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Lightening the Load

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Trucks are gaining weight these days.

New emissions requirements introduced in 2007 and 2010 have come at a price as the changes to engine design added about 800 pounds to each Class 8 tractor. Other design changes over the same period added perhaps as much as 400 more pounds. Meanwhile, higher fuel prices have shippers packing their loads as tightly as possible in order to minimize the number of trips they have to pay for—and the denser loads make for still heavier trucks.

The extra weight is a problem from several perspectives. Most obviously, Class 8 vehicles are subject to weight limits. For carriers who already gross out on a regular basis, heavier trucks and denser loads mean they have to reduce load size in order to stay under the legal limit. That equals less money. Further, heavier trucks need more fuel, which again costs money and increases greenhouse gas emissions.

Anything that can reverse the trend and reduce vehicle weight will be an obvious boon to the industry, especially for those carries that bump up against the legal weight limit. Less weight will mean more room for cargo, better fuel efficiency, and more room in the weight budget for still more fuel-efficient engine components. Weight reduction is therefore a win/win all around and there are companies working on making it happen.

GPS tracking cannot, all by itself, make a truck lighter, but it can still definitely take a load off.

In a pinch, GPS equipped trucks can save a little weight by carrying less fuel between refueling stops. GPS tracking works as a training tool to help instill good driving habits, such as staying under the speed limit. Better, safer drivers mean much more fuel-efficient driving. Tracking also makes it easier for drivers to navigate around areas of heavy traffic or road construction, thus saving even more fuel.

Better navigation makes driving more efficient in terms of time and risk as well. Drivers can use GPS to easily identify the shortest, fastest route available. Customers know when a load is arriving. If a problem develops, such as bad weather forcing slower travel, the driver can communicate with dispatch and adjust the schedule. In the event of theft or serious accident, emergency personnel can find the vehicle quickly and recover the cargo—and, of course, rescue the driver, if necessary.

All of that adds up to more reliable and valuable service, which translates directly into lower costs and more income. Then, if a truck does have to carry a light load to save on weight, it doesn’t matter quite so much.


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