Fleets that purchased optional systems and aerodynamic features for new trucks are averaging more than 7.5 miles per gallon, according to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency.
Seventeen large motor carriers saw their fuel economy increase last year by 3 percent from 2014, saving a combined $501 million on diesel, thanks to various fuel-saving technologies adopted across their fleets, according to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE).
The organization, which brokers information about green technologies that are economically suitable for the trucking industry, said that fleet-wide miles per gallon increased from 6.87 miles to 7.06 miles.
Among the 17 companies that participated in the annual fleet fuel study were Schneider National, UPS, XPO Logistics, C.R. England, Crete Carrier, NFI and Frito-Lay. They collectively operate more than 62,000 tractors and 217,000 trailers.
Technologies purchased by the 17 fleets include low-viscosity lubricants, automated transmissions, aerodynamic components and tire-inflation systems on trailers. The trucking industry began to invest in these types of technologies as diesel prices soared above $4 per gallon earlier this decade, but the NACFE said the adoption rate continued to increase among its sample group even though diesel fuel prices averaged $2.71 in 2015.
Lower fuel prices increase the payback period for capital expenditures in terms of savings.
“Improvements in both the fuel economy and bottom lines of the leading fleets this year provide a compelling call to action for the rest of the industry,” NACFE Executive Director Mike Roeth, said in a statement.
“Investing in efficiency technologies is the new normal. And these fleets are continuing to make investments because they do not want to be caught short when fuel prices go up again,” he added.
Most of the technology advances were options included by carriers as part of orders for new trucks. Roeth said by phone that large fleets turn over their trucks about every five years and tend not to retrofit existing equipment because the length of ownership is short.
New trucks put into service in 2015 are 16 percent more efficient than 2010 model year trucks they replaced.
The fleet mileage averages are expected to increase as the study group continues to replace older trucks with fuel-efficient ones. Trucks in their fleets that lacked fuel-saving upgrades averaged 6.3 mpg. The new vehicles average 7.5 mpg, or more, with one fleet reaching 9 mpg, Roeth said.
The high-tech trucks saved operators $4,653 per unit over 100,000 miles at the $2.71 price at the pump. Fleets are saving $8,075 over the national average of 5.8 mpg. If fuel costs had been at the four-year average of $3.89 per gallon, the savings would have been $6,679 and $11,591, respectively, the NACFE fuel study said.
The Obama administration last week announced a second round of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for new heavy-duty trucks. The standards for reducing trailer drag begin in 2018 and standards for tractor efficiency ramp up over several years, beginning in 2021.
“Up until now, the drive to buy these features was solely fuel savings and economics, and now with the finalization of the Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas, that changes the game in that the truck and engine manufacturers have to comply with these rules. So they have another incentive to promote these products and make them available for the fleets,” Roeth told American Shipper.
The study shows that some motor carriers are already close to hitting the government’s 2027 target for fuel efficiency, he said.
The NACFE is affiliated with the Carbon War Room, which was founded in 2009 by Sir Richard Branson and other entrepreneurs to help promote business investments that significantly lower carbon emissions.