Medium-duty trucks (class 3-6) consume over eight billion gallons of fuel annually, with each truck emitting an average 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Although hybrid electric trucks typically cost $23,000-$45,000 more upfront, numerous other opportunities exist for fleets to reduce emissions and fuel costs, with a much smaller price tag. Let’s explore some of the low-hanging fruit that the Environmental Defense Fund and the fleet management company PHH Arval recommend in their recent white paper:
Using the smallest truck that can get the job done saves considerable fuel. “We’re seeing a lot of stuff being done that has an immediate payback,” says Jason Mathers, project manager in the Corporate Partnership Program at the Environmental Defense Fund in an interview with TriplePundit. “Frito-Lay has moved from a 24-foot Class 6 vehicle, to a 20-foot Class 5 vehicle. They are saving 10% on fuel and I’d imagine they are paying less upfront for that class 5 vehicle too.”
Such initiatives require examining the status quo with a critical eye. Frito-Lay had utilized a Class 6 vehicle for years before shifting to a smaller truck.
Driver efficiency initiatives
A number of opportunities exist to encourage efficient driving habits with a variety of tactics. “In the area of driver training, we’re seeing a very quick payback on that, by reducing overall fuel consumption 2% or 3% or even 4% or 5%,” says Mathers.
On-board computing systems may provide information, such as idling time. Poland Spring discovered that its fleet was idling for up to 1,400 hours per month in the winter in 2007. The fleet manager posted a list that ranked the idling time of various drivers in the break room and the top ten drivers were given gift cards. The idling time of trucks dropped to a mere 380 hours in February 2009, reducing fuel consumption by 8,000 gallons, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 77 tons annually. This simple approach has saved tens of thousands of dollars for the company.
Most transmissions are programmed for optimum power, not efficiency. Many trucks can be reprogrammed so the transmission up-shifts at lower speeds, reducing fuel consumption.
Staples reprogrammed the transmission on its single-unit trucks and set a 60 mph limit, resulting in a fleet-wide 12 to 16% increase in fuel economy.
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Sarah Lozanova is passionate about the new green economy and is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Energy International Quarterly, ThinkGreen.com, Triple Pundit, Green Business Quarterly, Renewable Energy World, and Green Business Quarterly. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative.