Interest in alternative fuel vehicles is continuing to increase, and equipment manufacturers are moving forward with equipment that has the potential to provide cost savings and reduce the consumption of diesel fuel.
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Snow, ice and freezing temperatures can increase the risk of downtime for Class 8 tractors and trailers if the equipment and the fuel that powers them aren’t properly maintained. Breakdowns can result in delayed drivers, missed deliveries and poor customer service.

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Renewable diesel — an advanced fuel option that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the same specifications as petroleum diesel — can be added to existing fuel truck systems, to help lower a fleet’s carbon footprint. As a drop-in fuel that can be used in place of ultra-low-sulfur diesel, renewable diesel is helping bridge the gap as the trucking industry moves toward zero-emission vehicles without extra equipment or infrastructure cost related to battery-electric vehicles.

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Global disruptions, low oil inventories and high refining margins coupled with high truck utilization are driving diesel fuel prices even higher and creating an increased risk of volatility.

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Auxiliary power units (APUs) reduce the need for idling, allowing fleets to reduce fuel costs, increase engine life and improve driver comfort. APUs have traditionally been used in sleeper berths but are increasingly being used in day cabs.

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Supply chain disruptions have affected all types of products, including the chemical urea, which is one of the primary components in diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). The challenge for the trucking industry is that trucks will shut down without DEF, so it is important for drivers to top off their DEF tanks when they can.

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Fuel is a major expense for fleets, and improving fuel economy can result in significant savings while also potentially increasing the lifespan of a vehicle. Mike Hasinec, former vice president of maintenance for Penske Truck Leasing, shared seven tips for improving fuel economy.

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Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, new international rules put forth under the International Maritime Organization will reduce the sulfur content in marine fuels to 0.5%, down from 3.5%, and the change is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the fuel industry. Increased demand for very-low-sulfur diesel fuel could drive prices higher. A report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on energy markets and the rule, which is referred to as IMO 2020, said a shift in petroleum product pricing may begin as early as mid-to-late 2019, with the effects on prices to be most acute in 2020. EIA resources say it is a potential for an 11-cent spike.

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Developments in electric Class 8 trucks have dominated the conversation on alternative fuels, but compressed natural gas (CNG) remains a leader in the alternative fuels category. The fuel remains a reliable alternative for certain applications and can help private fleets meet their environmental and financial goals.

"Because the attention is on electric, compressed natural gas hasn't been on people's minds, but it is there for use cases where it makes sense," said Paul Rosa, senior vice president of procurement and fleet planning at Penske Truck Leasing. "If CNG made sense for you before, it will make sense for you both now and in the future."

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Penske's fuel program is available in 42 states and can help customers manage rising fuel costs while also ensuring the quality of the fuel. Here are 12 ways Penske's fuel program is benefitting fleets:

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have finalized standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. The agencies said the standards will improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution as well as bolster energy security and spur manufacturing innovation.

The standards cover model years 2021-2027, and apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, and all types and sizes of buses and work trucks. When the standards are fully phased in, tractors in a tractor-trailer will achieve up to 25% lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption than an equivalent tractor in 2018.

"This next phase of standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while driving innovation, and will ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in developing fuel-efficient technologies through the next decade and beyond," said former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

The standards are Phase 2 of the agencies' ruling on greenhouse gas emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucks and build on the fuel efficiency and GHG emissions standards already in place for model years 2014-2018.

Reduce oil consumption by 2 billion barrels infographic

The agencies said the standards will encourage the wider application of currently available technologies and the development of new and advanced cost-effective technologies through model year 2027. Buyers of new long-haul trucks in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings, the agencies said.

The final standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.

Former DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said the standard gives manufacturers flexibility to use a range of "innovations and technology pathways."

CO2 Emissions and Fuel Consumption Infographic

The agencies are also finalizing fuel efficiency and GHG standards for trailers for the first time. The EPA trailer standards, which exclude certain categories such as mobile homes, will begin to take effect in model year 2018 for certain trailers, while NHTSA's standards will take effect as of 2021, with credits available for voluntary participation before then.

DOT said cost-effective technologies for trailers, including aerodynamic devices, lightweight construction and self-inflating tires, can significantly reduce total fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, while paying back the owners in less than two years due to fuel savings.

September 2016 / Updated May 2018

Strategic decision making relies on data, and business leaders want to know they can trust the information they receive. The 2017 U.S. CEO Outlook published by KPMG reported that 49% of CEOs said they are concerned about the integrity of the data they receive.

Penske Truck Leasing collects a vast amount of information from its vehicles, which can be used to help fleets improve fuel economy, properly spec vehicles, improve operations and shape driver behavior. The data comes directly from a heavy-duty truck’s engine control module (ECM), and Penske executives have verified its accuracy.

“We did a fuel study, measuring everything from a fuel economy standpoint, such as road speeds and how much time we drove and the consumption of fuel,” said Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance support for Penske Truck Leasing.

The data was compared to information coming from the ECM, and Penske found that the data was 95 to 96% accurate. “As long as you can read the tea leaves, you can make a lot of good decisions,” Hasinec said.

Penske compiles data and presents it to its customers in a usable fashion. The ECM data can be used in several ways.

Improve Fuel Economy

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The reports Penske compiles include several line items that provide insight into fuel economy. Those data points include the gear in which drivers operate as well as how often the driver uses cruise control. “Most people will tell you if you use cruise control, you’ll get better fuel economy,” Hasinec said, adding that fleets could use the data to coach drivers that don’t use cruise control.

Reduce Idling

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Penske tracks the percentage of idle time. “Idle is literally a waste of fuel,” Hasinec said, adding that fleets can work with drivers who have a high idle time to change driver behavior.

Improve Safety

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Penske’s reports provide information on speeding, and fleets can create the bands they want to monitor. Drivers exceeding those bands could benefit from individual coaching.

The reports also capture information on hard braking, which most OEMs consider a deceleration rate of seven miles-per-hour per second. “If you decelerate at seven miles-per-hour per second, you’re on the brakes pretty hard and probably tailgating,” Hasinec said, adding that fleets can use the information to coach drivers.

Spec the Right Vehicle

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The ECM reports average drive load. “That is how hard the vehicle is working, and that tells you about the application,” Hasinec said.

The average drive load could vary based on the route or the weight of the truck, but the numbers can provide insight into whether or not the vehicle is well-suited for the application. “You can look at the data and figure out very quickly if we have the vehicle set up right from a road-speed standpoint,” Hasinec said.

Improve Utilization

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Data on engine utilization provide insight into the duration of the trip and the amount of time the vehicle was active. The information could help uncover inefficiencies and offer insight into whether the asset was being used to the best of its ability.

By digging into the data, a private fleet could uncover, for example, if a driver was delayed when stopping for fuel at a truck stop. If that is the case, Penske customers could choose to fuel at Penske locations. “There aren’t the same distractions at a Penske facility as there are at a truck stop,” Hasinec said.

Schedule Maintenance

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The engines in Class 8 tractors can have as many as 1,000 fault codes, but only 20 to 30 of them are mission critical, Hasinec said. Capturing and deciphering the fault codes can allow Penske and its customers to schedule repairs to maximize uptime and keep trucks moving.

May 2018