Fuel-efficient owner-operators benefit from in-cab coaching

Are you getting the most from the fuel in your tank?

If you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” Those words from three-truck owner-operator Jamie Hagen are one of his motivations for using the PedalCoach in-cab coaching system. No one would criticize Hagen’s fuel economy – he’s established a reputation for pushing his Mack Pinnacle to the brink of 10 mpg. However, even experienced drivers can benefit from telematics that provide real-time driving advice, and Hagen isn’t too proud to admit it.

“It keeps your head in the game,” he says of the in-cab telematics-based coaching system. “It sits on your dash and gives you a gauge of how you’re doing at the moment. Every time you stop, it gives you a breakdown of what happened, a score of how you did on your driving, and it also gives you your mpg, how many gallons you used. It keeps my head in the game so I’m always concentrating on miles per gallon instead of getting distracted with my life. It reminds you to always be vigilant.”

Today’s telematics systems that provide real-time coaching go well beyond reporting just miles per gallon. The PedalCoach provides daily reports in a visual format that capture everything from weather, elevation, payload, and even wind direction. This provides a far greater picture of a driver’s performance than relying solely on mpg and gallons burned.

“It really helps your mind wrap around how the day went,” Hagen said of the visual format. “You can drill down into different segments of your trip and see what went wrong.”

Hagen initially adopted the PedalCoach to help train his two additional drivers, but he realized to get them to buy in, he couldn’t shy away from the scrutiny himself.

He often posts screen grabs of his better runs on social media and likens it to an NFL player reviewing film in order to improve.

“New guys are a little nervous about me being able to watch them, but I reassure them it’s just for them to learn and for me to learn as well,” Hagen said.
Joel Morrow runs 50-truck fleet Ploger Transport with his brother out of Bellevue, Ohio, and still spends much of his time behind the wheel. He also regularly shares screen captures of his runs on social media and finds it has helped him improve his own driving.

“It’s nice to be able to review what you’ve done for the day. It keeps me motivated because I’m the type of guy that always wants to do better the next day,” Morrow said.

He’s planning to roll it out across the entire fleet, after having demonstrated the benefits himself.

“We wanted to have a really good handle on it before we did that,” he said. The biggest thing he has learned through using the PedalCoach is the impact rain has on fuel economy.

“It’s surprising how much that affects things,” he said. “I always knew it did, but not to that extent.”

Like Hagen, Morrow appreciates the way the data is presented graphically. “It’s very, very easy to absorb,” he said. “That’s almost a downfall to the system in a way, because it’s so intuitive that a lot of people mistake it for a toy. I’ve heard drivers say, ‘How can something that’s so easy, work so well?’ But it does, if you’re willing to give it a fair shake and everybody I know who has used this thing has significantly improved their fuel economy.”

One success story in particular stands out. A new hire, a younger driver, was averaging about 7.5 mpg. Morrow installed the PedalCoach and since doing so, the same driver has achieved 10.2 mpg over his last 30,000 miles. That driver is Travis Lauer.

“Using PedalCoach has been an eye-opener for me,” he admitted. “Prior to PedalCoach, I mashed the pedal a lot, I’d leave my cruise locked in top speeds, and I’d be less focused on the road ahead.”

He now aspires to beat his boss’s fuel economy. But that won’t be easy. Morrow set a new record of 16.75 mpg over a 500-mile run last Nov. 17.

Chris Wright is a Madisonville, Tenn.-based owner-operator who uses a different in-cab coaching system, True Fuel from Vnomics. He says he has cut his fuel costs by US$900 a year using the system.

“I was unaware of how much fuel I was wasting,” he admitted. “With True Fuel I was able to make changes to my driving behaviors and the programming of my automated manual transmission and I immediately started saving 23 gallons of fuel in the first month.”

The heavy-hauler used to chug down a gallon of diesel for every 5.9 miles driving his 2016 Peterbilt 567 with 500-hp Cummins ISX15 engine and an Eaton UltraShift automated manual transmission. True Fuel identified his tendency to drive faster than necessary and it noticed a powertrain performance issue that Wright addressed through a change to the transmission settings. He has improved his fuel economy to 6.38 mpg, and has his eye on 7 mpg.

“It makes fuel waste readily and immediately obvious when there are issues with my truck or my driving behaviors,” Wright said. “And it encourages me to make simple changes that make a world of difference.”

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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