As far as short haulers go, the fuel mileage gains are a little harder to achieve due to many variables an over-the-road driver may not typically encounter as often. Being based out of the Los Angeles area here in Southern California increases the possibility of encountering these variables exponentially. Things such as traffic jams, irregular routes, stop-n-go city driving, increased amount of queue times at shippers/receivers, and two mountain passes to deal with regularly (Cajon and Grapevine) make it quite challenging for me to reach such fuel gains as my over-the-road counterparts. These factors and my newly found addiction to saving fuel are the building blocks to a goal I set at this years Great American Truck Show in Dallas, TX (GATS). It was there that I shared my first goal in a quest for fuel savings never seen before in a local/short-haul trucking business. Equipped with my Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, I was armed
and ready to wage battle against the fuel-sucking variables!
Although I had set a goal in mind with the foresight that it could actually be met, I did not think it would come less than a month after I returned home from GATS. By far, one of the hottest topics at GATS was the interest in increased fuel economy, with Henry Albert marking his 11.2-mpg trek on his two-day journey to the show. Not only that, but the new placards showing his truck’s current lifetime fuel economy that had been newly-mounted on the rear door of his trailer and the his new trailer tail were also a great topic of conversation at the Freightliner booth. Engaging in conversation with everyday drivers and my fellow Team Run Smart pros about fuel economy improvemnets, led me to think of the gains I could theoretically see from the Cascadia Evolution that I currently use in a short-haul scenario. It was this chain of events that led me to set a goal prior to leaving the show of attaining a full week of working my average runs and averaging over 8.0-mpg. As a reminder, I measure fuel weekly as it impacts my business rather than by the tank-full,
since I never actually fill my tanks in short-haul.
The week of September third was a promising week for me. I came off of the holiday ready to hit the ground running in search of attaining my new goal. Everything seemed to be going good headed into Friday, September 6th. I was cruising along at 8.02 mpg and then tragedy hit…WIND!!! Coming across Cajon Pass on my last run on the way to park the truck I ran into the result of a low pressure weather system moving into place over a high pressure system, which typically results in horrible winds through this notorious Southern California pass! As I reached the yard to park, I regrettably added up the tally and realized I sat just shy of my goal at 7.91-mpg. Dang it, my ingenious plot to outwit the elements and fuel-sucking vampires of short-haul had been foiled again!
With the following Monday getting underway, I was once again ready to roll into a new week of making money. As I kicked the tires (then checked with an air gauge of course) and lit the fires, I replayed my plan of attack over and over in my head. The key to me reaching the 8-mpg mark this week would have to come from controlling the most controllable factor…me! In any scenario of saving fuel, even the most effective aerodynamic improvements can be wasted at the hands of a driver that does not effectively monitor and adjust his/her own performance to effectively utilize said improvements. I set out for a week of constantly monitoring my own performance and adjusting it to make the most out of the efficiency improvements of the Cascadia Evolution equipped with the Detroit DT-12 automated transmission. Low and behold, I had one of the busiest weeks I have seen all year and had a lot more irregular routes than normal. I thought for sure the hilly terrain I encountered going up the CA-101 to Santa Maria and back, or the trip up and down Cajon Pass to Apple Valley and back, would have had a negative effect on my fuel economy. The trick of paying attention to my own driving had seemed to pay off in the long run. Constantly adjusting my driving habits to take advantage of the Cascadia Evolution’s tools such as the assisted cruise control, Detroit DT-12 automated transmission skip-shift and E-coast features, and its many aerodynamic improvements, made for one heck of a week. I was able to park the truck on Friday after running 1,378 miles with an overall fuel economy of 8.146 actual, while 8.2 showed on the dash!
Although shadowed by the 9-10mpg readings of some of my over-the-road counterparts, reaching this milestone for a short-haul truck can be seen roughly as the equivalent. Due to the variables involved in this type of operation, it is important to squeeze every last drop out of the tanks at the end of the week and reduce the overall fuel-to-revenue ratio for that settlement period. I was able to effectively reduce this ratio to .209, or rounded up to 21%. This means that for my total truck revenue that week, my fuel only accounted for 21% of my overall costs, which is low when compared to the typical over-the-road ratio of up to 40%. Now that I have achieved this major milestone for my short-haul operation, I can now aim to duplicate it and also improve upon it as well. As for the time being…time to
start thinking of the next goal!