Thoughts & Practices on Maximizing Fuel Efficiency

I recently picked the brain of Bill Eskel, our Vice President of Operations, to gain a better understanding of the things Lily does to maximize its fuel efficiency.  It’s on the forefront of everyone’s mind in the industry and since I don’t work on the Operations side of the business, I was curious.  Here’s what Bill shared…

Maximizing fuel efficiency is an important part of our environmental efforts, we are continually looking for ways to enhance the efficiency of our fleets and to strengthen our commitment to environmental sustainability.

Transportation companies have come a long way since the 1960’s when fuel seemed to flow like a never-ending resource.  The cost change for fuel over the last half-century Lily has been in business has risen steadily from a mere 20 cents a gallon to a peak of $5 in 2008.  Today fuel costs have ‘relaxed’ to the $3 range but if industry predictions are accurate, the U.S. may soon be facing rising costs once again.

Since there’s not much we can do about the actual cost per gallon, transportation companies need to be aggressive & innovative in finding ways to reduce fuel consumption.  “It’s a top priority to protect our environment, and for our customers it can reduce the overall expense related to Operations.

Success in this area comes with being open to new technologies and support programs offered to the industry.  Bill says our success is due to combined efforts of teaming with the right vendors, technologies and programs.  We partnered with SmartWay in 2008 and continue to follow their lead using their strategies & policies — because they work!  Lily is on the way to achieving a $4,000 savings for each of our power units annually which will be passed on to customers and on a grander scale; we’re reducing pollution to the environment.

There are a lot of great after-market products available now that are aerodynamically designed to reduce fuel consumption.  We’ve been aggressively working with both our equipment suppliers and our drivers to do whatever we can to achieve fuel savings.  Aerodynamic bumpers, mirror heads, sloped hoods, roof fairing, wind deflectors and wind resistant mud flaps and cab extenders all help to reduce fuel consumption.  Just installing Eco-flaps, designed to pass air through the flap, can amount to savings of at least 3%.  Every aerodynamic treatment helps to reduce approximately 2/3 of trucks’ energy used just to move the air around a track (traveling at 65 mph).

Successful gains have also been achieved through utilization of light-weight trailers and new power units like the Peterbilt 379 with the ISM engine and the International ProStar Series – the most fuel efficient Class 8 truck on the road.  The equipment is specifically designed to attain fuel savings.

If adjustments to an existing fleet or purchasing newer, more efficient truck models is not an option, companies always have the ability to manage and train their drivers to maximize fuel.  Drivers play a big part in achieving efficiency behind the wheel.  By using progressive shifting techniques, governing top speed to 65 mph, adopting idling reduction technologies and utilizing on-board routing devices, drivers save fuel.  There are some great on-board electronic systems designed to give management an opportunity to commend or correct a driver’s habits.  If you take the time to do the research, you will find something that works for your fleet, your drivers, and your customers.  People Net, Discreet Wireless Vehicle Tracking and Speed Gauge have worked for us but we’re always looking into new technologies and we design every fleet based upon customer-driven metrics.

Regular service, preventative maintenance, and tire maintenance should never be overlooked as they all play a significant role in maximizing fuel economy.  We’re thankful to be working closely with some great maintenance vendors like Ryder, Pac Lease, Penske, PLM Trailer Leasing and Hale Trailer Leasing to ensure our equipment is maintained at a high standard.

At the end of the day, fuel efficiency is all about measurable, sustainable results for the customer and the environment.  These are exciting times that give top carriers an opportunity to stand out from the crowd by taking advantage of the new aerodynamic designs, fuel efficient power units and green technologies emerging in the transportation industry.

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