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


Supporting Information

Freight Hauling Efficiency by Vehicle Type
ClassApplicationsGross Weight Range
Typical Fuel Consumed
(gallons per thousand
1cCars only3,200-6,00069.0
1tMinivans, Small SUVs, Small Pick-Ups4,000-6,00058.8
2aLarge SUVs, Standard Pick-Ups6,001-8,50038.5
2bLarge Pick-Ups, Utility Van, Multi-Purpose, Mini-Bus, Step Van8,501 -10,00038.5
3Utility Can, Multi-Purpose, Mini-Bus, Step Van10,001-14,00033.3
4City Delivery, Parcel delivery, Large Walk-in, Bucket, Landscaping14,001-16,00023.8
5City Delivery, Parcel Delivery, Large Walk-in, Bucket, Landscaping16,001-19,50025.6
6City Delivery, School Bus, Large Walk-in, Bucket19,501-26,00020.4
7City Bus, Furniture, Refrigerated, Refuse, Fuel Tanker, Dump, Tow, Concrete, Fire Engine, Tractor-Trailer26,001 -33,00018.2
8aStraight trucks, e.g., Dump, Refuse, Concrete, Furniture, City Bus, Tow, Fire Engine33,001 -80,0008.7
8bCombination trucks, e.g., Tractor-Trailer: Van, Refrigerated, Bulk Tanker, Flat Bed,33,001-80,0006.5

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

Return to 2012 Facts of the Week