Fuel saving technologies for truck fleets

By Bill Holloway

According to a new report from Carbon War Room, the adoption of seven fuel-saving technologies by the U.S. trucking industry could reduce carbon emissions by 624 million tons over the next ten years and repay implementation costs within 18 months through reduced fuel consumption.

Of the seven technologies, five are physical improvements that could be implemented on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis, and two are information and communications technologies (ICT) that would require implementation at the fleet or societal level. The five physical improvements include:

  • Aerodynamic Fairings – to reduce drag;
  • Anti-Idle Devices – such as auxiliary power units (APUs), to reduce fuel use when trucks are stopped;
  • Single Wide-Base Tires – using a single wide-base, or “super single,” tire rather than two narrower tires at each wheel site, to lessen rolling resistance;
  • 6×2 Transmission Systems – to improve fuel economy; most tractors use 6×4 transmission systems, which provide power to four of a tractor’s six wheels; 6×2 systems provide power to only 2 wheels and are substantially more fuel efficient;
  • Advanced Cruise Control – these systems allow drivers to gather information about upcoming topography and traffic conditions, to generate fuel savings through smoother braking and acceleration.

The two recommended ICT solutions are:

  • GPS-Assisted Navigation and Routing – these systems provide truck drivers with real-time traffic updates, historical traffic data, and routing assistance, to minimize the number of left turns in their trip and significantly increase efficiency for trucks operating in urban environments;
  • Improved Logistics Management – to increase transportation efficiency by reducing deadhead miles and increasing the amount of freight carried on each trip.

While these seven efficiency improvements could pay for themselves within 18 months by reducing fuel expenditures, several key barriers inhibit their uptake by the industry:

  • Limited access to capital and high upfront costs;
  • The benefits of improved fuel economy may not accrue to the truck owner, who would have to fund the improvements (a.k.a., the principal-agent problem);
  • A lack of education, data, trust, and momentum in the area of truck-efficiency technologies.

Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.