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Wal-Mart Estimates 50% of Fleet Efficiency Gain by 2015 Could Come from Vehicle Technology, 50% from Operational Improvement

Wal-Mart Stores has set a goal of increasing total fleet efficiency by 100% from 2005 to 2015, and has already exceeded its 2008 interim goal of a 25% increase, according to Chris Sultemeier, Wal-Mart’s Senior Vice President of Transportation.

Total fleet efficiency is a combination of driving and operational practices as well as the vehicles, Sultemeier said. Of the current 25%, about 20% is likely due to vehicle technology, he said. Looking ahead to the 2015 goal, about 50% could come from the vehicle, 50% from the operational side, he said in a teleconference.

When we say we met the hurdle, part of that is through improved fuel economy with actual equipment, and part of it is how we eliminate empty miles—excess miles. How we load the trailer, the effects of packaging. One of the key statistics: year to date, we have shipped 150 million more cases and yet driven 90 million less miles.

—Chris Sultemeier

To achieve its current vehicle efficiency gains, Wal-Mart has taken a number of steps, including the installation of diesel APUs on all its trucks, and applying aerodynamic skirting. On the tire side, Wal-Mart is working with super single tires. and is testing nitrogen-filled tires and an automatic filling process to maintain constant tire air pressure.

On the other side, probably the key is getting more on the trailers. When we talk about efficiency, if you can take miles off the road, that’s huge—that’s bigger than things we can do around the equipment.

—Chris Sultemeier

Looking ahead on the vehicle side, Wal-Mart is currently pursuing four paths of investigation: hybrid assist technology; full hybrid technology including all-electric drive (approx. 20 minutes at 48 mph or less); LNG; and biofuels. (Earlier post.)

We don’t know how we get to 100%. We have technologies on board and things happening that we think provide a path to 100% efficiency [improvement]. If we could get 50% of our efficiency through pure equipment, I would consider that to be very successful.

—Chris Sultemeier


Dave R

Good to see Wal-Mart working hard to improve the efficiency of their fleet - even if a large part of their motivation is to reduce their own operating costs in the future.

Hopefully what they learn is also shared with other fleet operators.


Agreed. Wal-Mart works constantly to cut their own costs. And that is good IMO.

The sheer size of Wal-Mart and their continuing profits allow them to do their own research, select technical partners such as Eaton, and accurately measure results.

As far as sharing. I don't know their policy. But what Wal-Mart achieves or fails at won't stay a secret for long. It just doesn't work that way in transportation and retailing.

Secrets can last for a while. Usually they are secrets in method aka. trade secrets. And apply to a small process.

i.e. such as precisely how to make a durable titanium anode. or why Intel might be getting a better chip yield than AMD.

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