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TSQ: What can OEMs do to make their trucks more fuel-efficient?

MILTON, Ont. - It's official: the first-ever fuel economy standards for heavy trucks are coming. The plan, announced by US President Barack Obama in early August, will affect trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018, with the government...


MILTON, Ont. – It’s official: the first-ever fuel economy standards for heavy trucks are coming. The plan, announced by US President Barack Obama in early August, will affect trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018, with the government estimating the program will save 530 million barrels of oil over its life while eliminating 270 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Semi-trucks will be required to achieve a 20% improvement in fuel economy by 2018 while vocational trucks will be expected to improve their fuel economy by 10% by the model year 2018.

With a similar program on its way here in Canada, what can truck manufacturers do to help meet these fuel economy standards? And for that matter, should it be the government’s job to dictate these standards in the first place?

Truck News posed these questions to drivers at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Milton, Ont.

Carl Cooper, a driver with SPS Sarnia Paving Stone in Sarnia, Ont., says that manufacturers need to be doing more of the same to help reach these new fuel efficiency standards, such as continuing with the use of diesel exhaust fluid, diesel particulate filters, and the use of biodiesel.

Cooper also thinks upping the rig’s power will help trucks burn fuel cleaner.

“The more power, the cleaner it will be, the less power you’re going to smoke more. They could turn (engine power) up even more instead of cutting back.”

Tricia Rickard, a company driver with Stevens Transport in Dallas, Texas, says she thinks there’s “way too much Big Brother involved in many aspects of our government,” and that it’s not their job to put regulations on equipment.

As for improving fuel efficiency, Rickard says the driver has the greatest effect on that, and personally averages between seven and eight miles per gallon in her late-model rig.

“It would be in the consumer’s best interest to have more efficient trucks, but as far as how to actually develop that, I’m not sure,” she said.

David Harpwick, a driver with Kimco Steel out of Kingston, Ont., says it should be the manufacturers’ and consumers’ duty to dictate the standards for trucks and for that matter, he doubts that OEMs can make trucks any more efficient than they already are.

“With all the trucks that have been made since 2000, you can’t squeeze any more out of a truck than what you already get,” he said.

Harpwick also said that the new law will mean even more expensive equipment, making it even harder for owner/operators to stay profitable.

Jeff Herzberger, an owner/operator also with Stevens Transport, says he’s all for the standards – as long as he can make his money back within five years of the truck purchase. And he says there are many things OEMs can do to make trucks more efficient.

“They basically need to throw away the blueprints and start over. I’m not impressed with the engineering on any of the trucks nowadays,” he says. “They are just now getting into electronic fuel injection. That’s been happening on cars – electronic fuel injection – for 20 years.”

However, he says the number one cause of inefficiency in trucks is the drivers themselves.


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