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Truck Stop Question

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. - Fuel economy standards for medium-and heavy-duty trucks have taken another step towards becoming reality as US President Barack Obama announced a forthcoming US government mandate ...

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. –Fuel economy standards for medium-and heavy-duty trucks have taken another step towards becoming reality as US President Barack Obama announced a forthcoming US government mandate in mid-May -with Canada expected to follow suit (see pg. 19).

In recognition of this soon-to-be momentous mandate, we thought we would ask truckers about the three “Ts” of fuel economy (targets, technology and training) at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ont.

We asked drivers what they think a reasonable mpg target would be for the mandate. We also asked what fuel-saving technologies, from the myriad available out there, do they think actually do the job they’re intended to do.

And finally, we asked if drivers were presented with the option to take fuel economy training, would they take their company up on it? Joe Gallant, a company driver with TST Overland Express in Pickering, Ont., says that while he doesn’t keep track of his own mpg (the company does), he thinks 8-9 mpg seems reasonable.

As for fuel-saving technologies, Gallant says TST governs the fleet at 60 mph -which he says helps save fuel more than most products available out there.

“The load factor and dragging a truck up a hill, always screaming, always on the governors, always with your foot into the oil pan, that’s what wastes your fuel,” he says. “We have had many instances where the company will say, ‘We’ll have a driver drive aggressively across Toronto, and one that just drives more conscientious, takes it easy, and see how long it takes each one,’ and it’s only about a five minute difference. That’s fuel economy, that’s safety, that’s easier on the driver, the whole ball of wax.”

Jim Stein, an owner/operator with Warren Gibson out of Alliston, Ont., says that 7.5-8 mpg is the target he sets -and consistently meets -for himself.

Stein points to the aerodynamics of the truck itself being the biggest factor in (literally) dragging down fuel consumption, and questions the validity of many fuel-saving products.

“There are a lot of gimmicks out there,” he said. “All in all, the overall fuel consumption stays pretty close to the same.”

Stein says he would welcome fuel economy training, seeing as fuel is one of his biggest expenses. “It’s just into the beginning of June and I’ve spent over $36,000 in fuel this year already. So anything to save that expense would be money in my pocket.”

Chris (last name withheld), a company driver with Beyond Transportation Ayr, Ont., says a fuel economy target of 6.5 mpg is fair.

As for products, he swears by his Webasto bunk heater -available in all Beyond’s trucks -which keeps him from idling in the winter.

As for training, Chris is all for it; a much better option than incentive programs that usually don’t end up working, he says. “A guy going from here to California will get better fuel mileage than a guy chopping four trips to New York and doing a bunch of city work. I find that usually doesn’t work, it’s usually the guy with the best trip gets the best economy.”

Jim Yarbrough, a company driver with Con-way Freight in Missouri, gave the broadest target of the bunch with 6-8 mpg suggested, noting that it depends greatly on the model of truck being driven. As for products, Yarbrough says his fleet runs super-singles which are supposed to help because they’re lighter, but that he can’t say for sure.

With training, Yarbrough actually takes part at Con-way. “I’m a finisher. I train drivers, so it’s my job to train them to be as fuel-efficient as they can.”

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