6 Ways to Save Fuel Now
Try these six strategies to get more mpg from light- and medium-duty trucks right now.
A slide-in dump unit allowed Eric Hansen of Competitive Lawn Services to select this Ford F-350 over a medium-duty dump truck.
At A Glance
Tips truck fleet managers looking to save on fuel expenses can utilize include:
● Downsize vehicles.
● Tailor equipment to the task.
● Adjust top speed and shift points.
● Institute an idle cut-off.
● Utilize low rolling resistance tires.
● Use aerodynamic cab fairings.
The future is bright for work trucks. Advances in vehicle technology and alternative fuels hold the promise for a new era in which the light- and medium-duty workhorses of the American economy are no longer the fossil-fuel-burning smog machines they once were.
Meanwhile, fallout from the recent economic crisis has forward-thinking fleet managers and business owners stuck in neutral. Tight budgets have forced them to keep trucks in service well beyond their projected lifecycles. And for many of those in a position to cycle in new trucks, the up-front cost of greener vehicles remains prohibitive.
"On average, we'd buy two dozen new vehicles a year," said Doug Flesher, fleet manager for Golden Valley, Minn.-based Wessin Transport Inc. "We haven't bought a new vehicle since August 2007. For the class of truck we're running, basically a 12,000-lb. GVW, there's no hybrid that fits our needs that's cost effective. Even if we wanted to convert to something like compressed natural gas, [our vehicles] are just too old."
The good news? There are a number of strategies fleet managers can implement immediately to improve the fuel economy of light- and medium-duty gas- and diesel-powered fleet vehicles.
Downsize for Savings
If adding trucks to fleet this year but a company doesn't have an extra $20,000 to $40,000 to invest in the hybrid version or can't wait for the ROI, what are the alternatives?
Jason Mathers is project manager for corporate partnerships at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in Boston. He recently published a white paper, available as a free download at www.edf.org, that details the green initiatives of several large, medium-duty truck fleets. He said vehicle selection is the first step toward reducing fuel costs. "The biggest environmental decision a fleet manager can make is deciding which vehicles to add to your fleet," Mathers said. "It's the same for fleets of 10,000 or 15."
Mathers' paper profiles companies such as Farmington, Conn.-based Carrier Corp. For years, the HVAC systems manufacturer relied on the cargo space afforded by Ford E-250 service vans. The company wanted to build a more fuel-efficient fleet and maintain its partnership with Ford. Its solution was to convert part of the van fleet over to Ford F-150 pickups.
"You may not think of F-150s as environmentally friendly," Mathers said, "but if it's more efficient and does the job, you're moving in the right direction."
Even downsizing one vehicle can yield substantial fleet savings: