Market Overview

Regional-Haul Tractors Achieve 8.3 MPG In NACFE's Run On Less Regional Demonstration

Regional-Haul Tractors Achieve 8.3 MPG In NACFE's Run On Less Regional Demonstration

Regional-haul fleets participating in the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) Run on Less Regional demonstration achieved an overall 8.3 miles per gallon (mpg) over the three-week event, said Mike Roeth, executive director of NACFE.

The run featured 10 tractor-trailer combinations, began on Oct. 8, and concluded in Atlanta at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show. The 10 fleets that signed up for the run included three returning fleets from the 2017 Run on Less event: Hirschbach, Ploger Transportation, and PepsiCo.

The 10 fleets, drivers, and home bases for the trucks, were:

  • C&S Wholesale Grocers, Louis Scaruffi (Hammond, Louisiana)
  • Hirschbach, Mark Casey (Monterey, Tennessee)
  • Hogan Transportation, Glen Williams (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • J.B. Hunt, Dustin Whitener (NYSE: JBHT) (Corsicana, Texas)
  • Meijer, Rita Bare (Lansing, Michigan)
  • PepsiCo's (NASDAQ: PEP) snacks and beverages division, Lou Martinez (Vancouver, Washington)
  • Ploger Transportation, Travis Lauer (Norwalk, Ohio)
  • Schneider (NYSE: SNDR), Michael Tam (Rockford, Illinois)
  • Southeastern Freight Lines, Beau White (Columbia, South Carolina)
  • UPS Inc (NYSE: UPS), Darin Salgado (Phoenix, Arizona)

All the tractors were 2019 or 2020 model year and included a mix of Volvo, Freightliner, International, Peterbilt, and Kenworth models.

According to Roeth, the trucks saved 2,750 gallons of fuel, equivalent to $8,249 in savings, and eliminated 27.9 tons of carbon dioxide, compared to industry average regional vehicles. The entire run took 18 days to complete. Roeth noted that the fleetwide average for regional trucks is 6 mpg, but if all regional carriers were able to reach the 8.3 the Run on Less trucks achieved, the industry could save over $9 billion, he said.

Average payload was 22,198 pounds, with the Pepsi truck running many of its miles over 41,000 pounds and another fleet consistently running 13,000-pound loads. The average speed was 55 mph. In all, the trucks ran 58,633 miles over the cost of 135 days. On about 42 of those days, the trucks averaged over 9 mpg.

"[The 55 mph] speed kind of surprised us," Roeth said. "As we looked at the data, what we discovered is that these trucks do a lot of low speed in urban driving, but when they get on the open road, they go a little [faster] than maybe the over-the-road trucks."

The UPS truck actually pulled down the overall average. That vehicle ran on compressed natural gas, and while it performed well for a CNG truck, Roeth noted, it lagged the nine diesel tractors, which achieved 8.7 mpg overall.

The 10 trucks operated within 300 miles of their home base in hub and spoke, dedicated and multi-stop routes. They faced a variety of challenges including traffic congestion, construction, operating in urban environments, and traveling secondary roads. 

Roeth said the data will be used to evaluate and learn more about regional operations.

"We recorded drops and deliveries to really understand [the data] … and there is so much data here that we are going to dive into," he said.

The most difficult part of the project was the varying payloads and operations, Roeth said. Two of the vehicles were sleeper models, and several trucks were run in slip-seat operation, performing linehaul duty at night and urban deliveries in the day.

NACFE said the run led to other discoveries, including:

  • That high efficiency requires a commitment from both fleet leadership and drivers. 
  • That big data and connectivity can be used to further optimize for each route.
  • That diversity in duty cycles makes it essential that fleet managers understand the nuances of their business so they can spec vehicles properly and coach drivers in efficient driving techniques.
  • That the expansion of regional haul will help attract and retain drivers as drivers get home on a more regular basis.
  • That because of its return-to-base operation, regional haul is ideal for alternative-fuel vehicles, especially battery electric trucks. 

One of the requirements of Run on Less events is that any technologies used on the vehicles must be readily available, meaning that are in production. Among the technologies used in this event were side skirts, wheel covers, and trailer tails, as well as in-cab data loggers and recording devices.

NACFE will use the data collected from the Run on Less Regional and produce a more detailed report in early 2020.

"We find [these runs] are really valuable for us and the industry," Roeth said. "So, we will certainly look at doing another."

This was the second Run on Less event, the first featured long-haul trucks and took place in October 2017. The 9 participating fleets and one owner-operator involved achieved 10.1 miles per gallon across 99 total days. In that event, one truck achieved 12.8 mpg and three different trucks posted days over 12.5 mpg. The lowest mpg from a truck was 7.1 on one of the days, and the average for all lowest mpgs throughout the Run was 8.8. Collectively, the trucks traveled 50,107 miles and saved 2,877 gallons of fuel and $7,183 over the national fleet-wide average of 6.4 mpg.

The vehicles in the first event in 2017 included many common specs such as aerodynamic treatments, including skirts and rear deployment aerodynamic devices, but also some unique equipment – such as the Ploger unit that included lift axles on both the Volvo tractor and trailer. Henry Albert, the owner-operator, does not equip his tractor with an APU, but rather uses solar panels to charge auxiliary batteries. Other technologies included engine accessories, tire pressure systems, automated transmissions and low viscosity oils.

NACFE monitored data in real-time during the run, including miles traveled, vehicle speed and fuel consumption. What was unique with the Run on Less Regional event is the duty cycle of the vehicles. One of the criteria was the trucks could not travel more than 300 miles in a day. Mike Roeth, executive director of NACFE, said that the group monitored the truck's routes, when and where stops were made, topography, and the weather they encountered. Vehicle speed was also collected as some vehicles spent time on highways between stops, while others never left suburban streets.

Shell returned as the title sponsor and was joined by PepsiCo, Geotab, EPA SmartWay, LinkeDrive and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory as event sponsors.

Image Sourced from Pixabay. Credit: Ely Penner

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