Fuel efficiency has become a critical metric within the medium-duty truck market, according to a survey by research firm J.D. Power and Associates. So much so that trucks offering higher fuel efficiency typically score 50 points higher in overall engine satisfaction, based on a J.D. Power 1,000-point scale, than trucks delivering lower fuel efficiency.

J.D. Power also discerned in its 2010 U.S. Medium-Duty Truck Engine and Transmission Customer Satisfaction study that there is an annual cost difference of about 18% between those medium-duty truck engine makes with the highest fuel mileage and those with the lowest. This may translate into an annual savings of approximately $2,100 per truck, $36,000 annually for a fleet of 17 trucks, which is the average number of trucks per fleet, according to the firm’s poll.

Engine makes with the highest reported gasoline mileage average 9.3 miles per gallon, compared with the industry average of 8.4 miles per gallon, added Todd Markusic, senior director of J.D. Power’s commercial vehicle practice.

“Fleet owners that purchase a truck with an engine that is very fuel-efficient can have a real competitive advantage in terms of their overall operating costs,” Markusic said. “With some fleets exceeding 100 trucks, saving a few thousand dollars each year in fuel costs per truck may have a considerable impact on the bottom line.

“Although some fleet owners may be tempted to purchase gas engines given that gas prices are currently much lower than diesel, a more fuel-efficient diesel engine will ultimately lead to much lower annual fuel costs,” he added.

J.D. Power’s medium-duty study, now in its third year, measures customer perceptions of 2009 model-year Class 5, 6 and 7 gasoline and diesel engines, and aims to provide manufacturers with a comprehensive and objective measure of customer satisfaction with their products and related dealer service.

For this study, the firm polled 1,255 primary maintainers of one-year-old conventional cab medium-duty trucks between June and August this year, noted Markusic. Eight factors were measured to determine overall engine satisfaction, he said: engine reliability and dependability; accessibility to components for service/maintenance; engine warranty; control module (ECM); maintaining speeds on grades; average fuel economy; vibration at idle; and acceleration when fully loaded,.

For the third consecutive year, Hino Trucks engines ranked highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 822 on a 1,000-point scale, performing particularly well in engine reliability and dependability, average fuel economy and accessibility to components for service/maintenance. Paccar (774) and General Motors (769) followed Hino in the rankings.

Other details gleaned from J.D. Power’s medium-duty poll this year include:

  • Among the 27% of customers who experience an engine problem, satisfaction is 126 points lower on average than among those who do not experience an engine problem (661 vs. 787, respectively).
  • About 10% of customers indicated experiencing a fuel problem. On average, satisfaction among these customers was 134 points lower than among those who did not experience a fuel problem.
  • Customers indicated that engine problems caused one unscheduled period of downtime, on average, during the past 12 months. During these periods, downtime averaged approximately two days.