Image
There are several ways to save fuel while operating a fleet of ready-mix trucks.
  • Do pre-trip checks (oil, water, belts, etc.). If you're not running properly, extra fuel is burned. Misaligned belts, dragging brakes, or out-of-line tires waste energy.
  • Limit warm-up. Just get the oil to circulate completely before leaving. Two minutes in summer and less than five in winter should do.
  • Start easy. The lighter your touch on the throttle, the less fuel you'll use. Fast starts waste fuel.
  • Use progress shifting. Let lower gears multiply available torque. The less time spent in lower gears, the less fuel you'll use.
  • Use terrain. Let gravity pull you downhill, and coast over hilltops.
  • Watch your speed. Above 50 mph, each mile an hour costs at least 0.1 mpg. For a mixer ready-mix truck, it's probably closer to 0.2 mpg.
  • Stay in gear when climbing. Plan for downgrades. Uphill, stay in the highest gear without lugging and coast-in-gear over the top. Modern engines can pull smoothly from as low as 900 rpm.
  • Anticipate slowdowns and stops. Braking converts momentum into waste heat. Coast down. Stay off your brakes to save fuel.
  • Use the highest gear at all times. Stay near the engine's most economical speed.
  • Eliminate unnecessary idling. Idling burns fuel and wears engines.
  • Smoothness is also a determining factor. See what's ahead and anticipate changes. Use cruise control whenever possible. Anticipate exits, weigh stations, and traffic. The longer you can take to coast down to your anticipated stop, the less fuel you'll burn getting there and the less you'll waste using your brakes.

    Get an automatic toll-taking device like E-Z Pass, Pike Pass or I-Pass. Stopping for a tollbooth and accelerating back to 60 mph takes about one-third to one-half a gallon more than maintaining 60.

    Equipment

    The right equipment helps achieve good fuel economy. Your truck's shape is fixed, but you can configure any truck, even a mixer, to improve aerodynamics. Aerodynamic cabs are significantly better than older, boxy designs. Improvements in truck shape alone provide at least ½ mpg when traveling 40 mph or more.

    Tires are a major source of rolling resistance. Air is a structural part of every tire. It supports casings and allows tires to flex as designed. All tires flex to keep tread flat on the road, but underinflated tires flex excessively and generate heat through internal friction. How much they flex, absorbing energy, depends on design and air pressure. Keep tires inflated.

    Rib tires need less energy to flex than lug-types, although lug designs may be needed for traction at worksites. Sidewalls vary. Ask dealers about their best designs for your application. A bargain tire is no bargain if it consumes more in fuel than it saves in price.

    Double-wide tires have grown in popularity since being introduced about a decade ago. With only half the number of sidewalls to flex, they improve fuel economy up to 5%. Bridgestone recently introduced the L315 for on/off highway service. Michelin has an X One for on/off road use, designated XZY3. Each double-wide wheel and tire is lighter than the two it replaces, so payload is also increased.

    Maintenance

    A well-maintained truck burns less fuel than one in poor condition. Out-of-aligned tires are dragged sideways as much as 100 feet or more for each mile traveled. That sideways scrub wears tires prematurely. Fuel supplies energy that removes rubber. Alignment can cut fuel use.

    Engine fans can consume up to 55 hp. Fan clutches keep fans running only when needed. Check your thermostat regularly. Make sure your radiator and coolers are free of debris so air flows through them freely. Check injectors regularly. Worn injectors are inefficient. Use fuel additives to keep injectors clean.

    With electronic engines, it's easy to run a diagnosis of the engine control unit (ECU) and its sensors. Just plug in a scan tool. Be sure all sensors are operating properly every preventive maintenance interval. Sensor readings tell the ECU how much fuel the truck needs for every injection pulse. Faulty sensors waste fuel.

    Of the four determining factors, driving is the easiest to modify and the most effective in improving fuel economy.

    — Paul Abelson is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association and is currently on the Board of Truck Writers of North America. E-mailtruckwriter@anet.com.