The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) investigated the factors relevant to intentionally matching a specific tractor model to specific trailer model in logistics systems for the purpose of maximizing fuel economy, minimizing emissions and improving profitability. Many have said, if a specific tractor and trailer can be designed as a system and always operate together additional fuel savings can be attained.
NACFE determined that the vast majority of tractors pulling dry van and refrigerated 53-foot trailers operate in a drop and hook mode, keeping the tractor assets moving as much as feasible rather than waiting for trailers to be loaded or unloaded. Except in some very specific cases, such as in lightweighted tractors and trailers for use in dedicated routes for beverage hauling, intentional pairing of specific tractor and trailers is not a practical consideration for North American goods movement.
In fact, given NACFE’s findings on Regional Haul (link) because of factors such as e-commerce, technology advances and big data, the industry is poised to take advantage of more drop and hook operations decreasing the opportunities for intentionally pairing individual tractors and trailers.
NACFE Summary of Findings
- Intentional pairing today only occurs in isolated cases such as special purpose hauling where the trailers are customized for specific loads, promotional or event vehicles, and fleets with small numbers of tractors and trailers. And while intentional pairing is feasible, it is not realistic given the realities of today’s trucking industry
- Trailer pools or “drop and hook” is a fixture in North American goods movement and helps with asset utilization and overall goods movement efficiency.
- New technology increases the feasibility and lowers the cost and complexity of matching/pairing.
- Fleets would consider matching more tractor-trailer by models for savings. A 5% to 10% net improvement in truck operating costs could be sufficient to interest fleets in changing operations to facilitate intentional pairing.
- Large fleets will likely never have 100% of the same model year tractors or trailers because of the partial annual replacement of fleet assets.
- Intentional pairing has potential for a number of vehicle parameters — for example, lightweight tractors paired to lightweight trailers can maximize payload in a tradeoff with service life and gradeability.