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.