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The perpetual drive to improve fuel efficiency will only continue as fleets look to improve their bottom lines and GHG emission and fuel economy standards tighten. So, host Seth Clevenger wonders, what are fleets and tech vendors doing to find further improvements in fuel economy?


Shell Lubricants Dan Arcy’s responsibilities include Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) technical support and representing Shell in the heavy-duty engine oil technical committees. Dan works closely with OEMs on new product testing and development of lubricants and new lubricant specifications.

Dan Arcy

Megan Pino

EP. 1

Brought to you by:

Guest One, Mike Roeth

Episode Transcript

Daryl Bear Segment One:

Daryl Bear: Thanks a lot for having me.

Seth: So today roughly six miles per gallon is generally considered average fuel economy in this industry. We also know that some fleets are going a lot further than that by deploying the right mix of technologies. In fact, if you really push the limits it’s possible get all the way up to 10 miles per gallon as we saw with NACFE’s Run on Less project in 2017. Mesilla Valley I should mention was one of the fleets that participated in that event. Daryl I want to get your sense of where the industry stands. What's your overall assessment of how fuel economy and trucking has improved over the last decade or so and how much room for improvement is still out there?

Daryl: Well in terms of technologies, like you said, there has been a lot of improvement. You know we see 10 miles per gallon but we still see the industry average as six. So really there's been sort of a lack of progress overall in the industry with some fleets making big differences in the Run on Less. Now we saw an average of 10 miles per gallon and NBD’s truck was actually averaged eleven so that you know those are all the technologies available on the market today. So it really comes down to not so much what technologies are available but the improvements can really be found by what the fleet's willing to implement to go from six mile per gallon to nine is a big improvement. I mean it is 50 percent. So in terms of the overall improvements that we can see in the industry it really comes down to implementation.

Seth: We've seen lots of new fuel saving technologies hit the market over the years. And of course as you mentioned not everybody has adopted those technologies. But in particular for those fleets that are at the forefront and have been putting a lot of these systems and technologies to use. Do you see a point at which the industry will start to see some diminishing returns on that never-ending push for greater efficiency? You know in other words, is it going to be harder for fleets to find incremental gains in fuel economy after they've already picked all the low-hanging fruit?

Daryl: The industry really isn't anywhere near the point of diminishing returns. And even with NBD as a fleet you know they're around averaging around nine miles per gallon and still working very hard to implement new technologies just because there is still a lot of money to be to be saved with fuel economy. And when we talk about the industry as an average you know at 6 miles per gallon if you compare that to an average of nine the amount of money that could be saving there is enormous. I mean we're talking $20,000 plus per truck annually. If you look at 125,000 miles a year at $3 a gallon and I mean $20,000 is a lot of money to save per vehicle. So in terms of diminishing returns now we're nowhere near that there's so much to be gained for fleet fuel economy today that it almost sounds too good to be true from a fleet perspective. But there's a lot of room for improvement and opportunity.

Seth: Yes. Understood. And let's take a moment to talk about the importance of fuel economy testing and validation. So of course you know we mentioned all these different types of products and their claims that they'll save a certain percentage of fuel. But whether or not you actually realize that in the field will depend on your own specific operations at your own company and it becomes very difficult to pinpoint exactly how much fuel savings you can attribute to a specific system or product. There are so many variables like driver performance first and foremost but also traffic and weather conditions just to name a few. So how does MVT Solutions try to isolate all those variables to evaluate real-world fuel savings?

Daryl:  Well this is the most important factor to a fleet. It's their Holy Grail and it's actually what makes MVT Solutions very different to any other kind of fuel economy validation process. You know the testing in the real world they are very different but they're 100 percent connected by science, and our testing takes that science into account by quantifying the effects of the variables that you mentioned and variables such as wind and temperature and speed. And we do all that using sensors and a lot of engineering. But then at the same time we do the same for the fleet by analyzing their duty cycle and their climate and their operations. And by combining the test result information with the fleet information it allows us to translate the results directly to the fleet’s real-world operation. And those that translation and those values are very specific to every fleet because it depends on their unique conditions. So other test methods say they just don't do that. So they kind of stop halfway. And it's why fleets have traditionally seen very big differences between an advertised fuel claim and what they actually experience in real-world operations.

Seth:  And you know as you know when fleets are really pushing for peak fuel economy you some of the systems they tend to look at include aerodynamics for the trailer and tractor lower rolling resistance tires, downspeed power trains, automated transmissions, 6x2 axle configurations and even operational changes of course like reducing engine idling. But I have to ask Darryl, I'm very curious from your experience what technologies and strategies do you find to make the biggest difference in fuel economy?

