Fuel sav­ing

In his new monthly col­umn Matt Wood shares tips on boosting your fuel ef­fi­ciency, start­ing with the cost and per­for­mance ben­e­fits of crawler gears

Owner Driver - - Front Page - Matt Wood

Matt Wood’s tips on boosting fuel ef­fi­ciency

IN A CASH FLOW-in­ten­sive busi­ness like truck­ing, fuel sav­ings are the fi­nan­cial ic­ing on the prof­itabil­ity cake. Fuel is one of the largest ex­penses in­curred by a trans­port busi­ness, ac­count­ing for be­tween 30 and 40 per cent of run­ning costs. But it’s also some­thing that can be man­aged. My job with Volvo Trucks Aus­tralia is to work with cus­tomers, gain an in­sight into their op­er­a­tion and de­velop tai­lor­made fuel ef­fi­ciency strate­gies.

I also get to spend quite a bit of time play­ing with Volvo’s Dy­nafleet telem­at­ics sys­tem, which turns out to be a very ac­cu­rate and easy way of keeping tabs on fuel econ­omy.

One of the more im­pres­sive devel­op­ments I’ve come across in the Volvo Trucks uni­verse re­cently is I-Shift with crawler gears. Crawler func­tions in some au­to­mated trans­mis­sions are noth­ing new. But with the Volvo they’re ac­tual gears rather than a func­tion that slips the clutch for low-speed ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity.

I’ve al­ways been a big fan of the stan­dard I-Shift any­way, so what’s the big deal? Be­cause it means you can spec a high­way truck with a taller fi­nal drive ra­tio with­out com­pro­mis­ing low-speed per­for­mance – while also re­tain­ing start abil­ity when tak­ing off on a steep grade.

So we can now spec an FH16 with a very tall fi­nal drive to make the most of the green econ­omy band when cruis­ing down the high­way. Big Euro en­gines love to lug along right in the mid­dle of their long flat torque curve. And, of course, lower cruis­ing rpm means you can ex­tract op­ti­mum fuel econ­omy from the big 16-litre with­out com­pro­mis­ing per­for­mance. We’re fu­elling in­no­va­tion … by burn­ing less fuel.

The two crawler gears sit at the front of the trans­mis­sion and pro­vide a cou­ple of very handy low-speed ra­tios. This adds 48kg to the weight of the I-Shift trans­mis­sion. Crawler gears not only make start­ing off on a big hill eas­ier, they also mean that ev­ery­day ex­er­cises, like back­ing a B-dou­ble into a dock, are made eas­ier as well. In low gear, a crawler-equipped Volvo will idle along at walk­ing pace. No more jud­der­ing clutch en­gage­ments!

Ma­noeu­vring a cou­ple of trailers around on a con­crete pad can re­ally put an AMT’s clutch to the test. Ex­ces­sive clutch ac­tu­a­tions also re­sult in more wear and tear on the clutch.

That aside, it’s not a great deal of fun thread­ing a loaded B-dou­ble back­wards into a tight spot if the truck keeps jerk­ing in and out of gear. Same goes for hook­ing up trailers; no one wants to be the per­son that rams a trailer king pin into the turntable jaws with an earth-shat­ter­ing crash. That’s just a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing, not to men­tion the po­ten­tial for dam­ag­ing equip­ment.

With crawler gears you can idle along at low speed with­out tax­ing the clutch. Get some mo­men­tum and I-Shift will change up and get you on your way with­out any fuss.

I get that it may be a well-worn cliché, but flex­i­bil­ity re­ally does sum up the crawler-equipped I-Shift. The abil­ity to cater for both ends of the per­for­mance spec­trum makes a crawler-equipped FH an ag­ile beast with a dual per­son­al­ity. It’s an in­no­va­tion that de­liv­ers the best of both worlds – fuel and per­for­mance.

In a high­way truck there’s clearly a fuel-ef­fi­ciency ad­van­tage as well, but crawler gears aren’t just the do­main of high­way haulers, they’re also avail­able on the FM and FMX mod­els as well.

Down the track I’ll also elab­o­rate more on the ul­tra-low crawler op­tion as well, which caters for heavy-haulage ap­pli­ca­tions of up to 325 tonnes.

That’s got to be a whole lot eas­ier and more ef­fi­cient than wrestling with a cou­ple of gear sticks! Ul­tra-low crawler works on the same prin­ci­ple as the stan­dard crawler I-Shift but uses a dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tion of crawler and fi­nal drive ra­tios for big moves.

Now I could just sit here and preach away, but the idea of this col­umn is to also an­swer any fuel-econ­omy or Volvore­lated ques­tions you may have.

I’m not say­ing I have all the an­swers, but I’ll do my best to find out the an­swers from the fine engi­neer­ing minds at Volvo Trucks Aus­tralia.

Of course, any an­swers I may give will un­doubt­edly have a Volvo bias (they do pay me af­ter all) but ba­si­cally I don’t care what truck you drive, fire away on the email ad­dress: [email protected]

“Lower cruis­ing rpm means you can ex­tract op­ti­mum fuel econ­omy from the big 16-litre with­out com­pro­mis­ing per­for­mance.”

MATT WOOD is a for­mer truck driver, 4x4 and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle jour­nal­ist and writer. He now works for Volvo Trucks Aus­tralia in the role of Fuel Ef­fi­ciency Man­ager, which en­com­passes tra­di­tional and al­ter­nate trans­port fuel solutions as well as telem­at­ics. He has a geeky in­ter­est in all things me­chan­i­cal and an un­re­quited love for old Land Rovers.

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