Over three decades ago, the speed limit enforced in the US was 55 mph. Long-haul truck drivers from different parts of the country gathered for the “Double Nickel Challenge”—driving laps around a track at 55 mph and again at a speed of choice. The whole speed-time trial event was to test out the then-prevalent claim among truckers that large trucks have better mileage at faster speeds. The Double Nickel Challenge found that less fuel was burned when trucks drove at 55 mph.
Now, the 55-mph US speed limit is nothing more than a historical enactment, along with the claim that faster truck speeds translate to fuel economy. Aside from speed limits, preserving vehicle roadworthiness and monitoring driver behavior are other ways a trucking businessman can focus on improving fuel efficiency and better financial outlooks.
Today, speed limiters are standard for modern 18-wheeler rigs. In the UK, truck speed limiters are installed in the factory and set up according to the legally prescribed threshold. In the US, it is the truck owner who decides which speed to set on the governor. Large truck fleet owners typically set an electronic limit of 60 to 63 mph for their vehicles. Aside from safety concerns, this is mainly for fuel economy.
However, the government and trucking industry key players are in agreement that there is room for expanded efforts toward fuel efficiency in large vehicles that transport commodities. The US EPA and NHTSA proposed a primary program to improve fuel efficiency among medium to heavy-duty vehicles. Europe and Japan have likewise taken initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel performance for freight trucks.
Glen Kedzie, head of environmental affairs for the trade group American Trucking Associations, states that controlling truck drivers’ speed to 60 to 65 mph, particularly for 18-wheelers, is the “sweet spot” between fuel economy and task efficiency.
If you, as a trucking business operator, can set limits to the speed of your in-transit trucks to 65 mph maximum, this can yield a 27% improvement in fuel efficiency. According to Kedzie, each one mph increase above 65 mph, there is a 0.14 mpg drawback on fuel consumption.
Anything lower than the 60 to 65 mph range diminishes aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption and increases safety risks for trucks. Also, lower speeds may cause transport delays, equivalent to less income for the truck driver.
Vehicle Maintenance and Purchase
Michael Roeth, North American Council for Freight Efficiency Executive Director, says that truck fleets are used for several years and that trucking companies are, in general, utilizing trucks longer than they used to because of economic challenges. When turnovers happen, they usually occur almost simultaneously, and that the next transition is in the offing. Fortunately, this next transition is congruent to the recent finalization of the US fuel economy standards.
If you are a truck business operator anticipating a transition to new truck units, make the new purchases with careful study. There have been industry shifts due to technology applications, newly-approved emission standards, and the steady rise of fuel prices. Roeth reminds that prescribed weight limits have remained constant, and so take this to mean that you should find efficient trucks that can carry more load with compact engines and smaller fuel tanks.
Look into truck technology that allows setting automatic gear shifts to minimize vehicle wear and tear while maximizing fuel efficiency. Automated brake systems, too, are an advantage. There are intelligent technologies, like retinal observation, that help detect driver fatigue. Take advantage of available technologies that enhance safety, fuel economy, and vehicle condition to diminish the need for repairs and more expensive maintenance.
Read up on fleet tracking devices and navigation systems that can significantly impact route planning and monitoring. Effective route planning and adherence save up on fuel while also curtailing expenses on repairs. Additionally, submitting all truck units to regular preventive maintenance is now made easier by fleet maintenance software. Regularly serviced vehicles have longer functional lifespans.
Managing Driver Behavior and Efficiency
GPS and telematics technology, along with the use of diagnostic trouble codes, can help gather data and gain insight into vehicle movement and driver behavior. These benefit route planning, too.
Monitor vehicle idling as high idling rates accumulate to substantial costs eventually. Engage your truck drivers in staying conscious about their respective idling times, as well as the environmental impact of carbon emissions expended by vehicle idling.
Maximize the professional service you might have on retainer by engaging your truck accident attorney in giving a periodic talk or training session with your drivers on common reasons for vehicle-related lawsuits to promote awareness and responsible driver behavior among your employees.
Trucking is a $700-billion-a-year industry in the US. If your trucking business is already lucrative, you can consider factors to improve your profits further and help preserve the environment. By refining your focus on speed, maintenance, and driver behavior, you can improve vehicle safety and optimize fuel economy, thus increasing your revenue while reducing carbon emissions.