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Braun’s Express began its effort to reduce petroleum consumption by joining the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership (www.epa.gov/smartway/partnership) in 2004. Since joining the program, Braun’s has invested in an array of technology to reduce the amount of petroleum used to run its fleet.
Hybrid Electric Straight Truck
In 2009, Braun’s purchased a Freightliner M2 straight truck equipped with an Eaton hybrid electric system. This truck is used in a stop-and-go environment to maximize the potential of this technology, and initial testing shows a 35% improvement in fuel economy versus a conventional diesel straight truck.
EPA SmartWay Certified Tractors & Trailers
In 2009, Braun's was one of the first trucking companies in the nation to purchase EPA SmartWay certified tractors, adding 18 of these green vehicles to its fleet. In order to be SmartWay certified, a tractor must be outfitted with several fuel-saving technologies, including an aerodynamic roof fairing, an aerodynamic bumper, aerodynamic mirrors, side fairings, low rolling-resistance tires, and an idle-control system such as a battery-powered APU. Since 2009, Braun's has continued to order all sleeper cab tractors with the SmartWay spec.
In 2010, Braun's took delivery of its first EPA SmartWay certified trailers. To be SmartWay certified, a trailer must have low rolling-resistance tires, weight reduction technology, and either advanced side skirts or side skirts and a gap reducer or trailer tail. Since 2010, Braun's has continued to order all 53' trailers with the SmartWay spec.
Idle Reduction Technology
Braun’s has installed idle reduction systems in its short-haul and long-haul vehicles. In the short-haul trucks, idle reduction was implemented by programming the engines to automatically shut-down after idling for three minutes. A similar solution was not viable in long-haul trucks, in which the drivers spend their nights while on the road. Power must be available in long-haul trucks while they are parked overnight for drivers to use heaters, air conditioners and AC-powered conveniences. To allow these systems to run without idling the truck, Braun’s uses battery-powered auxiliary power units (APUs). On average, the APUs have halved the idling time of a long-haul truck, thereby eliminating the consumption of approximately 1,000 gallons of diesel per truck per year.
Utilizing the Electronic Control Module (ECM) system in each truck, Braun’s has instituted speed limits for its fleet. Maximum speeds are now set at 65 miles per hour for both short-haul and long-haul trucks. Lowering the speed of a truck from 70 to 65 miles per hour results in a 0.5 miles per gallon of fuel savings.
Two tire technologies are used to run the Braun's fleet more efficiently: wide-base tires and automatic tire inflation systems. Braun’s began purchasing wide-base tires for new tractors in 2004 and retrofitting trailers with wide-base tires in 2007. The wide-base tires reduce fuel consumption by 4-10% compared with traditional tires. Furthermore, wide-base tires, when used with aluminum rims, weigh less than traditional tires and therefore allow for a heavier payload. Braun’s has had automatic tire inflation systems factory-installed on all trailers purchased since 2005. These systems automatically monitor trailer tire pressure and add air as necessary to maintain optimal pressure, thereby reducing fuel consumption by about 3%.
Education and Behavior
Braun’s Express values education regarding fuel consumption. Members of the management team educate themselves by carefully researching new technologies through attending trade conferences and working with vendors. Additionally, the company conducts small-scale tests of promising technologies before installing them throughout the fleet to test whether the technologies are cost-effective and make sense for the company. To supplement their technological approach, Braun’s is rolling out a program to educate drivers on maximizing fuel efficiency. Incentives will be given to drivers that are able to use diesel fuel the most efficiently based on a carefully chosen set of metrics that will be monitored by the on-board computer system in each truck. This strategy is very effective, as driver behavior can significantly reduce fuel consumption and the related costs.