7 Types of Fleet Technology for Controlling Costs

Intro

Fuel costs, inflation, and supply chain disruptions are just some of the reasons fleet managers and owners are looking to trim expenses. And while it may seem counterintuitive, now might be the best time to invest in fleet technology. 

Fleet management technologies can help control costs in several ways — from improving fuel economy to preventing crashes. In this post, we’ll talk about existing and emerging fleet tech that can lower fleet costs in 2023 and beyond.


7 Money-Saving Fleet Technologies

 

1. Active Aerodynamics

Aerodynamic drag decreases fuel economy and increases fuel costs. There are a number of devices — such as wheel covers and chassis fairings — fleets can use to reduce drag, but static devices may not capture the data fleet managers need to evaluate their overall fuel economy. 

Active aerodynamic devices like TruckWings do collect data that fleet managers need, and they can generate significant savings across large fleets. 

How they work: 

TruckWings is a software-powered device that communicates with fleet managers in real-time, using telematics (informatics + telecommunications). It installs easily in just a few hours and requires no driver input to operate. 

At driving speeds above 52 mph, the wings automatically deploy to close the gap between the tractor and trailer. Closing this gap improves fuel economy by reducing downstream turbulence, buffeting, and trailer sway. And when driving speed falls below 50 mph, the wings retract automatically, so they never interfere with low-speed maneuverability. 

Each TruckWings device trims carbon emissions by 20,000 lbs/yr per vehicle and reduces fuel consumption by 3-6% on average. TruckWings is also transferable, so fleet managers that are retiring trucks can simply remove TruckWings and attach it to newer trucks.


2. Predictive Maintenance

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck — an annual three-day inspection of commercial trucks in North America — aims to decrease truck crashes by removing faulty trucks and problematic drivers from the roads. In 2022, the CVSA placed 12,456 commercial trucks out of service for mechanical and operational problems.

These were the top violations among U.S. vehicles: 

Source

Predictive maintenance technology can prevent costly service disruptions and prevent accidents. 

How it works: 

Using telematics to monitor vehicle functions, predictive maintenance systems base service not just on mileage but on actual driving conditions and other factors. For example, trucks that routinely drive through densely populated or mountainous areas may require brake service more frequently than trucks that follow mostly flat, suburban routes. Telematics helps fleet managers customize service schedules without having to manage that process manually. 

3. Intelligent Tire Monitoring

Underinflated tires can increase fuel consumption, and overinflated tires — particularly on hot roadways — increase the risk of tire failure. Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) identify those problems and alert drivers. But drivers may be too busy to respond to alerts or relay them to fleet managers. 

Telematics-integrated TPMS can help prevent tire failure and ensure tires are optimally inflated for fuel economy

How it works: 

TPMS with telematics monitors tires for several types of faults and communicates alerts to fleet managers in real-time. That means managers can determine when and how to remedy tire problems, as well as analyze stored data to identify recurring problems. 

4. Tolling Software

For large fleets that travel nationwide, the cost of tolls can be significant. Even when using transponders or RFID tags to pay tolls automatically, fleets might be overpaying if toll companies don’t apply the correct discounts or misclassify the truck. One PrePass customer lost $15,000 in toll charges over two years because the tolling agency classified a five-axle truck as having seven axles.

Third-party tolling software can help fleets reduce toll costs, as well as prevent toll violations and misuse of transponders. 

How it works: 

This software integrates all tolling information in a single platform, which means fleet managers don’t have to monitor or reconcile toll payments across multiple agencies. The software reviews tolls for accuracy, ensures fleets receive the right discounts, and identifies misclassification of trucks. 

Occasionally, automatic toll readers don’t capture a vehicle’s information, which means that the vehicle could trigger a toll violation. Tolling software catches this error. It also provides the tolling data that fleet managers need to identify whether drivers are misusing transponders for personal use, and it reveals how the time of day and specific travel routes affect overall toll costs.  

5. Blockchain Logistics

“Blockchain” may sound complex, but it’s just a cloud-based, shared digital ledger that can’t be altered unless all users agree to the change. The permanence of blockchain entries can help trucking companies get paid faster, prevent shipment disputes, and easily monitor every step in the delivery process. 

