Fuel Consuption in the Truck Industry

21 November 2012 | Print

The consumption of fuel, in varying forms, has always played a role in the transportation of goods. Back in the days it was as basic as pack horses, oxen or even donkeys that needed to absorb grass and fodder as a way to fuel and energise themselves.

According to Rory Schulz, UD Trucks Southern Africa’s general manager of corporate planning and marketing, fuel continues to play a vital role in the transport industry today, as it forms a major part of the costs involved in operating a truck.

“It is thus becoming increasingly important for customers to carefully consider the fuel consumption statistics of a vehicle before purchasing a truck,” said Schulz.  “In addition, one also needs to look at aspects like driver training in order to ensure the most efficient operation of a vehicle, careful route planning and optimal load maximisation.”

If one makes a case study of some typical rigid vehicle applications with typical annual mileage, operating at an all-up mass of seven, 15 and 26 tonnes respectively, the fuel cost will constitute between 25 and 27% of a fleet owner’s annual operating costs.  In a typical truck-tractor and interlink application the fuel constitute around 50-56% of the operating cost.

Schulz points out that a number of factors come into play when a fleet owner needs to calculate the possible fuel consumption of a truck. 

“Environmental factors such as temperature and wind, as well as road surface type and operating conditions, always warrant strong consideration when factoring fuel consumption figures,” said Schulz. 

He also included the truck’s body type and overall frontal area, the specific tuning of the engine and driveline components, tyre choice, tyre pressure and wheel alignment, as well as the load or all-up operating mass of the vehicle on his list of aspects that need constant monitoring and attention.

“In addition, the quality and hygiene of fuel available in many places in the southern African region, often leaves a lot to be desired,” said Schulz.  “Furthermore, it is imperative that one uses the appropriate fuel for the specific design of the fuel system of any particular vehicle, in other words ultra-low sulphur diesel or 10ppm for Euro 4 and upwards.  Driver training also plays an increasingly important role, as the correct driving techniques can save operators a lot of money on the long run.”

Over the years technology has made many advances to increase fuel efficiency. Initially mechanical advances came by the way of improvement in volumetric efficiency and combustion chamber design and shapes.  Fuel measurement and metering as well as tuning, have also improved the efficiency of trucks through the years.  These also included advancements in fuel technology.

“Materials and manufacturing processes were enhanced to allow for greater compression ratios and tolerances in order to increase injection pressures. The advent of forward induction systems such as turbocharging also contributed greatly to the advancement in fuel efficiency, while engine cooling also improved dramatically as the industry evolved and became more sophisticated,” explained Schulz. 

However, the most significant improvement came in the form of electronic control units, which has allowed manufacturers to control the exact amount of fuel that is injected at a specific pressure with precision timing.  This vital development resulted in overall combustion efficiency, and also helps operators achieve lower emissions, which ultimately leads to improved fuel economy.

Schulz said that there are now engines available that are especially fuel efficient at a particular rev range and engine load.   

To enable operators to keep the vehicle operating in this ideal range, multispeed transmissions where introduced and further developments with electronics allow the vehicle to drivers to function in an optimum fashion with automated manual transmissions and electronic vehicle management systems.

“With these systems of course comes much driver orientation and on-going training to improve their skills to maximise these benefits.  Into the future, emission levels will call for further developments, but alternative fuels to current fossil fuels, such as diesel, are most likely going to be the way to go,” said Schulz. 

Share on