4 Tips To Save Fuel In 2015 (Part 2 of 2)

Want to keep fuel costs down—and your bottom line growing—in 2015? Last month, our Cat Truck experts recommended two simple solutions: coast further in gear and slow down a bit. Read on for more common-sense suggestions in part two of our fuel-saving series.

Tip #3: Limit Idle Time
An engine at idle can burn half a gallon to a gallon of fuel per hour, depending on idle rpm and the number of accessories in use. (In other words, you’ll burn more fuel if the idle’s bumped up to 1000 rpm and the air conditioner, clearance lights and engine cooling fan are all running). That means the cost of leaving your truck idling while waiting in line to load or unload—or while sitting in a restaurant eating lunch—can really add up.

During the winter, when the ambient temperature is around 10 degrees with a wind chill below zero, it may make sense to leave your truck idling. But if the ambient temp is 30-40 degrees or higher, shut off your engine and save some money. A good rule of thumb: shut down the engine anytime you’ll be out of the truck more than five minutes.

Now, drivers often say they like the comfort of climbing into a warm cab when it’s cold out, or a cool cab when temperatures spike. But ask those same drivers how often they leave their own cars or trucks idling when they’re inside a restaurant eating dinner, and the answer is always no!

Another excuse you may hear is that diesel engines are hard to start, and that’s why it’s better to leave them running. That may have been true back in the days (1970s) of pre-combustion chamber engines, which featured glow plugs activated by a switch on the dash. In cold weather, drivers had to hold that switch—sometimes multiple times—to get the engine started and firing on all cylinders. Fortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s direct-injection, high-pressure fuel system engines are as easy to start as it gets.

Two additional opportunities to minimize idle time—and save fuel—are during warm-ups and cool-downs. At the start of the day, you only need to let the water temperature begin to rise off the bottom of the coolant temperature gauge. Even on cold winter days, that means you only need to let the engine idle long enough to do your pre-trip walkaround and fill out your log book. Once you start moving, take it easy for a few miles until the coolant temperature gets closer to normal. That way, you warm up the entire truck (axles, transmission, wheel bearings, etc.) instead of just the engine before you hit the road.

To shorten cool-down time, drive the truck as easy as you can just before you know you’re going to park it. Back out of the throttle early and let the truck coast as far as you can before stopping. The engine will be as cool as it can get as soon as you set the parking brakes.

Tip #4: Minimize Jackrabbit Starts
Are you guilty of jackrabbit starts? Breaking that habit could help you save fuel. Instead, use progressive shifting techniques when starting out and shifting up through the gears. (The idea of progressive shifting is to use only enough engine rpm to get up into the next gear and still pick up speed.) Go easy on the throttle instead of flooring it between every gear.

When starting off in the low side of the transmission, you can probably get by with upshifting at around 1200-1300 rpm, depending on the load and type of terrain. Heavier loads and uphill pulls may require more rpm to upshift. As your speed increases and you get into the high side of the transmission, you’ll need to use more rpm to upshift—the higher the road speed, the greater the rolling resistance. Try shifting at around 1400-1500 rpm.

If your truck has a Cat CX31 automatic transmission, use economy mode as often as you can. Go easy on the throttle as well, using only enough to pick up speed slowly. That’s right—you’ll be a few seconds slower getting up to speed. Will that delay really affect your production at the end of the day? That’s a decision you’ll have to make. One thing’s for sure, though—you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your end-of-year fuel savings.

Want more tips on saving fuel and money? Check out Caterpillar’s new Rethink the Tank website. It’s geared toward machine fuel savings—but there’s lot of relevant information for truck owners, too. Happy saving!

4 Tips To Save Fuel In 2015 (Part 1 of 2)

Did you resolve to use less fuel in the new year? Vocational trucks and the engines that power them are getting more fuel efficient all the time—but there are still a few common-sense steps you can take to improve your fuel economy even further. Follow the advice of our Cat® Truck experts now, and you could be seeing big dividends by the end of 2015.

Tip #1: Coast Further
Every time you take your foot off the throttle—or shut off the cruise control—and let your truck coast with the transmission in gear, the diesel engine stops consuming fuel. When you coast in gear, all the fuel pumped to the engine is returned to the fuel tank. The act of the drive train turning keeps the engine rotating. When you push in the clutch and remove the drive train connection, the engine goes to idle and starts burning idle fuel. That means whatever distance you travel coasting in gear is essentially FREE.

