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tips to boost

fuel economy
Saving money on fuel will never be less important than it is today. Diesel prices
have been rising virtually every week since early July, making $4 diesel the new
normal, and perhaps dirt cheap by standards a year from now.

Gaining even 1 mile per gallon means a huge savings. With diesel at $4 per gal-
lon, an owner-operator averaging 6 mpg and driving 120,000 miles a year will
save $16,000 a year over one who averages 5 mpg.

See if you can apply any of these tips to your operation. Each one will add dol-
lars to your bottom line.

By Todd Dills, Jack Roberts, James Jaillet and Aaron Huff

1 | Overdrive | November 2012

Use truck-routing tools. Choosing the
shortest, most practical truck route
can save hundreds of dollars a year in
fuel. Spoken, turn-by-turn directions will
take you directly to street-level addresses.
With a navigation aid, savings of 10 miles
or more a week is possible by eliminating
out-of-route miles.
Optimize fuel purchases.

Avoid traffic tie-ups. Rush hour, high-
way construction and traffic jams not
only suck hours from your on-duty
time, but they also require much decelera-
tion and acceleration, which requires more
fuel. Check or other sites each
Online software systems help maximize fuel savings by finding the cheap-
day to see potential construction and traf- est locations to buy fuel. Systems such as this one from ProMiles compare
fic on your route. Some smartphone apps fuel prices minus IFTA fuel taxes. This is the only fair way to compare
and GPS units also provide real-time traffic fuel prices because owner operators get credit for IFTA taxes paid at the
information. pump and since tax rates vary widely by state. These optimal fuel plans
can save 4 to 11 cents a gallon. The systems factor in tank capacity, cur-

Plan fuel stops carefully. Some in-cab rent fuel levels, truck stop preferences and other variables.
navigation systems and smartphone
apps include real-time information in

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their point-of-interest features that allow Consolidate Don’t rely on Get the best Bypass weigh
drivers to search for the nearest fuel loca- fuel purchases. pump price. possible fuel stations and
tions and cheapest prices on their route. Fuel card pro- Check online surcharge. toll booths.
viders have negoti- sources for infor- Surcharge terms Enrolling in
ated discounts with mation on state differ in vari- programs such
truck stops, but just fuel taxes. Only ous ways, such as PrePass and
as important, driv- after subtracting as payment for electronic toll col-
What’s the most effective ers and fleets can taxes from the empty miles. lection systems
fuel-saving device you’ve use the data they pump price do Make sure you enables you to
applied to the truck collect to compare you know the know how yours avoid burning
and to consolidate true price of the is calculated. extra fuel by
in the past decade? fuel purchases to fuel. If it’s not fair, stopping and
Josh Nileski: A 200-plus horsepower negotiate more consider leasing then accelerating
chip from Pittsburgh Power. As long as savings. elsewhere. back to speed.
you keep the heat off her, you never
have to go above 1,600 rpm climbing
a hill.
Rich Rukstalis: Flow-through exhaust,
fleet air filters, reprogrammed ECM and
adjusting turbo wastegate. All these Idling can cost $3,000 or more per year in fuel. This doesn’t include
add up — not just one thing. the added engine maintenance expense that results from excessive
idling, which is harder on your truck’s engine than highway driving.
William McKelvie: 1) PDI exhaust mani-

fold. 2) Fuel code reset. 3) Flow-through Turn off the engine. Avoid excessive warm-up times when starting the truck. Even
mufflers. 4) PDI tune (coming soon). for a short stop, you’ll save money by not idling. Look for other times when you
have a habit of idling but can’t justify it.

Many inverters and APUs come with a plug-in option that converts
incoming current to DC to charge the batteries, using AC to power
climate-control units and/or in-cab accessories. The truck stop electrifica-
tion movement to help eliminate idling has gained steam in the past year,

with plug-in options available at many more parking spaces.
Use shore-
power when
it’s available.
November 2012 | Overdrive | 2

11 Buy a diesel-powered APU. While your truck’s engine can

use a gallon of diesel per hour idling, recent estimates indicate
a diesel auxiliary power unit burns about a fifth of that.

