Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Even though semi-trucks aren’t known for their fuel efficiency, there are steps you can take to help improve how much fuel you’re using. In a previous article, we talked about how you can drive your truck more efficiently. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the quick and relatively cheap changes you can make to your truck to improve fuel efficiency. All of these suggestions shouldn’t take a large investment and are changes that can be made in a short amount of time.
Pay Attention to Aerodynamics
Aerodynamics contributes to 50% of your truck’s overall fuel economy. This is why one of the goals when it comes to spec’ing your truck should be to minimize aerodynamic drag. Aerodynamic drag is the force that makes it harder for a truck to go forward and it’s caused when air is no longer smoothly flowing around the truck and trailer.
There are many improvements you can make to your truck to improve its aerodynamics. Below is a list of a few of the most common.
Drive Fenders - The first chance to allow air to pass smoothly along the rest of the vehicle
Cab Extenders - Reduces the airflow between the tractor and trailer where there is often a larger gap
Wheel Covers - Closes gaps in the wheel to prevent air from getting into the crevices
Side Skirts - Prevent air from going underneath the trailer by keeping it flowing smoothly along the side
Trailer Tail - The tapered shape reduces drag from the low-pressure wake created behind the trailer
These are just a few of the more common upgrades you can make to your truck and trailer for it to be more fuel-efficient. The idea is to have everything working together on the truck and trailer to make the entire tractor-trailer as fuel-efficient as possible.
In addition to wheel covers, there are many things you need to pay attention to when it comes to your tires in order to improve fuel efficiency. One thing drivers are beginning to do is move to wide-based tires instead of conventional dual rib tires. Wide-based tires may help increase overall MPG by up to 4% due to their lower rolling resistance.
Keep in mind that if you decide to put new tires on your truck that it takes them approximately 35,000 to 50,000 miles before they are properly broken in. This will be when you really begin to notice a change in your fuel efficiency. Tires that are properly worn-in can give up to a 7% increase in fuel economy.
Make sure to also keep your tires properly inflated. Not only will it help keep you safe and prevent possible blowouts, but if every tire is underinflated by at least 10 psi, you will see a 1% reduction in your fuel economy.
Using fuel-efficient lubricants is a change you can make with little to no increased investment that can help improve your fuel efficiency. Lubricants limit the damage of important components of the vehicle including the engine, transmission, and drivetrain. Without lubricants, these parts of your vehicle will grind together causing wear and tear.
If you’re looking for fuel-efficient lubricant, you should look for a low-viscosity lubricant that meets your vehicle’s requirements. Manufacturers generally consider low-viscosity blends as “fuel economy” lubricants, since the fuel-saving potential can be significant. Low-viscosity lubricants are less resistant to flow than conventional lubricants, helping reduce friction and energy losses. With a good low-viscosity lubricant, you could see between 0.5% and 2% savings in fuel efficiency depending on speeds and the temperature.
While fuel-efficient lubricants typically cost more than conventional lubricants, for most trucks, the fuel cost savings generally outweigh the higher product cost. The combination of low-viscosity engine oils and drivetrain lubricants can save up to 500 gallons of fuel per year. This doesn’t even include the additional cost savings due to reduced component wear and maintenance.
Think About Your Fuel
Make sure you’re aware of the type of diesel you’re using and the amount you’re using. The type of diesel you’re using will make a difference in the performance of your truck. There will be a difference in fuel depending on the seasons and the weather. Make sure you’re using thicker fuel in the winter in places that will be cold. You’ll need to keep this in mind if you’re going from hot to cold temperatures or cold to hot temperatures.
It’s also important to not overfill your tank. High temperatures can lead to fuel expanding in the tanks, which can lead to overflowing, which can lead to wasted fuel, which is wasted money. Too much fuel can also lead to extra weight which will lead us to our next point.
Eliminate Unnecessary Weight
Aside from extra fuel and big changes you need to make to your truck or trailer, there are ways to eliminate extra weight. Obviously, you have to haul the weight of the load you’re carrying. But there are other things you can eliminate. Take out anything you don’t need in your cab such as unnecessary tools or extreme amounts of food and clothing.
Anything that adds significant weight to your truck should have significant use to you. Make sure what you’re carrying is what you need.
Keep Your Equipment Maintained
Pre-trip and post-trip inspections should be a part of your daily routine when you’re on the road. If you notice things that are broken or damaged on your truck, make sure you’re getting them looked at and potentially fixed. On top of avoiding major maintenance down the road, you can discover leaks, damage, corrosion, and other factors that could harm your fuel efficiency.
A couple of simple things you should make sure stay maintained are wheel alignments and air filters. Wheels fighting against each other will decrease fuel efficiency and a clogged air filter can increase fuel consumption.
Reduce Idle Time
On average, truck drivers idle six to eight hours a day and as many as 250 to 300 days a year. Idling increases fuel consumption as well as increases engine maintenance costs. When you’re parked somewhere for a while, it’s better that you turn the engine off instead of idle.
Auxiliary power units (APUs) and generators are a good alternative to idling your truck when parked. APUs are diesel-powered engines installed on the truck that can provide air conditioning, heat, and electrical power as well as run accessories like lights, equipment, and appliances.
These are just a few of the ways you can make your truck more fuel-efficient without having to buy completely new equipment or making expensive upgrades. The money spent on these changes will pay for itself after saving money you would’ve spent on fuel. It will take some trial and error to find out what needs to be done to make your truck as fuel-efficient as possible.