GREENSBORO, NC. At its headquarters here, Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) yesterday gave journalists a thorough briefing on Fuelwatch, an extensive customer-outreach initiative centered on enabling fleets to boost fuel efficiency as an avenue to improving profitability while cutting carbon emissions.

Described most succinctly by VTNA as a “powerful portfolio of fuel-saving products and industry-proven fuel management techniques,” spending time with Fuelwatch suggests it is potentially a game-changer for the truck OEM. Once it is fully implemented, which should be by the end of next year, it should enable the company to forge closer relationships with customers, which potentially would pay off for both fleets and the OEM.

The initiative, which was rolled out in Dallas in August, will arm VTNA’s customer-support personnel, both on the corporate and dealer side, with access to expertise based on sophisticated analyses of warranty data. This will allow the company to counsel customers on how to improve fleet fuel efficiency by paying close attention to the key areas of spec’ing, maintenance, driver training and cost/performance analysis.

VTNA executives spoke of how fleets, especially small- to mid-sized operations as well as owner-operators, will be encouraged to integrate Fuelwatch “strategies” they learn of from either from VTNA or Volvo Truck dealer advisors into their spec’ing, maintenance and driver-training regimens to “maximize fuel efficiency while minimizing impact on the environment.”

“The cost of fuel is the big issue facing trucking,” said Scott Kress, senior vp of sales & marketing. “With Fuelwatch, we’re taking a comprehensive approach-- addressing spec’s, maintenance, vehicle performance and driver training together to help get the most miles out of every gallon of fuel.”

“Fuelwatch was designed so we could partner with our customers” to give them a “comprehensive approach to improving fuel economy and profitability,” said Seth Gruber, director of business solutions marketing. “There is no single or simple solution to dealing with fuel costs as miles per gallon is the net result of many factors. But savings can be captured by optimizing fuel efficiency. It’s done first through specs and then through maintenance, fuel management, and by operating for fuel efficiency—the driver’s contribution is substantial.”

According to Gruber, Fuelwatch is now focused on talking to customers about the impact of proper vehicle spec’ing and maintenance practices to maximize fuel efficiency and this advice will be offered to customers as part of normal range of customer service. Over the next year, the OEM will introduce the fuel-management – monitoring and measuring results—and driver-development components, which Kress said would be delivered to customers on a “consultancy fee” basis.

VTNA expects the pay-to-play portion of Fuelwatch to succeed because of the very richness of the data that will drive the analytically based advice the OEM will deliver to these customers. Logged Vehicle Data (LVD) software that VTNA has used in-house for years to analyze and act on warranty claim data will be deployed to directly benefit customers, said Bill Dawson, sr vp of customer satisfaction.

According to Dawson, the upshot is fleets signing on for Fuelwatch will gain “granular analysis” of fuel economy performance, both truck-by-truck and driver-by-driver. “This will let us show a customer exactly what is causing their [MPG] operating results and how to improve them—which is [a capability] unique to us.

“Having this access to LVD,” continued Dawson, “totally changes the dynamic of the customer relationship. [Tapping our] one central [data] depository will validate product usage, provide insights into trends and a statistical evaluation process” for changes implemented. He said Fuelwatch will enable VTNA advisors to “proactively uncover problems for customers and counsel them on making improvements to spec choices, maintenance programs and driver training.”

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