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Get an electric APU. Purchase a diesel-
These systems typi- powered heater. PROFIT OFF THE SMART DRIVING. Of
cally utilize electric Operators in north- SURCHARGE. Try to beat the many factors affect-
power from a bank of high- ern climates may not need the miles-per-gallon your ing fuel efficiency, such
capacity absorbed glass mat to shell out up to $9,000 for fuel surcharge is based as aerodynamics and tire
batteries – often replacing a full-function diesel APU on, typically 6 mpg. If you maintenance, more than a
your truck’s starting bat- because a less expensive can do better, you pocket third is attributed to driv-
teries – to power climate diesel-fired heater can keep
the extra money. ers’ skills.
control units and in-cab the cab plenty warm while
accessories. Often, a diesel- burning around a quarter of
fired heater is included in the fuel an APU uses.

the system for heating. The Get an engine block heater. If you find yourself

systems cost roughly half Use a DC air condi- operating far enough north that you often idle a
to two-thirds of most diesel tioner. If your need lot to warm your engine, you might save in the
APUs. They won’t cover for cooling when rest- long run by getting a block heater.
your power needs over a ing is low, battery-powered

34-hour restart, but for air conditioners can be paired Use an inverter. It will convert direct current from
drivers getting home once with high-capacity batteries your batteries to alternating current to power in-
a week they could be most and a fuel-fired heater for a cab accessories. If your idle time needs are limited,
appropriate. comprehensive cab climate installation of an inverter can supply adequate electricity
control alternative to idling. to power in-cab electrical devices.

Get a mobile generator. Like diesel APUs, gasoline- or diesel-fired generators
can be installed on the frame rail and utilized, often costing a fraction of an APU’s
price, to power in-cab accessories and HVAC systems.

Use your reefer for climate control.
The unique reefer-based Idle Free

Electric APU, developed initially by Avoid revving the engine between shifts.
Overdrive 2006 Trucker of the Year Robert
Jordan, uses the power capacity of the reefer Ease into each new gear, and don’t be in a
unit to function much as a diesel APU would hurry to climb through them.
– running cab accessories and climate con-

trol devices when the truck is idle as well as
charging truck batteries. Adjust shifting patterns
Download engine data to compare your

Install an automatic engine start- shifting behaviors – RPMs at shift point
stop system. These can be set up to – to the optimal RPM “torque bands”
shut down the engine after a certain for your engine. Adjusting your shifting
amount of idle time or, tied to a thermo- to fit the make and model of engine can
stat, to turn on when the cab goes above or make a big difference. Every 1,000-rpm
below a certain temperature. Entering the reduction in engine speed delivers a 1
market late this year, the Idle Smart system percent gain in fuel economy.
will measure internal and external tempera-

tures and interact with truck cooling and Run in your engine’s “sweet spot.” Once you reach cruising speed,
heating sources, outside air and engine block operating in the peak torque zone gives you optimum horsepower,
heat to keep the cab comfortable. so the engine runs most efficiently. It takes only about 200 horse-
power to maintain 65 mph.

3 | Overdrive | November 2012


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Maintain an
extended following
distance. Use truck stops atop hills.
Driving uphill toward the truck stop allows
natural deceleration and going downhill to
re-enter the highway requires less fuel.
It helps to prevent unnecessary
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Keep up with oil and Maintain fuel fil-
acceleration due to frequent braking. oil filter changes.
A well-maintained
ters. Clogged filters
make the engine
engine not only lasts longer, but run rough and work harder.

Anticipate traffic steady accelerator inputs to
has an edge on fuel efficiency. Replace according to manu-
signals . If you can avoid fuel burn spikes.
facturer’s recommendation.

approach slowly

Keep belts at proper
and avoid a complete stop, it Lower your aver-

tension. Even slight Maximize use of
saves fuel and reduces equip- age highway speed.
slipping creates parasit- cruise control. That
ment wear. Every mph over 55
ic horsepower loss. Make sure enables you to avoid
equals a 0.1 mpg drop in
all belts are properly tightened

Minimize AC use. fuel economy. wasteful use of the throttle to
and in good condition. climb hills.
Running the air

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conditioner delivers Maintain your

Avoid needless accel- Switch to a daycab
a 2⁄10 to 4⁄10-mpg hit. diesel particulate
eration. For example, and use motels.
filter. Much like a
don’t hit the throttle

Don’t punch the clogged catalytic converter If your operation
too much when approaching doesn’t require too many
throttle. Gradually on your car, a plugged
the crest of a hill. Instead, over-the-road overnight stays,
put your foot into DPF hampers exhaust flow.
lay off the throttle and let not only would you save
it, pretending there’s an egg It can lead to compression
the truck’s momentum carry on the cost of a tractor by
between the pedal and the or combustion problems if
it over. Watch the boost buying a daycab instead of
floorboard. Use smooth, left untreated.
gauge for an exact read of a sleeper, but the reduced
what you’re doing. weight and the reduced idling

could also save fuel costs.