Daryl: Well of course it all depends on the application. And of course there are a lot of technologies on the market but truthfully the biggest difference that that we've seen is really in strategies. Fleets really need to change their strategy and start asking for help instead of trying to do everything themselves. And in seeking out experience of people that have successfully implemented these technologies what we see over and over again are fleets trying things and 6x2 axle configurations are great when they try to implement this within their fleet but they may fail to overcome some of the obstacles and which could be with drivers or traction or various things. So it really comes down to the strategy of a fleet to say OK we do want to try these things but we know we can't do it alone. We need to bring the help in to see if we can do this successfully and without so much headache. And of course the number one thing for a fleet is that they just don't want to interrupt operations. I mean it's they have a job to do and fuel economy is not their number one priority. So it really comes down to making a successful transition from where they are today to where they want to be in the future and that requires getting some help. Now I will say in terms of numbers, you know, there are some very big numbers in terms of fuel savings we've seen up to 8 percent in just between brands of tires all low-rolling resistance tires a percent between brands. So. Yeah very big numbers. And of course every tire manufacturer claims they have the most fuel-efficient tire. But you know it's up to the fleet to do their own investigations or to look to someone that has those answers. But every fleet should really have their own their own tire program tested for fuel economy because there is so much to be saved there. When we talk about downspeed powertrains we've seen varied results there as well. Generally you know the lower rpm of the engine in the drivetrain is going to improve fuel economy but there's also a tradeoff depending on the load scenario of the vehicle if you're climbing a lot of hills higher RPM might help a little bit or also with heavier loads. So it really it's not a one-size-fits-all thing. But generally speaking the lower you can bring the drivetrain RPM the better it's going to be for fuel economy. But it's something that you also have to watch. You know you mentioned automatic transmissions. You know, they've had a huge adoption in the trucking industry and had a lot of resistance at the beginning. But you know their ability to take the manual shifting out of driving has really improved the average MPG of most fleets. And it really takes the lower end of the drivers and boosts them that the people that really have trouble shifting. So that's definitely a great technology to adopt for I would say almost any fleet. You know, I mentioned 6x2s, we've seen some significant numbers with that. But the tradeoff is if you can get the operational side of it happening in your fleet then it becomes a headache. Idling, you know, that's another one of course if the trucks idling it's not it's not getting you anywhere so you're wasting fuel. But of course driver comfort becomes an issue as well. So that's a tradeoff. All of these things have tradeoffs and it's really about not only just picking what's going to work for the company based on the application but having the help to overcome the obstacles whether it's drivers or operations or wherever they might be. So I know that's kind of a long answer. But there's a there's a lot of things to consider.

Seth: Moving on, Darryl I understand that you worked on Indy racing cars before coming to trucking. So I'm sure that gives you an interesting perspective on designing vehicles for lightweight and optimal aerodynamics which of course is a, you know, some of the big factors for fuel economy commercial trucking isn't the race of course but how much of a parallel do you see between streamlining race cars and tractor trailers?

Daryl: Well actually the parallels between racing and trucking efficiency are very strong. You know what makes a race car go faster makes a truck go further. It's just a difference off of applying the same science really. And whether you're streamlining aerodynamics or improving rolling resistance or friction or of course driver behavior is a big factor in both. But in terms of streamlining you know I've seen a lot of racing technologies continuously transferring to the trucking industry. One thing that comes to mind is Daimler's last super truck they had the radiators and heat exchanges were vented out the sides of the truck like an Indy car or F1 car does. And you know I see a lot of these advanced technologies coming from racing and coming from other industries. And that's pretty natural. You know historically we see technologies from higher up translating down, stuff that's in racing today came mostly from aerospace or places like NASA. But you know what I see is that the trucking industry doesn't need to reinvent the wheel of these things. They just need to get better at finding people already using those technologies. So when it comes to fuel economy you know racing is definitely where those people will be found because they're experts at optimizing fuel efficiency. And I often have the same conversations with the trucking companies with efficiency that we do in a race team. So yeah the parallels are very strong, very strong.

Seth: Sure. And you know one of my takeaways here is that these fuel saving technologies we've discussed they can only help you if you actually implement them. So just a final thoughts that you may have Daryl on how much the industry can stand to gain by simply adopting what's already commercially available?

