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Home » BLOG » Freight Ton vs. MPG: How to Calculate Fuel Efficiency Gains

Quick Links: What Is Freight Ton? | The Freight-Ton Calculation | Who Is Using the Calculation?| How Freight Tonnage Will Affect Your Fleet | IMI Has Trucking Efficiency Solutions You Can Rely On

The trucking industry is the backbone of America. Both truck drivers and heavy-duty transporters keep us functioning as a society by upholding 6 percent of jobs in America, which makes for 7.1 million people employed by the trucking division.

What’s even more overwhelming is the fact that trucks transport 80 percent of all cargo throughout the states, yet 90 percent of the 1.3 million trucking companies operate fewer than six trucks in their fleet. Hauling a range of items including machinery, electronics, pharmaceuticals, food, gas, and packages, semi-trucks are a vital component in supporting our daily lives.


Fuel is one of the top 3 expenses for fleets. Using our adaptive internal tire balancer, EQUAL FLEXX, can save you up to 3% in fuel.


Because we rely on trucking fleets as much as we do, it’s imperative to consider the fuel economy possibilities of the vehicles they operate. Many fleet managers focus on finding miles per gallon, since it’s quite simple to calculate and many believe an improvement in MPG is the ultimate win. However, many factors can affect the calculation, such as the vehicle load and driving environment. For instance, if a diminishing-load fleet calculates MPG after delivering a load of goods, fleet managers will receive skewed data. Therefore, we believe measuring the freight-ton efficiency as opposed to miles per gallon will provide better insight on each fleet’s transfers.


The best way to analyze trucking efficiency is to determine the freight ton of a fleet’s tractor trailers. Freight ton is the number of miles a truck can transfer on one ton of freight per gallon of diesel fuel. In contrast to what many think, it’s the more favored statistic to determine energy intensity when it comes to transferring cargo, as opposed to miles per gallon. Also known as revenue ton, freight-ton efficiency looks at fuel efficiency. It also helps you boost the payload on each vehicle and optimize the routes they take.

In more detail, the term CBM means cubic meter, which is a unit for measuring volumetric cargo and metric tons. Both are needed to determine the freight ton of the vehicle. One metric ton equals 1,000 kilograms, so to find freight ton, a fleet manager will need to calculate the weight and volume of the cargo.

For example, one truck carrying one ton of material is equal to 10 MPG, which is also equivalent to 10 tons/MPG. If a semi operates with 20 tons of cargo, it will equal seven mpg, totaling 140 tons/MPG. Because freight ton is the measurement used to illustrate the efficiency of hauling loads using different transportations, it can apply to trucks, airplanes, ships, or even trains.

One example specific to the commercial trucking industry is of a heavy-duty diesel engine hauling 19 tons of freight for 500 miles. It would guzzle about 71 gallons of fuel. To find the freight rate, multiply the tons carried by the miles traveled and divide it by how many gallons of diesel consumed.  In other words, one ton of freight can be hauled about 134 miles on one gallon of diesel.


Fuel economy ratings are straightforward to evaluate and provide greater accuracy. To see how you can apply the calculation to your commercial fleet, follow the next few steps.

  1. First, convert the dimensions of your packages into meters.
  2. Do so by taking the dimensions of the crate, which includes length x width x height.
  3. Multiply the dimension to receive the cubic meter of your cargo.
  4. Next, convert grams into tons.
  5. To calculate volume, multiply the CBM by how much it costs to move materials per freight ton.
  6. Determine the weight of your freight by multiplying the number of tons by how much it costs per freight ton.
  7. Depending on which calculation is higher, that will be the freight weight of your cargo.

Freight ton efficiency equals the distance the truck traveled divided by the amount of fuel it consumed, multiplied by the weight of the payload. The freight efficiency analyzation is more accurate compared to miles per gallon because it considers the weight of your commercial trucks, as well as distance.

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For example, the dimensions of a cargo freight equal 3.5 x 2.3 x 2.1, so the CMB equals 16.905. If the quoted rate is $0.15/freight ton and the weight is 1,500 kilograms, or 1.5 tons, the freight rate calculation is as follows:

  • 3.5 x 2.3 x 2.1 = 16.905 cubic meters
  • 16.905 CBM x $0.15 = $253.575
  • 1.5 tons x $0.15 = $22.5

The CBM rate is higher, meaning the freight rate of about $253 will apply to the shipment. When you compare the rate to other vehicles in your fleet, you can find patterns or disparities and can then work toward copying or eliminating.


As the trucking industry continues to expand and emphasize the need for greater efficiency, every fleet should soon consider the benefit of freight-ton efficiency. Presenting results that are far more accurate and useful for fleets, freight-ton calculations deliver more meaningful trucking proficiency measures to help analyze existing fuel efficiency and evaluate efficiency gains moving forward.

With a build that took nearly three years, the Shell Starship Initiative was a joint project between Shell and Airflow Truck Company to design, build and test the potential fuel and freight ton efficiency of a concept truck combining various energy-efficiency technologies available today. The custom-designed Starship concept truck embarked on a cross-country trip from California to Florida in May 2018 to test how well the technologies worked together to maximize efficiency across a number of measures. Throughout its journey, the North American Council on Freight Efficiency (NACFE) acted as a third party to analyze specific controls. In June 2018, results illustrated a record haul relating to fuel economy.

