On The Fast Track To Fuel Savings: 1st in a series of articles
From the September 2008 issue of Movin' Out
By Antoinette "Toni" Trotta
"Necessity is the mother of invention." Arlindo "AJ" Jardin an independent truck owner/operator with over 36 years of road experience is proof of this old adage. After installing wheel balancers on his tractor he was frustrated by how difficult it was just to reach the valve stem caps. After a year of thought, planning, designing, re-designing and a total of sixteen prototypes ValvePal was born. A simple tool that could be used to access, remove, retain and reinstall a valve stem cap on the inside dual tire within seconds. The original tool gave its name to a new company, ValvePal, with a growing product line of tire related tools all geared towards simplifying routine tire maintenance for trucks, trailers and other dual tire vehicles.
"AJ" drives a 2000 Freightliner FLD 120 with a 3406E 600 hp CAT, an18 speed Eaton transmission and 3:58 rears. The truck runs on 11R 22.5" tires and he pulls a 53ft. dry van. He has a regular weekly run from Boston to Minneapolis and back, running primarily across I-90.
In April 2006 the average price of a gallon of diesel fuel was $2.50 and starting to climb. Looking back on his records "AJ" determined that he was averaging 6.166 miles per gallon. "AJ" began a quest to increase his fuel mileage. His first step was back to basics: proper tire inflation. From April to June 2006 he began a regular maintenance routine of checking air pressure and inflating his tires once a week. He would air at night, so there was no direct sun to heat the tires or skew the air pressure reading. He waited at least three hours after parking the truck to allow the tires to completely cool down. "AJ" does "drop and hook" driving and relied on the old method of thumping the trailer tires to determine air pressure. When he began using an air pressure gauge he discovered that most of the trailers he pulled were significantly under inflated, some as low as 60psi, the majority at about 80psi on tires with recommended 110psi inflation. After three months, his records showed an increase of .138mpg. His total mileage from April to June was 38,856 miles, with an average speed of 59.1mph and an idle time of 33.1hrs.The total fuel used was 6,163.7 gallons. This gave him a new average of 6.304mpg.
Although he was starting to see results from his vigilant tire inflation routine the entire process took him about an hour and a half. What was actually a simple task was so time consuming it was overwhelming. Using the original ValvePal tool helped considerably. He could remove the valve stem caps from the inside tires without having to move or reposition the truck. With the ValvePal all he had to do was locate the valve stem, push on the ValvePal, twist, and the cap was off. Using traditional air chucks however, also seemed inefficient and time consuming. You had to attach the air chuck and then stand there and hold it while inflating the tire. Wouldn't it be easier if you could just lock-on the air chuck and it stayed in place? Enter necessity again. So, the ValvePal Clip Lock-on Air Chuck joined the ValvePal line. "AJ's" first design was a six-inch clip lock-on air chuck that you just slid over the valve stem and locked in place. This worked great but it still left you with a dangling air hose—so, obviously a longer version was a better solution. It took another three months of design, development and testing but finally a 13" clip lock-on air chuck was added to the ValvePal lineup. With this air chuck you simply press the attached lever, push it over the valve stem, release it and it locks in place holding its position until you remove it. The 13" length made reaching the inside dual position easy. But that still left the repetitious loop of checking the air pressure, adding air, rechecking the air pressure until you reached the correct psi in 18 tires. The answer to this was the ValvePal Dual Tire Inflator. It consisted of a 2½" rubber protected dial air gauge with a ball valve and two 3ft air hoses with quick connects for attaching the air chucks. Using the 13" Clip Lock-on Air Chuck on one hose and attaching it to the inside dual tire and a regular tilt lock air chuck on the second hose then attaching it to the outside tire you could now precisely inflate two tires at the same time. What once took him an hour and a half was reduced to a half hour.
The next change came in July 2006. "AJ" replaced his big lug drive tires with rib steer tires. For a three-month period from July to September 2006 "AJ's" total mileage was 39,711 miles, using 6,201.1 gallons of fuel with an average speed of 59.6mph and an idle time of 29.6hrs he gained an increase of .099mpg raising his average to 6.403mpg.
"AJ" normally ran between 65 and 70mph. In October of 2006 he cut his speed to a consistent 60mph and began using cruise control. For the three month period from October to December 2006 his total mileage was 38,532miles, using 5,767.7 gallons of diesel fuel with an average speed of 51.5mph and an idle time of 43.3hrs he realized an increase of .278mpg now bringing his total average up to 6.681mpg. This was a net gain of .515mpg from his start date in April of 2006 from three simple steps.
"AJ's" quest is far from over. In fact it has just begun. From Mid-2006 until the present, "AJ" has made special changes to his truck with documented fuel savings including a ported and polished ceramic manifold, high flow air filter, high flow muffler, and most recently a FASS Fuel System. In the next few issues of Movin' Out we will examine the products that have enabled "AJ" to achieve consistent averages above 8 mpg, including idle time, with a 600 hp CAT engine.