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Total Vehicle Efficiency - Looking Beyond HDMO


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Today’s Trucking  /  April 6, 2016

More stringent regulations on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are getting ready to phase in starting in 2017 and will become more restrictive over the coming years (see chart graphic).

The on-road trucking industry has responded by focusing on a number of items to help operators and fleets achieve efficiency on their vehicles to improve fuel economy, and reduce carbon emissions and improve vehicle cost/mile.  

One of the first moves that happened in 2012 was the industry’s move towards lighter viscosity heavy duty motor oils (HDMO), transitioning from SAE 15W-40 to SAE 10W-30 engine oils to help achieve early gains without having to significantly adjust any engine or vehicle hardware.  This will be further enhanced with the launch of PC-11 oils on December 1st, 2016 as a new fuel efficient category (API FA-4) launches to help push even more fuel efficiency when using the xW-30 (HDMO SAE 10W-30 and 5W-30) viscosity grades.

Other vehicle efficiency changes though are now being implemented across the total vehicle today from both truck original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and fleets to help improve fuel economy and operating costs, while helping to reduce their carbon footprint.  These include a number of items below that are continually evolving through improved technology and innovation to help drive an approach towards Total Vehicle Efficiency for operators.  

  1. Diesel Engine Optimization – diesel engines are going through refinements with new components and design to help ensure improved performance and operating efficiency.  There is a trend towards diesel engine downsizing from 15L to 13L size engines, down-speeding from 1600 rpm to 1200 rpm to manage optimal fuel usage, advanced combustion design and active oil temperature control, variable valve timing, and Start/Stop technology.  It’s these changes that will continue to help diesel engines achieve improvements in fuel efficiency and performance for fleets and operators and also allow OEMs to achieve the strict carbon emission reduction targets required by EPA.


  1. Improved Driveline Efficiency – one of the bigger changes now impacting trucks is the move towards improved engine, transmission and axle interface and optimization.  The rise in automated manual transmissions (AMTs) has grown to help improve engine transmission interface, but also driver variability by allowing computer shifting to achieve optimal performance, torque and mpg.  Furthermore, there is a continued move towards lighter viscosity lubricants in both transmissions and axles to help reduce parasitic fluid friction loss and help improve component movement to help increase mpg. 


  1. Aerodynamic Changes – significant changes in aerodynamics is helping on-road vehicles achieve further efficiency gains.  Like planes that are tested in a wind tunnel to help reduce drag for improved fuel efficiency, truck operators are using aerodynamic changes to help streamline truck tractors and trailers.  Some of the more common changes now seen on the road are the wide use of trailer skirts and also “Whale Tails” that help reduce back end drag.  Additional items that are starting to become more common are the use of wheel covers over hubs and reduction of the tractor trailer gap to help provide efficient air flow over the truck.  Future changes are coming, including new tractor and trailer design changes to take full advantage of the total vehicle aerodynamics that will help increase vehicle mpg. 


  1. Vehicle Weight Reduction - new manufacturing and design methods from OEMs are driving towards lower weight vehicles to help reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency.  This includes use of lighter alloys and carbon fiber for engines and trucks frames, a move towards 6x2 axles or a hydraulic lift axle, and revised cab designs to reduce total weight.  These improvements are supporting improved vehicle efficiency compared to current vehicle models today.


  1. Tires and Automatic Tire Inflation Monitoring – low rolling resistance tires and automated tire pressure are helping to reduce drag on the road, and ensure that vehicle fuel efficiency is maximized versus manual tire pressure checks and dual tire hubs.  These types of tires continue to improve in durability and efficiency and automated tire pressure systems are becoming a standard feature for newer trucks to ensure appropriate tire performance and reduction of vehicle drag. 


  1. Telematics & Vehicle Automation – continued application in telematics is helping OEMs, fleet managers and operators to gather large amounts of data to optimize vehicle, engine and component operation and efficiency.  Likewise, the future application of driver assisted automation will help trucks achieve another step in fuel efficiency, reliability and performance by allowing for further optimization of all truck component operations.  Furthermore, technology will help make things like vehicle platooning and other forms of improved vehicle operation a reality for fleets to help save money, time and improve their efficiency.   

The trucking industry is becoming a new dynamic place with ever changing items driven by the need to improve vehicle performance and efficiency for both OEMs, who make the trucks, to the operators who drive them.  Today, the focus on the total vehicle efficiency is critical to help drive cost efficiency and meet stricter regulations regarding carbon emissions. 



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