How it works: 

Blockchain ledger entries are called “blocks,” and each block contains an embedded record of the previous block, so no party can retroactively edit information. Collaborators can also encode “smart contracts” in blockchain ledgers — such as triggering a carrier payment when the customer receives a delivery.  

While this technology could simplify logistics for fleets, we probably won’t see widespread adoption in 2023, as the Blockchain in Transportation Alliance (BITA) Standards Council is still developing standards for its use.

6. Collision Warning Systems

According to the American Transportation Research Institute, the median payout in trucking-related personal injury lawsuits was $1.75 million between 2006 and 2020. And even when a crash doesn’t cause injury, it can still be costly, in terms of vehicle damage, property damage, and higher insurance premiums. 

Investing in collision warning systems is one way to reduce the risk of crashes across a fleet. Some newer model tractors — like the Volvo VNR Series — have integrated crash avoidance technology. Collision warning systems are also available as standalone technology that connects to onboard diagnostics systems.

How they work: 

Collision warning systems use external cameras and/or LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors to detect crash hazards. When the system senses a threat, it alerts the driver with a visual cue; it may also initiate braking or guide the steering wheel.

7. Driver Monitoring

Driver monitoring can lower costs in three ways:

  1. It identifies behaviors that could lead to costly crashes.
  2. It helps fleet owners identify, reward, and retain top performers, reducing costs associated with turnover. 
  3. It captures essential driving data that could help trucking company defendants in crash-related litigation. 

How it works: 

A driver-facing camera is the most direct way to monitor driver behavior. It allows a real-time, remote view of the driver, and it can trigger actions — for example, sounding an alarm if the driver appears to be nodding off or drifting across the road. 

Monitoring systems may also use sensors in the same way a “black box” records airplane events. Should a crash occur, this technology can reveal facts like whether a driver braked before a crash. 


Reduce Fuel Costs and Emissions With TruckWings

These are just some of the fleet management technologies that can reduce costs, and we’ll likely see more companies rolling out fleet tech products in the coming years.

Investing in new tech can be a tough decision for fleet managers already concerned about costs. Proven ROI, however, might sway cautious fleet managers to adopt new technologies. 

TruckLabs is designed to perform for ten years or 1 million miles and requires minimal maintenance. We’ve also validated our product claims with extensive testing, and our customers include five of the ten largest fleets in North America. 
Trust the data. Choose TruckWings, and start lowering your fuel costs now.

Will CNG Trucks Help Fleet Owners Reduce Emissions?

Sustainability has become an important issue in the trucking industry, with many fleet owners and their customers pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. Even as diesel fuel has become “cleaner” than ever before, diesel-powered trucks are still a top cause of harmful emissions. 

In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint — and reduce fuel costs — some fleet owners are looking at alternatives to diesel, one of which is CNG.

What Is CNG?

CNG — compressed natural gas — is a processed byproduct of fossil fuels in the ground. It’s an environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline, propane, and diesel and can power trucks with CNG-compatible engines. 

According to ACT Research’s Alternative Fuels Quarterly, in the first five months of 2021, sales of Class 8 natural gas trucks rose 19% in the U.S. and Canada compared to the same time period in 2020. 

Advantages of CNG trucks

These are some of the advantages of CNG-powered trucks:

Reduced emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions are 20% lower for CNG trucks than diesel trucks. 

Lower fuel costs

In July 2022, of eight conventional and alternative fuels, CNG had the lowest price, at $3.12 per DGE (diesel gallon equivalent). It also had the smallest April-to-July price increase.

Source

Accurate cost forecasts

CNG is abundantly available in the U.S., so it’s not subject to the price fluctuations associated with foreign oil, or major supply chain disruptions. That means fleet managers can accurately forecast fuel costs

Enhanced safety

CNG is non-toxic, and because it’s gas, it can’t contaminate groundwater or soil in the way liquid diesel can. In the event of a tank rupture, CNG quickly dissipates into the atmosphere.

Unlike diesel trucks, CNG trucks produce no noxious fumes — that’s a big benefit for sanitation workers and other people who work on or near Class 8 trucks. 

Quieter operation

CNG engines are 10 decibels quieter than diesel engines. A U.S. Department of Energy case study reported that after the New York City Department of Sanitation began using CNG trucks, workers could listen to the radio on routes, which wasn’t possible in diesel trucks. 