Daryl: Oh this is everything. I mean adoption is everything right now. I mean like we've seen you know the technologies available today you can reach 10 miles per gallon and 11 miles per gallon. We've proven that. But like I said the fleets need to start asking for help and asking those that have proven experience implementing these technologies because that's really the bottleneck right now. And in fact that's why we created MVT Solutions. And you know it was it's for fleets to help them make decisions and move forward. And there are other organizations like this as well that are trying to help fleets. Maxis is one of those you know they  try and they gather information sort of on the on the macro level whereas we're more focused on the micro level you know showing what fuel economy products work and by how much. And then translating that directly for fleets. But quite honestly I mean the profit opportunities and fuel economy are so big, fleets, they just don't realize how much of a goldmine they're sitting on. You know we talk about the difference from nine miles to the gallon from six is you know $20,000-plus, it's a huge number and it's nothing to walk away from it. It's very much worth the time to investigate. So, you know every fleet should be should be implementing a process and asking questions looking for help on how to get these things implemented in their fleet and how to do it successfully.

Seth: And looking ahead, Daryl, you know what you see is the most exciting future opportunities to improve fuel economy. And we've been talking about some of the technologies that are available today. Are there any emerging technologies that you'd really like to start testing?

Daryl: You know the first part really is, as I've said, about adopting the technology is learning how to adopt them. The technologies that are available, there's much more available than what we're adopting so that what's exciting to me is really getting that knowledge to the industry and helping them implement things that is the biggest part of it all. You know we talk about the low hanging fruit. You know there's some fleets out there that have picked the low hanging fruit but for everyone else there's an entire orchard that they just need to sort of find and have help picking. You know the other thing is in terms of technologies themselves you know what we've seen recently is really the biggest change seems to be coming with non diesel powered engines. But interestingly enough you know their biggest hurdle is range which means that trailer efficiency is going to be critical to fleets adopting those. You know, if  a fleet is looking to adopt let's say electric vehicles or  some other alternative energy that only has a range of 400 miles. Well if they improve their trailer program to be more aerodynamic and have less rolling resistance you know they can boost that range from 400 to 600 miles. Now suddenly they have a much better means of adopting that into their fleet. So. Efficiency definitely isn't going to go away. I think I think as fleets start adopting these new technologies with range issues, it's going to become more of that than it is as much a dollar issue. OK. But I still think we're a long way from that because there's a long time before fleets get fully away from diesel.

Seth: Yes. Certainly the first few steps on a very long road for alternative fuel and electric vehicles I think. But certainly the possibilities are exciting and really all your insight here has been great. I really appreciate you taking the time for coming on Daryl. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

Daryl: And thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.

Seth: We're here at TMC’s annual meeting in Atlanta. And we're pleased to welcome a pair of experts from show lubricants to discuss the trucking industry's march toward greater fuel economy and the role that engine oils can play in that effort. Joining us are Megan Pino, global brand manager for Shell Rotella, and Dan Arcy, Global OEM technical manager. Thank you both for joining the program. So we're here at the annual meeting of TMC in Atlanta and a year ago at this event show introduced a project Starship truck which really highlighted various technologies, aerodynamics, that can save fuel, and reduce emissions. So Megan maybe can you recap some of the technologies included in that truck's design and also explain why Shell decided to invest in a project like this?

Megan: Yes absolutely, Seth. So at Shell we recognize that we have a global energy challenge on our hands and we realized that there is no one single solution that is going to help meet the challenges before us globally. And so we believe that partnering with others, collaborating to co-engineer a project like the Starship initiative and demonstrate what's possible in lowering CO2 emissions in the transport industry is one way that we can make an impact. And so we began our quest to build the Starship truck several years ago. And as you said we're very excited to reveal it last year. We were reminiscing yesterday, excited that it's been a year since we unveiled the Starship truck. But it was a really exciting project and allowed us to further the conversation in the industry around freight ton efficiency. And rather than focusing strictly on miles per gallon it allowed us to demonstrate what technologies can do today that hopefully fleets and owner-operators and others can implement on their trucks to start to see improvements and the reduction of CO2. Sure. In terms of technologies I'll let Dan be the one to talk about that.

Dan Arcy: Okay. Yeah. Thanks Megan. In our Starship project, was an awesome project to work on. We really looked at this as kind of a laboratory on wheels. And, so we were able to test out a lot of technologies that are available today. And if I kind of bucketed everything to about three different buckets out there, we had technologies that we put on the truck that helped the aerodynamics of the truck. So everything from, you know, a very aerodynamic bespoke type carbon fiber cab to cab extenders and fairings and boat tail on the back, all to help the aerodynamics of the truck. Then we also did things to improve the efficiency, stuff like you know adaptive cruise control and truck driver assist. So computers telling the driver and he can make real-time corrections in how he's driving to help improve the fuel efficiency that he's getting and then our Shell lubricant technologies in there. We use this as a platform to go out with our new FA4 for engine oils and to put a five W30 FA4 for which case you know listeners aren't familiar with FA4, FA4 is the latest technology latest specification for heavy duty diesel engine oils and it's blended to a lower viscosity that provides a fuel economy benefit. And so to put those type of products; engine oils, actual oils, and greases and stuff that can provide some fuel economy advantages.

