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Though discussions of vehicle efficiency are often centered on a measurement of miles per gallon, it is also important to consider how efficiently a vehicle carries its payload. Although heavy vehicles like buses or class 8 trucks get much fewer miles per gallon than cars, a greater percentage of their mass is payload which means that they are much more efficient at carrying weight whether passengers or cargo. The figure below shows that as the size and mass of a vehicle increases, so does its' efficiency in moving freight. When fuel efficiency is measured in gallons of fuel per thousand ton miles, a car consumes 69 gallons of fuel while a school bus consumes about 20 gallons and a class 8 truck consumes just six and a half gallons.

Freight Hauling Efficiency by Vehicle Type
Graphic showing the freight hauling efficiency of various vehicle types including: cars and truck classes 1, 21, 2b, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8a, and 8b. For more detailed information, see supporting information below.

 

Supporting Information

Freight Hauling Efficiency by Vehicle Type
Class Applications Gross Weight Range
(lbs.)
Typical Fuel Consumed
(gallons per thousand
ton-miles)
1c Cars only 3,200-6,000 69.0
1t Minivans, Small SUVs, Small Pick-Ups 4,000-6,000 58.8
2a Large SUVs, Standard Pick-Ups 6,001-8,500 38.5
2b Large Pick-Ups, Utility Van, Multi-Purpose, Mini-Bus, Step Van 8,501 -10,000 38.5
3 Utility Can, Multi-Purpose, Mini-Bus, Step Van 10,001-14,000 33.3
4 City Delivery, Parcel delivery, Large Walk-in, Bucket, Landscaping 14,001-16,000 23.8
5 City Delivery, Parcel Delivery, Large Walk-in, Bucket, Landscaping 16,001-19,500 25.6
6 City Delivery, School Bus, Large Walk-in, Bucket 19,501-26,000 20.4
7 City Bus, Furniture, Refrigerated, Refuse, Fuel Tanker, Dump, Tow, Concrete, Fire Engine, Tractor-Trailer 26,001 -33,000 18.2
8a Straight trucks, e.g., Dump, Refuse, Concrete, Furniture, City Bus, Tow, Fire Engine 33,001 -80,000 8.7
8b Combination trucks, e.g., Tractor-Trailer: Van, Refrigerated, Bulk Tanker, Flat Bed, 33,001-80,000 6.5

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2011 Vehicle Technologies Market Report, Oak Ridge, TN, ORNL-TM-2011/016, February 2012.

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