Jamie Hagen loves technology and using data to wring the most performance out of his equipment. He’s been tracking fuel economy his entire life – first as a financially strapped teenager trying to put as few dollars as possible in the tank of his little four-banger foreign car, to when he bought his truck and went to work on the road at age 21.
“I didn’t know anything other than fuel was my biggest expense, and I wanted to keep up with how much I was spending and burning,” Hagen says. “And I really didn’t know how to do anything with that data, other than I learned the importance of driving slower right off the bat.”
Hagen was soon reading up on the latest products aimed at boosting heavy-duty truck fuel economy. “I started hearing about all these really interesting systems,” he says. “Things like aerodynamics, liftable axles, downspeeding and other great ideas. And the idea of using technology to boost my fuel economy performance really became a passion then.”
In pursuit of his new passion, Hagen stumbled into a situation that is the envy of many owner-operators and small fleet owners – an intimate, two-way working relationship with a major truck maker.
“I went to the Mid-America Trucking Show looking for a new truck,” Hagen recalls. “I didn’t have any brand loyalty and was prepared to look at anything and everything. I just wanted the best possible truck for my business.”
At the Mack booth, Hagen talked with engineers about various technologies and systems, which led to a private ride-and-drive in a Pinnacle tractor. “After that, they sent me an email and asked me what I thought,” he says. “And I sent them this long, drawn-out reply basically saying, ‘Here’s what you do well, but here’s I think you could do in addition to those things…’ and the relationship grew from there.”
Soon, Hagen found himself working with both Volvo and Mack engineers, giving direct input on the companies’ automatic liftable axle system then in development. “I could tell they were really trying to embrace this technology and do something new with it,” he says.
Today, Hagen is the proud owner of a new Mack Anthem, fitted out with his dream suite of fuel-saving technology and components. But there have been some adjustments. Hagen says having an open mind is critical for success in a truck laden with this much new technology. “This truck is completely different than anything you’re used to, or have driven before,” he says. “It’s nothing like driving an older truck.”
As owner of a small fleet, Hagen also has drivers of his own to coach. He thinks downspeeding is the toughest adjustment for them in terms of new technology. “They often feel like the engine is struggling,” he says. “But you have to understand the engine is performing the way it’s designed to. The bottom line is you have to learn to use the new technology to get the most out of it. You have to be willing to let the cruise control do its job. I get comments all the time about just being a ‘steering wheel holder.’ But I’ve learned how to get the most out of the mDrive [automated manual transmission] in my truck – I can use my foot to shift up or down as needed on grades. But at the same time, I’m completely focused on safety when I’m going down the road. Because the mDrive is doing all the work managing and running the powertrain.”
Hagen has only had his new Anthem for a few months, and didn’t take delivery of the truck until the harsh South Dakota winter was about to set in. “At the moment, I’m sitting on a lifetime mph average of 8.8 for this truck,” he says. “The lifetime number on my last truck was 8 mpg. So that’s pretty good right out of the box. And I haven’t even hit the good hauling season up here yet. I have great numbers ahead of me. I have no doubt.