Fleets can improve fuel economy by 5-8% by optimizing engine paramaters: Report

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Fully optimizing engine paramaters that already exist on today’s modern diesel engines can allow fleets to improve fuel economy by 5-8%.

That was the finding of a new Confidence Report on electronic engine parameters, produced by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency and released at the Technology & Maintenance Council meetings in Nashville this week.

“Optimizing engine parameters is well worth the effort – it enhances fuel economy and saves fleets a lot of money. But the complexity of optimization is preventing many fleets from enjoying the benefits,” announced Dave Schaller, NACFE program manager.

More than 100 customizable parameters exist on today’s heavy-duty diesel engines. They can be used to do everything from control vehicle speeds, reduce idling, incent drivers to operate more efficiently and manage engine speed and torque.

Setting these parameters basically equates to free fuel economy improvements, Schaller pointed out.

“It doesn’t cost anything extra to get it on your truck. It doesn’t add any weight to the truck and it doesn’t add any maintenance – and it doesn’t break,” he said at a press conference.

However, NACFE also found there is unnecessary complexity surrounding the utilization of engine parameters – especially among smaller fleets. Some truck dealers struggle with understanding how the parameters can be optimized for their customers and because they are not a tangible item that can be seen or demonstrated, many fleets are unaware of how beneficial optimizing these parameters can be, explained Mike Roeth, operation lead, Trucking Efficiency.

“You can’t go kick them or point one out,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something dealer salespeople have been thinking about. They can sell a truck with or without it; without it is a little less effort.”

Another barrier to utilizing engine parameters is driver resistance. Many of the settings focus on vehicle speed, idling, etc. Fleets need to work with drivers to ensure they understand the benefits of optimizing engine parameters and why it’s necessary, Roeth said.

Even setting just some of the parameters will yield a fuel economy improvement of 3-5% compared to using none at all, the report found, with greater benefits of 5-8% available to fleets that optimize all of the available parameters.

A 5% fuel economy improvement can net a fleet a $4,000 per year fuel savings per truck based on US diesel prices in 2013, NACFE calculated.

“In theory, programmable engine parameters should be the most attractive pathway for a fleet to improve its fuel economy,” the Confidence Report indicates. “As opposed to nearly every other efficiency technology, software-based electronic paramaters weigh nothing and cost nothing to adopt; they are included in every engine made today. Plus, if set thoughtfully and correctly when the truck is purchased, they require zero regular maintenance. No other technology that Trucking Efficiency has studied offers such significant cost savings with no real upfront cost and minimal management cost.”

As part of this project, NACFE produced a Manufacturer Parameter Name Comparison Tool, to help fleets understand the nomenclature used by the various OEMs for their various engine parameters. Contact details are also provided for OEM representatives who can help fleets better understand the benefits of optimizing parameters. The report is available for free from www.truckingefficiency.org.


James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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