This week, I’m doing a guest installment from someone I met. Mike Kluesner of New Vienna, Iowa is striving for maximum efficiency in an operation that utilizes hopper bottom trailers. In Mike’s duty cycle, efficiency is not only about fuel mileage; it’s also about weight-carrying capacity. Here’s Mike’s story:

“First, I’d like to say I follow Henry on the Freightliner Team Run Smart pages. I like to say that I “ride along” to listen and learn about maximizing fuel mileage and checking on the driving habits of other drivers, as well as what other information is out there to absorb. A few months after I started reading his articles and listening to Henry on the radio, I saw him at the Iowa 80 truck show and went up to talk to him. We exchanged numbers and it took off from there.

I was not looking to buy a truck at this time. In 2020, I bought a used 2016 Cascadia mid-roof Detroit DD15 400 HP / 1750FTT, with a DT12 automated manual transmission and 2.41 rear axle ratio in a 6x4 configuration. It was yielding me a 7.99 average on fuel mileage. My peers in the industry get around 5.5 – 6.00 mpg. I wanted to get a bragging right of 8.00 mpg so bad, but I just couldn’t get there.

In July of 2023, my salesman at the dealership called me and asked if I was looking for a different truck. He had told me that trucks were ¾ of a year out. I’m 60 years old. I thought to myself that if I wanted to retire at 66 – 67, I would need to buy one new truck or two used trucks.

My salesman, Tom Schieltz of Truck Country in Dubuque, Iowa was pushing a new truck on me. We started pricing a regular 6x4 truck and it went from there. I talked to Henry, and he suggested I add the Hendrickson OPTIMAAX lift axle and AIR TEK steer axle. We went back and forth on specs, and it went into an area that the salesman was not familiar with. It was a learning experience for all.

Through many phone calls back and forth with Henry and Tom, the decision was made to embrace aerodynamics in the building of the truck, which is not typically used in the hopper bottom industry. Consideration was also taken for flexibility by ordering the rooftop flaring, which could be removed if anything changed, so that it could be used in a dry van operation or for a reefer. I wanted versatility in the truck, in case I ever wanted to sell it.

After many months of back and forth on specs, on March 7, 2024, I got my 2025 Freightliner Cascadia 72-inch mid-roof with the Dual HVAC system. The combo of the build with the lightweight package came in 1,000 lbs. lighter than my old truck. I got full side skirts, 24-inch cab extenders along with Flow Below aerodynamics, wheel fairings on the tandem axle, wheel covers, a single 150-gallon fuel tank, and Michelin tires with duals on the drive axles. I was getting concerned about pricing, an 1850 torque had to have a heavier transmission, drive shaft, etc. Tom told me that the newer motors pulled better anyway, so we got the 1750 torque, DD15, 455 hp with 2:28 rear ends. During my talks with Tom and Henry, there was a Freightliner Detroit representative in technical sales that I had also spoken to.

My first load out was 80,000 lbs. The terrain was a 4-lane road of mostly rolling hills, which is typical in Iowa. And I was at 10.7 mpg! This morning, I am sitting right at 10 mpg as a whole average for my first 10,000 miles. In my operation, I’m either empty or loaded to 80,000 lbs., and usually on two-lane back roads with small towns and hills. I put a hubometer on my lift axle so that I could keep track of how many miles I travel in the lifted position of the axle. My figure is, that I’m 68 percent of the time loaded.

I haul sand in my operation, and I dread rainy days. But since I got the new truck, as a bonus, I have gotten 1/8th of the wet sand that I used to get underneath the trailer. With all the aerodynamics on the truck, cleanup under the trailer is less time-consuming.

Knowing Henry and working with him on building my new truck has been great. He deserves a lot of credit and he had better accept that.”

Mike, I accept the credit. Working with Mike and his salesman building this truck was a great exercise in seeing what can be done for fuel mileage in an operation that is quite different than mine.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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