Who says regional haul can’t be fuel-efficient?

ATLANTA, Ga. – If all regional haul trucks in the U.S. and Canada equaled the 8.3 mpg the Run on Less Regional drivers achieved, that segment of the industry would save US$9 billion per year.

Mike Roeth, NACFE

Ten fleets participated in the challenge from Oct. 7-25. They ran a variety of routes, terrains and payloads, but all operated within 300 miles of their home base. The idea was to see how equipment spec’ing and driving techniques could improve the regional haul segment’s fuel economy.

The results were impressive. The trucks averaged 8.3 mpg, but the nine diesels averaged 8.7 mpg (UPS entered a compressed natural gas truck into the event).

“CNG is inherently less efficient (than diesel),” noted Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), which ran the event. He revealed the results at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta, Ga., on Sept. 27. All participating fleets and drivers were on-hand to discuss the results.

NACFE used a baseline of 6 mpg, which a telematics partner estimated to be the average for the segment.

Participating fleets included: C&S Wholesale Grocers; Hirschbach; Hogan Transportation; J.B. Hunt; Meijer; PepsiCo; Ploger Transportation; Schneider; Southeastern Freight Lines; and UPS.

Team Schneider

“Going into the Run, we had no idea what to expect in terms of just how fuel-efficient these fleets could be. The numbers these trucks and drivers put up demonstrate that it is possible to achieve high mpg in regional operations,” said Roeth.

The fleet was comprised of three Freightliners, two each of Internationals, Volvos and Kenworths, and one Peterbilt. Performance, including routing, was tracked on www.RunOnLess.com. Data collected through the event will continue to be analyzed, with more findings posted on the website. Visitors to the site can view the results from all 135 driving days that were included in the 18-day challenge.

A datalogger installed in the trucks tracked: total fuel consumed; total miles traveled; ton miles per gallon; number of deliveries; average speed; miles traveled at different speed levels; elevation changes; and average payload. One surprise was that speed averaged 55 mph, more than some would anticipate in an application with lots of starts and stops.

UPS closed the trailer gap on its CNG truck.

“This group of trucks does do a lot of low-speed, urban driving, but when they get out on the freeway they might drive a little faster than some we may have seen in over-the-road,” Roeth reasoned.

The variety of technologies used to improve fuel economy was striking. UPS employed a fairing to close the gap between the tractor and trailer, several trucks adopted wheel covers and additional wheel fairings; and all trailers had side fairings. A total of 2,750 gallons of fuel was saved during the demonstration, when compared to the national average. The average payload was 22,198 lbs. Individual truck fuel economy results were not revealed, because Roeth said it’s unfair to compare trucks in such vastly different duty cycles.

“These are completely different roles they’re operating under,” said Roeth. “They’re hauling different loads and on different routes. Some are slipseating, operating during the day or at night. It’s impossible to compare mpg.”

He added, “What we have here are 10 unique trucks, unique duty cycles, and what I’d describe as an all-star team getting it done.”

One of the challenges for the participants, said Roeth, was the utilitarian design of the trucks.

“These trucks have to do a lot of different jobs,” he said, adding regional fleets often have to redirect assets. “Some of these trucks ran linehaul at night, and did local deliveries in the day.”

Click here to see video from the Run on Less results reveal.

Five key findings:
NACFE released five key findings from its Run on Less Regional program:

  • High efficiency requires a commitment from both fleet leadership and drivers.
  • Big data and connectivity can be used to further optimize each route.
  • Diversity in duty cycles makes it essential that fleet managers understand the nuances of their business so they can spec’ vehicles properly and coach drivers in efficient driving techniques.
  • The expansion of regional haul will help attract and retain drivers as drivers get home on a more regular basis.
  • Because of its return-to-base operation, regional haul is ideal for alternative-fuel vehicles, especially battery electric trucks.
Many of the trucks in Run on Less used wheel covers to improve fuel economy.

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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