If there’s a driver on the road today who embodies how crucial the contribution of the professional behind the wheel is to fuel efficiency, it’s Henry Albert. The long-time owner-operator, who runs dedicated routes west out of his base in North Carolina, serves on Freightliner’s Team Run Smart, a group of drivers who showcase the latest trucks and technology from Daimler Trucks North America in real-world driving conditions.
Albert has made boosting mpg a high priority, adopting or testing every piece of fuel saving-technology he can. He once took a circular saw to his trailer mud flaps because he felt they were creating too much aerodynamic drag. He says consistent 10-mpg runs are still hard to achieve, but he did recently manage to hit a personal high of 11.4 mpg – for the entire trip.
He contends that if drivers want to achieve high fuel economy numbers, they simply cannot drive like they always have. Here are Albert’s top tips for boosting fuel economy:
1. Slow her down.
As an owner-operator, Albert has to make calculations as to what’s in his best interest on every trip. “Sometimes, there’s more money to be made by speeding up and getting the load there. But most times … I’m in full, fuel economy-optimized cruise control, tooling along all day at 62 mph.”
2. Stop Smart.
Albert plans meals, fuel, and rest stops to maximize fuel economy. “If I’m in mountainous terrain, I choose truck stops at the top of hills. I also identify truck stops with good layouts so I don’t have to spend a lot of time in low gears maneuvering around. Drivers can burn a lot of fuel just trying to get fuel. If you pull out of a hilltop truck stop, gravity is going to help you get the truck back up to highway speed without burning a bunch of diesel in the process.”
3. Keep a light foot.
While Albert is a fan of automated manual transmissions, he says most older drivers still put their foot in the throttle like they’re driving a manual. “A light touch on the throttle goes a long way with an AMT. You see a guy in low gears, with the truck jerking and jumping – he’s giving the ATM too much throttle and over-revving the engine. It’s ugly, uncomfortable and it just burns fuel up.”
4. Understand technology.
Drivers need to understand how to get the most out of today’s smart powertrains. “You have two types of drivers: Those who are constantly overriding technology, and drivers who never lift a finger, no matter what the ‘smart’ powertrain is doing. You need to know when to intervene, and when to leave technology alone. Remember: You send the truck a message with where you set your controls and your throttle. If you don’t like the response, change the message.”