Seth: We'll sort of circle back to that and go into a little bit more detail. But first I want to go back to this notion of freight efficiency and of course where we're all so used to MPG, miles per gallon. You know, we've come through this industry that's been such a central focus so why is it important to look beyond MPG a little bit of a different more comprehensive metric.

Megan: Well I'll take a stab at it, then, I'll let Dan finish up. As I mentioned at Shell we realized that you know the reduction of CO2 is important, something to focus on. And we believe that it is a more accurate measure of energy expenditure and obviously it factors in the freight, that you know the weight that the truck is carrying. And so and we wanted to focus on that and help drive that conversation in the industry. And because fuel economy is obviously important for savings and in fuel and that was a factor that we measured. But then coupled with trying to load the truck as heavy as possible in order to maximize the freight that it was able to carry at the lowest possible emissions.

Dan Arcy: Sure. Yeah. I think Megan, that's perfect. We really think, you know, how much fuel does it take to move freight from point A to Point B. So the more freight that you can move for the lower amount of fuel the better freight ton efficiency the more beneficial, the less emissions that you put out. You know, I think it's an interesting to point out here that we're looking at reducing CO2 emissions which is looking at reducing the amount of fuel burned. Because you generate a certain amount of CO2 twenty two point four pounds of CO2 for every gallon the diesel fuel is burned so if we can reduce the amount of diesel fuel that's burned we're going to reduce the amount of CO2 that's coming out the stacks on it and concentrating on freight ton efficiency. It's really saying how efficient can we be and then I like to use example, if you were, you know, driving from Atlanta down to I don't know, down to Florida. Let's say you use 15 gallons of fuel to get there. OK. So you're one person mile or one person for 15 gallons to get there but if you and me and Megan we all got in the car, yeah maybe we'd use 20 gallons of fuel to get there but then if you really break that down into an amount of fuel per person or again we can look at this it's the same thing when you're carrying product and moving it you know how much are we, fuels it actually using to move it down there. So we're much more efficient when we can become more heavily loaded and reduce the weight of the base vehicles. So all these things come together will give us our best freight ton efficiency and reduce the amount of CO2.

Seth: Yeah look at all the variables that add up that could come together in that equation. Which is an interesting way of looking at things. So the Starship truck of course demonstrated this results with the coast-to-coast freight run last year. So what's next for this project? What do you look forward to seeing next?

Megan: Well as we spoke about last year when we've completed the coast-to-coast demonstration run. We were really pleased with the results of we were able to achieve. But there were some things that we weren't able to get done, we learned some things on the test run and so we have decided to pursue those and to make additional improvements. So this year we are opening up the hood and starting to do some work to see how much better we can be. And again for us it's really about furthering that conversation and we think that went really well and folks were really receptive to the truck into the concept and that we think that there's more to the conversation. So stay tuned for more information as we continue to develop that.

Seth:  All right we'll do that. Talk a little bit more about the role engine lubricants play in the fuel economy. So engine oil probably is not the first place that a lot of fleets will look for fuel economy. It is a factor. And Shell of course has been making this case that this is an opportunity for significant savings if you do it right and then pay attention to the options that you have that are available on the table these days -- really just by moving to a lower viscosity lubricant. So Dan why should fleets really take a closer look at this? Even if it just means moving from, you know, a standard 15 WD 40 oil to a 10 WD 30

Dan: So 15 W-40, has kind of been the standard for many years. But there are benefits that you can get by moving to a lighter viscosity oil, in fact, 10W30 is the primary viscosity great recommended by most your OEMs for late model vehicles.

Just by making that change by moving from 15W40 to 10W30 CK oil right now. You take two percent fuel company. That's a pretty big number especially you take that 2 percent of the cost of your entire fleet. Those numbers start to get pretty big, really quick. And the key is you can do that now, without any compromise of the durability of the engine because these new engines were designed to run on lighter viscosity like 10W30s. So these are changes that can be made now relatively inexpensively and with some significant gains.

Seth: Sure. And I know that Shell you guys have done some pretty extensive fleet testing and test track testing of your oils in different makes to validate that and that 2 percent number.

