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.

Top Ten Ways to Improve Semi-Truck Fuel Efficiency

New semi-truck emissions regulations, along with higher fuel costs, have trucking fleet operators looking harder for additional ways to gain fuel efficiency. 

Record costs for fleets have come in the form of driver pay increases and a jump in repair and maintenance costs, but nothing has been more costly than the rising price of diesel. The American Transportation Research Institute reports that fleet operators saw a more than 35 percent increase in fuel prices last year, bringing per-mile trucking costs to their highest levels on record.

Now the Biden administration has proposed new emissions regulations that put the transportation industry at the center of attention, with goals to speed up the path to zero-emission semi-trucks and stringent new standards to reduce pollution.

But, there are many ways to increase fuel efficiency and reduce fuel costs, including quick and easy options that bring immediate results.

Semi-Truck MPGs at a Glance

Most semi-trucks have one or two fuel tanks that hold up to around 300 gallons of gas combined.

On average, semi-trucks get anywhere from 5.6 miles per gallon (mpg) to about 6.5 mpg. That fuel efficiency can range more widely when trucks are climbing steep uphill grades, which can push fuel efficiency down to 3 mpg, or coasting downhill when fuel efficiency can top 23 mpg. On a long route, fuel is consumed quickly and refueling is always top of mind for drivers.

In the last year, diesel fuel prices have spiked dramatically. Filling up used to cost around $300 to $400, but it can now cost over $1,000 to fill up the same Class 8 truck. Earlier this year the price of diesel fuel jumped by more than $1.50 per gallon in roughly two months, surpassing $6 per gallon in some markets. Since last year, truck fleets’ fuel spending has increased by around 25 percent to 30 percent. According to the American Trucking Associations, semi-trucks burn about 36.5 billion gallons of diesel annually.

New Standards for GHG Emissions Loom

In March of 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule to set stricter pollution and emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles, including semi-trucks. The proposed new standards come as President Biden’s new Inflation Reduction Act becomes law. Hailed as the country’s most ambitious climate change legislation ever, the Act takes aim at greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), proposing to reduce them by about 40 percent by 2030.

The new emissions standards go after smog and soot-forming emissions from heavy-duty gasoline and diesel engines and would place new rules on commercial vehicles. Biden’s Act works more quickly towards zero-emission trucks and buses. Last year the EPA said it wanted about 1.5 percent of new truck sales to be zero emission by 2027, but vehicle and truck manufacturers are jumping on loftier goals. Daimler, for example, says up to 60 percent of its sales will be zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2030. Volvo Group says its going for 100 percent zero-emissions truck sales by 2040.

These new rules and goals are putting pressure on truck fleet operators already dealing with fuel costs and driver shortages. Gaining better fuel efficiency can significantly drive down costs in the face of those pressures.

Best Ways to Gain Fuel Efficiency

From simple and immediate, to long-term and lucrative, there are many ways to get better gas mileage in a truck. Here are ten top ways to gain fuel efficiency.

  1. Use Cruise Control – Inconsistent speed can be a common cause of poor mileage. Using cruise control regulates speed and creates more efficiency.
  2. Avoid Idling – Idling is a waste of gas. Find easy ways to stop idling, including using truck stop showers while waiting in line.
  3. Keep Up on Maintenance – Make sure trucks receive regular maintenance checks as recommended by the manufacturer. Consider using a lower-viscosity oil.
  4. Improve Truck Aerodynamics – There are a number of products on the market that can improve truck aerodynamics and significantly reduce fuel costs, including TruckWings, which close the gap between the cab and trailer to reduce drag. Other aerodynamic devices include wheel covers, roof farings and side extenders.
  5. Plan Ahead – Pre-plan your trip to avoid unnecessary stops and use the latest GPS equipment to keep routes accurate.
  6. Lighten the Load – Reduce excess weight by removing unnecessary cargo or equipment. Every extra pound counts.
  7. Don’t Speed – Drive at the posted speed limit or slightly below. This cuts down on wind resistance which, in turn, cuts down on fuel consumption.
  8. Easy on the Brakes – Use momentum to your advantage and avoid sudden accelerations and excessive braking, which increase fuel consumption.
  9. Use Low-Rolling Tires – Low-rolling resistance tires made for trucks require less energy to move and can cut down on fuel use.
  10. Minimize AC Use – When and where possible, cut back on how much the AC is used. Air conditioning can be another drag on fuel use.

