Breathe that Fresh Air!

Here in the United States we have the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been tasked with developing and enforcing laws tied to, well, the protection of our environment. There isn't a driver alive that hasn't felt the effects of the agency's mission and the laws it creates. Commercial transportation is especially effected by EPA legislation due to the size of the engines used to power our trucks.

Every year the major diesel engine manufacturers get together to discuss current and upcoming regulations, and how they can address the challenges of reducing pollutants generated by diesel engines. Fleets and drivers will continue to be effected by these decisions, through engine costs, diesel costs, and the use of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). Some of these may offset each other; newer more efficient engines may cost more upfront, but use less fuel, saving money in the long run. It's these opportunity costs that manufacturers will be taking into account as they discuss a common goal of reducing emissions and improving technology.

No matter what is decided at this year's conference, every fleet can take simple steps today to help reduce costs and emissions. Below are just a few of these steps.


  • Slow down: As speed increases for commercial trucks, tire drag grows in a slow linear fashion; aerodynamic drag on the other hand, has a large exponential growth path. According to a 2008 study by Goodyear, an 80,000 lbs. tractor trailer will require approximately 257 horsepower at 55 mph, that same trailer will require 357 horsepower at 65 mph, nearly 40 percent more. This increase in engine requirements leads to a significant degradation of fuel economy, approximately 1 mpg per increase of 10 mph, as reported. Breaking this down into cost, each mph over 55 costs you 2.2 percent in fuel costs.
  • Don't skimp on maintenance: Today's engines are operated by on-board computers that constantly analyze air, fuel and exhaust ratios to create the most efficient combustion. Worn out sensors can not only increase gas usage, but also lead to more emissions from improperly burnt fuel. Additionally, dirty fuel and air filters make the engine work harder, increasing fuel consumption. Looking to reduce drag' High quality synthetics have been shown to have an effect when used for engine, transmission and axle oil changes. Consider investing in a guide like the American Trucking Association's TMC Recommended Practices Manual to keep your fleet running at its highest efficiencies.
  • Consider your tire options: Tire technology has come a long way in even the past five years, and most tire manufacturers now sell tires specifically designed to improve fuel economy. Another newer trend is the use of Super Single tires to replace the dual wheels on a semi. The same Goodyear research found that a tractor-van trailer using a Super Single 15R22.5 tire vs. dual 11R22.5 tires increased average fuel economy by seven to eight percent. These findings were confirmed in a 2009 study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • Replace aging trucks: New commercial trucks are not cheap, but the fuel usage and increasing maintenance costs associated with older, high-mileage rigs can cost more in the long run then upgrading to newer, more efficient engines. Freightliner found that when setting aside money for maintenance, new trucks require approximately 2 cents per mile while a 5 year or older truck needs ten or more cents per mile for upkeep.


When preparing your yearly maintenance plans and equipment upgrades, don't forget to take into account how your fleet fuel usage is being affected, and we can all breathe a little easier.

This entry was posted on November 12th, 2012 by jhubbard and is filed under Recent News & Updates.