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Home > Feature Articles > Logistics and Vehicle Fleet Management > Trucking & Logistics for Efficiency, Fuel Savings, and Air Quality

Big Rig Truck's Fuel Strategy to Reduce Cost and Emissions

EPA truck research guidelines to save fuel and emissions

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Truck technologies that save fuel or use fuel more efficiently can pay for themselves through fuel savings. Burning fossil fuels in an internal combustion engine produces exhaust gases containing NOx and other emissions. And new truck technologies help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution.

Are fuel-surcharges getting in the way of trucking efficiencies? Manufacturing and wholesale customers of trucking brokerages can support transportation efficiencies by requesting trucks with fuel efficiency strategies, or by providing innovative financing or bonus programs that help their regular suppliers with the funding needed to install fuel-saving upfits. It's time to get creative!

Where the Big Rig Truck's Fuel Goes

Drag and rolling resistance
consume 34% of fuel
in typical tractor-trailer

Only the engine uses more (60%)
Highly FE engines are not yet available

long haul reefer truck

EPA Technology Testing

The EPA is actively promoting research and development of emissions reduction and fuel efficiency for big trucks. The EPA conducted tests on impacts of reducing long-duration truck idling and found the following efficiencies:

Truck Idling Efficiency

42 tests on 9 class 8 trucks, using APUs and DFH were conducted in an emissions laboratory with and without accessory load (A/C, heater).
  • Results: 50% to 80%/hour fuel savings, and NOx and PM reductions

Truck Aerodynamics Efficiency

EPA conducted tests on the impacts of improving over-the-road truck fuel economy by reducing aerodynamic and rolling resistance drag. 42 tests were conducted on 6 class 8 trucks, over 5 different drive cycles. The tests were conducted on a test track, with PEMS, with and without low rolling resistance, single wide tires and trailer aerodynamic fairings
  • Results: 10% per-mile fuel savings, and NOx reductions (PM not tested)

Trucking Tips: The Most Effective Ways to Save Fuel

Cut top speed

  • Each 1 mph increase = about 2% lower mpg
  • At speeds over 60 mph, fuel economy loss > than time savings
  • Higher speeds increase engine and tire wear

Cut unnecessary weight

  • Each 1,000 pounds cut improves fuel economy about 0.4%

Reduce unnecessary idling

  • Truck engines use about 1 gallon per hour
  • Auxiliary Power Units (APU) uses only 0.2 (or less) gallon per hour

Use aerodynamics

  • Aerodynamic profile tractor could save thousands of dollars of fuel each year over a classic long nose tractor
  • Aerodynamic trailer add-ons can provide a 5% - 7% fuel economy benefit

Use lower rolling resistance tires

Each 3% rr improvement generates 1% FE improvement

  • Single wide tires can improve fuel economy by 4% - 8% and are lighter-weight, with lower M&R costs (maintnance and repair: down time, service time, brake wear, etc)

Idle Reduction Technologies

Long-haul trucks provide both transport of cargo and living quarters for the drivers. When drivers are on the road 24 hours a day, they need time off -- and that means idle time. Due to security reasons and comfort, trucks have in the past idled their engines while trucker eat and sleep -- but with new alternative idling technologies, the truck engine can be turned off and both comfort (air conditioning, radio, etc) and cargo services (chillers, etc) can be supported with fuel and emissions saving-devices.

Average fuel savings of idling alternatives
Trucks: .8 gal/hr

Emissions Controlled CO2, NOx, and PM

Automatic Shut-Down/Start Up Systems

  • Battery Powered Systems
  • Diesel Driven Heating System
  • Auxiliary Power Unit/Generator Set
  • Truck Stop Electrification

Trailer Aerodynamics

Boxes hit the air and provide resistance. Aerodynamics smooth out the air flow and thus the resistance that guzzles fuel and slows the truck. Both cab and trailer aerodynamic designs are now available to reduce fuel consumption and thus, emissions.

Average aerodynamic upfit fuel savings: 5%
Emissions Controlled: CO2, NOx

  • Trailer Side-skirts
  • Gap Reducer
  • Boat Tail

Low Rolling Resistance Tires

Tires hit the road and new techniques can make tires more efficient and reliable.

Average RR Tire fuel savings: 4 -5%
Emissions Controlled: CO2, NOx

Single-wide tires and aluminum wheels reduce rolling resistance and weight, and low rr duals also save fuel.

Other Strategies to Save Fuel

Keep tires inflated

  • Automatic tire inflation systems or a very good tire maintenance program
    -- Each 10 psi under-inflation can increase fuel consumption by 1 – 1.5%

Consider low-viscosity lubricants

  • Can improve fuel economy about 2%
    -- new formulations may save up to 4%

Adopt fuel-efficient driving and shifting techniques

  • Try progressive shifting
  • Stay 200 – 300 RPM below the governor at cruise
  • Maintain as high a gear as possible

Spec your new truck to optimize drive train component matching

  • Consider specing new technologies for transmission, rear axle ratio, engine HP

Maintain as narrow a tractor-trailer gap as possible

Aerodynamics make a difference and when resistance is minimized, your profits are maximized.

With flat beds, use tarps and smooth out the load so it is more aerodynamic

Simple solutions often provide significant fuel savings.

Resources for Truck Technologies & Programs

SmartWay Tractors and Trailers Program

Smartway's equipment specifications can reduce fuel consumption by 10 to 20% for 2007 long-haul tractors and trailers.

SmartWay Program

SmartWay Technology Package Savings Calculator

You can use the SmartWay calculator to see how your fleet can improve the environment and your bottom line. The SmartWay calculator is designed to help truck owners compare the costs and estimate the fuel savings associated with various efficiency technologies. The calculator is designed for owners of single trucks as well as multiple-truck fleets.

SmartWay Calculator for Savings

SmartWay Grow & Go Program

SmartWay Grow & Go promotes the environmental benefits of renewable fuels.

Grow and Go Program

SmartWay Innovative Financing Program

SmartWay has partnered with several lenders to provide loans to help finance technologies that save fuel and money. SmartWay Financing Program



EPA Smartway

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