Smart Driving

Max Kvidera | August 01, 2010

Kufahl’s committed to aerodynamics. His Freightliner Cascadias are spec’d with 72-inch raised roofs, short wheelbases, chassis skirts, aerodynamic bumpers and direct-drive transmissions. His trailers are outfitted with skirts from in front of the landing gear to the trailer end with a 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.”

To reduce wind resistance, Koorenny moved his 48-foot Utility van about 18 inches closer to his cab. That positioning also helps in weight distribution to achieve maximum loads.

Adams prefers the classic, boxy-hooded truck look, but he’s owned the more fuel-efficient Kenworth T600s for almost 20 years. “Keep as low a profile as you can,” he says. “Don’t allow much space between the back of your cab and your trailer or load. That makes a big difference for me.”

Kufahl recommends taking advantage of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport program (, which details the effectiveness of various fuel-saving measures. The website includes calculators for single owners and fleets to measure your fuel savings.

“There isn’t a silver bullet that will get you a mile per gallon,” says Albert. “You have to look around for a tenth here and a tenth there.”

Shifting and cruise control

Use restraint when accelerating from stop, advises Kenworth. In its white paper on fuel economy, the truck manufacturer says short-shifting at 1,100 to 1,200 rpm in all the low-range gears limits fuel consumption. The step to high range requires more rpm. Use 1,500 rpm as the maximum shift point. “Lug the engine to 1,150 rpm before downshifting. The upper end of the power curve — 1,500 to 1,800 or 2,100 rpm — has the most severe fuel burn rate,” the company says.

Kenworth recommends using cruise control frequently. Set the cruise as soon as you are up to speed. Choose a lane that avoids merging traffic and other slowdowns that may force you to turn off your cruise control and lose momentum. You burn more fuel every time you need to regain speed. Constant speeds save fuel, the company notes.

Out-of-route miles cost

Route management is another important factor in fuel economy. Out-of-route miles cost time and money and burn more fuel.

Kenworth estimates that out-of-route miles may account for from 3 to 10 percent of a driver’s total mileage each year. For example, if an operator drives 100,000 miles a year at 6 mpg, out-of-route miles of 3 percent — or 3,000 miles — require 500 extra gallons of diesel fuel. Multiply that by $3 a gallon, and the operator spends $1,500 in additional fuel costs.

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