To use your truck’s momentum to your advantage, back off the throttle early and coast as far as you can before you stop at a stop sign or red light—or even pull off an exit ramp. When you’ve coasted as far as you can in one gear, downshift and coast a bit further in another. Sure, you use a little fuel to make the shift, but the distance traveled is well worth it. Give it a try and see just how far your truck will coast.

An added benefit to coasting in gear—your brake linings should last longer since you won’t be using the service brakes as much. It’s a win-win!

Now, to get the full benefits of coasting in gear, be sure to leave your Jake Brake OFF. While it doesn’t use any fuel per se, the Jake Brake does slow you down more quickly—minimizing the distance you can coast. Use the Jake Brake when you need to keep your speed under control while descending a grade or if you need to stop in a hurry.

Tip #2: Slow Down
The simplest thing you can do to save the most fuel? Slow down. It’s simple physics: The faster you drive, the greater the horsepower demand on your engine. The greater the horsepower demand, the more fuel your truck has to consume to generate that horsepower.

For every mile per hour decrease in speed, you can save about a tenth of a mile per gallon in fuel. Translated into real numbers, that means you can increase your fuel economy by half a mile per gallon just by slowing down 5 mph—or improve it by a full mile per gallon by decreasing your speed by 10 mph.

Over the course of a year, those small improvements can really add up—and make it worth slowing down a bit during a busy work day. Just leave a little earlier and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Slow down, enjoy the ride and imagine what you’ll buy with all the money you’re saving on fuel.

Want more fuel-saving suggestions? Watch this space in February for Tips #3 and #4. In the meantime, check out this infographic for more advice. (Keep in mind it’s written for both diesel and gas engine users.)

Are You Ready For Winter?

“Be Prepared.” It’s the Scout motto—and a good one to follow when it comes to winter driving. Spending a few hours preparing your trucks for cold-weather operation now could save you lots of time, money and headaches down the road. Here are some winter-weather tips from our Cat® Truck maintenance experts:

Remember, water is your enemy…
In cold weather, excess moisture can cause brakes and valves to freeze up, and any water that makes its way into your fuel system can result in major damage. To keep that from happening:
• Inspect your water separator
• Remove any moisture from your airlines
• Drain water from your air tanks
• Change the filters in your air dryers

…and winter blend is your friend.
At low temps, diesel fuel can gel and clog filters. That’s why you want to make sure to fill up your trucks with winter-blend diesel (a mix of 1D and 2D) AND add a winter-blend antifreeze with a low pH level. Other precautions: Carry some spare fuel filters just in case and consider using anti-gel additives for even more protection.

Check your tires.
Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure rating and inspect your chains and cables. You’ll also want to double-check the chain laws for your area or any area you’ll be driving through to confirm you meet requirements. (Laws can change from year to year and location to location.)

Keep things clean.
Visibility is key to safety—yours and others on the road or jobsite. So don’t overlook simple things like keeping your windshield wiper fluid tank topped off with a winter-blend fluid to prevent freezing. You might also want to consider installing special winter wiper blades to keep snow and ice from catching between the blades and windshield. Also, washing your trucks regularly during the winter months will help prevent corrosive material from building up and causing rust.

Don’t skimp on inspections.
It may be tempting to skip a pre-trip walkaround in cold weather, but you’ll end up paying the price. Before you head out, check tire pressure, inspect airline hoses for cracking and make sure all lights are working and free of snow, dirt or film—it only takes a few minutes.

These simple tips should keep you working safely and productively during cold weather—but just in case, be sure to have an emergency kit on board filled with winter gear, blankets, food, water and other survival items. And ask your Cat dealer about additional winterizing tips for your specific trucks and applications. We’re here to keep you up and running all winter long!

Set-Back or Set-Forward?

Which configuration do you need for your business: set-back or set-forward? That’s likely the first question you’ll be asked when you get ready to spec your new vocational truck. And your answer will be determined largely by bridge laws. We asked our Caterpillar Truck Experts to provide a quick refresher on these requirements and explain some key differences between trucks with set-back and set-forward axles.

