The average miles per gallon for Class 7 and Class 8 trucks, operating on diesel fuel, vary greatly by state. According to data from GeoTab [https://www.geotab.com/truck-mpg-benchmark/], MPG varies from a low of 5.81 MPG in California (and even a lower 4.51 MPG in British Columbia, Canada), to a high of 6.35 MPG in both Wisconsin and Delaware. Differences may be attributed to traffic patterns as well as highway infrastructure, and perhaps conjecture as to why the subtle, but small differences exist.
But we can all enjoy the lowering of diesel prices lately. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average price per gallon of diesel fuel in early June was $2.396 dollars per gallon, with prices differing depending upper the state and region of the U.S. This is lower than in the recent past and is benefitting the economics of trucking. [https://www.eia.gov/petroleum/gasdiesel/]
So how can you take advantage of lower diesel fuel prices, and at the same time, increase your MPG?
In 2017, the North American Council on Freight Efficiency [https://nacfe.org/run-on-less-report/] followed seven trucks who took aggressive steps to up their MPG. The seven trucks averaged 10.1 mpg over 17 days in the trial. It can be done. It takes work and a proactive effort. Here's what they found that worked:
1. Keep all equipment well maintained. Sounds obvious, but it’s a given to achieve the best MPG. A disciplined maintenance program that is preventative (fix before it fails) and corrective (fix when it fails is best). Sophistication is welcomed. There are apps and programs that may be used to schedule and track maintenance and doing so is likely a best practice.
2. Have the right axle configuration. This one may depend on what vehicle you have to work with. Suffice to say that using the right vehicle with the right axle configuration, for the applicable duration, trip and load it will be making is going to influence the MPG.
3. Reduce idle time. Sounds easy, but it takes effort. It also takes using available tools to reduce idle time however possible. Search for plans and programs that will figure out idle times and best practices for you and put them to work. Think of them as an investment with a return on your investment, paid back in less fuel consumption.
4. Educate and incentivize drivers. Economics is built on incentives. Provide incentives and you tend to change behavior. At the same time, educate drivers on the importance of fuel consumption, best fuel consumption hygiene, knowledge of best practices and other factors that influence behavior that affects fuel consumption. And of great importance: provide some incentive for drivers to reduce fuel efficiency and share in the cost saving.
5. Implement aerodynamic designs wherever possible. Something as simple as the right mud flaps can reduce fuel consumption and increase efficiency due to wind resistance. Tractor cabs built with scoops and contours, or modified to include them, all influence the aerodynamics of the truck cab and contribute greatly to fuel efficiency.
6. Optimize cruise control and vehicle speed. This, again, is a behavior modification that’s easy to implement and convince drivers to avoid irregular speeds and acceleration and utilize cruise control. Speed kills - and it also boosts fuel consumption - often having little impact on arrival time relative to the risks taken in using top line speed. While speed will influence fuel consumption, it’s important for drivers to think in terms of the speed they need to get where they need to go, on time. But also, it’s as important to get them to drive at more constant speeds.
7. Use automated transmission technologies where possible. Downspeeding with automated transmission technology is a best practice. Automated Manual Transmissions (AMT) enable shifting at just the right time to keep the RPM low while providing the driver with the capability to accelerate and drive as they need to on the road. They automate shifting and provide a strategy that helps the driver balance performance with fuel economy. Again, this is more equipment you may or may not have, but it's worth learning about it, investigating and procuring it if possible, and seeking it if you can.
8. Use low-roll resistance tires if possible. These tires reduce friction and resistance, while providing drivers with all the performance they need. The net-net of these tires is an overall, subtle, reduction in fuel consumption and ultimately a boost in fuel efficiency.
9. Adopt appropriate trailer dynamics. Same rules apply here as with cab dynamics. Learn all about trailer dynamics, air flow and resistance in the trailer contour and chassis design. The name of the game is to reduce the overall “drag” or resistance to air flow of the truck and trailer. Reducing resistance means more miles driven per gallon.
10. Build a culture that seeks out fuel reducing technologies. Attaining MPG in the 10 plus MPG range may require investment. It may also require some hard-to-change driver behaviors. But the point here is to change the overall culture of the maintainer, the driver, the owner, and the shipper - so that all work together and combine multiple strategies, become better educated in fuel consumption, and take aggressive actions to get there. That’s what such a culture will do for you.