In December of 2021, we picked up our new Freightliner Cascadia at the Freightliner Cleveland North Carolina truck assembly plant. The first trip was not really conducive to one of the prime objectives that we had when putting together the list of components that made up our new ride. A great deal of time was put into components that would allow us to exploit the fuel mileage potential when the freight is light.
The specifications are available at the bottom of my bio page on the Freightliner Team Run Smart website. The first trip had our gross combination vehicle weight at approximately 78,000 lbs, which was hardly a light load to start with. The journey ended with two days of battling Christmas Holiday traffic before we got home and yielded a nice 8.8 mile per gallon fill-up.
Parts of the specs on this new truck were also to continue the mission, which I have been referring to as Project 70+/10. For those of you not familiar with this project, the goal is to attain double-digit fuel economy while cruising at speeds up to 75 mph where safe, posted, and beneficial.
As it turns out, the destination I take on most weeks is 1,382 miles in each direction. If I run the speed limits and plan what times I go through certain cities, I am able to complete my work week in four calendar days. The beauty is that it cuts out two 10-hour breaks, which gets me home close to 24 hours sooner.
As a general rule, there is usually other revenue-producing work that I’m able to pursue, due to the time savings. Plus, as mentioned before, I’m home a day earlier. I’m getting very close to finally attaining my goal of double-digit fuel economy at these higher speeds. At 50,000 miles, the average mpg for Celeste is 9.995. That means I must pick up .005 average mpg to attain the goals that I set out in Project 70+/10.
There has been zero make-up oil added, as of 50,000 miles, and the first scheduled oil change is not due for another 25,000 miles. On a Detroit DD15, averaging 7+ mpg, the factory recommended oil change interval is 75,000 miles. I often joke that my truck's oil change interval should be closer to 100,000 miles because I am averaging better than 9 mpg.
Another thing that I’m really enjoying that’s new to me, is the Merlin Solar Panels on my Freightliner Cascadia. These solar panels are partially why we named this Cascadia Celeste. The Merlin Solar Panels are harnessing power from the sun, and greatly enhance how the battery-powered dual HVAC system operates. With the solar panels, I’ve been able to use the battery-powered HVAC system more effectively on 95 to 110 degrees outside ambient temperatures. It’s nice to be able to sleep in total comfort without any form of engine use. Having solar panels and the battery-powered HVAC system almost completely eliminates fuel-wasting idle time. It’s nice to be environmentally green and comfortable at the same time.
There’s another reason why we named this Cascadia Celeste. The suspension provided by the Hendrickson AirTek air ride Steer Axle, Freightliner Airliner rear suspension combined with the LINK ROI Active Cab Suspension has made the ride nothing short of “Heavenly”. The ride is so good, that I still haven’t invested in a mobile phone mount. My phone simply sits on top of the dash wing panel and never moves. My previous Cascadias rode really well, but they never were to a level that would have allowed me to simply lay my phone on the edge of the dash as I do now.
This truck is also equipped with Active Lane Assist, which is a little bit different to get used to, as it actively nudges you through the steering wheel to stay directly in the middle of your lane. There’s a feature that allows you to trim it to one side, or the other, of the lane. I have found that on windy days with a cross wind, trimming it towards the side that the wind is blowing from, greatly reduces shoulder fatigue at the end of a shift.
I’ve really enjoyed the fuel savings afforded to me from the Hendrickson OPTIMAAX Liftable Forward Tandem Axle. This system automatically lifts the forward axle of my tandem assembly off the ground when it’s not needed for the loaded weight of the truck. I also have a Hendrickson Lift Axle on the forward position of my trailer. Having a lift axle on the truck and on the trailer as well, not only saves on fuel, but also can save on tolls and tire wear, and it improves ride quality.
The journey continues towards attaining double-digit fuel economy in Project 70+ / 10.