NACFE issues Confidence Report on lightweighting trucks and trailers

A new report from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) suggests carriers should consider lightweighting their trucks and trailers to avoid putting more trucks on the road, as shippers look to add more weight to their shipments.

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The NACFE Confidence Report on lightweighting found that freight is becoming denser and shippers are loading more pallets per trailer. Meanwhile, Class 8 tractors have gained about 1,000 lbs in emissions-related equipment over the past decade.

Still, few fleets are willing to make the investment in lightweighting equipment, the exception being bulk haulers and other applications where the tractor-trailer is nearly always loaded to the maximum weight. For these carriers, NACFE found fleets value lightweight components and are willing to pay as much as US$6-$11 for every pound of weight saved.

However, reefer and dry van dedicated route carriers are only willing to pay about $2-$5 per pound and general dry van carriers are only willing to shell out from zilch to $2 per pound saved. Most bulk carriers have already exhausted all available options to reduce weight, the report found, but the concept is greatly underutilized by the 98% of carriers that are rarely at their maximum GCW.

Still, the report made the case for lightweighting among even those fleets that run light, referred to in the study as Category 2 and 3 carriers.

“Trucking Efficiency finds that over the next five to 10 years, shippers will request that Category 2 and 3 trucks double the percent of time they gross out, to 20% of the time for Category 2 (trucks loaded to the maximum weight on the minority, perhaps 10%, of their trips) and 4% of the time for Category 3 (dry van units that are rarely loaded to their maximum weight),” the report found. “In order to meet these trends head-on and accommodate the heavier, denser freight, Category 2 and 3 fleets will have two options – add more trucks to the road, or explore lightweighting so that at least some of their trucks will be able to carry more weight.”

A new truck costs about US$120,000 per year and $1.68 per mile to operate, meaning a fleet can save about a million dollars over five years for every truck it can avoid deploying while carrying the same amount of freight, the report notes.

Challenges to lightweighting though, do exist, NACFE acknowledged. There’s the upfront costs associated with materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber. And fleets worry about the resale value of lightweight trucks. Some lightweighting options also require additional maintenance.

NACFE has produced a full report that addresses these concerns and makes recommendations on how to execute a lightweighting strategy.

The full Confidence Report and its associated tools can be downloaded for free at

James Menzies

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 or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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