Focus on Fuel Efficiency

Focus on Fuel Efficiency

In today’s trucking environment, efficiency is the name of the game. Anyone can move goods from Point A to Point B. But to succeed in the hypercompetitive trucking industry, you need to get the goods where they’re going more efficiently than the other guys.

By now, the low-hanging fruit has been picked. We know all about the benefits of aerodynamic cab designs and low rolling resistance tires. Fleets looking to further their fuel economy improvements are now turning their attention to the powertrain and exploring new ways to specify components so that they are operating the most efficient vehicles possible.

The shift towards automation
One way fleets are looking to improve their fuel-efficiency is by spec’ing automated transmissions. Currently, about 20% of Class 8 trucks are being ordered with automated manual transmissions and that’s expected to grow to 30% within three to five years.

Automated transmissions allow the least experienced drivers in a fleet to achieve fuel economy that’s nearly equal to that achieved by the most experienced. One fleet that’s making the transition is Con-way Truckload, which recently announced a 550-truck order, 540 of which will be equipped with automated transmissions.

Prior to this purchase announced in May 2014, Con-way Truckload had just 50 automated transmissions in its fleet. It hopes the order will help attract new drivers who may have been intimidated by the prospect of learning to shift a manual, while also allowing them to quickly become efficient drivers.

Greater innovation…
Automated transmissions can improve a fleet’s fuel economy by providing even novice drivers with the ability to shift gears expertly and effortlessly. The electronic clutch actuator and control logic in Eaton’s automated transmissions allows for intelligent shifting and maximizes time spent within the rpm band known as the engine’s sweet spot, where the greatest fuel economy is attained.

Eaton recently unveiled one of the most significant advances in automated transmission design in many years, with the launch of its Fuller Advantage Series automated manual, which eliminated the oil cooler. This was made possible with the introduction of a new Precision Lubrication system that requires significantly less oil and reduces churn-related parasitic losses.

Eliminating the oil cooler and its associated hardware, combined with the more widespread use of aluminum, has also allowed Eaton to shave up to 82 pounds from the Fuller Advantage Series automated transmission. Overall, the Fuller Advantage Series delivers fuel savings of nearly 2%.

…and greater collaboration
Eaton also has offered improved fuel efficiency to its customers by working more closely with its OEM partners to produce integrated powertrains in which each component is optimized for maximum efficiency. Examples of greater integration include:


The SmartAdvantage Powertrain: Cummins and Eaton together produced the SmartAdvantage integrated powertrain that reduces fuel consumption by 3-6%. It consists of the Cummins ISX engine mated to a Fuller Advantage automated transmission.


Integration with PACCAR: The Fuller Advantage Series automated 10-speed transmission is now being offered on select Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks with the PACCAR MX-13 engine. This optimized powertrain package is expected to save operators 2-4% in fuel economy.


Integration with Navistar: The Fuller Advantage Series automated 10-speed transmission is now being offered on select ProStar trucks with the N13 engine. This optimized powertrain package is expected to save operators up to 5% in fuel economy.


The UltraShift PLUS LSE: This 16-speed overdrive automated mechanical transmission was designed exclusively for Navistar and is available in International trucks powered by the International MaxxForce 13 and Cummins ISX engines. It uses small step gearing for efficient shifting and provides fuel savings of 2-4% compared to non-optimized components.

Direct drive vs overdrive: Which is more efficient?
Fleet owners looking to maximize their fuel-efficiency must consider the benefits of direct drive and overdrive transmissions and decide which technology works best for their specific application. While direct drive transmissions are reputed to be the most efficient option, that’s not always the case when you look at the powertrain as a complete system.

“Direct drive and overdrive transmissions have existed side by side for some time, but there’s certainly a lot of confusion as to which gives you the greatest efficiency,” says Evan Vijithakumara, global product strategy manager with Eaton.

Direct drive transmissions do operate more efficiently in ideal conditions, over flat terrain at highway speeds. However, throw in some hills, higher average road speeds and some off-road requirements and overdrive transmissions are often the better choice.

“While direct drive is more efficient as a transmission, that doesn’t guarantee it will be more efficient for the system - the system being the engine, transmission and axle combination,” Vijithakumara explains.

Today, there is more interplay than ever before between the various drivetrain components. Spec’ing a direct drive transmission in an inappropriate application can place additional strain on downstream components. “With a direct drive transmission, the torque is passed straight through the driveline, so when you have an adverse event - moving from an icy road to dry pavement, or backing into a loading dock - it can really transmit a lot of force further downstream, which could be potentially damaging,” Vijithakumara says.

Eaton encourages customers to work closely with their Roadranger field service reps to determine which transmission works best in their specific application. To tap into their expertise, call 800-826-HELP (4357) or visit www.Roadranger.com.

The lowdown on downspeeding
One of the key benefits to come from Eaton’s increased collaboration with its engine parters has been the ability to allow engine downspeeding. An example of this can be found in the SmartAdvantage powertrain package developed with Cummins.

“The big game-changer for fuel economy is the ability to downspeed,” said Matt Erdmann, Eaton’s program manager for the SmartAdvantage powertrain. “That is absolutely a joint effort. Cummins sharing with us how their engine works most efficiently has enabled us to stay in the sweet spot as much as possible.”

With the SmartAdvantage powertrain, the ISX15 engine cruises at highway speeds at about 1,150 rpm - about 200 rpm slower than it would traditionally have operated at. Every 100 rpm reduction in engine speed translates to a fuel economy improvement of about 1.5%.


Fuel economy in vocational truck applications
Traditionally, fuel economy was an afterthought for vocational truck operators. But that has changed. While vocational truck buyers still need a vehicle that’s rugged and dependable, they’re also finding it’s possible to be fuel-efficient, too.

Eaton’s UltraShift PLUS automated transmissions bring the same efficiency benefits realized by linehaul fleets to the vocational segment. The UltraShift PLUS line features vocational transmissions - including 10-, 11- and 13-18-speed models- that provide the same gear ratios and rugged durability these customers are accustomed to, but with the benefits of automation.

“I think fuel efficiency is definitely a highlight for the UltraShift PLUS,” said Molly Doyle, automation and vocational sales manager with Eaton. “You’re never going to beat an owner-operator who has been driving for 20 years and knows how to drive a manual 18-speed and can see the road ahead of them. But when you’re talking about owning a fleet of 50 dump trucks and you have maybe three drivers that fit that profile, what you can expect is that the UltraShift PLUS is going to bring that fleet average up.”

Manuals can be fuel-efficient, too
In the right hands, the time-tested manual transmission can be a fuel-efficient option as well. In fact, it’s tough to beat an experienced, well-trained driver who’s adept at shifting gears. Such drivers are becoming more difficult to find, but if your fleet does not struggle with some of the issues that are driving automation (i.e., high driver turnover and an influx of less-experienced drivers), then a manual transmission can be a highly efficient option.

The Fuller Advantage Series manual, the latest-generation manual transmissions from Eaton, uses a Precision Lubrication system to eliminate the oil cooler for reduced weight and improved fuel-efficiency.

“If you’re confident in your drivers, you’re not having non-warrantable type maintenance issues or some of the challenges that are causing fleets to go to automation, then a manual is still a fantastic option,” says Eaton’s Molly Doyle. “I really believe the great thing about working with Eaton is we give you the power of choice.”

To learn more about Eaton’s commercial vehicle products and services, visit www.Roadranger.com