Con-way Truckload saves fuel by lightening up

Four years ago, Bruce Stockton asked a select group of drivers and technicians at Joplin, Mo.-based CFI to inspect a new truck. Stockton’s objective was to create a forum to gather ideas for how to cut the weight and cost of vehicles.

A couple of drivers made the same observation. The truck inspected had 240 gallons of fuel capacity in two, 120-gallon tanks. Drivers said they were adding between 80 and 100 gallons of fuel at each stop. Intrigued, Stockton looked at the fleet’s fuel-purchase data.

The driver observations were right on. In the overall fleet, the maximum fill was 120 gallons and the average was just over 80 gallons per stop, Stockton says. By reducing its tank capacity to 200 gallons, CFI – acquired by Con-way last year – cut 106 pounds of metal and 208 pounds of fuel from its trucks with zero impact to its service levels or driver routes, says Stockton, vice president of maintenance and asset management for Con-way Truckload.

Fuel tanks were just the beginning of Stockton’s new dietary plan for equipment. He also removed the extra bunk in the cab (84 pounds), used a lighter suspension system (53 pounds), and removed the quarter fenders (55 pounds). In total, tractors shed 673 pounds and the purchase price came down by two percent. The fleet also trimmed another 400 pounds from tractor weight by running wide-base tires.

In addition to cutting over 1,000 pounds from its tractors, Con-way Truckload reduced its trailer weight by 1,000 pounds by spec’ing wide-base tires, composite wall plates and laminate flooring. Its gross vehicle weight is now 31,500 pounds with 18,500 for the tractor and 13,000 for the trailer. The average load for Con-way Truckload is 30,000 pounds, he says.

Exactly how much fuel was saved by the 2,000-pound dietary plan is difficult to quantify. As a rule of thumb, Stockton says that for every 1,000 pounds taken off, fuel economy improves by 0.3 percent. Fuel efficiency consists of so many variables, but for Stockton, at least one thing is certain. Despite the degradation in fuel economy from the 2007 engine emissions technology, Con-way Truckload has been able to hold its fuel economy steady for the past four years.