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Are lightweight trucks right for your operations?

Are lightweight trucks right for your operations?

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A lighter truck has many advantages, mainly higher payload and lower fuel consumption. However, the amount of weight you can save and where you can save it, is a balancing act which will depend a lot on the needs of your business and type of assignments you run.

In weight sensitive applications – such as tank or bulk transport – every kilo that can be taken off the truck, means an extra kilo in payload. Even in other applications, long-haul for instance, the lighter the truck, the more you will save in fuel consumption.

Lighter trucks: the pros and cons

However, it is important to recognize that making a truck lighter is essentially also a trade-off—in order to get the weight down, compromises have to be made in terms of features and materials. It all depends on what is important to you and your business and what type of transport assignments you are running.

Specifying for reduced weight

The weight difference between different models can be big but how you specify the truck will further amplify the discrepancies in weight. If you take a 4x2 tractor as an example, the heaviest trucks can weigh 50% more than the lightest, which translates into nearly three tonnes.

Three tonnes is not a small number, especially when you think about how much manufacturers like Volvo Trucks invest just to reduce weight on each truck by a few kilograms. With the wrong specification most of these gains are lost which is why setting the right parameters for your application is key.

For example, do you need a 13-litre engine, or can you manage with 11-litres? The difference between the two is 150 kg. When it comes to the chassis, there is a broad range of different frame sizes and metal thicknesses to choose from, which will impact your vehicle’s weight. Fuel volume, and the size of your fuel tanks, is another big contributor as is your axle installations.

Then there are the smaller things that can add up. Remember that everything that you put on the chassis will add weight. Tyres can also differ greatly from one brand to another. Two different tyres can be in the same rolling resistance class yet be five kg different in weight. Multiply that by six and that can be another 30 kg saved.

A balancing act

However, it’s important to balance weight savings with your other needs. Many lightweight features and materials are typically less durable and robust, so come with some degree of risk. This might be fine if you predominately drive on well-maintained highways, but not if your vehicles are used off-road.

Another factor is resale value. If you super specify your truck exactly to your own needs, it might be harder to sell it on the second-hand market later on. How do the gains made from having lighter trucks compare with their reduced value as used trucks?

There are also laws and safety regulations that you need to consider that could impact your vehicle’s weight if they require additional features.

The enforcement of laws concerning overloading are also expected to be more stringent in the coming years, with the EU looking to implement a system that will enable authorities to scan a truck’s weight without it stopping. In this context, a lightweight truck can help with compliance.

Then there is the issue of alternative fuels and drivelines, such as LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) and electricity. An LNG-powered truck is typically heavier, but to help offset this and to encourage alternative fuels, the EU currently allows one extra tonne in weight allowance. A similar exemption for electric trucks is also under consideration.

Overall, determining the optimal weight for your truck is extremely important and requires a balancing act between different needs that could include driver comfort, payload capacity and power. The best course of action is to speak to your salesperson as they can guide you through the different options and get the right specifications.

Are you interested in finding out what you can do to reduce the weight of your next vehicle? Read our case study about Schenk Tanktrasport – a Volvo Trucks’ customer who has managed to increase payload by 70,000 tonnes per year thanks to lightweight trucks. 

Download the case study now!
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