Aerodynamic tractors and trailers, auxiliary power units for sleeper-cab units, wide-base single wheels and tires, a reasonable 65-mph speed limit, and an incentive program for drivers are the ways that Duplainville Transport saves fuel.
Duplainville (named for a nearby railroad junction in southeastern Wisconsin) is the trucking arm of Quad Graphics, a major printer with 50 plants in 25 states, plus others in Europe and Latin America.
About 80 company tractors are Peterbilt Model 579s, the latest being 2015 models whose powertrains include Eaton UltraShift Plus 10-speed automated manual transmissions, according to John Drake, the fleet manager. The AMTs do add “a couple of tenths” of a mpg in economy, but mostly keep drivers refreshed and able to focus on safely operating the rigs.
Duplainville began using automated gearboxes with Eaton AutoShifts in the early 2000s. “At first drivers were a little apprehensive,” he says. “Now you can’t put them in a truck with a stick-shift because they wouldn’t know how to drive it.” Fifty-seven other tractors are owner-operated.
Most of the 160 Great Dane and Utility 53-foot trailers are outfitted with gap reducers, side skirts and rear vortex generators. A tractor pulling one of them saves about 1 mpg compared to a bare one, he says.
“I’m a believer in Air Tabs,” the triangular vortex generators, Drake says. “We’ve looked at other devices, and it’s $400 to equip a trailer with them compared to thousands of dollars for the tail things, and the results are the same. It [a set of Air Tabs] makes the air dirty — that’s what I call it. It reduces the vortex, so you don’t get that suction behind the trailer as you go down the road.
“All you have to do is ride a motorcycle behind the trailers to notice the difference,” says Drake, a Harley-Davidson enthusiast. “With the bare trailer you can feel the air turbulence and you’re going this way and that way. With an aerodynamic trailer, you pull up behind it and it’s pretty smooth, and you can back off a little.”
The fleet uses Laydon ribbed-aluminum trailer side skirts because “image is very important to us,” Drake explains. “We’re the second-largest printer in the country and we want nice-looking equipment. We picked those because a, they look nice and b, they work. The Utility dealer here (Badger Utility) is a Laydon distributor, so that works out well for us.”
While driver bonus pay is based on an official goal of 6.5 mpg, the fleet’s trucks now actually average 7.7 mpg.
Quad Graphics and Duplainville treats employees well, with good pay and “very good benefits,” says Drake, who’s been there 28 years. And employee satisfaction leads to top performance, including fuel economy. That they’re satisfied is indicated by the turnover rate – less than 10% among drivers and owner-operators.