The Starship tractor-trailer achieved about 28 percent better fuel economy compared to the average truck and was even able to carry more weight than most. The engine averaged about nine miles per gallon, as opposed to about six with a standard truck. The outcomes of using freight-ton efficiency show a superior measure that illustrates the truck’s productivity. During the cross-country trip, the Starship carried 39,900 pounds, which resulted in a freight-ton efficiency of about 178 miles per gallon. This is compared to an ordinary truck carrying 22,500 pounds, whose freight-ton MPG would reach only 72. This is a 2.48 times improvement between regular semis and the Starship after calculating the freight ton efficiency of the journey.

Built to demonstrate how it’s possible to reduce energy demands in freight transportation, the Shell Starship Initiative implemented various technologies to decrease the amount of energy it used. Other features of the Starship truck included:

  • 5-kw solar panel on the roof to power internal accessories while also reducing the energy load
  • Aerodynamic cab and trailer
  • Carbon fiber cab and side skirts
  • Electric tag axle to produce regenerative braking to give more lift up hills
  • Roll cage tubing
  • Side skirts to reduce draft
  • Taller gears to boost highway fuel economy
  • Wide-base single tires
  • FLEXX internal adaptive wheel-end balancing
  • Wrap-around windshield design

Because NACFE provided third-party validation of the truck’s efficiency, they monitored parameters such as the vehicle’s odometer, GPS data, engine data value, certified scale readings, engine control modules, and fuel levels. NACFE focused on MPG times the payload, which equals freight-ton efficiency. In the end, the council determined that if all 2 million U.S. trucks became as efficient as the Starship, America could save about 229 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, reducing the CO2 output by 60 percent.

More freight transportation companies need to start talking about freight-ton efficiency and diverge from miles per gallon as a way to look at the output of their vehicles. Along with Shell and Airflow Truck Company, the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office has a 21st-Century Truck Partnership program, or CTP. The goal of CTP is to develop trucks that can move larger volumes of freight and passengers at a safer and more cost-effective rate — while also attaining an upsurge in energy efficiency, reliability, and productivity.

Different companies in various industries are using freight-ton calculation to improve their fleet’s fuel economy and gain enriched insight into their semi-trucks’ output.


When you look at miles per gallon, you don’t receive all the details necessary to analyze current costs and improve your bottom line. If you are trying to increase your fleet’s miles per gallon, you run the risk of transporting fewer goods more slowly. For you to simply focus on improving MPG, your drivers will need to go slowly and haul lighter cargo, which is at the bottom tier of being efficient.  Going back to the Starship example, every 10,000 pounds of cargo makes you lose half a mile per gallon. However, while you lose MPG, you gain more proficiency by carrying a more significant load.

Because MPG does not consider the weight of each haul, you can receive skewed data every time, which blurs the relationship between how you think you’re doing and how your fleet is actually performing. It’s time to refocus from MPG and its lopsided results and realign your calculations to freight ton.

One ton-mile is the same as shipping a ton of any product, one mile. The simple measurements can affect any fleet manager’s interest in keeping tabs on fuel efficiency gains. Freight efficiency is essential to yield an active and productive transportation system. Freight-ton efficiency is of a higher status compared to other means of tracking efficiency because it considers avoided trips in relation to fuel savings. The more cargo you haul per semi-truck, the fewer vehicles you operate — resulting in more fuel saved.

You can apply the fuel economy ratings of freight-ton efficiency to your company by following the provided calculations. When you determine the results from each of your engines, you can move forward in devising a plan for how you can become more efficient with each cargo load. Each measurement is subject to the weight of every tractor-trailer and the shipment it’s carrying.

Other techniques you can implement to enhance efficiency include:

  • Implementing fuel-efficient driving techniques
  • Reducing highway speed
  • Balancing all wheel positions with an internal adaptive wheel-end balancing solution
  • Decreasing idle time
  • Using lighter-weight semi-truck models
  • Improving aerodynamics
  • Applying wide-base tires
  • Keeping track of tire inflation
  • Maintaining and lubricating various components

The combination of applying more sustainable tactics and calculating the freight-ton efficiency of your fleet will help you more accurately manage your business’ efficiency and output.


It’s time to shift your focus from MPG to freight-ton efficiency to obtain more accurate results regarding your fleet’s fuel efficiency. When you study factors such as cargo weight, you get a better idea of each vehicle’s productivity and how to make changes to become more economical.

Our team of hardworking and knowledgeable representatives ensure we provide top-tier solutions for your operations. Our passion is creating tire, wheel, and fuel preserving solutions to help increase your fuel efficiency and improve productivity. We value your partnership and listen to your challenges to respond to your precise needs.

Our solutions define standards for the industry, whether it be internal wheel-end balancing, wheel refinishing, or fleet safety solutions. We strive to help you keep your fuel and maintenance costs low.  And ultimately, working with you to help your fleet reach peak fuel efficiency is our goal.  If you’d like to see how we can help you with your fleet efficiency, reach out to our team of professionals.