Truck Fleets Prioritize Fuel Savings, High-Tech Features

by | Oct 29, 2009

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Truck2020Fleet owner demands for fuel savings, environmental benefits and high-tech features now outweigh brand names as companies make buying decisions, according to a global IBM study. The study shows trucks will become more fuel efficient, environmentally sound and safer due to the adoption of new technologies throughout the vehicle, which will also help truck manufacturers differentiate their vehicles as brand names become less important.

Trucks are becoming commoditized largely due to increasing costs from greater regulations and changing buying behavior of larger fleets, said IBM. The brand of the vehicle is becoming less important, and unless truck makers infuse the brand with high-value services and advanced technology they will not compete, according to the study.

New features cited in the report include telematics, computers and mobile communications technology in automotive navigation systems, embedded systems throughout the vehicle, diagnostics, as well as “hybridization.”

The study indicates that research in hybrid electric truck technologies is a major focus in the United States, and plug-in or pure electric powertrains are emerging in limited perimeter applications such as ports and in-city deliveries

According to the study, 10,000 hybrid trucks could reduce diesel fuel use by 7.2 million gallons per year. Click here for the Youtube video.

The Global Truck 2020 Study, Transcending Turbulence, developed by IBM Global Business Services’ Auto practice and the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), is based on interviews with 91 executives in 13 countries, representing the entire truck value chain.

According to the study, sustainability is an important external force impacting the trucking industry. Forty-eight percent of respondents said sustainability will be one of the most important external forces in 2020, up from 32 percent today.

The study finds that environmental and fuel-efficiency standards along with new safety capabilities mandated by government regulations are forcing the trucking industry to change aggressively over the next decade.

The study also indicates that truck industry executives believe smart systems will play an increasingly prominent role in trucks as well as transportation networks. Seventy-one percent of respondents said technology will be one of the most important external forces impacting the industry in 2020, up from 61 percent today.

In addition, solutions relating to driver assistance, regulatory compliance and sustainability are closely linked, according to the study. As an example, an OEM might offer a solution that uses telematics to help determine the roads on which a vehicle is approved to travel and communicates that information to the driver, assisting both the driver and regulatory compliance.

Another example cited indicates an OEM could offer solutions to manage fuel economy through navigation and driver information or that switch to different power modes based on factors such as location and regulations.

The study finds that improving efficiency in the vehicle will be a significant focus area for the industry that will require innovative technology. Efficiency-related areas, such as engine and auxiliary systems and powertrain, are rated extremely high among aspects of the vehicle requiring innovation, according to the report.

Research in alternative fuel technologies also continue to develop. The use of both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) is growing in many markets, though the refueling infrastructure requirements continue to be obstacles, according to the study.

To broaden their application, the study recommends that truck manufacturers create vehicles that can switch between technologies depending on their location and fuel status. Retrofitting of existing fleets will also require OEMs to use the latest technologies, including more advanced particulate cleaners, aerodynamics packages and hybridization.

Retrofitting existing fleets is just as important as developing new green vehicles, otherwise the industry will not improve its environmental image unless it demonstrate efforts to clean existing fleets, according to the study.

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