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FuelQuest's Fuel Center monitors its clients' inventories and manages all aspects of their fuel purchases.

Transmission advancements

Those who drive for fuel economy use progressive shifting. They take advantage of torque multiplication in lower gears to shift at lower rpm and to skip unneeded gears. To help drivers narrow the 35 percent gap and to improve fuel economy, a new breed of automated manual transmission has been developed. Eaton's UltraShift Plus has models programmed to optimize shift points for vocational applications.

Engine and transmission makers Volvo (I-Shift), Mack (mDRIVE), and Detroit (DT12) recently introduced automated 12-speed transmissions to provide optimal shifting for the proprietary fuel mapping of their engines.

For those who prefer the constant torque application from a full automatic, Allison announced a new 10-speed, the TC10. Initially designed for on-highway use, it features Load Based Shift Schedules. Current plans are to complement, not replace, Allison's rugged on-off-highway 4000 RDS, but much of the technology will be shared in the near future.

These transmissions will help narrow the 35 percent gap and help any driver with a light touch achieve better fuel economy.

Despite technological advancements, the greatest opportunity for improving fuel savings remains driver performance.

Paul Abelson is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association and is on the Board of Truckwriters of North America. E-mail truckwriter@anet.com.


A Quest for Lower Fuel Costs

Concrete producers are experts at manufacturing a vital building material for the nation's construction industry. What producers might not be so adept at is buying fuel for their fleets at the best price.

FuelQuest, a fuel management provider based in Houston, might have the answer for producers with large fleets that are looking to cut their fuel costs. The company typically saves its customers 4 cents to 6 cents per gallon in fuel costs. Customers must buy at least 1 million gallons of fuel across all of its locations. That adds up to $40,000 to $60,000 of savings a year for a customer that buys 1 million gallons a year; $400,000 to $600,000 for a larger customer that purchases 10 million gallons.

FuelQuest takes the volatility out of fuel buying. “Buying a load of fuel today versus buying it tomorrow from the same supplier can be a 15-cent difference,” says Ryan Mossman, company vice president and general manager of fuel services.

The company can help any fleet that has its own fuel tanks. FuelQuest builds a client's supply portfolio. “They give us parameters such as how big their tanks are, how much fuel they typically use, and their operating hours,” Mossman says. “Once we have those parameters, our network operations center monitors inventories via the Internet, places orders using our technology, and handles every aspect of when they get a load of fuel and where they get it from.”

FuelQuest does not lower its clients' costs by coop buying in bulk. “We monitor financial markets and we can predict with reasonable certainty the direction of prices from day to day,” Mossman says. “By timing the fuel purchases of a concrete producer, we might save him 7 cents a day by deciding to buy today instead of tomorrow.”

The 12-year-old company manages 19 billion gallons of fuel a year for its clients. FuelQuest does not yet buy fuel for any concrete producers, but is trying to break into the market. For more information, visit www.fuelquest.com.

—Tom Bagsarian