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December 4, 2015   Leave a comment

Six Steps of Truck Fleet MPG Improvement

Every truck fleet knows the impact of fuel efficiency on their bottom line and how difficult it can be to make improvements. What fleets today don’t know is why it has been difficult, what tools have been missing, and how to fix the problem. When done right, better fuel economy is fast, easy, and extremely profitable for truck fleets. A fuel efficiency improvement program can save a fleet millions of dollars per year.

We’ll show you the Six Steps of Truck Fleet MPG Improvement that will make your fleet a leader in fuel economy. This is a process that InnoMetric has developed, refined, and implemented with good success. It has proven to be a reliable and repeatable approach and we wanted to share an overview of it here.

Truck Fuel Efficiency Improvement Program
A proven process for improving truck fleet fuel mileage.

The first thing to know is that, yes, your truck fleet is unique. Every fleet is. And that’s why improving fuel economy requires a robust process. It’s not merely implementing a package of fuel efficiency products that applies to everyone.

Let’s look now at the first step of the process: building your “MPG Team.”

 

1. Build the Team

Like any kind of team effort, you need to start off with the right people in place because everyone has a specific role to play. On the MPG Team this entails people who collectively understand all the critical factors of fuel efficiency to a fleet: operations, maintenance, finance, company goals and strategy.  You also need someone who is an expert on fuel efficiency.

Moving forward without all of these roles in place cripples the MPG Team’s effectiveness and results in vast amounts of wasted fuel. A fuel efficiency expert (F.E. Expert) is the only team role that is typically not fulfilled by the fleet itself. Fleets do not have this expertise internally, which the steps below explain. The F.E. Expert leads the fleet through the steps like a trusty GPS system, warning of obstacles, keeping the team informed, and the project on track.

 

2. Perform Fuel Efficiency Assessment

An assessment is like looking at a map before you hit the road; it’s essential if you want to go in the right direction and not get lost along the way. The problem is that the trucking industry hasn’t known how to do a proper fuel efficiency assessment. The industry hasn’t had the tools, knowledge, or the experience to do a highly analytical assessment of where a fleet can save fuel.

The fuel efficiency assessment is the first job of the fuel efficiency expert. The F.E. Expert knows how to optimize each area of the equipment and determines what will work for the fleet’s specific needs. This enables the MPG Team to focus the company’s attention where it will have the most benefit.

Critical factors in the assessment include the fleet’s operations, maintenance program, and financial considerations. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. It’s about what works for the company as a whole, which is why input from all MPG team members is essential.

Assessment Areas/Topics:

  • Equipment
  • Fleet Operations
  • Financial Goals
  • Maintenance Requirements
  • MPG Team Roles

 

3. Review and Screen Fuel Efficiency Options

The fuel efficiency assessment has identified the best improvement areas for the fleet. Now it’s time to review and screen what options pertaining to those areas are worth investigating further. The assessment is a critical prerequisite to this step because without it, fleets don’t know where they should be focusing their attention. They waste vast amounts of time wandering aimlessly through a myriad of product and spec options. They often get lost, overwhelmed, and overlook their best options. We see it all the time.

With the critical areas identified, that seemingly endless list of fuel savings products and options is narrowed down immensely. Another critical screening factor is the ease of implementation. A fuel saving option should have minimal impact on a fleet’s operations or maintenance – preferably zero impact or even an operational benefit. Some options will affect maintenance. Trailer skirts are an example, but there are many areas to optimize prior to taking on extra work for the fleet.

With the options screened for the fleet, the MPG Team can determine what options are worth further investigation. That is the next step – getting answers on what they will save in the fleet’s real-world operations.

 

4. Get Real-World Answers through Precision Testing

Real world answers come from testing, and not the kind of testing the trucking industry has been using up to now. Testing is the most highly misunderstood aspect of fuel efficiency in trucking today. Almost all confusion and disagreement on fuel savings can be narrowed down to the industry’s insufficient test methods, which are incapable of producing reliable, real-world answers on fuel savings.

Words cannot stress this enough, but numbers can. Numbers like 20% to 50% of a fleet’s fuel bill, because that’s what fleets are wasting by not having the right answers on where they can save fuel and money.

The fix is for fleets to get reliable answers on real-world fuel savings. That cannot be done with the old test methods that use a weigh scale, or any other methods used today. They are why the industry became so confused in the first place. The only way to get reliable answers, on real-world fuel savings, is with a highly analytical test method that accounts for the fleet’s variables, climate, duty cycle, and operations.

The only person who can do that is a fuel efficiency expert, and someone trained in advanced vehicle testing. They lead the MPG Team through testing, addressing the fleet’s unique duty cycle needs and using sophisticated analysis to get the answers needed. It sounds complex, which is why the right tools and expertise are required so it can be done quickly and easily. A test should only take about three hours and require only one or two trucks. For the fleet, it’s very easy and productive. The fuel efficiency expert does all the hard parts.

Once real-world fuel savings answers have been achieved through testing, the financial benefits can then be calculated – precisely. This is totally new to the trucking industry and is why high tech fuel efficiency testing is so valuable to fleets in pursuit of fuel savings and profits. Financial values may include annual profit impact, payback period, return-on-investment (ROI), and net present value (NPV). Often, the F.E. Expert will work alongside the MPG Team’s financial member to customize calculations to the fleet’s specific needs.

Then it’s time for decision-making.

 

5. Make Smart Decisions

If the previous steps of the process have been done right, making decisions is easy. Yes, easy. Most fleet operators cringe at the thought of making decisions on fuel efficiency investments because they haven’t had the reliable information needed to make informed decisions. That creates risk, and therefore hesitancy.

When done right, the testing phase provided answers that identified the profit potential of the various options being considered. Step 3 screened which options the company felt it could implement with ease. Now the fleet has options that meet its criteria and yes/no decisions can be made on what to implement. That doesn’t necessarily mean implementing a product fleet-wide; that’s a discussion for the next step. The yes/no decision is simply to establish what options meet the company’s criteria.

 

6. Implement Solution(s)

Implementing fuel saving options should also be easy when the previous steps are done right. Now that the fleet has a list of ‘yes’ options, it can prioritize them. You typically want to do the easiest first. They have the least effect on operations/maintenance, often require minimal dollar investment, and have the fastest payback period. Everyone is happy.

Some fuel savings options may be implemented fleet-wide, or with only 5 – 10 vehicles to determine functionality. Some items may only be implemented on new purchases, such as spec decisions for the truck or trailer. There are endless scenarios that can be smoothly navigated from the work of the previous steps. For example, finding fuel savings from a different brand of trailer skirt may only be implemented on new trailer purchases. Fuel savings from tires will be implemented upon replacement of the old tires.

 

Conclusion

Overall, fuel savings in trucking are much easier to achieve than previously thought when taking the right steps, with the right tools, processes, and expertise to guide the fleet.

Fleets can’t do it on their own. They need improved, high tech test methods and a fuel efficiency expert. All of this is new to the trucking industry but proven in other high tech industries, such as racing, that rely on vehicle performance improvements for their success.

We hope this information helps your company reach its goals in fuel efficiency. Give us your feedback or feel free to ask questions via our website or phone. You can also find some truck fuel savings tips here under ‘What We Test’.