The most important factor in saving fuel at speeds greater than 55 mph is aerodynamics. Individual aero
features can give impressive fuel economy savings – 2 percent, 4 percent and even higher. Don’t expect to
add them all up for 20 percent or more improvement, but a thorough package of them can yield a 12 percent
to 15 percent boost in fuel economy over a comparable conventional truck.

Choose an aero-designed model for your next truck. Add-ons like the
Truck makers have perfected the design of the front
bumper, hood, under-hood-breather, fenders, mir-
trailer tail side
skirts on owner-
rors and other features to move air as smoothly as possible a tail.
operator Brett
under, over and around the truck and trailer. Tobin’s van (pic-
tured) can reduce

Add a roof fairing. If you’re running a flattop tractor aerodynamic drag
Todd Dills

or midroof in a van or reefer application, the addi- and help stability in

tion of an aftermarket roof fairing can smooth the crosswinds. The tail
flow of air over the top of the trailer, improving fuel effi- reduces the drag
ciency. Some tests indicate that a full roof fairing, combined created by the vacuum at the back of a fast-moving tractor-
with side shields/extenders, in certain applications can trailer. Some operators report a full mile-per-gallon boost
deliver up to a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy. from using a trailer tail combined with side skirts.

November 2012 | Overdrive | 4


Install side skirts. Many own- with a more rounded back to further
ers have installed these on van enhance airflow.
and reefer trailers to minimize

the drag produced by the swirling of air Dress your tanks with aero
under the trailer. Side skirts can deliver steps. Fuel tank fairings paired

a savings of 7.4 percent, according to with steps that smooth airflow
EPA-verified SAE Type II testing. over the lower side of the tractor can

Todd Dills
improve fuel performance 2 to 3 per- Cover wheel hubs.

Choose a lower sleeper roof. The cent, by some estimates.
stand-up sleeper with a full roof Bob and Linda Caffee run with these

fairing is not always the most Adjust the fifth wheel to narrow aerodynamic hub covers on the drives
fuel-efficient choice when it’s not paired the truck-trailer gap. The ideal of their Freightliner Cascadia expedit-
with a dry van or reefer. In liquid bulk gap should be around 30 inches. ing straight truck. Hub manufacturers
operations, a midroof sleeper is going Every 10-inch increase produces 2 percent estimate 1.5 percent to 3 percent in fuel
to be your best bet for aerodynamics. more drag. Move the fifth wheel forward, savings when all outside-facing wheels
In most flatbed applications, loads are if possible, to get better fuel economy. are outfitted with the devices, which
unlikely to rise above the height of a smooth airflow across the wheels.

midroof setup as well. For some high- Use dry van gap fairings. At the

density-load haulers, a flattop may even front of dry vans, gap fairings Use cab side extenders. For
be the best choice. ease airflow over the tractor- tractors not already optimized
trailer gap. This can boost fuel effi- for aerodynamics, installa-

Use rounder mirror backs. If ciency by 1 percent when paired with a tion of cab side extenders can create a
you’re utilizing old-style flat highly aerodynamic tractor with a tight smoother airflow over the tractor-trailer
West Coast mirrors for the side truck-trailer gap length. gap. Makers estimate a fuel efficiency
views, consider moving to mirrors improvement of 1 to 3 percent.

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5 | Overdrive | November 2012


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Add nose cone fairing. For flat- and at the top rear of the tractor and/ Choose a 13-liter engine over a
top or midroof tractor owners or trailer. The company says each one 15-liter. Unless your application
pulling dry vans, nose cone creates air swirls “that combine to absolutely needs the extra mus-
fairing technology combines the vertical reduce the suction and drag at the rear cle, there is a considerable fuel savings
fairing of more standard tractor-trailer of vehicles traveling at speeds above with the smaller engine.
gap technology with an outsize fairing approximately 35 mph.” Based on a

at the top to direct air both over the study involving Britain’s Institute of Choose trucks with lighter
trailer and down and around the sides. Road Transport Engineers, the tech- specs. Having 2,000 extra
nology is said to produce fuel savings pounds results in a tenth of a
of 2 to 4 percent. mile per gallon hit.

