Fuel Cost Savings: Technology and Process Improvements

I ran across an article that peaked my interest yesterday. It is called Heavy Duty Computing and it is by Jon Fortt. I was pulled in thinking it was a something about a new architecture for supercomputing. But the headline is really a pun. The article is about trucks.

Kenworth is a truck maker and they are constantly looking for ways to make their trucks more viable to buyers, especially those with fleets. They realized modifications to mudflaps can save around $400 on gas in a year and that is for just one truck. Maybe it goes without say, but that type of savings is a big draw to their customers. Kenworth has been trying to find these efficiencies for years but the testing of them has been difficult. That is until cloud computing came along. Putting their simulations in rented supercomputing environments allows them to get to their answers quickly and affordably. In the past every tweak to the shape of the truck had to be carved in clay and put in a scaled down wind tunnel, with appromiximate results. Now, Kenworth can make change after change and test them virtually with pretty exact output. Here are a couple of good excerpts:

Customers have noticed. Larry Anderson, president of food-delivery
company A&A Express, recently ordered several of the trucks. “Every
new truck we get is more efficient than the last,” says Anderson, who
estimates that the new rigs and careful driving could save him a
half-million dollars a year on gas. “That’s the only way we’ve stayed
in business.”

The resulting design changes aren’t visually drastic, but they make a
real difference. The slightest shift in the curve of the headlights,
the shape of the fender, or the angle of the mirrors can dramatically
alter a truck’s business value. Take that mudflap, for example: A
little haircut added an extra half-percent of fuel efficiency to the
T660. Preston Feight, Kenworth’s chief engineer, says it is one of
several tweaks that could save a 1,000-truck fleet $1 million a year.

When you talk about $1 million a year in savings just on the type of truck you operate you start to realize there are other avenues that produce an additive benefit as well. Late last year I ran an interview with 4Refuel that emphasizes much of the same theme:

How would you summarize 4Refuel’s

4Refuel is a fuel management company that synergizes logistics and information
to focus on the productivity, efficiency, and control aspects of our client’s
fuel. By controlling fuel costs, we help them be more productive and more
efficient. We leverage industry-leading and proprietary technologies combined
with a dedicated client focus service element that helps our clients manage
their fuel and treat it as an investment rather than a cost. For our clients,
Fuel Management is about “maximizing the cost of refueling and maximizing fuel
and time efficiency”.

Our core focus is on on-site delivery from our tanker truck to clients’
equipment during idle hours, primarily with standard low sulfur diesel fuel.

We have 6,000 clients across Canada and the U.S. that we’ve been servicing for
over 13 years. Those range from major Fortune 100 companies such as Coca Cola,
Federal Express, large rail and marine companies, and major airport ground
services to smaller construction and fleet organizations with three or four
pieces of equipment. If it is a standard or bio-diesel consuming asset, we
service it.

There’s another important aspect to our service. While we help our clients
control fuel costs, they are greener just by using our services. We have
metrics in place so clients can track their greenhouse gas emissions’ savings
because we are bringing one to many instead of many to one. You are burning
that much less fuel even to get fuel.

Working Thoughts 02/20/08
What Really Makes The Best Company to Work For


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