Volvo designs Fuelwatch initiative to help maximize fuel economy

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At the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Volvo Trucks North America unveiled its Fuelwatch initiative designed to help fleet managers and truck operators achieve maximum fuel economy.

Volvo describes Fuelwatch as a comprehensive approach to get the most out of each gallon of fuel, encompassing vehicle spec’ing, maintenance, performance monitoring and driver behavior. A major element of Fuelwatch will be driver training; beginning in early 2009, Volvo says it will have driver trainers in each of its five sales regions to work directly with fleets and their drivers to teach how to increase fuel economy.

“Our customers are telling us ‘I want Volvo to give me the most fuel efficient truck possible. We need every bit of help we can get’ to survive the escalation in diesel prices,” said Scott Kress, Volvo’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “But we realized we can give them far more than the truck. Fuelwatch is our way to bring Volvo’s deep knowledge of fuel economy to customers in a way that delivers these benefits throughout the entire life and operation of their trucks. Using less fuel is good for customers, and it’s also good for the environment.”

Kress said that based on Volvo’s experience, customers who fully utilize the Fuelwatch tools and techniques can significantly lower their operating costs by addressing the critical areas that affect fuel economy. “Fuelwatch allows customers to take the best specifications and use them most efficiently and most productively to drive success,” he said. “We know from our experience, however, that even the best best-spec’d and maintained truck can deliver poor fuel economy if the driver lacks the knowledge and training to use it efficiently. The driver has the biggest impact – good or bad – on fuel economy.”

Volvo says the Fuelwatch initiative has four major elements:

  • Correct specifications. Before the truck is even built, its components and design are matched precisely to its intended application. Customers work with their Volvo Truck dealer and Volvo’s Predictor software tool to select the most fuel-efficient spec for the job, taking into consideration terrain, desired cruising speed, vehicle loading, application and other factors. The goal is to ensure the right combination of all drivetrain components, including gear and axle ratios, transmission and engine ratings, to ensure optimal fuel economy, performance and productivity. Volvo’s truck ordering system also helps select the most aerodynamic configuration for the truck.
  • Maintaining for fuel savings. Without proper maintenance, wear and tear on the truck, over time, drags down fuel economy and raises costs. Fuelwatch helps Volvo customers keep up with scheduled preventive maintenance, which is critical. Lack of proper attention to wheel alignment as well as fuel and cooling systems each can reduce fuel efficiency up to 3 percent, while air system losses can result in a 4 percent hit. Tire pressure sensors and the ability to reprogram engine power ratings to match a change in application also contribute to better fuel economy.
  • Monitoring performance. Volvo Link and Sentry allow fleet managers to monitor critical functions of the truck so they can identify and make adjustments to enhance fuel economy. Volvo Link also provides access to services for optimizing operations, such as fuel tax reporting, vehicle location tracking and route planning. And all customers gain uptime support through Sentry’s access to Volvo Action Service, a 24/7 roadside assistance program. Volvo Link, with two years of Sentry service, is standard on all new Volvo trucks.
  • Driver development. In addition to the forthcoming driver training, Volvo offers drivers many aids. As an integrated manufacturer of powertrains and trucks, Volvo is able to provide sophisticated assistance to drivers in a straightforward way. Volvo’s Performance Guide is a ride-along “coach” that tells the driver how to operate the engine for maximum fuel economy. Performance Guide is visible in the Driver Instrument Display and uses icons to guide the driver on correct RPM, acceleration and staying in the engine’s “sweet spot”. This can be combined with Volvo’s Performance Bonus to provide the driver with incentives for maximizing time in the sweet spot.
  • “We think the days of inexpensive fuel are over, and the trucking industry must adapt to this new reality,” Kress said. “Fuelwatch is not a switch that fleets can throw or a part they can bolt on a truck. This is a partnership between Volvo, our customers and our dealers involving a comprehensive approach to improving fuel economy tailored to the individual customer. We’re confident the Fuelwatch process will play an important role in their success.”

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    Kress stressed this is only the initial phase of Fuelwatch, which also builds upon Volvo’s experience with programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay certification program for fuel-efficient trucks.

    “Volvo’s development of the Fuelwatch initiative, along with our decision to use Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the 2010 emissions regulations due to SCR’s superior fuel economy, demonstrates that our customers should look to Volvo for leadership when it comes to maximizing fuel economy,” Kress said. “Our driver training program will take them further on each gallon, using the best driving techniques. We also plan to introduce fuel management programs for customers, so they can use our extended services to more efficiently manage how they use their trucks. In the end, it’s about standing side-by-side with our customers in squeezing every possible mile out of every gallon of fuel.”