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Choose aero mudflaps. Years Use a hybrid in city operation.
ago, some owner-operators They can cut fuel consump-
running wide-single tires in tion as much as 50 percent
drive and trailer positions began cus- in pickup and delivery applications.
tom-cutting mudflaps and brackets to

Return on investment is around 12
eliminate the overhang of conventional to 13 years, but federal and state
mudflaps to reduce drag. Other options incentive programs can reduce that.
Install Airtabs. exist today, such as porous mudflaps. California, for example, offers a
$25,000 incentive for the first hybrid
Some owner-operators swear by purchased and $20,000 for each

Airtabs, such as these installed on Use aluminum wheels. The hybrid thereafter.
owner-operator James McCarter’s weight reduction relative to
Freightliner. Recommended installa- steel brings better fuel economy.
tion is on the hood, along the sides It can also mean a payload increase.

M er.
conn ore Done

7"Screen Weather

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Untitled-13 1 November 2012 | Overdrive | AM

10/4/12 10:06 6

Choose a truck with smaller fuel
WINTER CHILLS FUEL ECONOMY. You get fewer WINTER FUEL BLENDS. tanks. Fuel weighs 7 pounds to
miles per gallon during winter months because cold Because fuel sold in northern the gallon, so a smaller tank
air is thicker and harder for trucks to move through. climates for winter has a lower can cut weight significantly.
Every 10 degrees of extra warmth equates to a 2 per- BTU content than summer blend

cent improvement in fuel economy. fuels, fuel economy is poorer. Spec the optimal gear ratio.
Gear ratios can be optimized
for a variety of applications.
For a highly efficient highway ratio,
3:08 is a good choice for most trucks,
says the Technology and Maintenance
Council of the American Trucking

Use an automated manual
transmission. Don’t let acqui-
sition costs scare you off.
These transmissions have been proven
to deliver vastly better fuel economy
than manual transmissions.

Tires After diesel, an

owner-operator’s biggest vari-
able expense is tires. Maintaining
them well not only extends their
lifespan but also can save hun-
dreds of dollars a year in fuel.

Use tires with low rolling resis-
tance. Deeper lug tires usually
last longer, but the extended
tread’s very slight movement is enough
to decrease fuel economy. Shallower
lugs decrease rolling resistance and
give improved fuel economy.

Run wide-based tires. They
have been proven to deliver
better fuel economy than duals.

Monitor tire pressure. Each 10
psi of underinflation reduces
fuel economy by 1 percent.
Check pressure during pretrip. Tire
pressure monitoring systems can
monitor the pressure of each tire and,
through wireless communications, pro-
vide instant alerts through a display
in the cab the instant a tire is under-

Check wheel alignment. Make
alignment testing – both on
the tractor and trailer – part
of your periodic maintenance. It’s
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7 | Overdrive | November 2012

essential for optimum fuel economy and tion, much of which relates to fuel
maximum tire life.
Analyze data economy. You may need up to six
months of data before the numbers

Match tires well to your application. Today’s electronic control modules
If you’re running long-haul and capture and display a lot of informa- stabilize and yield useful trends.
using tires designed for any other tion on fuel performance. Dealers

application, your fuel economy will suffer. Analyze your fuel consumption
and fleets can extract this informa-
trends. When miles-per-gallon
falls, try to determine why. Did
you encounter much more urban driv-
ing? Did your length of haul change? As
a general rule, drops of more than 0.5
mpg are due to maintenance problems.
ECMs can be wildly optimistic, so your
actual mileage may be lower than indi-
cated. Validate ECM readings with your
own calculations based on the odometer
and gallons purchased at fill-up.

Isolate data and look for cor-
relations. The ECM records
many things that can affect fuel
economy. Look for noticeable changes
in average speed, top gear time, idle
time, DPF regenerations, shifting and
idling. Compare those trends with fuel
economy during the same period. You
might be surprised at the potential for
saving fuel by changing the way you

Check your fuel consumption by
route. If you have dedicated
runs that can be made via
interstate or a shorter route with a lot
of stop-and-go traffic, run trials for fuel
usage and time to see which is the most

Get an extra set of eyes. Some
technology companies offer
services tailored to owner-oper-
ators to maximize fuel savings. These
companies can monitor engine data
and fuel purchases and provide real-
time feedback and consulting.

Use reefer monitoring systems.
An often overlooked expense
is burning excess fuel to cool
trailers. Trailer monitoring systems cap-
ture the vital information needed to use
no more fuel than necessary.

Get oil analysis. The main value
of routine analysis is identify-
ing engine problems before they
become serious, but some of those prob-
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November 2012 | Overdrive | 8