A lifetime of fuel economy

May 3, 2016
Too often I hear that investing in technology that improves fuel economy is something only the big guys can afford.

Too often I hear that investing in technology that improves fuel economy is something only the big guys can afford. Well, Steve Kron, an owner-operator, is living proof that simply is not true.

Just recently Steve hit a lifetime fuel economy average of nine miles to the gallon. He formally started tracking his fuel economy back in 2010 when he started uses Kevin Rutherford’s Profit Gauges, but says he has always been interested in it. He started working on lowering his fuel consumption during the OPEC oil crisis in the early 1970s. At one point he realized that if he bought a good used truck with an electronically controlled engine the fuel savings would be enough to make the truck payments. “The truck was basically free,” he said.

Nine mpg.  And before you say that he must have done it over easy runs, know that Steve has had trips to Alaska, through the mountains of Pennsylvania and to Edmonton in winter when temperatures were at the -20° to -30° F range, to name a few of his tough hauls.

Nine mpg.  Boggles the mind.  And he did it in a 2001 International 9400 with a 12.7 liter Detroit Series 60 engine, a 10-speed direct drive transmission with 2:64 ratio in a 6x4 configuration.  Sure Steve has made extensive modifications too numerous to name, although I will touch on some of them:

  • A bumper and fender from a 2016 Mack Vision to improve the aerodynamics in front with a splitter much like those found in NASCAR
  • A belly pan between the fuel tanks
  • Wake board behind the rear drive axles
  • Boat tail of his own design that goes back five feet and curves
  • Aero Rain Guard from Smart Truck
  • Real Wheel wheel covers
  • FAST fuel system
  • A generator so he never idles
  • Low rolling resistance wide base tires

I will stop there, but I am sure Steve will be happy to talk to you about all the things he has done to improve his miles per gallon – like did with me in the parking lot in Louisville outside of MATS.

I asked him if he thought nine miles per gallon was a realistic target for others to reach. “It is definitely possible and my goal is 15 miles per gallon. I think that is possible with a hybrid set up,” he explained.

Steve is adamant that the low price of fuel today should not be used as an excuse to not try to increase miles per gallon. “Everyone looks at ROI and says ‘I have to get [the fuel saving technology] paid for in a year in fuel savings’ That is nice if you can do it, but people forget to factor in the cost savings you have on lower maintenance.”

He reminds us that wear on an engine is measured by the amount of fuel that goes through it. “That is how the engine manufacturers measure it and is an indication of how hard the engine is working,” he said.  “Everything you do to make the engine work less hard translate to less wear on the engine.” And that translates to benefits for the transmission, U-joints, rear end and tires. “All this stuff that is hard to quantify, but it all adds up.”

And for Steve it has added up to an impressive lifetime nine miles per gallon.  Thanks Steve for being an example and an inspiration.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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