Last month, the Fleet Equipment team set off on a whirlwind trade show schedule that put us at three different shows in four weeks—the NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Ind., the TMC Annual Meeting in Nashville and finally, the big one, the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Spend even a couple minutes walking the show floors and a singular theme from equipment manufacturers in all industry segments emerges. You guessed it—fuel economy.
Manufacturers large and small touted fuel savings percentages from a respectable 1 to 2% up to a jaw-dropping 9%, but the question remains: How are they squeezing more efficiency out of the equipment? The majority of manufacturers explained that most of the savings were found through refinements in today’s equipment technology and the integration of systems.
Automated manual (AMT) and automatic transmissions, for example, were a big talking point for many OEs. Just look at the SmartAdvantage Powertrain from Cummins and Eaton that reportedly delivers an additional 3% to 6%. Likewise, the Allison TC10 with FuelSense touts an additional 5% savings, according to the company. AMT and automatic transmissions were outfitted in many of the OE’s show trucks. Kenworth’s T680, the company’s fuel efficiency flagship, for example, featured an AMT, but it also captured many of the other equipment refinements that aims to generate more savings – a factory-installed aerodynamics package and PACCAR MX-13 engine.
Aerodynamics was also a big bullet point on the Western Star 4900 set-back (SB) outfitted with the fuel efficiency (FE) package, highlighting an aerodynamic hood, wrap-around bumper and a Detroit DD15 featuring the BlueTech SCR. According to the company, it represents the most improved fuel economy results of any Western Star Truck model.
This year, it was all about the refinement and integration of existing technologies. While the focus was clearly set on diesel-powered systems, newer natural gas- and propane-driven trucks also had a presence in OE booths. Even though their segments are growing in the marketplace, the overall sentiment was that these fuel alternatives are just one answer – not an overall solution for the industry. A fleet featuring natural gas or propane trucks may be the perfect solution for a fleet who can put the proper infrastructure in place, but it’s going to be on a fleet-by-fleet basis. The question is more: “How can the fleet make it work?” Rather than, “How can the industry make it work?”
You might be asking yourself, “Where’s the next big thing?” Walking around the show floor it was clear—the next generation of equipment is already here. The next big thing is results. It terms of meeting current and upcoming efficiency requirements and, more importantly, the expectations of their customers, OEs are showing the industry that working together and integrating systems to achieve the best possible results for today’s fleets is the next wave of innovation.