Simple Steps Can Boost Fuel Mileage, Experts Say

Arcy by Philip Scott Andrews for TT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Slowing down, keeping tires at the proper air pressure and using newer oils are readily available ways to boost fuel efficiency, a panel of experts said.

They spoke at the Mid-America Trucking Show during a seminar on improving fuel efficiency.

“Speed is a killer on miles per gallon,” said Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, which produces a series of confidence reports on technologies that could help double freight efficiency. NACFE works with 17 fleets and has investigated 70 technologies over 13 years.

“There is an old rule of thumb that is still pretty good, that every mile per hour is worth about .1 mpg. When you think about 75 mpg or 65 mpg, 85 versus 75, that 10 mph is costing you money,” Roeth said.

A 1% increase in fuel economy is worth about $500 annually per truck, Dan Arcy, global original equipment manufacturer technical manager for Shell Global Solutions (U.S.) Inc., said.

“Across the industry, that comes out to about $2.5 million a day. So these numbers aren’t small,” Arcy said.

A 1% gain is very achievable using lower viscosity lubricants that reduce friction, he said, and a 2% gain is achievable in some applications, as well.

On Dec. 1, the new CK-4 oil category replaced CJ-4; and FA-4, a fuel economy version, was introduced essentially for model year 2017 engines.

The latest oils have improved oxidation stability to handle higher engine temperatures. Also improved are aeration control that releases the air from the oil, plus the shear stability to keep from getting too thin. 

Meanwhile, when adding air to tires, do it when they are cold and inflate to the proper psi for the load being carried, said Norris Tennent, engineering manager, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations.

Also, “Do wheel positions matter? Yes. And can you save fuel by putting a tire on a certain wheel position? Yes, you can,” Tennent said.

“Fuel-efficient tires on the trailer position are going to offer the biggest bang for the buck,” he said.