67 tips to boost fuel economy

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Fuel Economy


  • 1 | Overdrive | November 2012

    tipsSaving 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

    to boostfuel economy

  • November 2012 | Overdrive | 2

    5 Consolidate fuel purchases. Fuel card pro-viders have negoti-ated discounts with truck stops, but just as important, driv-ers and fleets can use the data they collect to compare and to consolidate fuel purchases to negotiate more savings.

    6 Dont rely on pump price. Check online sources for infor-mation on state fuel taxes. Only after subtracting taxes from the pump price do you know the true price of the fuel.

    7 Get the best possible fuel surcharge. Surcharge terms differ in vari-ous ways, such as payment for empty miles. Make sure you know how yours is calculated. If its not fair, consider leasing elsewhere.

    8 Bypass weigh stations and toll booths. Enrolling in programs such as PrePass and electronic toll col-lection systems enables you to avoid burning extra fuel by stopping and then accelerating back to speed.

    1 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.

    2 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 Traffic.com or other sites each day to see potential construction and traf-fic on your route. Some smartphone apps and GPS units also provide real-time traffic information.

    3 Plan fuel stops carefully. Some in-cab navigation systems and smartphone apps include real-time information in their point-of-interest features that allow drivers to search for the nearest fuel loca-tions and cheapest prices on their route.

    Online software systems help maximize fuel savings by finding the cheap-est locations to buy fuel. Systems such as this one from ProMiles compare fuel prices minus IFTA fuel taxes. This is the only fair way to compare fuel prices because owner operators get credit for IFTA taxes paid at the 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-rent fuel levels, truck stop preferences and other variables.

    Whats the most effective fuel-saving device youve

    applied to the truck in the past decade?

    Josh Nileski: A 200-plus horsepower chip from Pittsburgh Power. As long as 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 add up not just one thing.

    William McKelvie: 1) PDI exhaust mani-fold. 2) Fuel code reset. 3) Flow-through mufflers. 4) PDI tune (coming soon).

    Anti-idlingIdling can cost $3,000 or more per year in fuel. This doesnt include the added engine maintenance expense that results from excessive idling, which is harder on your trucks engine than highway driving.

    9 Turn off the engine. Avoid excessive warm-up times when starting the truck. Even for a short stop, youll save money by not idling. Look for other times when you have a habit of idling but cant 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.

    4Optimize fuel purchases.

    10Use shore-power when its available.

  • 67 tips to boost fuel economy

    3 | Overdrive | November 2012

    18 Use your reefer for climate control. The unique reefer-based Idle Free Electric APU, developed initially by Overdrive 2006 Trucker of the Year Robert Jordan, uses the power capacity of the reefer unit to function much as a diesel APU would running cab accessories and climate con-trol devices when the truck is idle as well as charging truck batteries.

    19 Install an automatic engine start-stop system. These can be set up to shut down the engine after a certain amount of idle time or, tied to a thermo-stat, to turn on when the cab goes above or below a certain temperature. Entering the market late this year, the Idle Smart system will measure internal and external tempera-tures and interact with truck cooling and heating sources, outside air and engine block heat to keep the cab comfortable.

    11Buy a diesel-powered APU. While your trucks engine can use a gallon of diesel per hour idling, recent estimates indicate a diesel auxiliary power unit burns about a fifth of that.12 Get an electric APU. These systems typi-cally utilize electric power from a bank of high-capacity absorbed glass mat batteries often replacing your trucks starting bat-teries to power climate control units and in-cab accessories. Often, a diesel-fired heater is included in the system for heating. The systems cost roughly half to two-thirds of most diesel APUs. They wont cover your power needs over a 34-hour restart, but for drivers getting home once a week they could be most appropriate.

    13 Purchase a diesel-powered heater. Operators in north-ern climates may not need to shell out up to $9,000 for a full-function diesel APU because a less expensive diesel-fired heater can keep the cab plenty warm while burning around a quarter of the fuel an APU uses.

    14 Use a DC air condi-tioner. If your need for cooling when rest-ing is low, battery-powered air conditioners can be paired with high-capacity batteries and a fuel-fired heater for a comprehensive cab climate control alternative to idling.

    PROFIT OFF THE SURCHARGE. Try to beat the miles-per-gallon your fuel surcharge is based on, typically 6 mpg. If you can do better, you pocket the extra money.

    SMART DRIVING. Of the many factors affect-ing fuel efficiency, such as aerodynamics and tire maintenance, more than a third is attributed to driv-ers skills.

    17 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 APUs price, to power in-cab accessories and HVAC systems.

    15 Get an engine block heater. If you find yourself operating far enough north that you often idle a lot to warm your engine, you might save in the long run by getting a block heater.

    16 Use an inverter. It will convert direct current from your batteries to alternating current to power in-cab accessories. If your idle time needs are limited, installation of an inverter can supply adequate electricity to power in-cab electrical devices.

    20Avoid revving the engine between shifts. Ease into each new gear, and dont be in a hurry to climb through them.Download engine data to compare your shifting behaviors RPMs at shift point to the optimal RPM torque bands for your engine. Adjusting your shifting to fit the make and model of engine can make a big difference. Every 1,000-rpm reduction in engine speed delivers a 1 percent gain in fuel economy.

    22 Run in your engines sweet spot. Once you reach cruising speed, operating in the peak torque zone gives you optimum horsepower, so the engine runs most efficiently. It takes only about 200 horse-power to maintain 65 mph.

    21Adjust shifting patterns

  • November 2012 | Overdrive | 4

    67 tips to boost fuel economy

    36 Choose an aero-designed model for your next truck. Truck makers have perfected the design of the front bumper, hood, under-hood-breather, fenders, mir-rors and other features to move air as smoothly as possible under, over and around the truck and trailer.

    37 Add a roof fairing. If youre running a flattop tractor or midroof in a van or reefer application, the addi-tion of an aftermarket roof fairing can smooth the flow of air over the top of the trailer, improving fuel effi-ciency. Some tests indicate that a full roof fairing, combined with side shields/extenders, in certain applications can deliver up to a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy.

    Add-ons like the trailer tail side skirts on owner-operator Brett Tobins van (pic-tured) can reduce aerodynamic drag and help stability in crosswinds. The tail reduces the drag

    created by the vacuum at the back of a fast-moving tractor-trailer. Some operators report a full mile-per-gallon boost from using a trailer tail combined with side skirts.

    24 Anticipate traffic signals . If you can approach slowly and avoid a complete stop, it saves fuel and reduces equip-ment wear.

    25 Minimize AC use. Running the air conditioner delivers a 210 to 410-mpg hit.

    26 Dont punch the throttle. Gradually put your foot into it, pretending theres an egg between the pedal and the floorboard. Use smooth,

    steady accelerator inputs to avoid fuel burn spikes.

    27 Lower your aver-age highway speed. Every mph over 55 equals a 0.1 mpg drop in fuel economy.

    28 Maintain your diesel particulate filter. Much like a clog


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