Several OEMs report that truck buyers are more interested than ever in getting trucks spec’d to maximize fuel economy – largely due to the record high diesel prices the industry has suffered since the beginning of this year.

“As far as engines, fleets remain very interested in managing fuel economy,” Steve Gilligan, general marketing manager for Kenworth Truck Co., told Fleet Owner. “They’re spec’ing engines with less than 500 horsepower now, yet they want the flexibility to turn up the horsepower later. We’re also seeing a lot of interest in convertible 13-speed transmissions.”

“There’s a lot more effort out there to optimize trucks for the best fuel economy,” added Peterbilt Motor Co.’s assistant gm Bruce Ewald. “There’s a lot more interest in our aerodynamic cab offerings, for example.”

But that hasn’t slowed down orders for Peterbilt’s more traditional specs, such as the Model 379, he reported, especially as many fleets are using that spec to help attract and retain drivers to combat a growing driver shortage.

“Fuel economy continues to be a consideration in the style of truck customers choose, but then again, how a truck is spec’d and driven is how you get the best fuel economy overall,” Ewald says. “Besides, the driver shortage has become a huge issue – it’s almost as bad as it was in the 1980s, so there’s been a lot more positioning by fleets to get trucks that are attractive to drivers.”