"Fuel economy is one of our top priorities," says Chad England, president of C.R. England.
C.R. England employs a number of strategies to help boost fuel economy, which are broadly divided into two categories: behavior and equipment. Behavior comes first, and for a good reason - the man behind the wheel has an enormous impact on the fuel economy of a truck, upwards of 30 percent. A vehicle will perform poorly if the driver performs poorly, fuel-saving technology or not.
England says the big behavioral issues at his company are over-revving (accelerating quickly and shifting late) and idling, both of which can be attacked from a few different directions. Training is number one, and C.R. England is working with independent contractors to help address this problem. Technology is another method. England's fleet, which mainly comprises Freightliner Cascadias, are equipped with an auto shut-off timer for idling (five minutes), and a speed limiter (62 mph).
Carrots are the third method. C.R. England is currently promoting fuel-efficient driving behavior by giving away a Harley Davidson. The bike will be raffled off among the top fuel-saving drivers.
In the realm of equipment, C.R. England is a heavy investor. The fleet doesn't take third-parties' word for it, staging its own independent tests to verify the potential of new equipment, and to tweak what they already have.
"This has been a huge key to our success," England said. "Over the past few years, our fuel economy has gone up every month."
Only the largest fleets can benefit from running an empty truck for hundreds of mile through the desert just to see if an aerodynamic add-on lives up to its brochure. However, England says the game can work for smaller fleets, too, albeit with a few rule changes: simply run new equipment on some trucks and not others and compare notes. It's less scientific, but it gets the job done, and in the end, it's really about the bag of tricks and not the finale.
"There is no silver bullet," England said. "There is a multitude of things you need to work on."
Read more about fuel economy in the June issue of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.