Emissions regulations combined with fuel economy features and driver amenities on today’s commercial vehicles have added 1,000 lbs. to the typical Class 8 truck. Certain fleets like bulk haulers value weight savings more than other segments of the market. To understand the true benefits of reducing vehicle weight fleets should look beyond fuel economy improvement to freight efficiency gains—the ability to use fewer trucks to carry the same amount of payload. Fleets can save 2,000 lbs. by investing to a limited degree in lightweighting and as much as 4000 lbs. with an aggressive investment. Lightweighting can take place in various areas of the tractor and trailer including the powertrain, axle suspensions, wheel ends, drive shaft, frame, fifth wheel, and more.


  • 0.5% to 0.6% for every 1000 lbs. of weight reduction
  • Every pound of weight taken off the truck translates to another pound of payload that that the truck can legally carry
  • Lighweighting makes it possible to spec driver amenities that add weight
  • Lighweighting makes it possible to spec other fuel efficiency technologies like aerodynamic devices and idle reduction products


  • The upfront cost to save 4,000 lbs. of weight does not offer an attractive payback
  • Things like 13 liter engines, short and/or flat topped sleepers, 5×2 axles, other de-contenting, and less fuel tank capacity result in a lower resale value
  • Components may not be as robust and may be damaged more easily
  • It is difficult to determine how much additional revenue and/or lower operating costs will be guaranteed

Lightweighting video


Only bulk carriers—representing 2% of the industry—operate at the 80,000 lb. limit nearly all the time. These fleets are willing to pay $6 to $11 up front cost per pound of weight saved. The majority of bulk haulers have already invested in lightweight technologies. About 10% of the trucks on the road—primarily reefers and some dry vans with dedicated routes—gross out on 10% of their trips. These fleets are willing to pay $2 to $5 per pound of weight saved. The other 88% of the trucking industry are dry van units that rarely travel (only 2% of the time) at maximum weight. These fleets are willing to pay $0 to $2 per pound of weight saved.

Decision-Making Tools

Charts list weight reduction options for Class 8 tractors and trailers. A Confidence Rating Matrix is also included.


Over the next five to 10 years shippers will request that reefer vans and dry vans with dedicated routes as well as other dry van operations double the percent of time they gross out. In order to meet this trend these fleets will either have to add more trucks or explore lightweighting to carry more freight on the same number of trucks. Given the cost of new equipment, lightweighting is a better option. With trucks driving 100,000 miles or more annually, investing in lightweighting so that a single truck can be kept off the road while still moving the required amount of freight, would save a fleet nearly $1 million over five years. Reefer fleets, dry van fleets with dedicated routes, and other dry van fleets should begin to explore and specify lightweighting technologies on their vehicles.