Clark Reed says slowing down and taking the time to let traffic situations sort themselves out on their own is one way to avoid unnecessary stops and the fuel burn required to get a tractor-trailer up and under way again.
 - Photo: Clark Reed

Clark Reed says slowing down and taking the time to let traffic situations sort themselves out on their own is one way to avoid unnecessary stops and the fuel burn required to get a tractor-trailer up and under way again.

Photo: Clark Reed

Clark Reed says he’s never been a wasteful person, but he never really focused on applying that inclination toward fuel economy until he landed at Nussbuam Transportation, where drivers are rewarded as part of a driver scorecard program for getting good fuel mileage, along with safety and operational goals. “That’s when I realized you don’t have to run hard to make more money,” he says.

Today, Reed is a top driver trainer at Nussbaum. But in the beginning, he was like any other driver trying to figure out how to get his own numbers up. “My strategy was to talk to other drivers who were getting it done,” he says. “Then I’d take what they told me and see for myself what worked on the road.”

An early breakthrough, he says, was getting the LinkeDrive PedalCoach app, which helped him visualize in real time what he was doing. “It really helped me understand how my foot was affecting the fuel flowing through the engine in relation to my speed or momentum,” he says.

Over time, Reed began to understand what he calls the basics of good fuel economy driving habits: Stay light on the accelerator as much as possible, take things easy in curves, plan ahead both before a drive and when you’re sitting behind the steering wheel, and avoid sudden braking as much as safely possible.

Reed drives a 2018 Freightliner Cascadia with 205,000 miles on it and has been its only driver. “I was over 10 mpg, lifetime for the truck, until this winter hit,” Reed says. “I’ve fallen off to 9.7 mpg average since then. But as the weather is starting to improve, those numbers are beginning to creep back up.”

He also drives like the truck is on ice. “Give yourself lots of time to let situations up ahead of you sort themselves out, without you having to stop. I’ll slow down to try and get to a green traffic light while I’m still rolling. And in heavy traffic, I’ll pick a slower speed than the flow around me. I let everyone pass me by and get in front of me. Once you get a little practice, you can keep rolling steadily along even in very heavy traffic congestion.”

On the highway, Reed is happy to let the truck’s predictive cruise control system do the bulk of the work. “Lately I’ve been thinking I can feather the throttle a little bit better going up a hill, until we crest it and it’s time to let it do its thing again.”

For all his focus on fuel economy, Reed says that in hindsight, his own mpg numbers didn’t start going up until he learned to stop focusing on the end number. “That’s counterproductive, because there are so many things out there as a driver that you cannot control,” he says, pointing to weight, terrain, weather, and traffic. 

“The only thing I can control is how I drive my truck. When I learned to focus on my driving habits accordingly, that’s when my fuel economy performance started to rise.”

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