Good MPG is a moving target

A post from our friend Clark Reed, a driver for Nussbaum and Run on Less 2017 driver, stopped me in my tracks last week.  He is very committed to improving fuel economy and regularly has days over 10 mpg. He was talking about the challenging day he had. The route he was on was difficult with a constant elevation gain. Temperatures were low. There was a mix of rain/snow failing. And he was carrying a heavy load.

In spite of all that, he was still able to reach 8 MPG for the day. In his post, he commented that at one time 8 MPG would have been considered good and added that “today 8 MPG is generally not a good number” … for him, that is. Although on the day he was driving, given the challenging conditions he considered it good because there were so many factors outside of his control. By the way, he is closing in a 10-MPG lifetime average.

Today, there are lots of drivers who are committed to seeing just how much they can improve their MPG. In Run on Less 2017, we had seven drivers who over the course of three weeks achieved and average MPG of 10.1. Some days some of them were higher — much higher. Even in Run on Less Regional the 10 drivers averaged 8.3 MPG. We think that is a good number for that challenging duty cycle.

It’s interesting to me how in a relatively short period of time our idea of what counts as good MPG has changed. We continue to have manufacturers making their base model trucks more aerodynamic and powertrains that can maximize efficiency. We have fleets making investments in technologies and practices to push the MPG envelope. Couple that with drivers who challenge themselves to drive with fuel efficiency in mind, and it’s easy to see why the MPG needle continues to move up.

What really impresses me is that this is happening at a time when diesel prices are relatively (comparatively) low. Even though fuel is costing them less, it still is a big portion of a fleet’s operating expense and anything they can do to reduce that cost adds to their profitability. I also think the fleets and drivers that have made the commitment to operate in a fuel-efficient manner today will be in the best position to remain profitable if fuel prices rise in the future.

Ten years ago, when NACFE was started, people thought we were crazy for saying we were going to work toward a national average of 12 MPG. The results from Run on Less 2017 showed that on four different days a driver averaged between 12.5 and 13 mpg. The original goal is now in sight.

With the help of all the drivers I have seen who continually challenge themselves to do better, I am confident we collectively burn dramatically less fuel. After all, good MPG is a moving target.

This article was originally posted by American Trucker.