Why I run green

| April 02, 2008

Beyond improving her family’s health, Barnett is well aware that most clean-air efforts also reduce fuel consumption, save on engine wear and tear and just make good business sense. To save on fuel, the company’s trucks are aero models, which average from 5.8 mpg to 6.7 mpg.

To reduce idling and fuel use, in 2004 Barnett spent $21,000 to equip her company trucks with auxiliary power units. “They used hardly any fuel at all,” she says. But shortly after the units were installed, components started breaking, and she couldn’t get them repaired. Then the seller went out of business. Now those units are sitting out in the barn, she says. “They were wonderful when they worked.”

To keep drivers warm in winter while limiting idling, Barnett equips sleepers with bunk heating pads that plug into the cigarette lighter. When the weather’s pleasant, she encourages drivers to roll down the windows instead of running the air-conditioning. And where it’s available, Barnett pays for drivers to use IdleAire.

Barnett watches fuel consumption closely, “for economic purposes and to make sure these guys are doing everything they can to try to keep the air clean,” she says. She taps into the engine computers to track time spent idling and using cruise control. “If they run low idle, high cruise, we give them a bonus,” she says. “If not, we sit them down and talk to them again.”

Ultimately, clean air is everyone’s responsibility, Barnett says. “The Lord created a perfect environment,” she says. “We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. It’s a perfect circle, and here we are messing it up. Taking out the green stuff and putting in the crud.”

‘Oil will eventually run out’
Michael Frybarger wants to lower our dependence on non-renewable fuels.

For owner-operator Michael Frybarger, championing alternative fuels is not about trends or political correctness. It’s about life or death. “If not only this country but the whole world doesn’t get on the fast track toward another fuel source, then we’re doomed,” he says.

To do his part, Frybarger has been using biodiesel as much as possible for about three years. “I’m such a fan because it’s something I can do in my business,” he says. The Thurmont, Md., independent got interested in biodiesel when he read about it in the local paper. “I thought it was a good idea: better for the air, good for the farmers. Then I got to the price of it.”

That was the late 1990s, when a gallon of diesel cost $1, but biodiesel was $2.50 per gallon. When diesel prices started climbing, Frybarger heard Willie Nelson talking about biodiesel on Bill Mack’s show on XM Satellite Radio. Frybarger started doing research and learned that some scientists believe we’ve used up half the world’s oil.

“Fuel, asphalt, rubber – all are made from it,” he says. “No one will argue with you that oil will eventually run out. I started thinking of what the ramifications of that would be.”

This led Frybarger to get serious about using biodiesel. He’s had no problems fueling his 500-hp Cummins N14 with it, but because he pulls oversized loads of varying shapes on a step deck, it’s difficult to determine the real effect on his fuel mileage. His best was 8.2 mpg on a five-day trip from Texas to Washington where he drove 60 mph hauling a light load.

Frybarger calls his right foot “the best fuel conservation equipment there is. For every mile per hour over 55 you lose one-tenth of a gallon.” He cruises at about 63 mph because he says that’s where his 2000 Volvo 770 gets the best mileage.

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