Bridge Laws 101
Bridge laws were first developed in the 1950s to protect bridges and road surfaces of the interstate highway system from early wear and catastrophic failure. These laws specify how much weight any single axle or group of axles can carry based on the number of axles and overall wheel base of the truck. The maximum allowable weight is determined by a mathematical formula, along with specific exceptions and restrictions. Bridge laws can vary from country to country, state to state, and even locally.

Typically, the farther apart you can spread a truck’s axles, the more payload you can carry and still meet bridge law requirements. By moving the front axle forward, the overall wheel base is increased, and in many areas that allows for more payload. That’s the #1 benefit of set-forward-axle trucks. On the other hand, set-back-axle models let you get more of the payload on the front axle, which can be useful in areas with bridge laws that don’t favor lift axles. Here are some other key differences between the two:

Set-Back Axles Offer:
• A tighter turning radius. With the front axle set further back, you can make tighter turns. That kind of maneuverability is especially important in confined spaces and on busy jobsites. (FYI, the axle on the Cat CT660 is set back further than any other manufacturer’s truck, resulting in the industry’s best turning radius.)
• Better visibility. With the axle set back, truck manufacturers can lower the radiator and slope the hood. These design elements result in dramatically improved visibility, allowing your drivers to see more of the road or jobsite—a big safety benefit. A sloped hood is also more aerodynamic, which should help you improve fuel economy.

Set-Forward Axles Offer:
• The highest payload capacity. Bridge laws favor longer wheel bases, which in some cases make the set-forward axle the clear choice.
• More mounting/attachment possibilities. With the axle set forward, you have more flexibility in the front for attachments. On the Cat CT681, we took advantage of that space by offering optional Front Frame Extensions (FFE) and a Front Engine Power Take-Off (FEPTO)—which make it easy to mount and power snow plows, hose reels, winches, hydraulic pumps and other attachments.

Ultimately, the set-back/set-forward axle decision comes down to what’s most important for your particular application—and what will enable you to achieve the maximum allowable payload. Your Cat dealer can help you weigh all the benefits and trade-offs and make the right choice for your business.

Don’t Be A Drowsy Driver

Blast the air conditioning. Crank the radio and sing along. Drink more coffee. It doesn’t matter which of these strategies for staying awake you employ when you get sleepy while driving—none of them is really effective. And operating any sort of vehicle, especially a large one like a vocational truck, while drowsy is dangerous. In fact, studies show it can be just as risky as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So what are the best ways to fight fatigue behind the wheel?

Recognize when you’re tired
Sounds obvious, right? But sometimes in our hurry to get the job done, we ignore these common warning signs of fatigue:
• Yawning
• Excessive blinking
• Heavy eyelids
• Difficulty focusing
• Nodding head
• Weaving across lane lines
• No memory of driving the last few minutes or miles

If you or someone you’re riding with starts exhibiting these symptoms, the results could be fatal. You need to act quickly, and that means…

Get off the road
Unfortunately, cold air, loud music and other common remedies just don’t cut it when it comes to fighting drowsiness while driving. There are only two truly effective solutions: 1) pull over and take a nap or 2) if you’re lucky enough to have another person along for the ride, switch drivers. Convinced you’re too busy to take a break? Think about it another way. Losing a little time for a short nap is far better than losing a life—yours or someone else’s.

Fight future fatigue
To manage fatigue proactively, you have to know what causes it. That’s pretty simple: too little sleep, driving at times when you’d normally be asleep, and working or staying awake for very long hours. The good news is, there are some things you can do to keep fatigue at bay.
• Make sleep a priority. It’s the most obvious, but also most important, tip. Try to target at least seven hours of sleep a night. If your sleep gets cut short, try to catch a nap or two to make up for lost sleeping time.
• Make your health a priority, too. If you eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise and drink plenty of water, you’ll sleep better at night and stay more alert during the day.
• Check your medication. Are you taking anything that causes drowsiness as a side effect? Be sure to double check not just prescriptions, but also any over-the-counter remedies you take during cold, flu or allergy season.
• Be strategic with caffeine. While not a long-term solution, coffee, soda and other caffeinated drinks can help boost your energy for the short-term. Think about when you most need a pick-me-up. Maybe it’s not first thing in the morning—maybe it’s halfway through your work day instead.
• Add some variety. Doing the same work—like sitting behind the wheel all day, every day—can be exhausting. Is there anything you can do to change up your routine? If you’re the boss, can you rotate jobs among employees to help them stay fresh?

