Looking for some good ideas on how to improve your private fleet’s utilization or how to save money on fuel? In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency launched SmartWay, a program (and brand) that identifies products and services that reduce transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions. As part of this program, they annually announce the SmartWay Excellence Award Recipients. Reducing CO2 emissions and reducing gas consumption often go hand in hand. The document announcing the 2008 SmartWay Excellence Award Recipients provides some good ideas that companies can use to improve their fleet’s utilization and save money on fuel.
Any improvement program should focus on people, process and technology, and that is the way I have grouped the ideas.
- Roehl Transport combined targets for drivers – maximum idling levels that drivers are asked not to exceed and miles per gallon targets – with weekly idle-time evaluations to tell drivers how they are performing.
- Equipment upgrades designed to make cabs more comfortable and reduce idling are often not enough. Stan Koch and Sons Trucking coupled those improvements with a bonus program for drivers to reduce idle time. These actions have helped the company lower its “idling activity from 60 percent in 2005 to just 15 percent in 2007.” Covenant Transport went the opposite way; it charges drivers an hourly fee for idling in excess of a set maximum.
- Other incentive programs were also used – including a bonus paid for every mile per gallon improvement above a threshold set by the company or recognizing top drivers monthly with special prizes.
- Several carriers trained its drivers to use progressive shifting. Progressive shifting is accomplished by changing gears upward as early as possible when accelerating. After each shift is completed, the engine and transmission should be operating at or near the lowest RPM speeds recommended by the truck manufacturer. Others talked about providing ongoing training and education programs on fuel efficient driving practices and fuel conservation strategies.
- Sharp Electronics came up with the idea of adding driver comfort lounges at their facilities. If you don’t want drivers idling, it is a good idea to provide them with a comfortable place to hang out while their trucks are unloaded.
- Improved packaging initiatives can reap great savings. For example, HP “redesigned the packaging for its notebooks to reduce the size and weight of each box” which “reduced package weight by 8 percent” and increased “the number of boxes per pallet by 25 percent.” “Kimberly-Clark reduced the package size of personal care products by 12 percent, significantly increasing the amount of product that can be shipped in each truckload. This strategy alone allowed Kimberly-Clark to utilize 96 percent of its trailer space, eliminating 2,100 truckloads in 2007.”
- Kohls “improved its backhaul program by 29 percent, resulting in nearly 19,000 backhaul trips executed on return from stores and eliminating 3.6 million miles of empty truck hauls. These once-empty trailers now carry merchandise from Kohl’s vendors back to the distribution centers.”
- Equipment maintenance programs are critical to both better mileage and fleet utilization.
- Several companies govern their fleet speed, most often at 65 mph.
- All of Dillon Transport’s 250 trailers “utilize automatic tire inflation to ensure proper air pressure.”
- Several award winners bought new trucks with more aerodynamic profiles, mirrors, and air shields, or they added low cost trailer skirting and cab roof and side fairings to existing trucks.
- The use of bunk heaters, auxiliary power units (APUs), or auxiliary cooling systems to make the cab more comfortable and reduce idling was common. Others installed automatic engine shut-off controls to minimize idle time while parked.
- Watkins Shepard found that super single tires reduced fuel consumption by as much as a full mile per gallon per truck. Others mentioned purchasing low-rolling resistance tires. Low-rolling resistance tires are designed to improve fuel efficiency by minimizing the energy wasted as heat as the tire rolls down the road.
- “Lowe’s increased the overall cube utilization of its trailers, allowing the company to ship the same product using 4,866 fewer trailers.” While the article did not say how they accomplished this, one way is through the use of load building software.
- If you want understand the effectiveness of your training or incentive progams to save fuel, you need to track it. Electronic speed management, weekly miles per gallon and idling can all be tracked using telematics.
- With the right fleet maintenance software analytics it is possible to specify “engine and drive-train combinations that maximize fuel mileage.”
- Route planning software and programs can reduce the number of empty miles traveled.
As these examples illustrate, being eco-green can save you green (money)!