Get Started Today

Pressure from rising fuel prices and driver shortages, along with new legislation aimed at reducing emissions produced by trucks, is giving fleet owners and operators a lot to think about. But easy solutions and smart steps can make a big difference almost immediately. Using fuel efficiency measures can add up quickly and provide relief.

TruckWings can help fleets reduce drag and cut fuel costs by 3% to 6% annually, which can be thousands of dollars in savings per truck, leading to millions of dollars per fleet.

TruckWings is the only fully automated aerodynamic device that works without driver interaction. Drivers can count on it to deploy when speed goes above 52mph, and retract when speed goes below 50mph. So there’s no need to take their eyes off their driving or their hands off the wheel. Closing the gap reduces buffeting and trailer sway in cross-winds outperforming even the longest side-extenders on the market today.

Give us a call today to find out more about quick installation.

How to Harness Aerodynamics to Reduce Drag, Improve Fuel Efficiency for Fleets

Automation, Targeted Design Boost Performance by Closing the Gap

Improving fleet performance, reducing emissions and reducing fuel costs are top priorities for the trucking industry, especially as fuel costs soar and green policy pressures increase. Fleet operators searching for innovations and solutions have eyed better aerodynamics as an easy answer.

The pocket of air between the tractor and trailer – or gap – is the most common cause for drag, which costs money and wastes fuel. How to close the gap while a truck is at highway speeds, yet maintain maneuverability on surface streets has posed a challenge for operators.

Extra long, static cab extenders have provided some relief. But, while they help close the gap and reduce drag, they interfere with trailer clearance for tight turns, making them a potential nightmare for in-town driving conditions.

Automated design has uncovered a better way to close the gap. Closing the gap reduces buffeting and trailer sway in cross-winds outperforming even the longest side-extenders on the market today.

Automation in Aerodynamics Delivers New Option
Introduced by TruckLabs in 2015, TruckWings is a tractor-mounted device that has unlocked a new frontier in Class 8 efficiency through the use of active aerodynamics. Developed by hardware engineers, software developers, and data scientists to systematically manage the gap in all conditions, TruckWings is innovating the industry.
Closing the gap reduces buffeting and trailer sway in cross-winds outperforming even the longest side-extenders on the market today.

The TruckWings device requires zero driver input to deploy or retract, delivering an automated solution that keeps people and property safe, while achieving the savings and sustainability improvements fleet owners are seeking.

How Do TruckWings Work?
TruckWings is the only fully automated solution that works without driver interaction.
As a smart device, TruckWings receives real-time information about the speed of a tractor-trailer to determine when to open and close. When the vehicle reaches 52 mph, a signal is sent from the cab to automatically deploy the TruckWings. When speed dips to 50 mph or below, TruckWings automatically retract before the truck needs to make sharp turns.
The standalone TruckWings controller is installed on the truck’s CAN J1939 data link. Additionally, a sensor scans the area behind the TruckWings to ensure adequate clearance to the trailer exists.

Five of the 10 largest fleets in North America have installed TruckWings on their trucks, logging over 400 million miles. Each one makes the savings and sustainability impact of taking two vehicles off the road every year.

TruckWings reduces the energy lost in the tractor-trailer gap, lowering wind drag, improving fuel economy and reducing carbon emissions. Most fleets see 3-6% improvement in fuel efficiency. Each TruckWings device reduces 20,000 lbs/yr in carbon emissions. Analysis and customer reviews also confirm an improvement in vehicle stability at higher crosswinds by reducing the side forces acting on the trailer. This leads to improved safety and vehicle control.

As more fleet operators turn to solutions that drive down fuel costs and improve emissions rates, TruckWings automation is delivering a powerful boost to fuel efficiency and sustainability efforts.