Don’t get fueled again

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How many times have you been advised to “simply pour/install this product in your fuel tank/crankcase/ fuel line and see an immediate increase in fuel economy”?

Truck operators, perennially viewed as easy prey for those who promise fuel-economy improvements, look like extra-easy marks when fuel prices rise. So it’s no surprise that we’ve been receiving plenty of press releases touting mpg-boosting products for trucks.

But there are products that actually do what they promise. And they needn’t be ignored as casualties of educated skepticism, because what these products promise is measurable. There are industry-standard methods of quantifying improvements in mpg.

After the infamous 1973 fuel shortage, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Warrendale, Pa., and The Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations, Alexandria, Va., jointly developed an initial, on-road, two-truck test procedure. In 1982, TMC/SAE In-Service Fuel Consumption Test Procedure Type II was developed and designated TMC Recommended Practice (RP) 1102.

In 1988, the Type III test, designated RP 1103, was introduced. While retaining many elements of the still-viable Type II test, the Type III procedure is especially suitable for testing easily swapped components/accessories.

And just a few years ago, the Type IV (RP 1109) test emerged as a highly accurate, easy-to-perform means of measuring fuel-economy improvements while vehicles are on the job, hauling freight.

Many mpg-boosting products come with official-looking test results from credible laboratories, which show that the products work. But, while laboratory testing has its place, a laboratory isn’t 80,000 pounds of tractor-trailer barreling down the road to reality. A measurable reduction of friction or an increase in combustion efficiency in a laboratory doesn’t necessarily translate into an on-road fuel-economy improvement.

A carefully executed on-road test is the way to go. And it has to be a two-truck test: one truck equipped with the product to be tested and another truck as a control. A single-truck test is subjective and of no real value because too many variables, such as wind speed and direction, ambient temperature and humidity, are not controlled.

A two-truck, on-road test remains the only practical, accurate and believable way to determine how much a specific component or additive can boost fuel mileage.

Moreover, such a test must be repeatable. The test should be repeated until at least three runs produce results that are within 2 percent for fuel consumption and 0.5 percent for elapsed time, of each other. Test runs that don’t fit that window need to be thrown out. That safeguard is vital because the test is exposed to all the variables of the real world – traffic, mechanical problems, driver error, etc.

So, to manufacturers and suppliers claiming that their products improve fuel economy, here’s my advice: Spend the money, take the time and have a real SAE/TMC Type II, III or IV test performed. Then, make the results available to prospective buyers – and magazine editors. The Type IV procedure is the easiest to perform, and it’s detailed in TMC RP 1109. The RP is 18 pages and includes numerous forms required for recording test data. To order a copy, call TMC at (703) 838-1763.

If your product is legitimate, the test will confirm it. And it’s the only way you’re going to be taken seriously by fleet operators.

To our readers, I assure you that CCJ will continue to bring you only credible news about credible products.