on the gas pedal helps too. Reducing your top speed from 70 mph to 65 mph can improve fuel efficiency by 5%.
If you decide to green your fleet, keep in mind that you may be eligible for tax credits or rebates. In Illinois, Drive Clean Chicago will cover 80% of the incremental cost of all-electric and hybrid trucks. Meanwhile in California, the state’s HVIP has funded $59 million in vouchers for electric or hybrid vehicles. When looking at green technologies to add to your fleet, find out what incentives you might qualify from your city, county, or state.
Have any suggestions for fuel efficiency or running green that we may have left out? Email us or continue the discussion on Facebook.