Specing Trucks for
How to put your work trucks on a reduced By Robert Johnson
he high cost of fuel, combined Component positioning is also cru- total truck weight, starting with the
T with a growing interest in envi- cial to aerodynamics. Anything that frame. Unless the application calls for a
ronmental issues, has many gov- interrupts the smooth flow of air over very rigid frame, consider using a high-
ernmental organizations think- and around the vehicle will cause drag. strength alloy model, which can save
ing about ways to improve the fuel uti- Some of the worst offenders are items weight without sacrificing strength. The
lization of the vehicles in their fleets. such as frame-mounted battery boxes, suspension is another potential source of
Tried and true steps for maximizing a bypass oil filters, and traditional vertical weight reduction. Parabolic leaf springs
vehicle’s fuel efficiency include main- exhaust stacks with perforated stainless are lighter than conventional leaf
taining proper tire pressure, removing steel heat shields. When possible, try to springs, and they provide a better ride
unnecessary weight, and following rec- mount accessory items under the cab or on appropriate applications. On Class
ommended maintenance practices. behind the cab skirts. On a straight 6-8 trucks, specifying an air suspension
There are also a number of products truck, also consider the use of body nose will save several hundred pounds.
available that can be retro- An oversized fuel tank
fitted to existing vehicles or adds unnecessary weight.
ordered on new trucks to Unless the vehicle will be
improve fuel efficiency, used in an area where fuel
including oil bath wheel isn’t easily accessible, why
seals on non-drive axles, carry around three or four
synthetic fluids, and free- days’ worth of fuel? A gal-
flow air filters. lon of gasoline weighs six
With proper planning pounds and a gallon of
and training, it is also pos- diesel fuel weighs seven
sible to specify new work pounds. Factor in the
trucks and equipment that weight of the fuel tank,
may be more fuel efficient and carrying 50 extra gal-
than existing trucks in the lons of fuel could mean
fleet. Some considerations needlessly hauling up to
include aerodynamics, total 400 pounds.
vehicle weight, tire selec- The Work Truck Show®, which is an excellent venue for meeting one-on- When specing new
one with vocational truck and component manufacturers, includes The
tion, auxiliary power gener- Green Truck Summit on March 3, 2009 in Chicago. For further vehicles, it’s easy to
ation, powertrain optimiza- information contact the National Truck Equipment Association at include components and
tion, and hybrid/alternative www.ntea.com. accessories out of habit.
fuel vehicles. But if the components
Aerodynamics. Aerodynamic truck cones and/or side transition fairings. aren’t really needed, they’re just taking
designs aren’t limited to over-the-road Higher fuel prices have made these up space and adding weight. For exam-
sleepers. Most Class 6-8 chassis manu- options cost-effective for a broader ple, modern batteries and starters are
facturers offer factory-installed aero range of applications. Depending on the much more efficient than they used to
packages that can significantly impact design, installing a bed cover on open- be, yet some purchasing managers still
fuel economy. These packages may bed trucks, including pickup trucks, spec four cranking batteries when three
include roof-mounted air deflectors, dump trucks, and some utility trucks, would be adequate. The same idea
side fairings, under-cab-step and fuel- also may provide significant fuel savings. applies to bypass oil filters and auxiliary
tank skirts, aerodynamic mirrors, low- Total Vehicle Weight. The more oil coolers. Newer engine cooling sys-
drag hood configurations, and aero weight the truck carries, the more fuel it tems and oil filters are more efficient
bumpers. burns. There are many ways to reduce than those of even a few years ago.
22 ■ GOVERNMENT ENGINEERING ■ JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2009 www.govengr.com
Eliminating an unneeded bypass oil fil-
ter will save close to 100 pounds. Stop
to think it through before including a
potentially outdated spec.
Similarly, look closely at the equip-
ment that will be installed on the vehi-
cle and consider if there are lighter ver-
sions available that can get the job done.
Also compare bodies. Many manufac-
turers have developed lighter weight
bodies using high-tensile steel or com-
posites. Evaluate if a lighter body would
be appropriate for the application.
