November 7, 2013
Over the past decade, fuel costs have become a significant factor in your customers’ decision making.
The average diesel price has more than doubled since the early 2000s and currently sits at nearly $4 per gallon. Even with a recent price slide, fuel is still a top expense for today’s fleets.
Alternative fuels provide one option for lowering fuel costs, but most fleets in today’s trucking landscape have turned to fuel efficiency technologies to help lower their overall costs.
Available for tractors and trailers, fuel efficient technology can provide significant fuel economy benefits if used properly. But just like any other marketplace, not every product is created equal.
Some don’t work as well as others.
By educating customers about quality fuel efficient technologies, dealers can help them select the products that are right for their operation and earn their trust.
“I think a dealer can definitely be the contact for these products,” says Mike Roeth, executive director at the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). “We see the dealer market as a big opportunity for us because they can communicate what we find to their customers.”
Formed in 2009, NACFE is a non-profit organization designed to research, test and evaluate freight efficiency products in the heavy-duty marketplace. Roeth says the organization’s goal is to provide fleets with statistics and detailed analysis on how freight efficiency can be improved by promoting quality efficiency technology in the marketplace.
Today’s commercial truck averages 6 to 7 miles per gallon on diesel fuel. Roeth says NACFE wants to help the trucking industry raise that number to 10 mpg and beyond, and says there has never been a better time to do that than now.
“There are a lot of great products coming into the market today for fuel economy,” he says.
By comprehensively testing these products as they are released, Roeth says NACFE identifies the technologies that work best and quickly promote them to the industry. In a business where advancements sometimes take decades to reach acceptance, Roeth says NACFE “wants to hurry that along.”
“If a technology works,” he says, “we want fleets to know.”
This is done through Confidence Reports, which are comprehensive evaluations of a fuel efficient technology available in the heavy-duty marketplace. Written to show the benefits, drawbacks and payback opportunities for all fuel efficient technologies, NACFE released its first report on Tire Pressure Monitoring Devices in August.
Roeth says the reports are sponsored by OEMs, fleets and technology manufacturers, all of which make a concerted effort to help NACFE in its testing. “They find value in getting this information out,” he says.
Andrew Smith, CEO at ATDynamics, says testing is a great way to prove to fleet customers that a technology can legitimately improve fuel economy. ATDynamics puts it aerodynamic devices through four types of testing before releasing them in the market. Combined with NACFE’s work, that much testing assures the product can make a difference.
“Our company is dedicated to bringing the best fuel efficiency technology from the lab to the end user,” he says. “We take great concepts, and build them and test them to be trucker tough.”
Getting that information out is where dealers come in.
According to Roeth, today’s truck dealers are uniquely positioned to provide education, information and advice on the fuel efficiency products available in the marketplace.
Truck dealers can educate customers during the buying and spec’ing process about what products are available that can improve their fuel economy, and the risks and rewards associated with each product as it relates to its usage and performance, he says.
For example, Indianapolis, Ind.-based Stoops Freightliner recently held an alternative fuels symposium at the Hilton Indianapolis North. The symposium was designed to provide Stoops customers with an opportunity to learn more about the rapidly growing alternative fuels market and technology, and how Stoops Freightliner is providing these solutions in the transportation industry.
Presenters included executives from Freightliner, Gain Clean Fuel, CNG Cylinders International and NGV Motori US.
Dealers also have the advantage of being able to install products on site, which can significantly improve adoption rates.
They also have the advantage of being able to install the products on site, which can significantly improve adoption rates.
Roeth says he sees this as a big opportunity for NACFE and truck dealers alike. Both groups want to help fleets, so it only makes sense for them to pair up and work together.
NACFE can produce information dealers can use to help sell customers on fuel efficient technologies, and dealers can work with NACFE to provide feedback on how technologies are received in the marketplace. And since truck OEs, technology manufacturers and fleets are already working with NACFE, Roeth says he knows there’s an opportunity for dealers to do the same.
The end result is a benefit for each side — NACFE gets the critical feedback it needs to direct its research, and dealers are given the results of that research to help sell products to their customer base.
“We’re just trying to help everybody get the facts on the table,” Roeth says.