Incentives

The federal government offers funding and grants for municipalities and public institutions seeking to switch to CNG-powered trucks. In Indiana, the City of Portage Street and Sanitation Department replaced its garbage truck fleet with CNG trucks, thanks to the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. 

Barriers to CNG truck adoption

Despite the obvious benefits of natural gas trucks, there are some barriers to widespread usage.

Fewer fueling stations

CNG fueling stations are located mostly in densely populated areas. Depending on transit routes, some fleets may be unable to use CNG trucks. 

Source

Lack of trained technicians

CNG engines run cleaner than diesel engines, which means fleets may need fewer scheduled service appointments. But finding CNG-trained technicians and shops could be a challenge. 

Shops that service CNG engines must be CNG-approved and have fire marshal certification for proper ventilation. Only certified high-pressure technicians can work on the fuel tanks, and fuel system inspectors must have CNG-specific training.  

Cost

Businesses that don’t qualify for grants may find the cost of CNG trucks prohibitive. Conversion kits for heavy-duty vehicles start at $1,875 and don’t include the fuel tank. New Class 8 tractors cost about $170,000, compared to $120,000 for a diesel tractor. 

Technology for Better Trucking

Whether you’re switching to CNG or sticking with diesel, there are steps you can take to lower your fuel costs, fuel usage, and emissions.

TruckWings by TruckLabs is a drag-reduction device with aerodynamic panels that close the gap between tractor and trailer when speed exceeds 52 mph. The panels deploy automatically, and retract when speed drops below 50 mph. This durable, low-maintenance solution takes less than two hours to install and works for most tractors — both diesel and CNG.

Learn more about how TruckWings can help you cut costs and lower emissions, with or without CNG trucks.    

11 Effective Fuel Saving Devices for Semi Trucks

Over the last two years, fuel prices have seen a dramatic increase.

In May of 2020, gas prices reached a $1.961 per gallon low, then steadily climbed to an all-time high of $5.032 per gallon in June of 2022. Diesel prices mirrored this trend, with a low of $2.392 per gallon and a high of $5.754 during the same period.

With inflation on the rise, it wouldn’t be surprising if even higher prices are right around the corner.

What does this mean for trucking fleets? Fuel typically accounts for 60% or more of operating costs, so steep fuel prices can quickly decimate a fleet budget. The simplest way to offset high prices is to use less fuel but the question is, how?

Some fleets may consider adding EVs to their lineup, but the acquisition and operational costs typically don’t offset fuel cost savings. A more affordable approach is to purchase fuel saving devices for semi trucks, which can easily be added to existing fleet assets.

Which are the best fuel saving devices for semi trucks? These 11 semi trucks fuel saving devices can help fleets become more fuel efficient and make up for rising fuel costs.

  1. TruckWings

How it works: Did you know the gap between a truck’s cab and trailer is a fuel waster? TruckWings closes this gap to reduce drag, improve stability, and increase fuel efficiency.

The tractor-mounted device deploys automatically at speeds above 52 mph to improve aerodynamics and reduce buffeting and trailer sway in crosswinds. The device then retracts when the speed dips below 50 mph. No action is needed by the driver to deploy TruckWings — eyes stay on the road and hands stay on the wheel.

Results: Users of TruckWings see 3-6% in fuel savings. That can add up to thousands of dollars in savings per truck and millions across an entire fleet. And since TruckWings is equipped with real-time telematics, fleets can easily track their return on investment.

TruckWings outperforms even the longest side-extenders on the market, making it one of the best fuel saving devices for semi trucks. So perhaps it’s not surprising that half of the 10 largest North American fleets have used TruckWings, which have stood up across 500 million miles.

Each TruckWings device also reduces 20,000 lbs/yr in carbon emissions, or the equivalent of taking two passenger cars off roadways every year, so the sustainability gains can be huge across an entire fleet.

Ryder System, Inc. tested TruckWings across 2.7 million miles and saw a 4.1% mpg improvement.

You can too.

  1. Trailer Skirts

How they work: Trailer skirts extend along the side of the trailer, from the landing gear to the front face of the front trailer axle. The most effective trailer skirts extend as low to the ground as possible. Also called “fairing,” these devices reduce aerodynamic drag on the trailer.

