Growing up racing sailboats on Long Island Sound, Alec Costerus learned at an early age the importance of wind and air and how they interact with a moving vehicle. It was a foundation that stuck with him as he transitioned into trucking after a host of other jobs.
When an early fleet Costerus worked for left him stranded out on the road for several days – a fairly common occurrence, he says – he spent his unwanted downtime drawing up the most efficient aerodynamic system he could envision for a tractor-trailer. Eventually he took his concept to Windyne Fairing Systems and worked with engineers there to develop a patent-pending extended side skirt system that is 42 feet long, beginning at the tractor mud flaps forward of the landing gear, extending all the way to the rear bumper, and riding just 5 inches above the ground.
All of this may sound extreme, but not to Costerus. “As a one-truck independent owner-operator, all the fuel expenses and savings come directly to my bottom line. So, while I don’t drive for a fleet per se, I do reap the rewards of good fuel economy performance even more than a fleet driver does.”
Costerus carefully chooses his loads and time his routes so he can operate only as fast as necessary. He has a low gear ratio axle, which he says makes it imperative that he keeps his speed down as much as he can. He considers it vital to always operate within the limits his equipment is capable of.
But he’s also conscientious of enhancing those capabilities. In addition to his own aerodynamic system, Costerus also specs a rear, “boat tail” fairing, a nose cone to help offset the trailer gap, LinkeDrive’s PedalCoach in-cab coaching app for real-time performance feedback, low-rolling-resistance wide-base single tires on aluminum rims, air disc brakes, aerodynamic mud flaps, and a liftable trailer axle. “Furthermore, all the axle wheel bearings on my truck and trailer were calibrated with the Doctor Preload bearing adjustment tool to a very fine degree to minimize any mechanical drag.”
Above all, though, Costerus stresses having a can-do attitude to tackling the fuel economy challenge. “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re running around with turkeys,” he says. That’s why he counsels other drivers interested in hitting higher fuel economy numbers to learn from industry fuel economy leaders on social media, including joining the 9+ MPG Club group on Facebook. “You have to dispense with the ‘Yeah, but…’ excuses many people give when you start talking about fuel economy,” he says. “That only serves to justify and rationalize your bad habits.”
And beyond fuel savings, he notes, these practices also save on maintenance expenses, promote safer driving habits, and reduce stress-related driver fatigue and overall health. “To be a fuel economy top gun, you must pay attention to everything you do. It’s a constant and consistent process.”