The future of fuel – and fleet – efficiency

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So, with all the talk surrounding the next set of fuel efficiency mandates due by March 2016 for heavy- and medium-duty trucks this week – not to mention the complexity involved with such rules – at the end of the day, what sorts of changes might such regulations effect upon trucks, much less fleet operations as a whole?

Interestingly enough, Walmart is testing out a concept vehicle – dubbed the WAVE truck – that rethinks the entire look and feel of commercial vehicles to gain as much fuel efficiency as possible.

Walmart is no stranger to efforts designed to boost the overall efficiency of its fleet operations either. For example, take a look below at some of the recent work done by its Walmart Canada subsidiary:

Now, a lot of fleets in the U.S. rightly ask whether such “mandated” improvements to fuel efficiency might be outweighed in the end by higher sticker prices – a particular concern of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Yet one fleet – halfway across the world in South Africa no less – demonstrates at least to a degree that fuel savings, if significant enough, can in turn free up monies fleets can re-invest in other areas to help sustain and grow their operations:

Of course, that South Africa example deals with European designed trucks; not necessarily an “apples-to-apples” comparison for U.S. fleets, though Volvo Trucks does offer a North American-focused exceptional efficiency or “XE” package to boost fuel mileage for its highway truck offerings in this country.

Not to be outdone, engine maker Cummins and Peterbilt Motors Co. are working together via the Department of Energy’s “Super Truck” program to design tractor-trailers with “super sized” fuel savings capability.

Yet another good illustration of some of the North American-focused efforts to boost tractor-trailer fuel economy is Daimler Truck North America’s (DTNA) 2014 Freightliner Cascadia “Evolution” package, which exceeded 10 miles per gallon in fuel economy during tests conducted almost two years ago:

Other OEMs are also striving to put together super fuel efficient tractor-trailer combinations, no doubt with full knowledge of the U.S. government’s intent to mandate further juicing of fuel economy numbers.

Kenworth truck Co., for example, showed off a T680 tractor-trailer combination fuel economy package at the Mid America Trucking Show last year.

Navistar also displayed what it dubbed a “near term” concept truck dunned “Project Horizon” at last year’s Mid America as well. You can view more photos of this truck by clicking here as well as watch Chris Ito, director of design and innovation for Navistar’s vehicle product development team, provide a detailed overview about “Project Horizon” below:

One thing is for sure in all of this: when the U.S. government takes the wraps off the first draft of its “next stage” fuel economy mandates for heavy- and medium-duty trucks in March 2015 – with the final rule to be issued March of 2016 – the makers of the industry’s equipment will most likely be in a ready position to meet them.

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