This story begins in October of 2009 when I agreed to participate in a program for Freightliner which was called “Slice of Trucker Life.” There were three owner-operators and we blogged about our real world experiences on the road. Through the unique program, we had the opportunity to conduct our business while testing out the all new Cascadia along with the new Detroit Diesel DD15 engine.
As the program kicked off, fuel prices were hovering in excess of $4.00 per gallon. During this same time, manufacturers were challenged with meeting the efficiency and reliability demands of their customers along with meeting the ever stringent EPA emissions requirements.
Each owner operator selected components to meet their operational needs as well as personal preferences. I saw this as an opportunity to put together the most fuel efficient truck as possible. During that time, 7 mpg was considered to be great fuel mileage. My goal was to obtain 1 mile per pint which is equal to 8 mpg. I was able to reach the 8 mpg number however the average was in the high 7 range for this truck. The specs on the 2009 Cascadia 125 BBC 72” raised roof sleeper, Detroit DD15 455 HP/1750 FPT Engine, Eaton Ultra Shift AMT Transmission, 3.42 Meritor Rear Axle on a 238 inch wheel base. The truck included Michelin wide base single tires. I wanted a shorter wheel base however Freightliner wanted me to keep the vertical upright exhaust stack as most customers were still utilizing that type of exhaust. With the batteries for the ParkSmart HVAC System, and the exhaust stack, this was the shortest wheel base available. I purchased a 53’ utility dry van trailer with wide base single tires to begin the program. Everything on this first truck was fairly main stream at the time with no trailer aerodynamics.
In 2010, Freightliner wanted the Slice of Life participants to test out the new 2011 model year Cascadia with its updated technology. The emissions requirements changed and Detroit employed SCR Technology (Selective Catalytic Reduction) to meet the new EPA emission standards. The other specifications remained the same as the previous truck with the exception of it being a 6x2 rear axle configuration. This particular unit marched well into the 8 mpg range and at time exceeded 9 mpg. During this time period, I also began to employ trailer aerodynamics to increase my fuel mileage. The first addition to the trailer was Fleet Engineers Air Slipper trailer side skirts. If memory serves me right, the lifetime average for this truck at over 250,000 miles was 8.7 mpg.
In 2012, the Detroit DT12 Automated Manual Transmission debuted on the new 2013 model year Cascadia Evolution. The transmission market was a new area for Detroit and therefore they wanted us to put it through its paces. On the Freightliner side, the Evolution Aerodynamic Package was introduced. This package integrated rooftop CB antennas, revised windshield seal, redesigned mirror housings, newly appointed side skirts, longer cab extenders and many other newly added aerodynamic seals and air dams. I also was able to eliminate the vertical exhaust stack and shorten my wheel base to 225 inches. This truck was also a 6x2. The only other change was the. 2.50 rear axle ratio to match up to the direct drive transmission. During this period of testing, the “Slice of Trucker Life” program ended and was recreated into what is known today as Freightliners “Team Run Smart.”
During this truck’s life, I added a NOSE CONE to the trailer, tested various wheel covers and added a “Trailer Tail.” I really paid attention to all aspects as I was on a quest for 10 mpg with this truck. Items such as mud flaps (size, shape, design and mounting position) and even the position of the trailer license plate were taken into consideration in regards to fuel consumption. This trucks performance was outstanding as it approached 9.8 lifetime fuel mileage for over 250,000 miles.
Our next truck to test out was the 2015 Cascadia Evolution. The major change on this truck was the down speeding of the DD15 engine. Everything remained the same as the previous truck with the exception of the DD15 which became a 400 HP/1750 FPT downsped combined with a 2.28 rear axle ratio. Once again, this was an evolution packaged Cascadia along with the Detroit DT12 direct drive AMT transmission. This trucks lifetime average came in at 9.5 mpg. As Team Run Smart evolved in popularity among many truck dealers, I had more requests to conduct demo rides, attend shows and other various activities which hampered this trucks fuel mileage. This truck was also equipped with the FlowBelow Tractor Aero Kit.
Today, I find myself in the new Cascadia Aero X. This truck was going to be much different than the previous models. I was going back to both rear axles being driven in a 6x4 axle configuration combined with an unheard of 2.16 axle drive ratio. I was excited and nervous at the same time to see if this combination of parts and components would take me past the goal of attaining 10 mpg lifetime average. Prior to this truck, I first had to attain 10 mpg for a day, then a tankful followed by a week, month, quarter and a year. The next goal was to be above 10 mpg for the lifetime of the truck. On Monday, June 12, 2017 my new Cascadia Aero X which has been dubbed “New Blue” attained a lifetime average of 10.002 mpg for its young 24, 579 mile life. To make these figures fair, I only began tracking them from 2,823 as those miles were all bobtail or empty while taking it to various shows for its debut. For me to include all of those empty miles, the numbers would not have been representative of every day trucking. During this time period there has been more than its fair share of demonstration rides which do nothing to help with fuel efficiency. Most of my loads have put me between 60,000 and 65,000 lb. GVW and my go to cruise speed is 65 mph where applicable. I remember one day of interest when I needed to be “making time” and set the cruise at 70 plus mph with a GVW of 73,000 lbs. plus and still managed to pull off 9.6 mile to the gallon for the day by the dashboard readout. I realize that many of you don’t trust the dashboard readout as I myself agree and am skeptical of these figures as well. I am pleased to report the ECM readout numbers from my DDEC Reports have been within a few hundredths of a mile per gallon so far.
The next few weeks should be providing some interesting challenges as my routes will be crossing me through the Appalachian Mountains with much heavier loads than normal. (43k plus payloads)
In the meantime, I will be doing my best to maintain 10 plus mpg while setting my eyes on a lifetime average of 10.5 mpg.