Fuel efficiency and environmental impact reduction

Check the ATA’s annual Top 10 fleet issues and number one on the list is fuel. Its price drives how fleets spec equipment, train drivers, make pricing decisions and deal with customers.

But another issue is environmental concern, way down the list, but gaining places each year.

That’s understandable as more and more, shipper requests for presentations require some statement of a fleet’s efforts to reduce environmental impact, not least, its carbon footprint.

Of course, carbon footprint and reduced fuel consumption are two ways of looking at the same thing, both impacting the rate fleets sets.

Today, much of the rates charged by a fleet are accounted for in a fuel surcharge.

The sharper fleets have driven down fleet average fuel consumption to such an extent that the surcharge may actually cover much of the cost of the fuel, making the fleet a winner as fuel cost now comes out of the surcharge, not out of the general rate.

But that need to drive down fuel costs, and costs in general, is increasing, and many supplier and service companies are taking on this challenge. In efforts to maximize fuel economy, some fleets are turning to fuel or lubricant additives that can stretch the fuel dollar.

In general, additives and physical “conditioning” devices have not enjoyed fleet managers’ confidences. However, there are products on the market that have proven to provide very real gains in economy that more than offset the cost of the product.

Take for example the Engineous GO 15 Metal Lubricity Technology - a lubricant additive that is a metal treatment that uses heat and friction to produce a thermal reaction with the metal surface being treated. This phenomenon results in a change in the chemical composition of the metal surfaces to a depth of several microns, creating a new metallic compound that resurfaces and plates the old surface for an improvement in all of the fundamental operating efficiencies.

Condition-Based Maintenance

Companies are also working to increase fuel economy and reduce environmental impacts through telematics systems for vehicle maintenance operations.

Engineous is taking its military-derived NormNet Telematics and adapting it to commercial vehicle operations.

Developed originally as a real-time, on-board diagnostics system, it monitors vehicle health to produce predictions of component life, potential failure and failure mode.

For trucking, systems like NormNet can provide the information to make condition-based maintenance a reality for fleets that want to avoid over-maintaining equipment.

When maintenance is mileage- or time-based, parts replaced before their full life expectancy has been realized. The fleet changes wear-prone components where history shows that doing so reduces the chance of a service failure on the road.

Such over-maintenance costs the trucking industry billions of dollars a year and results in quite serviceable components being carted off, presenting a significant environmental cost as well.

Systems like NormNet can avoid this expensive over-maintenance and the associated cost, downtime and environmental impact of discarding useful parts. They also enhance the availability of the equipment to generate revenue.

It will be interesting to see how new technologies are incorporated into vehicles and their maintenance to further reduce their carbon footprint and fuel consumption.

Jim Novorr is president of Engineous USA, Woodland Hills, CA. The company develops environmentally conscious products for the automotive aftermarket, targeting the transportation sector with products that conserve fuel and lengthen the life of automotive components. Presently, Engineous is focused on the heavy duty segment. www.engineous.us.

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