Dan: Exactly, in fact we've tested in all sorts of vehicles and we have in fact at one time we have over 200 trucks out on the road that are on test all different makes, all different models out there and we've been able to demonstrate this fuel economy across those. In fact, during our development process and an ongoing now we've accumulated over 80 million miles on these test vehicles. Again being able to demonstrate that you get good wear performance with lighter viscosity oils and along with improved fuel economy.

Seth: Sure. Now let's also take a moment to go back to the new engine oil category, so CK-4 and FA-4, those became industry standards in late 2016. So still relatively new and the industry is still perhaps going through that change to some extent but by all accounts CK-4 has been widely adopted at this point FA-4 for has been slower. So, I wanna get your take on where the market is right now and what's your sense of how it'll look in the years ahead.

Dan: Okay. So right now, as far as transitioning to CK-4 and FA-4, for all our customers that were we're using the prior category CJ-4 have transitioned to CK-4 or FA-4 and CK-4 was really just a direct replacement for the CJ-4 products. What we're seeing happen right now is we are seeing a transition to some of the lighter viscosity it's 15-40s to be the predominant grade still is predominant grade out there but we are seeing an increase in the amount of 10-30 at the CK-4 level that is being purchased right now. FA-4 is even a lower viscosity and there are a select number of vehicles that can use that mainly 2017 a few that have some backwards compatibility to back to 2010 and we are seeing some of those, but we anticipate a change in a movement towards FA-4 in the coming years now we see that we will have more customers moving to these lighter viscosity oils, okay.

Seth:  And part of the issue right now I think is that fleet maintenance directors generally like to keep things as simple as possible in the shop environment. They want to carry one engine oil and keep it simple rather than trying to manage two. How much of a barrier is that? And is it going to take a point where fleets are going to want to we'll have them basically move all the way to FA-4 to make that really a viable option for them.

Dan: Yeah that's exactly what's happened, the fleet wants one oil. They want to have to you know try and segregate these truck to take this one of these, take another so you know you look at a lot of the trade cycles out there four to five years and that's what we see. You do have some first adopters taking FA-4 right now but as we see where FA-4 can be used in the majority of the vehicles then we're going to see a huge uptick in the amount of FA-4 and movement kind of exactly how I was explaining earlier you know 2013 is when a lot of the OEMs were all filling with 10W30 and now we're starting to see that increase in 10W30. Again there's a slight lag in the in the uptake of it first. First adopters go on and then it's slow gaining then we hit that point where a fleet can use 10-30 across everything. And we see we see an increase.

Seth: Okay great. Well before I let you guys go, I do want ask each of you for some final thoughts on how the trucking industry can really continue to find ways to squeeze a little bit more economy, a little bit more efficiency out of its equipment and operations. Megan final thoughts to leave us with?

Megan: Yeah I think as Dan spoke about earlier the easiest and fastest and least expensive change that they can make is switching to a 10W30 and that is a simple change it can save up to 2 percent fuel economy. So, and like we said most of most fleets, I think, are starting to adopt that but that there are still some out there that prefer their 15W40 so make the change to 10W30.

Dan:  Well I'd like to add to that, I think in having these kind of conversations with you and with your audience out there it's getting people talking about this it people are starting to look at hey how can I you know do things to improve and there's other things going on within the industry that are looking at challenging drivers challenging fleets into what kind of fuel economy that they're taking to get out of their vehicles. And I think if you really look at things over the years that that's been a focus and it's something that's coming, there's a lot of change and little changes that can be implemented that are going to help improve fuel economy and help reduce the amount of CO2 emissions.

Seth: A lot of options on the table for fleets that are looking for, you know, small changes to make to make things just a little bit more efficient which is of course paramount in this industry.

Well, thank you guys so much for joining us. It was great to hear from you and thanks for taking time out to share your insights. Thank you sir.

Guest One, Mike Roeth

Daryl Bear is a mechanical engineer with 18 years of experience in motorsports, automotive testing, research and development including work in IndyCar, NASCAR, and with OEM’s such as Ford and Honda. Daryl introduced a test method to Mesilla Valley Transportation in 2012. Daryl and MVT partnered to create MVT Solutions (MVTS) in 2016 where Daryl is the Lead Engineer and COO. MVTS provides fuel economy testing to trucking fleets and technology suppliers.

Megan Pino is responsible for setting the strategic direction for the Rotella brand of heavy duty engine oil in North America. Megan has also served as the project lead for the Starship Initiative.

Daryl Bear

Guest One, Mike Roeth