When you think of semi-trucks, fuel efficiency probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, on average, semi-trucks get only 6.5 miles per gallon according to this Wired article. And while they comprise just 4.3 percent of vehicles in the US, they consume more than 25 percent of all fuel burned annually.
Whether you're an owner-operator or you manage an entire fleet, you understand that high fuel costs result in decreased profits. But, with a little effort and initial investment, reducing fuel consumption might be simpler than you think.
1. Stay on top of truck maintenance.
This is one of the most important and simplest things you can do to maximize fuel efficiency in just about any vehicle. It's basic mechanics and the benefits go far beyond better gas mileage. Regular maintenance such as on-time oil changes, filter changes, and regular fluid level inspections will keep everything operating at its best for longer. Also, remember to periodically check your tire pressure and add air if necessary. Not only does this prolong the life of your tires, it also adds quite a bit to your fuel efficiency.
2. Drive with efficiency in mind.Changing the way you drive costs you nothing, yet it's often the hardest change to make. One of the biggest culprits of high fuel consumption is frequent accelerating and braking. Minimize braking to a full stop as much as you can, and accelerate more slowly. Also, staying in a higher gear helps save fuel. On the other hand, letting your truck idle for long periods of time can quickly cost you at the pump. This Arrow Truck article suggests turning your truck off if it's going to be sitting for more than five minutes. Just one hour of idling will burn a full gallon of gas.
3. Equip your rig with fuel-efficient products.
This is the one that requires a bit of an initial investment, but the long-term payoff can really be worth it. There are a variety of aerodynamic additions you can make to both your tractor and your trailer that will result in higher MPGs. Everything from your mudflaps, bumpers, mirrors, hood, roof, and even headlights can become more aerodynamic. You may also consider automated manual transmissions.
They replace your manual shifter and clutch with a computer that shifts the manual transmission at the optimal time. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency claims that automatic manual transmissions can improve average fuel efficiency by 1-3 percent.
4. Secure cargo low and even.
Each time a load goes on your truck, think of it as a part of your truck. Just like mudflaps and mirrors, your cargo can cause you to be more or less aerodynamic depending on how it's loaded. When cargo is loaded unevenly, it can increase the fuel needed to get your truck moving. Also, it's best to keep your cargo load height as low as possible on flatbeds to reduce wind resistance.