Gordon Trucking (GTI) is not unlike most carriers these days. The Pacific, WA-based company, which operates in all 48 contiguous states, is doing all it can to save time and control expenses.
“There are a lot of spec changes you can make [to trucks], but I think just paying attention to the little things [helps],” says Kirk Altrichter, vp-maintenance. “Yes, they're minor, but they add up.”
Among the “little things” Altrichter refers include everything from extending oil changes (GTI went from 36,000 mi. to 72,000 mi. while continuing to use Delo 400 15W-40 oil as its standard) to recycling fluids. The company recycles anything it can, from water from the parts washers, to antifreeze, to fuel from the fuel filters. “Most people just dump [antifreeze] into waste oil,” Altrichter says. GTI also stopped using aerosol cans in the shop.
PICKING THE RIGHT SKIRT
While GTI doesn't track the individual benefits of each effort, there is no doubt the collective efforts are making an impact. Extending oil change intervals alone saves the company nearly 27,000 gals. of oil a year.
Many of the changes are small and go unnoticed by the general public. But not so the latest change — the installation of side skirts on 1,300 of the company's 4,500 trailers. “We've been evaluating skirts for about six, seven years,” explains Altrichter. “We started putting them on wholesale about seven months ago.”
GTI runs Wabash DuraPlate dry vans and Utility Trailer refrigerated trailers. The skirts offer a return on investment in about 16-18 months, and help the fleet meet California Air Resources Board requirements for trailer aerodynamic devices.
“I think, California or no California, we would have moved ahead with [installation],” Altrichter says. “Six, seven years ago, when the only product out there was made of metal, I wasn't really impressed. The product we went with is very resistant.”
GTI chose Freight Wing AeroFlex skirts made from HDPE plastic sheets for its trailers. According to Altrichter, the company saw between a 3 and 31/2% increase in fuel savings with the devices during testing. The devices also have another benefit: Drivers are indicating the handling characteristics of the tractor-trailer units have improved.
AeroFlex fairings “divert more airflow along the side of the trailer, away from drag-inducing rear wheels, axle components and crossmembers,” according to a description of the product on Freight Wing's website. Altrichter hopes the devices last the life of the trailers, about ten years in GTI's case.
EYES WIDE OPEN
The company continues to focus its attention on any and all ways to save fuel. By the end of 2010, GTI expects to have installed Thermo King TriPac APUs in about 95% of its 1,500-tractor fleet, 1,300 of which are Freightliner Columbias. The fleet has begun the switch to the more aerodynamic Cascadias and has about 200 of those in operation today. “We've managed idle time pretty well before, but we've seen an improvement,” Altrichter says of the trucks with APUs. He says that with a five-minute shutdown enabled, idle time for the fleet runs about 3%.
Drivers also attend “fuel school.” “Our belief is that about 35% of fuel economy is the driver,” Altrichter says. Speed is limited to 60 mph, but drivers who consistently hit their fuel target are allowed to max out at 63 mph.
And tires remain a point of emphasis for fuel economy as GTI has switched to a less aggressive tread pattern for its drive tires. The company now utilizes Michelin XDA3 long haul tires in the drive position paired with XDAs in the steer position and XT-1s on the trailer.
Gordon Trucking is proving that the little things really do matter.