Topping 10 mpg: Former Trucker of the Year blends driving strategy, equipment

| November 01, 2013
HenryDriving copy

Click here to see a video log of Henry Albert giving further insight into his fuel-saving practices in a video compilation of highlights from his drive with Jack Roberts.

Are we about to pass the 10-mile-per-gallon threshold in long-haul trucking? Owner-operator Henry Albert certainly thinks so.

 Albert, owner of Albert Transport out of Mooresville, N.C., is a member of Freightliner Trucks’ Team Run Smart. These are five drivers who each represent a positive aspect of the owner-operator business and lifestyle. 

Albert, Overdrive’s 2007 Trucker of the Year, is the “face” of Team Run Smart when it comes to proving and promoting Freightliner’s fuel-efficient heavy trucks to the industry and the public at large. A big part of that involves the new Cascadia Evolution that Freightliner matched with Albert in November. 

Related

Video log: Tagging along with a 10 mpg owner-operator

Overdrive Equipment Editor is riding from Alabama to Dallas with owner-operator Henry Albert, and the two are aiming to average 10 mpg during the course of the trip in Albert's Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.

I rode for two days with Albert. We left Overdrive’s headquarters in Tuscaloosa, Ala., bound for the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Albert was scheduled to show his highly aerodynamic tractor-trailer combo and spread the word on what he’s learned and how other truckers can apply his lessons in their day-to-day operations.

My goal in riding with Albert was to verify that he was getting 10 mpg in his daily operations. As it turned out, he’s not. He’s actually getting 11 mpg.

 Or at least he did on our run to Texas, with a final tally of 11.2 mpg. Pretty impressive, considering our GVWR of about 62,500 pounds.

Sometimes – on a good day, when everything’s going right – Albert’s getting 12 mpg or better. On the other hand, his fuel logs show that some days he drops to the 9-mpg range. His average since he’s had the truck is a solid 9.5 mpg. 

Henry Albert took ownership of his Freightliner Cascadia Evolution tractor-trailer in November 2012 and logged his first 10 mpg run about a month later. Today, he routinely breaks through the 11 mpg threshold on his runs.

Henry Albert’s Freightliner Cascadia Evolution and Utility 4000 D-X Dry Van feature several standard and cutting-edge fuel-economy components or design elements. Among the notable ones:
• Special windshield for better airflow
• Body-integrated antenna
• Hubcaps at all wheel locations
• Cab extenders with filler piece between the side skirts and the extender body
• Lower front air dam
• Hood-to-bumper filler piece
• Elliptical-shaped mirrors
• Chassis side-fairing enhancements
• ATDynamics TrailerTail
• Wide-base single tires

A former racecar driver, Albert had to discipline himself to run slow. He’ll still go 70 mph if his business requires it, but most days he’s cruising around 62 mph, letting his integrated Detroit Diesel drivetrain and DT12 transmission do most of the work.

“Just because the speed limit is 70 mph, you don’t have to go that speed,” he told me. “People say it’s unsafe, but it’s not. I settle into the right-hand lane, set my speed and stay there. I’ve adjusted my routes and timetables to meet this new schedule, and it works out very well – especially considering the fuel and money I’m saving. 

“I’m going to drive for 10 hours a day, no matter what. If another driver finishes the same 10-hour day and he’s another 60 or 80 miles down the road, great. But what has he really accomplished? And was that extra 60, 70 or 80 miles worth the money that went out his smokestacks? I don’t think so.”

During the drive, I updated readers on our progress and current fuel economy numbers. A few naysayers sneered that Albert is using a special aerodynamic truck to log those numbers. 

“Of course I’m using a special truck to achieve these numbers,” a frustrated Albert responded. “That’s the whole point here. But more than that, I’m actually using the truck to the fullest extent of its potential. I’m buying into the concept, and I’m making it work. But a lot of people don’t care about that, because they’d have to change the way they do things, or they wouldn’t look ‘cool’ blasting down the highway. OK, I don’t look as cool driving down the highway, but my wife looks pretty cool in the Mercedes-Benz I bought her. So I’m OK with that.” 

Related

Evolution evolves: Freightliner adds gas power to Cascadia’s aero package

Napa Valley, Calif., has become an annual locale for Freightliner to present news and updates on various industry issues. And what’s the point of holding court if you don’t let folks take your trucks out for a spin?

Albert then fumbled behind his seat before producing a small bit of paper towel. After noting that birds can use it for nesting or, failing that, it’s quickly biodegradable, he asked me to toss it out the window and track its progress. As he predicted, it perfectly shadowed the rig’s lines in a smooth trajectory past the TrailerTail.

“You can see for yourself how clean the airflow is,” he said. “That’s where fuel economy comes from.” 

Albert said he’s made fuel economy a game. He challenges himself daily to post high numbers. He’s become a keen observer of conditions and, where possible, tailors his day to take them into account. He watches the trees to see if he’s lucky to have a tailwind. Worse than a headwind is a side-gust, hitting the tractor-trailer gap hard and creating an aerodynamic penalty. He tries to avoid wet and hot roads because they add rolling resistance.

