ATLANTA. A 17-day cross-country journey by seven tractor-trailers – one an owner-operator’s rig – wrapped up here ahead of the inaugural North American Commercial Vehicle (NACV) show; a journey that illustrated how a variety of current equipment specifications, incorporating everything from trailer and tractor skirts, wide-base tires, automated manual transmissions (AMTs), 6 x 2 axles, and low viscosity oils, among others, can deliver fuel economy greater than 10 miles per gallon (mpg) on average.

Organized by the Carbon War Room (CWR) and the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), with Shell Lubricants and PepsiCo as its top sponsors, the “Run on Less” project involved current or 2018 spec’d tractor-trailers operated by: Albert Transport; PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Division; Hirschbach, Mesilla Valley Transportation; Nussbaum Transportation; Ploger Transportation; and U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

Those vehicles achieved a cumulative average of 10.1 mpg hauling an average gross combination weight of 55,498 lbs. at an average speed of 54 miles per hour (mph).

The highest fuel efficiency achieved during the 17-day run was 12.8 mpg, with three different trucks clocking in over 12.5 mpg at one point, NACFE said. The lowest hit 7.1 mpg on one of the days, and the lowest fuel efficiency for the demonstration event averaged out to 8.8 mpg, explained Mike Roeth, NACFE’s executive director.

“We did this in real-world conditions, with real freight on real routes,” he told American Trucker. “We were mimicking real duty-cycles, including deadhead miles as well, on highway and urban roads with currently available technology.”

The driving conditions were not “ideal” during the 17-day event either, Roeth added, as hurricanes Harvey and Irma generated headwinds and tailwinds, while evacuations from Texas and Florida generated heavy traffic along some highway corridors.

He noted that “Run on Less” monitored wind speed long each truck’s route using OpenWeatherMap.org and it varied from a 6.8 mph average headwind to a 7.6 mph tailwind.

Henry Albert, the owner and operator of Albert Transport, told American Trucker he encountered road closures on one of his trips from Laredo, TX, to Charlotte, NC, along I-85 – areas where two highway lanes narrowed down to one. “I had a heavier load in heavy traffic for long stretches – two construction zones no less – and I still managed to pull down 11.4 mpg,” he said.

Roeth said by attaining an average of 10.1 mpg, those seven tractor-trailers saved 2,877 gallons of fuel worth $7,193 during their 17-day participation in “Run on Less” when measured against the national average fur economy of 6.4 mpg for heavy trucks.

If the 1.7 million Class 8 tractor-trailers operating today on North American highways achieved the same level of fuel efficiency as the trucks in the “Run on Less” program, they would save 9.7 billion gallons of diesel fuel worth an estimated $24.3 billion.