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Can sharing data lead to increased efficiency?

Fleets can increase efficiency through cooperation.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

The average consumer is benefiting from the oversupply of oil and market volatility, but for the trucking industry, it's a different story.

While consumers are able to enjoy cheap gas for the foreseeable future, fleets have to make the necessary adjustments to cope with the uncertainty of the oil market, because while diesel fuel costs have decreased since 2014, fleets should prepare for them to increase at some point in the future.

When that increase occurs, expenses also go up. Without proper planning, some players within the industry might have to make drastic cuts to keep up with higher fuel costs.

In order to do so, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency created a study that highlights some ways fleets across the country can start to improve fuel efficiency of class 8 trucks in a cost-effective matter.

Different efficiency strategies
According to NACFE's report, multiple barriers currently exist that make it difficult to adopt technologies that will help with fuel efficiency. One such obstacle centers around a lack of confidence about data from performance testing. The goal of the NACFE's Confidence report is to provide fleets with information that will help them make smart investment decisions.

"Sharing this information is needed within the industry."

The testing methods included:

  • On-road
  • Fleet composite evaluation
  • Wind tunnel
  • Track and coastdown
  • Computational fluid dynamics analysis

Of those testing methods, there are multiple factors that can impact testing, such as weather, quality of the roads and driver behavior.

All together, there are benefits and challenges that come with determining efficiency from new technology. Fleets should consider some insights when trying to determine just how much savings there will be from incorporating new fuel-efficient technology.

Benefits of sharing data
As a result of the testing being conducted, large amounts of data are produced at a quick pace. At first glance it can probably be overwhelming. But NACFE recommends that sharing this information is needed within the industry. The organization's study concluded that if information about trucking efficiency is shared, the end result will be better decisions made.

How to foster cooperation
NACFE understands that not all companies are going to willingly share every piece of data, as some of it exposes some secret advantages. However, the company did outline a few insights that result in more cooperation:

  • Recognize the importance of data and sharing
  • Clarify objectives to state what the end goal is with data sharing
  • Use old data as a means of comparison
  • Take real-world applications into consideration

By sharing data and getting a more complete view of fuel and trucking efficiency, fleets can then make better investment decisions when it comes to looking for new trucks or other pieces of equipment.

Fuel and TMS
Fuel optimization and trucking is closely tied together because of existing transportation management systems. Because a TMS serves as the logistics hub in a collaborative network, it can also help with data collection and data sharing.

"The industry cannot afford to sit back and assume current conditions will remain the same."

Information from carriers, shippers and customers all contributes to better trucking efficiency. This data can include route, planning and load optimization. These three categories can be the most important because they reveal how different shipments affect a truck's efficiency, and the same applies for what routes are are planned.

Small variables may not seem like they have such a big impact on efficiency, but these factors cannot be underestimated.

Compared to prior years, the price of fuel is still relatively cheap. In Texas, fuel prices are hovering just under $2 during the early days of March. Even with the cheap prices, the industry cannot afford to sit back and assume current conditions will remain the same moving forward.

Sharing data that is gathered from testing trucks, route optimization and more can contribute to greater efficiency in the trucking industry. Cooperation among competitors may be required, but transportation as a whole may benefit.