Home FleetWatch 2011 Cleaner Fuels

Cleaner Fuels


Earlier this year, the DoE (Department of Energy) indicated it would announce its decision on the road map to cleaner fuels before the end of December. The oil majors, through its industry association (SAPIA), submitted its proposals for consideration by government. The key question is undoubtedly, how much is it going to cost to refurbish and upgrade the local refineries and who is going to pay for it?

The motivation for manufacturers of commercial vehicles to promote better productivity and transport efficiency as described at the beginning of this issue is a natural and somewhat overdue development.It is, however, surprising that it has been left to commercial vehicle manufacturers to initiate what logistics services companies, third- and fourth-party service providers and fleet owners should be doing for themselves. Not even the better organised transport Associations in the UK, US and Australia – let alone our own organisations – have stepped up to the plate when it comes to stumping for better transport efficiency.

It should be noted that the fundamentals of transport efficiency are embedded in the Road Transport Management System (RTMS), a management system that enables operators to become competent as self-regulated fleet owners. Over the years, the RTMS has struggled to gain widespread acceptance in South Africa , once again with a notable absence of support from organised transport. The absence of consistent and predictable traffic law enforcement has not helped in promoting the benefits of self-regulation. Only now, when faced with growing pressures how to take road transport forward, do we see the DoT promoting some exposure to the merits of RTMS.

Improving transport productivity and efficiency is not rocket science and is no stranger to this writer. Together with Hugh Sutherland, former technical manager at the RFA, and Bill Factor, the then well-known maintenance wizard at Cargo Carriers back in the 1980s, we launched a series of workshops under the title of Transport in Perspective. It has been the focus of the FleetWatch workshops Roadmap to More Efficient Trucking for the past five years and has been the editorial in the FleetWatch Mass and Dimensions booklet for the past two years.

It is important to clarify and understand why commercial vehicle builders are motivated to commit their respective resources to provide a range of fleet management services to their customers, new or existing? Consider the massive amount of time and money truck builders have spent in getting the current truck models super-efficient in terms of performance, capable of maintaining unheard of average speeds over almost any topography. These are vehicles that offer exceptional fuel-efficiency, stretched service intervals, optimum payloads in terms of regulations, longer driveline useful life and the benefits of lower lifecycle costs.

The road to realising these phenomenal vehicles includes a massive reduction in emissions associated with internal combustion engines often ahead of regulatory requirements. The motor industry has brought along with its developments improved tyres, suspension and a host of safety devices.

Having now arrived at this monumental destination where they are committed to ongoing further improvements to fuel efficiency and emissions, it brings home the cold fact that it is essential to ensure the sustainable success of these economic and ecological improvements. These vehicles must be properly employed and correctly operated at all times lest the hard won expected benefits fail and evaporate in the vapour of emissions.

FuelWatch rates highly Ecolution by Scania – which we picked up at the IAA show – that introduces a new line of green products and services that help operators minimise their carbon footprint while maximising operational earning when going green. By following this programme, operators will remain green thereby making a sustainable contribution to cleaner air and more profitable businesses for its customers. Every effort is made to eliminate all possible areas of waste, abuse and outdated practice. The steps toward better transport efficiency through Ecolution by Scania begin with:

Choosing the right vehicle for the transport task
Based on a detailed assessment of the transport task at hand, a competent applications engineer chooses the vehicle with the best specification to undertake the haulage with a vehicle configuration that will provide the most economical performance over the best route. To ensure the payload is optimised, mass distribution and load placement will be optimised. Average speed to complete the round trips will be in good time. Based on the assessment of this transport task, the maintenance requirements are taken into account. Service intervals and content is documented and the maintenance schedule for the first year is compiled and communicated to all concerned.

Driver and driver training
A driver is chosen and trained to drive the vehicle specifically spec’d for the task along the route as determined by a competent route planner. The driver is trained and retrained in the vehicle. Via the telematic system, the driver’s skill, attitude and habits are monitored and used to improve his skills where applicable. Drivers are in communication with the control centre for on the spot advice and encouragement.

Maintenance is organised and planned with workshops best located to homebase. Work is undertaken by properly trained technicians with all the necessary tools and diagnostic equipment. Maintenance is scheduled and takes place when it should.

Management Information
The telematic system provides reports at agreed intervals. The system monitors all movements of the truck and the driver. Comprehensive information is available to improve all or any aspects of the operation. Meetings with transport controllers assist in maintaining the productivity and efficiency levels. The reports include regular feedback on fuel consumption and the ongoing carbon footprint that is measured in grams per kW-hour. Fleet managers are informed and kept up-to-date with all the vital factors of the operation.

The most likely outcome is a more profitable operation due to optimum payloads being achieved more frequently and via the elimination of unnecessary and unwanted kilometres , a most wasteful and expensive problem in most transport operations. Maintenance costs are lower and there are fewer accidents or incidents due to better driving standards. Operators gain more of the benefits inherent in modern trucks.

Ecolution by Scania will at a future date come to South Africa. However, you do not have to wait if you are confident you can do this on your own relying on your own competence and soliciting the advice and where necessary, the assistance of your service providers. Achieving better levels of transport efficiency is fundamental to ongoing success in the future.
Failure to introduce an RTMS management system into your business if you do not already have it is certain to make you uncompetitive. Due to high operating costs, it will also make you unpopular with green clients and open to emission taxes and fines.

caption 1 – Driver Training: Teaches drivers to use the vehicle and its controls as safely and efficiently as possible.

caption 2 – Hill driving: Evaluates how the accelerator pedal and vehicle’s momentum are used in varying topography.

In this regard, the oil majors are not free to make a decision without the co-operation and participation of the government who regulate the fuel industry. The cost to upgrade the local refineries, as previously reported, is hugely expensive running to many billions. Government has the unenviable task to decide on how best to balance the need to produce cleaner fuels in South Africa versus importing refined fuel from various potential long term suppliers. Petro SA, a state owned enterprise, is keen to build a new 400 000 bpd refinery near Coega in the Eeastern Cape , also at a cost of several billion rands.

The decision must take into account future fuel security, the merit, if any, in South Africa becoming a net exporter of refined cleaner fuels and the job creation opportunities associated with building a new refinery and upgrading existing ones. Alternatively, imported fuel presents major logistics considerations including availability of bulk storage facilities and transportation from ports to depots and major users. Either way or, a combination of both solutions, access to cleaner fuels via a nationwide distribution network is a long way off.

This presents complex choices for the motor industry in terms of what and when to introduce more fuel-efficient and cleaner vehicles to the local and regional markets. In addition, a reduction in the carbon footprint and other green house gases will remain on the back burner for the best part of a decade before sufficient Euro 4, 5 and 6 compliant vehicles are on our roads. In the meantime, our lagging behind may well attract a host of Asian cheapies better suited to Euro 2 and 3 technologies and our 500 ppm diesel.

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