The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has a bold idea for furthering the use of effective solutions developed to help fleets conserve fuel: publish test data from fleets about the systems and programs that really work and those that really disappoint.

“Our goal is to help fleets identify where they can spend their dollars and see real results,” said Michael Roeth, executive director of NACFE, pointing out that the organization hopes to share facts and pull no punches in terms of what works and what doesn’t.

“There are lots of technologies, lots of suppliers, lots of pressures on fleets [to do everything they can to reduce fuel costs],” he added, “but fleets have no stomach for downtime anymore. Our approach is to tell people about what has really worked in operations like their own and about the adverse consequences of deploying these solutions. We are not selling products ourselves, so we have no bias.”

To accomplish this goal, NACFE is forming a group of progressive fleets willing to share what they are doing to try to improve fuel efficiency and how it has worked—or not. Together, they will create a Fleet Fuel benchmarking study that could be industry-altering in its impact. The project has already captured the attention of some of America’s most influential private and for-hire carriers, including Frito-Lay, Con-way, Ryder, Schneider National, Werner and Challenger Motor Freight. The Environmental Protection Agency, DOE’s Clean Cities, and the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) among others are also supporters, although only fleets participate on the technical advisory committee itself.

“Frito-Lay and its parent PepsiCo have implemented a fleet strategy that significantly increases the fleet’s efficiency and productivity, while at the same time reducing its environmental impact. To achieve our aggressive goals, we are always looking for best practices to learn from and for like-minded partners to help push the industry to develop innovative solutions faster. Our relationship with NACFE helps us in both areas,” noted Mike O’Connell, senior director supply chain fleet for Frito-Lay and chair of NACFE’s Technical Committee.

NACFE is currently looking for a “few more fleets” to round out the team. “Our goal is to help people fit fuel efficiency technologies to duty cycles, climates, geographies so that they work well,” Roeth told Fleet Owner. “Maximizing fuel efficiency is incredibly complex today. We are trying to find fleets willing to share what they are doing and how it has worked to help improve their fuel efficiency.
“We are looking at 60 to 70 technologies from wide base tires, to various aerodynamic features like roof pods and boat tails,” he added. “We are also looking at practices, such as speed limiting and route guidance. So far, we have about 80,000 tractors and 150,000 trailers in the study.”

Participating fleets contribute time and financial support to be a part of the study in exchange for an individualized report that will identify their best options for improving fuel efficiency in their own operation based upon the tests and experiences of fleets like their own. Once those are completed, the general report will be available for purchase to the industry at large.

“We are especially interested in finding some fleets that have just stayed the course and only adopted new technologies as they have been incorporated into OEM’s standard vehicle specifications,” Bruce Stockton, president of Stockton Solutions and an advisor to NACFE told Fleet Owner. “You have to ask questions like ‘Did just taking what the OEMs offered allow these fleets to avoid the degradation of fuel efficiency caused by emissions regulations?’ for example.”

“The benchmarking study that NACFE and its partners are undertaking can be of enormous value to the industry when it comes to reducing fuel usage and costs. It will give fleets the opportunity to save time, money and energy because they don’t have to try out technologies themselves,” Stockton said. “Instead, they can profit from others’ testing. It is a way to shortcut to proven technologies that work in particular applications. Many fleets want to be what they call ‘fast followers.’ This will be of enormous value to them.”

Fleets interested in exploring the opportunity to participate in the NACFE benchmarking study are invited to e-mail Roeth directly: mike.roeth@nacfe.org

NACFE’s mission is to drive the development and adoption of efficiency-enhancing, environmentally-beneficial, and cost-effective technologies, services and methodologies in the North American freight industry by establishing and communicating credible and performance-based benefits. It will hold its Fourth Driving Innovation meeting in Baltimore, MD on Oct 13, where it will help the industry understand the upcoming Federal Commercial Vehicle Green House Gas regulations. You can register for the meeting, held in conjunction with CALSTART’s Hybrid Truck, meeting at www.htuf2011.org .