Fuel Saving Technology: Low-Tech Solutions and the IoT

Fuel has always been the biggest expense that trucking companies incur. In fact, it represents almost forty percent of their total operating costs. Needless to say, every trucker out there wants to find ways to save fuel. Especially when prices increase.  Trucks have become much more fuel-efficient in recent years. This is mostly due in part to increased government regulations. But this hasn’t been enough for the trucking companies of today.

Trucks have become much more fuel-efficient in recent years. This is mostly due in part to increased government regulations. But this hasn’t been enough for the trucking companies of today.

Most are taking it into their own hands and trying to further reduce fuel consumption. Because there are millions of dollars left to save on fuel annually, they’re willing to try almost anything.

Some fuel saving methods rely on awe-inspiring technology. Some methods are nothing more than a flat piece of metal. Either way, it’s interesting to see such a broad spectrum of fuel saving technology that is currently in use.

Let’s look at some high and low-tech methods that trucking companies are using to save fuel in 2017.

A Simple Fuel Saving Tool

The first one on this list is a simple device that is nothing more than a piece of metal. Two of them to be exact.

Trailer side skirts are long metal or composite panels that mount to the underside of a trailer. Their purpose is to reduce aerodynamic drag as a truck rolls down the highway, and they do it well.

Most truckers have seen a 5-6% reduction in fuel consumption after installing them. That may not seem like much, but it adds up quick. A truck that covers 2,500 miles per week at 5.5 MPG will consume almost 24,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year. That adds up to more than $60,000 in annual fuel costs as of January 2017.

A 5% reduction in fuel consumption would equate to saving $3,100 annually on fuel using the above example.

Trailer side skirts usually cost between $1,000 and $2,500. That means it will take less than a year to recoup the investment. In most cases, though, that will only take 6-9 months.

But the best part about this technology is the pure simplicity. There aren’t any mechanical or moving parts to break. There aren’t any electronic parts that might incur high repair costs either.

Large fleets may have been hesitant to make the investment in the past. But the numbers are there to prove that they work. In fact, the EPA’s SmartWay Transportation Partnership has verified them as a fuel saving technology. This means they are eligible for funding under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.

Let’s look at a much more high tech solution next.

Truck Platooning

Truck what? That’s what I said at first too. Truck platooning is actually a pretty old concept. It’s the idea of two or more trucks driving close together to save fuel by reducing drag. Only recently though, venture capital backed firms such as Peloton Technology have catapulted this concept into reality.

The technology allows two trucks to “link together” and safely drive down the highway, with only 50-80 feet between them. When the lead truck applies its brakes, the trailing unit does too. This is accomplished through the use of various hardware, software, and sensors.

On average, the trailing unit sees a 10% increase in fuel economy, while the lead truck gets a small boost of 4.5%.

Platooning also has the potential to improve safety through it’s near instant reaction times. This can prevent hundreds of accidents, and also improves the flow of traffic.

Many will see this technology as a major step towards autonomous trucks. Currently, the primary goal of platooning is to save fuel. But you can’t argue that the technology will only help make driverless trucks a reality.

Next, let’s get back to the basics.

Your Trailer Doors Are Open!

Well, not really. But that’s what this device makes it look like. TrailerTails are collapsible panels that attach to the rear of a trailer. They extend about four feet to the rear, and can are easy to open and close.

The purpose of these devices is to decrease the drag produced behind the trailer by streamlining the air flow. Much like trailer side skirts, these devices have been proven to work. Truckers are increasing their fuel efficiency by about 5.5%.

The panels are easy to operate, but drivers have to be mindful of the additional length when backing. On that note, According to Stemco, these are exempt from US DOT length restrictions. If the DOT made an exception to the law for these things, they must work well. Right?

They cost a bit more than trailer side skirts. But they can still pay for themselves in less than a year. There’s even a cool version of the product that auto-deploys when you reach a certain speed. The next one up is a

The next one up is a high-tech solution that solves a simple problem.

Protecting That Valuable Asset

Diesel fuel is a lucrative target for thieves. But thieves don’t only siphon fuel from idling trucks. Sometimes, it’s a company driver that’s involved. It’s usually in the form of selling fuel at truck stops that they buy with a company card.

Fueloyal is solving this problem with their Smart Fuel Cap. It’s an internet connected device that attaches to a truck’s fuel tank. When a driver fuels up their truck, the device measures the amount of fuel pumped and compares it to the amount purchased.

It doesn’t only prevent driver theft, though. The device also prevents siphoning, and it’s internet capabilities provides analytics and reporting.

FuelLoyal’s product appears to be extremely easy to install, which should make it easier for fleets to pull the trigger.

What Else Is Out There?

These are a few of the various options out there, but there’s got to be more. Are there any interesting fuel saving devices or technology that you know of? If you’ve used it, we’d love to hear your experience! Leave it in the comments below.

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