Fuel prices are once again on the rise, with petrol and diesel costs at their highest in the last 18 years in May 2018. This news is hitting fleet decision-makers hard, as any increases can drastically impact operating costs and profitability. Plus, with businesses under increased pressure to reduce their environmental impact, many fleet managers are taking a closer look at the factors that can improve miles per gallon.

Whether it’s for legislative reasons, to lower company costs or ensure your business stands out for its ‘green’ credentials, there are several ways in which you can futureproof your fleet for optimal fuel efficiency. Switching to aluminium wheels, for example, is one way that fleet managers are taking significant steps in improving fuel economy, as well as reducing their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Making the choice
Wheel type can make a huge difference to fuel economy, with awareness growing in this area. Commercial vehicle fleets looking to improve fuel efficiency are therefore increasingly turning to light weighting to help achieve this. One method proven to help OEMs achieve light weighting goals in vehicles of all types is the use aluminium over alternatives materials, such as steel.

Since aluminium wheels are approximately 40% lighter than the standard steel equivalent, they enable fleets to reduce weight and improve vehicle handling. This reduction in mass means more weight can be added to other areas of the vehicle, allowing increased payloads, which converts to cost savings – for example, vehicles are able to carry more for longer, as well as using less fuel. In fact, it’s been demonstrated that choosing aluminium wheels can help fleet managers achieve fuel savings of up to 2.5% from a reduction in mass. And payback can be as little as two years, or even less, when a truck’s maximum capacity is used.

Example fuel savings
We’ve carried out several tests on how much money fleet operators can save on fuel when using aluminium wheels over steel wheels. For example, a ten-tonne HGV can achieve fuel savings of approximately £1,500 per annum, which equates to approximately £7,500 across the vehicle’s lifetime (five years). This results in a payback period of just over twelve months.

Balancing it out
Keeping an eye on the carbon footprint of your fleet goes one step further than cost savings – it is crucial for compliance and duty of care. From 1 January 2019, newly produced heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will have to declare their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, looking specifically at individual truck components to comply with EU regulations. Even for businesses that are not currently obligated to disclose their emissions, improving fuel efficiency by reducing carbon footprint can help futureproof against further changes in legislation.

Aluminium wheels can offer significant improvements in terms of carbon footprint, and regulatory bodies and governments are increasingly sitting up and taking notice. In May 2014, for instance, the European Commission adopted a comprehensive strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from HGVs in both freight and passenger transport. The strategy studied the present and future potential CO2 savings when using aluminium as a light weighting solution for trucks and trailers. The study found that 1kg of aluminium in today’s trucks saves 26kg of CO2 during their whole lifecycle, and every additional kilogram of aluminium in tomorrow’s trucks would save a minimum of 19kg of CO2 over their lifetime.

Further research in the US has shown that an aluminium-intensive class 8 commercial tractor trailer can reduce vehicle weight by 3,300lbs (1,361kg). For every 10% of weight reduction, it enables up to 5.5lb (2.5kg) improvement in fuel economy. The study also found that substituting the nation’s fleet of class 8 tractor-trailers with aluminium-intensive models would cut 9.3 million tons (8.4 million metric tonnes) of CO2 emissions annually.

Keeping costs low
With fluctuating fuel prices the new ‘normal’, fleet managers must act now to not only reduce short-term costs, but also futureproof their business in the longer term. Despite initiatives already in place to reduce the carbon footprint of fleets, rising costs will undoubtedly continue to affect most fleet businesses. Thanks to research carried out on the benefits of aluminium wheels in improving fuel efficiency, fleet managers are able to make crucial savings.

Simply input your fleet’s data into our calculator, including tyre size and number of wheels, to find out the potential savings you can make. Or for more information on the wider benefits of aluminium wheels, check out our factsheet.

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