Electronic Engine Parameters

“Optimizing engine parameters is well worth the effort—it enhances fuel economy and saves fleets a lot of money. But the complexity of optimization is preventing many fleets from enjoying the benefits.”

Dave Schaller, North American Council for Freight Efficiency Program Manager

Trucking Efficiency has a high degree of confidence that optimizing engine parameters improves fuel economy and is well worth the effort. Depending on a fleet’s current operations, the payback can be rapid and significant. However, optimal fuel performance does not happen without a concentrated effort.

Fleets that are already managing their electronic engine parameters can see fuel economy gains of around 0.5 mpg from optimizing the parameters, but gains can be even higher if the fleet employs drivers with poor driving habits. Fleets that previously have not used parameters to optimize for fuel economy—often due to confusion surrounding terminology—can see fuel economy improvements in the 5-8% range. No testing was done, although fleets and engine manufacturers provided insights into the fuel economy benefits offered by optimizing parameters.

While engine parameters have been around since the advent of electronically-controlled diesel engines in the mid-1980s, not all fleets are using them to optimize their vehicles for fuel efficiency. Today there are more than 100 different parameters available for fleets to set, many of which can benefit fuel economy. In our study, we organized parameters into six categories: vehicle speed limits, vehicle configuration information, engine speed limits, idle reduction, driver rewards and miscellaneous MPG-related.

Benefits

Fuel economy improvements in the 5-8% range are possible for fleets when they optimize all parameters for fuel economy. Meanwhile, improvements of 3-5% above the defaults may be available to fleets who simply set the parameters of their new trucks in a few key areas such as vehicle speed and idle reduction.

Since they are an integral part of the engine control software, engine parameters add no weight or cost.

Challenges

Substantial effort is required to fully understand the many parameters available on today’s engines. In addition, new parameters to further improve fuel economy are being created on a regular basis.

Changing one parameter often means having to change other parameters. All parameters must be tailored based on the overall truck specification.

Each engine manufacturer uses its own terminology and/or brand names for its parameters. Parameters may even be called different things from one engine model to the next.

Procedures and tools for setting parameters vary widely by manufacturer and in some cases require intervention by the manufacturer. No single tool can be used to set parameters on all brands of engines.

There have been persistent issues with parameters being set incorrectly or incompletely at the factory, modification center or dealership, even after the fleet has chosen and communicated its parameter settings.

When a fleet wants to change parameters, someone has to physically connect to the truck to make the changes. Current telematics technology does not allow changes to be made remotely.

It can be difficult to get buy-in from drivers who may feel the fleet is trying to restrict the way they drive.

Maintaining records for different models of engines and vehicle specifications can require a lot of work. It may be difficult to keep track of all the changes to parameters especially in a mixed fleet.

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Common Fleet Strategies

Fleets of all sizes commonly use the accelerators vehicle speed, cruise control speed and idle shutdown parameters. Other parameters may be set depending on the goals of the fleets and their understanding of what those parameters can do for them.

The following are some of the best practices fleets are using with their electronic engine parameters:

  • Keeping a record of parameter settings
  • Developing a template that covers a group of similarly spec’d trucks
  • Performing pilot reviews with manufacturer parameter experts
  • Verifying that vehicles are set up correctly
  • Having the proper tools and training fleet and dealer employees to change parameters
  • Using passwords to protect parameter settings

What Others Are Saying

NACFE Fleets

In conjunction with Michelin, the study team received feedback from 45 members of Michelin’s Fleet Forum about their opinions of engine parameters.

  • More than half the fleets responding to the survey said they have never been given assistance in optimizing engine parameters.
  • The majority of fleets said their parameters are set identically across their entire fleet.
  • A vast majority of these fleets indicated that they never make changes to the parameters once they are initially set.

Michelin Fleet Forum

Dealership Sales Staff

Decision-Making Tools

The study team developed several tools to help fleets in making their decision about electronic engine parameters.

The Manufacturer Parameter Name Comparison Chart shows the various names engine manufacturers use to describe key engine parameters.

The Engine Manufacturer Information Tool provides manufacturer contact information for fleets needing assistance with optimizing parameters.

The Confidence Matrix informs fleets of the study team’s confidence in the technology being studied versus the payback a fleet should expect to receive from the technology.

Manufacturers

Conclusions

  • Engine parameters are proven in their ability to enhance fuel economy, but it appears only large fleets have worked to optimize the settings.
  • Variation in terminology among engine manufacturers as well as variations in drivetrain specifications can make optimizing the fuel economy parameters challenging to any fleet running several brands of engines.
  • It is essential for fleets to have processes around the management of their engine parameters to ensure they are delivered and operating as expected.