Vehicle Parts and Equipment to Conserve Fuel

Vehicle fleet managers and drivers can conserve fuel and maximize their operational efficiency by outfitting their vehicles with commercially available parts and equipment that save fuel. Implementing fuel-efficient strategies, systems, and programs for some or all vehicles can help fleets monitor and manage their vehicles and vehicle-related costs better. These strategies are cost-efficient and do not require extended vehicle downtime.

Low Rolling Resistance Tires

Rolling resistance is the energy lost from drag and friction of a tire rolling over a surface. This phenomenon is complex, and nearly all operating conditions affect how much energy is lost. With the exception of all-electric vehicles, passenger vehicles use about 4%–11% of their fuel just to overcome tire rolling resistance. For heavy trucks, this consumption can be higher, around 15%–30%. Installing low rolling resistance tires can improve fuel economy by an average of about 3% for light-duty vehicles (LDVs) and more than 10% for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs).

Super-Single Tires

In Class 8, replacing traditional dual tires with one super-single (also called wide-base or single-wide) tire can save fuel by reducing vehicle weight and rolling resistance, which means the engine doesn't need to work as hard. A super-single tire is not quite as wide as the sum of the two tires, so there is a slight aerodynamic benefit as well, further improving vehicle efficiency. Using super-single tires can improve fuel efficiency by 6%–9%.

Photo of truck tires.

Aerodynamic Equipment and Vehicle Design

By reducing the drag, or resistance, imposed on a vehicle traveling at high speeds, aerodynamic equipment eases the load on the engine and improves the fuel economy of a vehicle. Airfoils, trailer gap reducers, side skirts, and tails are examples of aerodynamic equipment that fleets can install on trucks to reduce driveline losses. Airfoils direct air over the cab, trailer gap reducers reduce air turbulence by minimizing the space between the cab and the trailer, side skirts limit the air that circulates under the trailer, and tails reduce the turbulent airstreams dragging behind the trailer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program provides lists of verified aerodynamic devices.

Many LDV and HDV manufacturers are developing streamlined vehicle designs that reduce drag. More information on aerodynamic equipment for HDVs can be found in Transport Canada’s review.

Idle Reduction Equipment

Idle reduction technologies reduce the amount of time an engine idles unnecessarily. Auxiliary power units (APUs), bunk heaters, batteries, and other idle reduction equipment can help reduce idling and save fuel. A number of tools developed by Argonne National Laboratory help fleet managers and drivers calculate the time they idle, allowing them to identify the most cost-effective ways to improve their idling profile and identify potential savings.

Long-haul fleets can take advantage of electrified parking spaces, also known as truck stop electrification, which provide power to necessary systems such as heating, air conditioning, or appliances without idling the engine. Fleets can also install equipment on vehicles to improve their efficiency and conserve fuel (see example case studies for fleets in Dallas, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri). Many of these investments have short payback periods.

Fuel-Tracking Devices and Telematics Systems

Data collection devices installed in vehicles can track fuel economy, maintenance schedules, and fleet performance to help fleets monitor fuel consumption, improve fuel economy, and increase asset utilization. For example, the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s fleet installed a telematics system to monitor fleet performance, track driver behavior, and inform driver training. With these devices, the fleet improved their average fuel economy by 15%.

GPS-based telematics systems that plug in to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics system monitor vehicle use and miles driven, idle time, fuel economy, driver behavior, and engine maintenance requirements. Many of these telematics systems are paired with powerful software packages or driver training programs to help track vehicle activity and manage fuel consumption. Many devices give drivers real-time fuel economy feedback, which has proven effective in reducing fuel use.

To determine what telematics systems data to focus on, a fleet should identify its top priorities, such as idle reduction or efficient routing. A fleet can then work with a telematics provider to determine key performance indicators and extract the most important data. This planning will help a fleet use the data to deliver efficiency improvements. Learn how Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County, California, saved $354,000 in six months through telematics.

Speed Control Modules

Fleet managers can install electronic speed control modules to prevent vehicles from traveling faster than a specific speed, which can conserve fuel and promote safer driving practices. For example, Braun's Express installed electronic control module systems in each of its short-haul and long-haul freight trucks to control fuel consumption and limit speed. By reducing the maximum speed of its vehicles from 70 to 65 miles per hour, Braun’s increased overall fuel economy by an estimated 0.5 miles per gallon for each vehicle.

Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oils can improve fuel economy in light-duty vehicles by reducing friction in the engine. Learn more about synthetic oils.