While he can’t always work around such conditions, there are other things he can control that most operators don’t consider – such as his mudflaps. He pulled them off the truck and trailer and paired them down with a circular saw to make certain they weren’t protruding into the slipstream. 

He plans his rest stops at high elevations. His reasoning: It’s easier to get his rig back up to speed going down a grade as opposed to burning extra fuel trying to accelerate uphill.

Albert knows he’s a little extreme in his fuel economy quest, but he said his habits can be adopted by drivers looking to improve their bottom line – or perhaps win a fleet fuel economy challenge.

“If you’re getting 5.5 mpg now and you can raise that number to 8.5 mpg but don’t, it’s like throwing a new Cadillac away every two years,” he said. “There’s simply no reason not to do everything in your power to improve fuel economy.” 

  • MW Girl

    One tip that Henry likes to share is wearing thin soled shoes when driving so we can feel what the throttle is doing. Great tip to lighten up a lead foot.

  • Ken Nilsen

    That’s all well and good, but just think, no t-shirts in the truck stop for right lane cruisin greedy truck drivers! I am right there with you my friend. I spec’d out my truck to be aerodynamic, matched the engine and transmission to my needs, run 100 percent synthetic oils front to back, 62 cruise speed, I use prepass and ez-pass, keep trailer gap to a minimum and run smart. Glad to see this article featured.

  • DE_from_NC

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. All this works when you have all the time in the world to drag ass at 62 mph to get somewhere, stopping at rest areas on the top of a hill as to not have to accelerate away from. But c’mon guys, unless you have a “special” , make that “very UNIQUE AND SPECIAL” situation, is this “normal” trucking ? I mean you know, when the shipper don’t even have your load MADE when you bump the dock and yet STILL wants it there ON TIME ? And if you don’t get it there it’ll cost you another day’s reload worth of revenue if you don’t ? Sure I’d LOVE TO HAVE 9 mpg, much less 11-12, but I live in reality, my weeks don’t go as “calculated” as this article points out. I live within 15 miles of where this truck is based, yet I’ve NEVER SEEN IT ! HMMMMM !!

  • Jason Haggard

    So I guess they are trying to say that everyone else that operates in the real world is operating stupid. Run some of the routes and freight that the rest of us do and those trucks will never see close to 10 MPG. But hurry up everyone and run out and buy a brand new Freightliner Evolution and trailer with all of its 15 different non practical gadgets on it and see if you can pay it off before you die.

  • Adam

    There is a resistance factor as well as a weight. He is correct, there is some aerodynamics which bump up the miles. But he is not indicating 42,000 lbs of freight or dragging it across the State of Pennsylvania. He does not discuss the optimal torque range for shifting either. I tend to agree w/ the guys below. Nothing like being at shipper by 0900 (after dropping 1st load), loaded by 1900 on a Wed. (leaving near Cleveland) and bound for Houston w/ delivery date of Friday…didn’t even bother killing myself or others…

  • William McKelvie

    Leaving out it is a SIX BY TWO ……??? A word of caution to those who drop speeds significantly below the posted limits. A word of caution, shark lawyers are called shark lawyers for a reason.

  • jeff clark

    Great job! Hitting 10 mpg is an outstanding achievement. The fuel mileage on this trip was documented ever which way but loose. It takes a lot to achieve a goal like 10 mpg. It takes a driver, truck, and trailer all working together. The little things, like moving the trailer license plate, all add up. There are relatively inexpensive things that Henry has done to the truck and trailer that most of us can do to improve our fuel mileage and profitability. Most of us will never hit 10 mpg-that does not mean that we can’t benefit from what Henry has done here.

  • RandyGriebel

    Ive read about you for years Henry! Keep up the good work, we need more professionals like you sending positive messages about trucking. I really like the tie, you probably get more respect from people that way. Thank you sir.

  • John Ryan

    Great job but I don’t think 10 MPG is or can be average yet for 99% of the industry. I guess freightliner would like to boast this undoable crap until they have the price of freight drop to meet the 10 MPG myth. WEEEHAAAAH Can’t wate another sharp stick in the eye.

  • John Ryan

    Yeah right. You keep ur foot on the throttle and i’ll stay with cruise.

  • John Ryan

    and what is your MPG?

  • John Tillery

    I’d like to see his MPG grossing 80K up I81 I do that every week in my volvo and average 7.5 without all the gadgets so pulling 62K through flat texas and getting that MPG is good but not unheard of

  • Ken Nilsen

    Trip average of 7.6. I run everything from 100,000 lb tri-axle generators, to flatbeds, to van trailers.

  • Jon

    and basically no load in the box.

  • Jon

    yeah, that MIGHT have made a difference 20 years ago when the engines were mechanical. But the throttles of today are all variable pots. Meaning you can go into the computer and change them up on the sensitivity and response of them.

  • William McKelvie

    I wear work boots. Why? Because this is work, not office wear. If shoes make you get better fuel mileage, well good for you! The rest of us know how to drive with work boots, have done so for years. Most places I go require some type of work boot to be worn. OSHA requirements at many many places.

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