Results: These fuel saving devices for semi trucks typically offer up to a 5% improvement in fuel economy.

  1. Roof Fairings

How they work: Roof fairings are similar to trailer skirts but are installed on the roof of tractor-trailers instead of along the side. These fuel saving devices for semi trucks improve aerodynamics by closing the gap when a significant height difference exists between a cab and a container.

Results: Depending on the type, roof fairings can reduce fuel use by 3-15%. However, these are not the best fuel saving devices for semi trucks pulling flatbeds because they can’t close the gap. Roof fairings would not be needed for semi trucks that can reduce drag simply by raising the tire height.

  1. Low Rolling Resistance Tires

How they work: Rolling resistance — the friction that occurs when the surface of tires meets the road — accounts for 30-33% of the total fuel cost of a modern, aerodynamic Class 8 truck. Low rolling resistance (LRR) tires lower the resistance to improve fuel economy.

Results: A 10% drop in rolling resistance equates to about a 1% improvement in fuel economy. Fleet owners should be aware that LRR tires can wear out quickly, and because most manufacturers don’t publish their rolling resistance coefficients, there can be big differences between tire options, even if they are SmartWay certified.

  1. GPS Route Planners

How they work: GPS route planners are fuel saving devices because they optimize routes to reduce the miles driven, thereby reducing fuel use.

Results: Every mile shaved off a trip saves fuel. Results of this semi truck fuel saving device will vary based on miles traveled and how efficient routes were before implementing the GPS solution.

  1. Tire Inflation Systems

How they work: Tire monitoring or tire inflation systems keep tires inflated to their proper pressure. Some systems may require a driver to inflate tires when notified pressure is low, while others may automatically inflate the tires.

Results: Proper tire inflation can improve fuel economy by 0.6% on average and up to 3%.

  1. Wheel Covers

How they work: Wheel covers improve aerodynamics by reducing drag around the wheels.

Results: Wheel cover kits can reduce fuel consumption by approximately 1% for both tractors and trailers. Combined, this equates to 2.61 gallons of fuel saved for every 1,000 miles driven.

  1. Electronic Engine Monitoring

How they work: Electronic engine monitors measure driving performance to identify fuel-wasting behavior, such as hard braking and rapid acceleration. 

Results: Results will vary for these fuel saving devices for semi trucks based on how much driving habits have improved but could have a 20-30% improvement on overall fuel efficiency.

  1. Automated Manual Transmissions

How they work: Automated manual transmissions (AMTs) have a manual gearbox, but instead of requiring the driver to shift, the clutch and gearshifts are controlled electronically to maximize engine use. AMTs monitor changing roadway conditions like road grade, acceleration, and vehicle speed, then instantly shift to the most efficient gear, saving fuel in the process.  

Results: AMTs improve fuel economy by 1% to 3%.

  1. Anti-Idle Devices

How they work: Truck drivers idle engines for good reasons: keeping the engine block warm, heating and cooling the cabin when they rest, and powering cabin appliances. But doing so consumes almost a gallon of diesel fuel per hour and constitutes nearly 8% of total fuel use. Anti-idling devices provide alternative power sources to idling for these functions.

Results: A direct-fired heater that warms the engine block and provides heat for the cabin reduces fuel use during idling by 75%. Another anti-idle device is an auxiliary power unit (APU) — a generator powered by diesel fuel or batteries to heat and cool the cabin and power appliances. Diesel APUs reduce fuel consumption by 75% or more over idling.

  1. Adaptive and Predictive Cruise Control

How they work: Adaptive cruise control enhances regular cruise control using a radar or laser sensor to sense the traffic ahead and adjust vehicle speed to maintain a safe distance. Predictive cruise control uses GPS to analyze the topography of upcoming sections of road for improved uphill and downhill driving.

Results: Cruise control, predictive cruise control, and adaptive cruise control can reduce fuel consumption by 1-10%. 


Reduce Your Fuel Costs 

When it comes to fuel saving devices for semi trucks, fleet owners have options.

If you’re ready to improve your fleet efficiency, learn more about how TruckWings can help you save up to 6% in fuel costs.