Photo from Raider Express

Spec’ing for fuel economy

March 8, 2016
Driving habits still play a big role in saving fuel, fleet panel says.

LAS VEGAS. When it comes to spec’ing trucks to get the best fuel economy, it’s not all about component selection, argued four fleets on a panel here at the 2016 Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) meeting, for driver habits are just as integral to achieving fuel savings for the long term.

“One thing we stress is adopting a slower speed mindset,” noted Mike Eggleton Sr., president of Raider Express. “We fully believe fuel [economy] and safety are intertwined. As far as I am concerned, let everyone pass you; stay in right lane and let everyone else go by.”

He noted, however, that automated manual transmissions (AMTs) are proving key to gaining greater and more consistent fuel savings across the Raider fleet.

“We train all our own drivers and to teach progressive [manual] shifting today is just frustrating; so we’ve gone to AMTs,” Eggleton pointed out. “That brings up the bottom guys. It levels the playing field in terms of fuel economy [because] the transmissions are set; they control the operation of the truck, senses weight of load and inclines of the hills. All driver has to do is hold wheel.”

“There used to be a significant gap of 1.5 MPG between our best and worst drivers,” added Brad Pinchuk, president & CEO, Hirschbach Motor Lines. “That’s why we cannot emphasize enough AMTs enough. We transitioned over the last 3 years to them and now that [fuel economy] gap has tightened up quite a bit.”

Royal Jones, CEO of Mesilla Valley Transportation, deploys a wide range of fuel economy components on his Navistar tractors, including AMTs, Flow Below tractor skirts, wide base tries, a 6x2 tandem axle configuration, and trailer skirts. “We would not want to be without skirts,” he said. “Without skirts, wind gets up under the trailers and creates drag. Skirts are nothing but wonderful.”

Pat Leonard, director of operations for Prime Inc., said his company uses simulators to help train drivers to achieve better fuel economy.

“We are just now transitioning to AMTs,” he noted. “So we employ simulator training to help improve fuel economy. But when you talk education, the more we train our driver managers about the importance of fuel economy – not just our drivers – that is where get bang for the buck. Everyone likes pat on the back and drivers respond to that.”

Yet Raider’s Eggleton stresses that fleets don’t have to spend “thousands of dollars” to get what they want in terms of fuel economy.

“You can buy off the shelf really good trucks; you can spec them the way you want but they already have specs established to maximize fuel savings, though they may not work for every fleet,” he said.

“Our biggest challenge is the current driver pool; in my case, they are becoming experienced. That’s why all we want them to do is sit in right lane, with their hands on wheel, and let truck do the work in terms of fuel economy: that is the driver of the future,” Eggleton said. “Just sit there and be safe; that is all we ask. But we must get them to that point first.”

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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