Tire Selection. Tire selection plays a
major role in fuel economy. Consider
specifying low rolling-resistance tires.
These tires usually have a lower sidewall
profile, reducing sidewall flexing and
heat build-up, and wasting less energy.
Technical advice and product information that’s invaluable when specifying new
The rolling resistance of a tire increases vehicles is plentiful at The Work Truck Show®, which runs from March 4-6 in
with the load range rating. Put enough Chicago. For further information contact the National Truck Equipment Association at
tire on the truck to safely carry the load, www.ntea.com.
but avoid over-rating the tires. Also, if
the truck normally comes with dual tires with computer software programs that purposes, they perform well in specific
on the rear axles, consider specifying can match engine ratings, transmission applications.
wide-base “super single” tires that gear ratios, and final drive (rear end) The Green Truck Summit held at The
reduce both rolling resistance and total gear ratios to achieve the desired per- Work Truck Show® 2009 will provide
truck weight. Mount tires on alloy formance. cutting-edge information about the
wheels for additional weight savings. Hybrid and Alternative Fuel future of hybrid and alternative fuel
Auxiliary Power Generation. Vehicles. Hybrid vehicles have the vehicles with a specific focus on how to
Without equipment, a work truck potential to save fuel by reducing engine integrate these vehicles into a fleet. The
would be just another truck. But power- idling, recapturing and storing energy summit will be held on March 3, 2009,
ing hoists, cranes, snowplows, and other that would otherwise be wasted, storing from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the
vocational equipment can use a lot of surplus engine power (generated while McCormick Place West Building in
energy, which translates to a lot of fuel. idling), or utilizing stored energy to Chicago. The Work Truck Show runs
If an application requires a limited eliminate the need for primary energy March 4–6, 2009. For more informa-
amount of hydraulic or electric power, a input (fuel). Hybrid vehicle perform- tion about the Green Truck Summit and
small auxiliary engine generator set may ance can be significantly impacted by The Work Truck Show 2009, contact
provide sufficient energy to eliminate how and where the vehicle is driven. the National Truck Equipment
the need for idling the truck engine for Hybrid vehicles are most efficient in Association (NTEA) at www.ntea.com
extended periods of time. If electricity is applications with frequent starts and or 800-441-6832.
only needed for relatively short periods stops, low-speed operations, or extended Saving money by saving fuel will be a
of time, a static inverter may do the idle times when operating heavy equip- priority for government agencies of all
trick. ment that’s too large to run off an auxil- sizes for the foreseeable future.
Powertrain Optimization. The iary engine. Match the hybrid system to Procurement professionals can imple-
biggest opportunity for improving fuel the vehicle’s duty and drive cycles to see ment many strategies to combat higher
economy is to properly spec the vehicle’s if will be a good fit. fuel costs, including specifying more
powertrain. A properly specified power- Alternative fuel vehicles, including fuel-efficient work trucks. The bottom
train ensures that the truck engine oper- those powered by bio-fuels, natural gas, line? Plan well, streamline your specs,
ates within its peak efficiency power electricity, and propane, are growing in and stay up-to-date on trends impacting
band at all times (i.e., the engine’s rpm popularity. These alternative fuels do fuel utilization. GE
is never below the maximum torque not have the energy density of gasoline
point and never above the maximum or diesel fuel, but in many cases, they Mr. Johnson is director of fleet relations for
the NTEA. Johnson will lead a two-part tech-
horsepower point, except during initial have a lower cost per energy unit. In nical session on specifying work trucks,
launch). Optimizing the powertrain for addition, they reduce both the emission including fuel economy considerations, at The
peak fuel efficiency is not as complex is of greenhouse gases and dependence on Work Truck Show® 2009 and 45th Annual
foreign oil. While not suitable for all NTEA Convention.
it may seem. Truck dealers are equipped
www.govengr.com GOVERNMENT ENGINEERING ■ JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2009 ■ 23