Don't Blame Poor Mileage on Wrong Source

Look at your own driving habits first! Tom J. Bechman

Published on: Jul 27, 2006

Ed Friel has a pet peeve. He becomes irritated when someone, especially a truck driver, complains about poor gas or diesel mileage. If the person is running soy biodiesel or ethanol and didn't before, that's usually the first thing they want to blame for poor performance.

"The truth is that the answer to improving gas mileage is usually tied back to the nut behind the wheel," he joked before a crowd at the Johnson County Fair last week. Friel participated in the second day of a two-day panel presentation on alternative and renewable fuels. The panel was unique because it featured a biodiesel producer, reseller, promoter, customer and marketer. Sponsored by the Johnson County Farm Bureau, the intent was to bring together folks who could bring local residents up to speed on one of the hottest topics anywhere. Unfortunately, the weather was also hot, keeping people away from the presentation on Wednesday evening. More people ventured out for Thursday's session, several with real concerns about renewable fuels on their minds.

One of those concerns was how to improve mileage. "We get truck drivers complaining to us that they are not getting good mileage. Some get as low as 4 miles per gallon, at best, with a big rig," says Friel, vice president for marketing with Cummins Mid-States Power, Inc. He is active in the truck industry in central Indiana.

"What they don't understand is that if you take a snub-nose, big truck, often separated with lots of space between the cab and trailer, hang extra features on both sides, and go the whole nine yards, you're giving up mileage," he says. "It's surprising some of those rigs even get four miles per gallon."

One of the biggest ways to guzzle down fuel is to drive above the sped limit, Friel adds. Since Interstate speeds were raised in Indiana, speeds have crept up as well. "As speeds go up, fuel consumption also goes up."

There's a reason why race car drivers trying to stretch out a load of fuel and avoid a pit stop at the end of the race don't go full-throttle every time. It's so they can conserve what fuel they have left.