A truck’s fuel consumption increases with the weight of the vehicle. Many truck components are typically made of steel. The use of aluminium, metal alloys, metal matrix composites and other lightweight components can reduce tare weight, leading to an improvement in fuel efficiency, or at least an increase in payload (fuel productivity). Prime mover weight can be reduced by over 500 kg and trailers by over one tonne when manufactured with lighter materials or components.
Lightweight materials benefit both light commercial and heavy vehicle operations, with modifications to trailers and trucks applicable to both. However, there may be more opportunities with bodies and trailers than the base truck itself, as manufacturers already try to design for light weight to optimise the payload.
Every 10% decrease in truck weight can reduce fuel use by 5–10%. Aluminium wheels alone can reduce trailer weight by between 250–500 kg. The wheels are estimated to achieve a potential fuel saving of 3–5%.
Key implementation considerations
Lighter materials typically come at a cost premium to the operator, and payback is dependent on the value of goods carried and vehicle utilisation over the lifetime of ownership. An additional consideration is the durability of lighter components compared with the rest of the truck, and the cost associated with any additional component failures.
Examples of implementation
This case study discusses the impressive fuel savings realised by a UK company with the use of lightweight materials in rigid truck design. The delivery fleet of MEMS UK realised a 22% increase in fuel efficiency through the use of lightweight rigid trucks. At a price premium of 1.5% over the standard model, the company experienced a 2-year payback period for the technology. For implementation considerations and examples, see Department for Transport (2011) Lightweight truck specification generates savings for MEMS Freight Best Practice, UK Government (Opens in a new window) 965 PDF.
For the full report, see Fuel for Thought – Identifying potential energy efficiency opportunities in the Australian road and rail sectors (opens in a new window) PDF 1.5 MB.