Hitting a goal is always a good feeling. Especially when its one you’ve been working on for a while. And it’s even more fulfilling when you work with people who pursue the same goals with you.

So when Team RunSmart’s Jeff Clark tweeted this week that he’d just achieved his first-ever 10 mpg run in his 2018 Freightliner Cascadia tractor, I thought it was worth a call to congratulate him and find out how he did it.

Team RunSmart is a Freightliner-sponsored group of professional truck drivers who act as spokesmen for the company and highlight the various efficiency, comfort and performance bonuses they benefit from using Freightliner trucks in their everyday occupations.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Team RunSmart program is that the drivers work in various applications in trucking. Clark, for example, often hauls tankers on regional routes in the Midwest out of Wisconsin, with regular runs though heavily congested traffic zones in Chicago, Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio, among other places. So getting on long stretches of open highway where he can just sit back and let his Cascadia do its thing are relatively rare for Clark, unlike his famously fuel economy obsessed TeamRun Smart partner Henry Albert.

“Henry’s obsessed with fuel economy – I just try really hard,” Clark quipped, while waiting to pick up a load Ohio today. “But, to be fair -- to me! -- Henry also has a consistent route and he pulls the same aerodynamic trailer all the time,” Clark added. “So, I don’t want to diminish his accomplishments. But I just don’t have that much control over my driving conditions.”

Team RunSmart drivers enjoy one of the sweetest perks in trucking today – getting a brand-new Freightliner tractor to evaluate and promote each time a new model is introduced. Clark took the keys to his latest truck a little bit over a year ago. It’s a 2018 Cascadia with Freightliner’s AeroX package – the most aggressive aerodynamic profile the company makes for the Cascadia now.

Right out of the box, Clark says his new truck was getting over 9 mpg, until the harsh Midwestern winter hit and his numbers fell into the 8.6 – 8.8 mpg range. “So I’ve been knocking on the door for a while. Everything just kind of fell into place for me on this trip.”

Clark says his application, drop-and-hook and relay tanker and dry van operations, are the “wave of the future” in trucking. And on this particular run, he started with a lightly loaded, 17,000 lbs. tank in Wolcott, WI. He traded that tank in for another lightly loaded one in Green Bay and topped off in Sheboygan, WI before making two more stops and trading out tanks. “My last tank weighed 17,344 lbs,” Clark told me. “And I had to carry that load 500 miles. So I thought I had a chance on this trip to break 10 mpg!” His confidence was further buoyed by the truck’s computer, which at one point showed he was getting 11.1 mpg at one point during the drive.

It was all going to come down to what happened at the next stop – a Proctor & Gamble plant near the Dayton, OH, airport. “You never know what you’re going to get at that stop,” Clark said. “But, that load was 21,500 lbs., which wasn’t bad.”

The final load in the 3-day run tipped the scales at 44,400 lbs. But, at that point, Clark figured he had his 10 mpg in the bag. And sure enough, after ending up in Beaver Dam, WI, the truck’s computer showed he’d logged 10.3 mpg, while doing the math based on gallons actually pumped into the tanks showed 10.5 mpg. “The computer is usually 1% lower than what I get when I work out the pump average,” Clark says. “But it’s usually pretty close. And I try very hard to put the same amount of fuel – within a gallon or two – in the truck each time I fuel to keep the numbers honest.”

For his part, Clark said he drove normally except for widening out the parameters on the Cascadia’s cruise control settings. “I ran at around 62 mph,” he says. “And I set the cruise control to +8 mph on downgrades, and -6 mph on uphill grades. Clark decided to make those changes after talking to Henry and Clark Reed, with Nussbaum Transportation and a participant in the North American Council for Fuel Efficiency’s recent Run on Less fuel efficiency challenge.

“Other than that, I just got lucky,” Clark says. “I had good weather with no rain or wind and I managed to get though Chicago and the 13 traffic lights I have to deal with on that part of the run without too much congestion or too many delays. Really, the timing of it all couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Asked if he thought he could duplicate it again, Clark expressed confidence that he could. “You know, once you accomplish something, you learn from that experience and start thinking about how to improve on your performance. It’s just like when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile. It was thought to be an impossible feat. But once Bannister showed it could be done, suddenly you had a whole bunch of other guys doing it. That’s going to be my mindset going ahead, anyway.”

Author

Jack Roberts
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

View Bio
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