Slow Down

By on September 1, 2008
RoadKing Mag

MORE AND MORE trucking companies are telling drivers that it’s time to slow down. Literally. As with so much in the industry lately, the need for less speed is all about saving fuel.

Schneider Truckload Services lowered cruising speeds on their 10,000 tractors from 63 mph to 60 mph. Although actual savings figures weren’t available, Dan Van Alstine, senior vice president and general manager, says the company expects to use 3.75 million gallons less fuel a year with only a three-mile per hour reduction.

Each of the 8,400 trucks in Con-Way Freight’s fleet decreased speed from 65 mph to 62 mph, which equates to roughly a savings of 3.2 million gallons of fuel a year. Similarly, Con-Way Truckload reduced their truck speeds from 70 mph to 65 mph, saving 2.8 million gallons of fuel annually, according to Gary Frantz, director of corporate communications.

Smaller companies have had to make similar adjustments to remain in business. Doug Cohen, owner of Rochester Cartage Trucking in Rochester, Minn., says that by turning down his trucks from 68 mph to 65 mph, he saved $2,024 in fuel costs in just one month on five of his trucks. “At 68 mph a trip takes 35 1/3 hours and at 65 mph, the same trip takes about an hour more,” says Cohen. That’s a small cut in time compared to the level of savings involved.

Because the company shared the reasoning behind lower speeds, drivers at Schneider accept the new directive. “Truckers are smart and have an appreciation for fuel costs,” says Van Alstine. “Many said they didn’t like the change, but understood and appreciated how it was handled.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average speeds on our interstates range from 55 mph to 75 mph, so drivers’ concerns make sense, but Cohen points out that slowing down and getting into the right hand lane makes for a much safer and more rested driver. Cohen should know — his company will receive the fleet safety award from the Minnesota Trucking Association this year and has won several national safety awards.

And ultimately, the trucking business isn’t just about getting to the receiver fast, it is about delivering a load safely. “Our customers understand our industry as well as we understand theirs,” Cohen says . “When one of our drivers is tired, we want him to sleep, and our customers haven’t had a problem with that. The same with going slower.”

Frantz says that Con-Way struck a balance and carefully thought through the change so that their service wouldn’t be impacted by lowering truck speeds.

“The average time for one of our overnight trips is only 20 minutes longer than it used to be,” says Frantz. “ We can manage that and still provide the same level of service.”

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