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Would You Like to Achieve 9.9 MPG?

By on March 1, 2019
Achieve-9.9-mpg

An Owner-Operator Shows You How

For some in the trucking industry, Project 70+/10 is the holy grail of fuel economy. It’s based on achieving double-digit mpg, while traveling at speeds above 70 mph, where safe and posted legal. Understanding aerodynamics and utilizing fairings are key contributors. Henry Albert describes how he’s within a whisker of hitting the magic 10.0 mpg.

Starting from the front and channeling airflow all the way to the back is the approach utilized by Henry Albert, owner of Albert Transport in Laredo, Texas, to apply aero principles used by NASCAR teams. This means he is minimizing the number of air-flow directional changes, thereby reducing drag and making his tractor and trailer as “slippery” as possible. In the process, he’s learned a great deal about the utilization of fairings and has taken the role of DIY aerodynamicist to rather lofty heights.

Cascadia AeroX

Henry’s tractor of choice is a 2018 Freightliner Cascadia AeroX. This package is an important contributor to fuel economy. The low-clearance air dam bumper, full-length chassis fairings along the side, 24-inch cab extenders, drive wheel fairings and wheel covers provide impressive optics. But there’s more to the tractor story than what you can see.

Frame rail changes lowered the engine 1.5 inches, increasing the front hood slope. Mounted to the engine, the radiator moves with the engine, enabling tighter fan blade tolerance. Only six blades are required to provide the airflow, not the seven found on many trucks. Side vents at the back of the hood create a low-pressure area that sucks the hot air out. Rubber seals stop the airflow from bleeding through between the bumper and the hood and fenders, as well as along the side fairings. The windshield and mirrors utilize an aero design.

Stock & Custom Trailer Aero

Moving to the rear, a very-tight, 16-inch trailer gap from the cab extenders to the nose of the trailer minimizes airflow disruption. The quarter fenders are mounted at a 45-degree angle, rather than vertically. A nose cone at the top of the trailer fills in part of the void. The vacuum at the rear of the cab has been significantly reduced to the point that the cab rarely gets dirty during a rainstorm. The raised-roof cab matches the trailer height.

The aeroette side fairings start out as standard issue except that a cross piece was added to completely cover the landing gear. Towards the rear, the Fleet Engineers hinged AeroSaver trailer skirts that utilize a partially prototyped design. It’s still a work in process. Having all aero pieces shaped so they work well with each other is critical. Just because you install an aerodynamic device doesn’t mean it works as intended. You have to make sure each one lines up with the adjacent pieces or the two could cancel each other out by channeling the airflow in the wrong direction. A Stemco ATdynamics TrailerTail® streamlines airflow at the back of the trailer to reduce the low-pressure vacuum that creates rear drag and decreases fuel efficiency.

Utilizing the lower rolling resistance of Michelin wide-based singles on drive and trailer tires increases fuel efficiency. Henry views his truck as a fleet-footed marathon runner. He equates conventional dual tires to putting work boots on your feet. Battery-powered A/C also saves fuel. Working with eNow, three solar panels mounted near the front of the trailer are producing 930 watts of power.

Henry’s Perspective

“I got started with aerodynamics when I was flat-bedding,” said Henry. “It was a fun way to learn because every load was different. I was able to learn about angling things and positioning freight. Those lessons carried forward when I started running on my own authority. That’s when I really started focusing on fuel efficiency.

“You don’t find your best fuel efficiency based on any one thing. There are so many variables involved with the mechanical functioning of a powertrain and the aerodynamics of a tractor pulling a 53-foot dry van. Systems computerization helps, but you have to understand how those systems work. Computers are based on logic. They’re not smart; they’re not dumb. You can influence them to your advantage via the messages you send through your right foot.

“My lifetime average over more than 200,000 miles with the 2018 AeroX is 9.9 mpg. That includes demo rides and other things. Most of time when I’m cruising, I run at 1,200 rpm. At 75 mph, I’m still only at 1,400 rpm. My weight is usually, 60,000 to 65,000 pounds, however, I have zero empty miles, so my average weight is more than most. I generally unload and reload at the same dock. My advice is to become a student of mechanical efficiencies and aerodynamics. Within these two disciplines, you can gain two, three or maybe four mpg with any OTR truck.”

NEW BLUE BRIEF SPECS

  • 2018 Freightliner Cascadia AeroX
  • Cascadia Evolution raised-roof 72-in. sleeper cab
  • 223-in wheelbase
  • Detroit DD15, 400 horsepower, 1,750 ft. lb. of torque
  • DT12-DA-1750 heavy-duty, 12-speed, direct drive,
    automated transmission
  • Detroit 2.16 rear axle
  • Detroit Assurance 4.0 safety systems
  • 2008 53-foot Utility 4000DX dry van
  • Nose cone
  • FlowBelow Tractor AeroKit
  • FlowBelow wheel covers and fairings
  • Fleet Engineers AeroSaver side skirts
  • Fleet Engineers AeroSaver mud flaps
  • Stemco ATdynamics TrailerTail®
  • eNow 930-Watt solar panels

ABOUT HENRY ALBERT

  • Professional driver since 1983
  • Own authority in 1996
  • Freightliner Team Run Smart since 2005
  • 2007 Overdrive Trucker of the Year
  • 2014 TA Citizen Driver Honoree
  • Trucker Buddy International
  • Trucking Solutions Group
  • Make-A-Wish® Foundation

About Warren Eulgen

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