3 Vehicle Modifications to Improve Fleet Fuel Economy

Posted 24 May 2023

Investing to Optimize Fleet Fuel Consumption

For fleet operators the surge in fuel prices is weighing heavily on the operations pocket. However, there are investments that can be made to ease the burden now, and future-proof the operation against such shocks again in the future.

There are several modifications possible to an existing fossil-fueled vehicle or checks to make before purchasing a new vehicle to ensure the use of fuel is as efficient as possible.

The Modifications to Make Fleet Vehicles More Fuel Efficient

By investing in the following, fuel economy can be improved;

  • Aerodynamics
  • Tire rolling resistance
  • Maintenance

Aerodynamic drag: An 18-wheeler uses more than 50% of its fuel consumption to reduce aerodynamic drag. The right devices can improve the aerodynamics of a truck resulting in savings of up to 12% on fuel spending. The issue of aerodynamic drag occurs in two types:

  • Pressure drag: Compressed air particles moving from the front to the back resulting in a pressure imbalance creating unwanted drag.
  • Skin friction drag: Imperfections found on the surface of the truck that interrupts the movement of air. Anything catching the airflow prohibiting the distribution of pressure will result in aerodynamic drag. This specific type of drag is common between the gap of the tractor and the trailer bed.

To resolve the issue of aerodynamic drag adding fairings to a vehicle is the most common solution. Types of fairings include roof fairings, side fairings, underbody fairings, and end or tail fairings. Other aerodynamic additions to trucks include air dams, vortex generators, gap reducers, and nose cones. By changing the shape of the truck air flows over and around it instead of flowing into it or clinging to the surface. This results in massive energy savings which knocks off a considerable amount of fuel consumption.

Truck Aerodinamic Pressure Drag Example

Tire rolling resistance: The energy a truck uses to maintain a consistent speed is the effort required to keep the tires rolling. This use of energy can’t be avoided; however, it can be minimized. Reducing tire rolling resistance is important as rolling resistance increases with speed. Every MPH increase above 55 MPH, results in a 2% reduction in MPG. 55 MPH to 65 MPH means a 22% increase in fuel consumption, with only an 18% reduction in travel time.

The Department of Energy estimates that 4% to 11% of fuel consumption is tied to tire rolling resistance. Furthermore, studies show a 10% drop in rolling resistance equates to roughly a 1% improvement in fuel economy.

If reducing the impact of tire rolling resistance is ignored, it can lead to the following expensive issues:

  • Reduced productivity
  • Excess fuel consumption
  • Increased maintenance required
  • Reduced safety
  • Higher operating costs

When looking to reduce the strain tire rolling resistance has on fuel consumption, look at the following characteristics of the tires:

  • Tire width: thicker tires add to rolling resistance, thus more energy is consumed. Narrower tires ensure low rolling resistance.
  • Tire pressure: To not have to compromise on driving faster, it is important to keep the tires inflated to the recommended pressure.
  • Tread pattern design: the tread pattern is essential in reducing rolling resistance. By looking at streamlined ribs, blocks, and lugs, good balance between cap and base compounds, shallower tread depth, and stiffening the belt package, a positive impact is made in reducing tire rolling resistance. Ensuring less fuel consumption to achieve a specific MPH.

Maintenance: Regular maintenance of a truck will help keep it in prime condition and prevent any debilitating faults from taking the vehicle off the road. The following forms of maintenance are significant for fuel efficiency.

  • Climate control: Air conditioning increases fuel consumption because engine power is required to operate the air conditioning compressor (approx. 50% of total engine cooling fan engagement time).
  • Tire inflation: Under-inflated tires affect fuel mileage.
  • Lubricants: Using oils with too-high viscosity requires more energy to pump the oil through the lubricating system, resulting in internal viscous friction loss which contributes to a loss in fuel economy.
  • Wheel alignment: Aligned axles reduce fuel consumption and extend tire life by reducing wear.
  • Charge air cooler: A leak in the charge air cooler results in loss of turbocharger boost, reducing engine operating efficiency, subsequently increasing fuel consumption.
  • Engine maintenance: To ensure good fuel economy, ensure the engine valves are in proper adjustment and that engine control systems are operating properly. This involves carrying out overhead adjustments at proper intervals. And troubleshooting and repairing causes of any illuminated malfunction indicator lights.

Digitizing Fleet Management Aids in Identifying Fuel Efficiency Measures

To ensure the most fuel-efficient fleet, it is important to create an interconnected streamlined approach to fleet management. With a single system that digitizes and simplifies all areas of management, including fuel consumption, the fleet manager will be able to identify additional areas to generate business impacting efficiencies, not just those tied to fuel consumption.

A smart AI-enabled fleet management system will report on fuel consumption, highlighting the causes that deplete fuel. Enabling a fleet manager to easily identify the most relevant and financially beneficial modifications. This requires regimenting processes such as safety checks, identifying when servicing is needed, and logging truck faults, all of which affect fuel efficiency, and are made easier with a system like CameraMatics.

Learn more about CameraMatics: fleet management solutions