Years ago, the truck spec’d at the time of purchase was the truck you had five years later, with little or no chance of enhancing performance later down the road. Today, however, data is allowing trucks to continuously achieve performance improvements. Buyers are no longer bound by the original specification of the truck.
This is where companies like Fleet Advantage, a company that provides IT-based solutions for fleets and other companies, come in.
“Our business is managing data that we get from customer vehicles,” explains Mike Spence, vice president of Fleet Advantage. “Every truck has an onboard computer, which extracts the information. At the end of each month, we download the data and identify the top 10 or 12 things that we believe are important to get the best fuel economy out of a truck that we can. We pull that information and then we review it and put it on a portal.
“We use that information to glean driving habits and company policies. Then we make a recommendation on what should be done to improve fuel economy on those vehicles,” Spence adds.
He points out four main data points to track:
• Road cruise speed (should max out at 65 MPH);
• Idle time;
• Percentage of time spent in high gear; and
• Percentage of time spent in cruise.
These four are the main data points studied by the Fleet Advantage IT team and the basis they use to make their recommendations to clients.
“The secret is to get the road speed of the truck operating in the sweet spot of the engine—which is usually around 1,300 RPM. If those two are not in sync, we know there is a gearing issue and we can fix it or make a recommendation,” says Spence.
As data collection has improved, it has become a large part of how fleets do their business.
”Today, 70% of the economy of a vehicle is controlled by the spec and the computer on the vehicle,” he said. “So you can put a driver with bad habits in the truck that is spec’d properly and you will still have good fuel economy. Ten or 15 years ago it was just the opposite of that.”
Fleets won’t have to wait too long to see improvement after making a change.
“Change can happen quickly—if, say, you have 10 trucks that were mistakenly set at 70 MPH, and you correct that to 65 MPH, you’ll see immediate improvement. But with minor tweaks it takes a bit longer.”
So how much improvement can a company that utilizes this data see?
“Sometimes we see a 5%, 6%, even 7% improvement in fuel economy,” Spence says. “You can nurse great improvement out of a vehicle now. These tools are like magic in your hands.”