Timeless fuel economy advice

Rick Mihelic Headshot

Some advice is timeless. 

In 2017, NACFE issued recommendations on ways any fleet and driver could readily improve their fuel economy. Run On Less 2017 followed seven late model year diesel trucks in real-world conditions, driven efficiently by expert fleet drivers such as Joel Morrow of Ploger Transportation, Clark Reed of Nussbaum Transportation, and Henry Albert of Albert Transport.

Those seven fleets averaged more than 10 MPG over the three-week period of the Run, including dealing with two hurricanes. Someone recently reposted this slide from the report we did about the Run on social media and seeing it got me thinking: Good advice is good advice, even if it’s old.

Run On Less 10for10–finalv4 Copy

Just to put “old” good advice in perspective, I happened on an issue of Life magazine from December 7, 1942, published one year to the day after America’s entry into World War II.

Take a step back in time with me and picture the U.S. well on its way to becoming the “arsenal of democracy,” where the entire U.S. industrial base transitioned to arming and supplying the world in the fight with a singular focused mission: to preserve democracy.

Picture the need for strategic materials being so great that companies like Heinz had to stop putting sauces in tin cans so the tin could be diverted to the war effort. The automotive industry stopped producing cars to build war materiel like tanks, trucks, air planes and more. On the home front, people were asked to maintain their cars, as-is, for the duration of the war, meaning stretching out tire life indefinitely, and repairing with whatever resource was available.

The entire nation’s focus was on efficiency (doing more with less), so labor, materials, energy and more could be focused on supporting the troops.

Texaco Advice Life Copy

Texaco published this advertisement in that issue of Life magazine. Sound advice for improving fuel economy and extending service intervals from 1942! Less speed, avoid jack rabbit starts and stops, avoid idling, run the engine for efficiency, and check tire pressure are all in NACFE’s 2017 report.  

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Timeless advice for the modern world.

The December 7, 1942 issue of Life can be viewed at a variety of sources including the New York Public Library and Google Books. This issue has some great information on the criticality of strategic materials, which has some parallels with our current evolving needs for lithium, cobalt, rare earth ores, and more.

Some topics transcend time, particularly when it comes to engineering and the physics of road movement. WWII has many examples of groups making the impossible possible, including examples where industrialists and governments successfully shortened lead time on many complex products from years to weeks, or even days. There are also many examples of excesses and mistakes and we can learn from those as well.

Technology and the trucking industry never really rest. A lot has changed since 1942, but the experience and confidence gained over the decades can still apply. 

Rick Mihelic is NACFE’s Director of Emerging Technologies. He has authored for NACFE four Guidance Reports on electric and alternative fuel medium- and heavy-duty trucks and several Confidence Reports on Determining Efficiency, Tractor and Trailer Aerodynamics, Two Truck Platooning, and authored special studies on Regional Haul, Defining Production and Intentional Pairing of tractor trailers.