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Carrier executives analyze the best spec’s for fuel economy



LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Saving money for fuel is on every fleet executive’s mind. But which products give the best results?

That was the question presented to a panel at this year’s Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) annual convention in Las Vegas. The panel included Royal Jones, CEO of Mesilla Valley Transportation, Mike Eggleton Sr., president of Raider Express, Brad Pinchuk, president and CEO of Hirschbach Motor Express, and Pat Leonard, director of operations at Prime Inc.

Susan Fall, president of LaunchIt, moderated the panel.

All of the panelists were progressive in that their fleets were all spec’ing their trucks and trailers well beyond the average carrier.

Jones said his trucks are decked out in aerodynamic features as soon as they are purchased and panelists agreed that Mesilla Valley is a pioneer in fuel economy.

“We use 6x2s. We are now running Allison automatics,” said Jones. “On trailers, we’ve put the FlowBelow (wheel cover) system. We also run skirts, tails, and wide-based tires. We do a handful of things. When we get a truck we are always adding more to it to get a gallon here and a gallon there.”

Pinchuk said that at Hirschbach, all trucks have automatic transmissions. He, as well as Leonard and Eggleton said they also use skirts and tails and run super-single tires.

Though to some more penny-pinching fleets, these spec’s may seem expensive, Eggleton said that you don’t have to spend millions of dollars to get your fleet close to what you want for fuel economy.

“We buy two brands – either Freightliner, their Evolution is really good, or Volvos – and you can spec your own if you want to but if you buy their XE package, they’ll get you in the ballpark of where you want to be,” he said.

If the panelists could only choose one fuel-saving product for the truck and one for the trailer, they all agreed that they would choose an automatic transmission for the truck and a skirt for the trailer.

Pinchuk said that automatic transmissions would be his choice because of the difference it made with his drivers. Once the automatic transmissions were implemented, he said it put his drivers on a more even keel.

“We used to see a massive variance between our worst performing drivers and our best performing drivers and the difference when we got the automated transmissions has really tightened that gap up,” he said. “So we really see that as a great product for us.”

Eggleton said that using automatic transmissions is great for both his fleet’s recruiting and retention, as well, because most millennials don’t learn how to drive standard on a car, let alone in truck training schools so most are eager to start their driving career in an automatic truck. Though he said most of his veteran drivers were upset when they learned Raider Express was transitioning to automatic transmissions, they came around rather quickly to the idea after they got into the truck.

“They didn’t like it for two days and then they do not want back in their 10-speed,” he said.

Eggleton added that driving a bit slower, not only makes his fleet fuel-efficient because they’re not speeding, but safer.

“I fully believe that fuel economy and safety are intertwined,” he said. “The slower that guy is going to go, the less trouble he’s going to get himself into. As far as I’m concerned, let everybody pass you.”

As well, he said skirts provide additional safety because the rig is more stable with them on.

“We get complaints now (from drivers) when they have to pull a naked trailer,” he added.

The panelists all said that fuel economy is so important to them, so to make it as important for their drivers, they do offer incentive programs related to fuel mileage.

“The game at (Mesilla Valley Transportation) is he or she with the best fuel mileage for the year gets $25,000,” he said, adding that the driver’s fleet manager will get $2,500.

In addition, Jones puts up a free car for the drivers with the best fuel economy each quarter. The have to have proper logs and there is a minimum number of miles they have to run, as well as have no accidents to be eligible. And each driver can only win once.

Finally, when asked how they choose which spec’s to put on their trucks, all panelists agreed that they turn to the experts – their drivers – for their opinion on what they should put on the truck.


Sonia Straface

Sonia Straface

Sonia Straface is the assistant editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface.
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