Plus 2

By Max Kvidera | November 01, 2009

Most of the time, he and his drivers set cruise control at 60 mph. Beyond that, drivers are allowed one hour a day at 65 mph for passing slow traffic, Kufahl says. He also has his engines’ rpm set to enhance fuel efficiency, not speed.

“Some people will say they can’t make good time,” he says of slower speeds. “But if they would keep the left door shut, they can make time. I’ll see some of the same owner-operators pass me three or four times.”

Kufahl’s also committed to aerodynamics. His Cascadias are spec’d with 72-inch raised roofs, short wheelbases, chassis skirts, aerodynamic bumpers and direct-drive transmissions. He added a cab heater to reduce idling. Two of the three trailers he owns are outfitted with Freight Wing skirts from in front of the landing gear to the trailer end and an ATD Dynamics trailer tail. “When I skirted my trailer, I pulled a full mile to the gallon better,” he says. “That doesn’t count the trailer tail or nose gap fairing.”

Kufahl also is teaming with his son to develop an extreme prototype truck-trailer gap reducer to almost totally prevent gap drag. “My goal is to have the truck and trailer touch going down the road,” he says.

Kufahl recommends taking advantage of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport program (www.epa.gov/smartway), which details how effective various fuel-saving measures are.

A mix of strategies

Gary Adams, an owner-operator for 39 years from Garland, Texas, has achieved around 8 mpg with three different trucks. With his current tractor, a 2000 Kenworth T600, he regularly gets 6.7 to 6.9 mpg, and once got 8.5 mpg.

This is his first truck with a Caterpillar engine after years of going with Detroit Diesel engines. At first he was getting about 5.5 mpg, but he’s increased it with a combination of aerodynamics, rpm adjustment and other things.

Adams, leased to Admiral Merchants, would prefer to drive a classic, boxy-hooded truck, but since 1992 he’s bought the T600 for fuel economy. “I like a W900 better, but the T600 has a shorter turning radius and is more aerodynamic,” he says.

“Keep as low a profile as you can. Don’t allow much space between the back of your cab and your trailer or load. That makes a big difference for me.”

Keeping his rpm between 1200 and 1500 when shifting, Adams says, boosts his mileage further. He typically runs the speed limit, but would drive slower than that if he didn’t have as many time-sensitive loads.

After researching various products to save fuel, Adams says he’s found good results with the Aircell Intake Spacer. It spins air as it passes from the turbo to the intake manifold, purportedly creating “better atomization of fuel and air,” according to the company’s website.

He recommends knowing your route options well enough to make choices that can enhance fuel economy. For example, “Cement gives you better mileage than asphalt, which seems to roll under your tires a bit,” he says.