Most medium-sized trucks and heavy haulers use diesel. It’s the standard engine for their category of trucks. But some small- to medium-sized trucks in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico use gasoline, too. As such, novices in the industry may wonder if it’s possible to use gasoline for bigger trucks, too.
Actually, it is possible, but there’s a reason most trucks use diesel. Aside from its engine being cheaper, diesel is also more efficient than gas, at least in trucking operations. That’s because of every drop of fuel used, diesel produces more energy than gas.
That may sound bad if you believe that diesel is a menace to the environment. But hear this out first: because diesel produces more energy, trucks can transport heavy loads with less oil than they would otherwise use with a gasoline engine. This also means that trucks can reach more mileage with less oil.
So if you want to venture into trucking and are contemplating which of the two engines to use, here’s what you can expect from either:
In terms of acquisition costs, a diesel engine for Class 3-4 trucks is between $5,000 and $8,000. Gasoline engines are far cheaper, thanks to the exhaust after-treatment developed to comply with EPA’s standards. Businesses that meet the fuel efficiency standards can also receive awards and incentives. Considering that, gasoline is the cost-efficient choice in this criterion.
But with regard to fuel costs, the tables get turned. Since diesel produces more energy than gas, truckers can increase their mileage without re-fueling as often. Moreover, diesel engines don’t use spark plugs. As much as spark plugs have proven efficient over the years, they require replacement every once in a while. This adds up the maintenance costs of gasoline engines.
Diesel has such a bad reputation among environmentalists and the public. It’s often dubbed as a dirty fuel because of the soot-filled smoke the engine emits. But surprisingly, diesel was promoted as an environmentally-friendly fuel in 1997.
True, diesel contains more carbon, hence the darker emissions. But gasoline isn’t entirely free of carbon either. Diesel only contains slightly more of it than gas does. But when it comes to overall emissions, diesel produces less. Hence, gasoline may have cleaner fuel makeup, but their high emission levels can also hurt the environment.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we’ve been lied to when gasoline was considered the greener fuel. But good practices can reduce diesel’s carbon footprint. Maintenance is one. Regular oil changes will keep diesel engines in excellent condition, allowing them to produce less smog.
Diesel is known for producing a high amount of torque. This is one of the main reasons the engine is commonly used for trucks, especially for heavy haulers. If your trucks are going to transport cargo to distant locations or mountainous regions, diesel should be your engine.
To ensure that your diesel engine can handle heavy loads on long-distance drives, it should have a longer crankshaft. The crankshaft is connected to the pistons, responsible for making them move up and down. With a longer crankshaft, you can achieve a longer stroke, and the engine can produce substantial torque each time. With a gasoline engine, on the other hand, the crankshaft is turned more often, and only a small amount of torque is released per turn.
Over time, the performance of your trucks will deteriorate. You may be faced with a choice to either sell your fleet and buy new ones or invest in aftermarket parts instead. You can do the latter long before your fleet deteriorates, but that would be a costly venture.
Aftermarket parts improve the exhaust system and fuel efficiency. But they’re not all created equal. When dealing with them, you may encounter original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. Those are branded parts while aftermarket parts are generic.
Both diesel and gasoline engines have high-quality OEM and aftermarket parts. But the ones for diesel may provide better options. Top-grade Cummins engine parts, for example, are undoubtedly a better option than cheap, generic parts. What’s more, they can be installed in a CAT truck. Since a Cummins engine is virtually impossible to kill, they’ll allow your fleet to continue working past its average life span. You’d get tremendous cost savings in turn.
Considering all these facts, pros, and cons, the diesel engine is the clear winner. But just because the fuel can be environmentally-friendly, don’t make that a reason to misuse the engine. Stay on top of its maintenance, and only employ experienced and disciplined drivers. So much of diesel’s toxic emissions come from bad practices, so break the cycle of diesel being the villain.