To learn more about Caterpillar’s fatigue risk and distraction solutions contact safetyservices@cat.com.

The Key To Fast, Easy Body Installation? The Right Specs.

When you buy a vocational truck, you’re not just buying a truck chassis—you’re also investing in a truck body specific to your application. Whether that’s a dump, roll-off, crane, mixer, hydrovac or something else entirely, you need the truck and body to fit together seamlessly, and you want the installation process to be fast and easy. The key to success, our Cat® Truck experts say, lies in the specing process. Here’s their advice for getting it done right:

Q. When in the truck buying process should I start specing for a body?
A. Right from the beginning. Many truck specs are body-driven, so you’ll get a better quote if you provide information about the type of body you need upfront. Get your dealer and body builder together and have a conversation about your application, jobsite, material, etc. as part of the quote process—and definitely before you place your truck order.

Q. What are the most important specs I should consider when adding a truck body?
A. The exact specs will vary depending on the type of body, but cab-to-axle (CA) length, weight and axle ratings, frame height, axle spread, transmission type and horsepower are critical. You’ll also need a good understanding of local bridge laws—that may dictate certain specs for you.

Q. What are some common mistakes to avoid when specing for a truck body?
A. The #1 mistake is lack of communication. The process will go much more smoothly if you, your body builder and your dealer work together from the start. Another mistake is not having all the required information during the specing process. Be vocal about what you need, and make sure your body builder provides clear direction as well.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your dealer about special features or custom designs. On the Cat Truck, we offer options that make it easier to install certain bodies, and we have a special quoting process if you want to build a more custom truck. If we know what you want, there’s a good chance we can accommodate it. Again, it all comes back to communication.

Q. What’s my responsibility in the specing process—and what roles do my body builder and dealer play?
A. Your job is to explain your application needs and expectations as clearly and fully as possible, as soon as possible. Also, if you have a body builder you want to work with, tell your dealer. If they’re not already acquainted, put them in touch right away.

Your body builder’s job is similar—to communicate needs and expectations. He should provide detailed requirements on what it takes to outfit the selected body onto your chassis.

Your dealer’s job is to facilitate and own the process—to get the necessary information from you and your body builder, place the order accurately and ensure the truck is built to the right specs.

Q. Are there any other resources I can turn to?
If you already have a body builder you’re planning to work with, be sure to send them to the new body builder page on drivecat.com. It has information on working with Caterpillar and Cat dealers, plus a link to download the Cat Truck Body Builder Manual. If you don’t have a body builder in mind, your Cat dealer can help you find one. The NTEA, the Association for the Work Truck Industry, is another good resource.

As always, the best thing you can do is work closely with your Cat dealer. Your dealer has the expertise and relationships to make sure you get the truck and body you need for the job at hand.

Product Link™ Pays Off For Cat® Truck Owners

You know Cat® Product LinkTM comes standard on the Cat Truck, and you’ve probably heard about its benefits: controlling costs, improving uptime, boosting productivity, increasing security. But how can it really help you every day on the job? We asked our On-Highway Product Link expert some questions about specific ways you can use this asset and fleet management tool.

Q. Everyone’s looking for ways to reduce fuel consumption. Can Product Link help with that?

A. Definitely. Product Link’s web-based user interface (VisionLink®) not only shows you a truck’s current fuel level at any given moment, but it also lets you monitor overall fuel consumption—for one truck or a whole fleet. No more down-the-road surprises about how much fuel you’re using.

Another great feature is the working-versus-idle-time graph that appears on your VisionLink dashboard when you open up the application. You can see at a glance where fuel might be being wasted and take action right away.

Of course, the best way to keep fuel costs down is to make sure your trucks are working at peak performance. Product Link can help here, too. It’ll alert you when maintenance is due so you don’t miss any key service intervals. It can even tell you when a specific truck is losing performance and help you identify why that’s happening so you can fix it fast.

Q. We’ve heard horror stories about trucks being stolen. How can Product Link help prevent theft or misuse?
A. It’s easy to set virtual site boundaries—sometimes called “geofences”—to keep a close eye on your Cat Truck. You just use the “maps” function in VisionLink to create site boundaries, then have an alert sent whenever your truck or trucks move outside those boundaries. You can limit the hours when alerts are sent—only after hours or on weekends, for example.

Last summer, someone cut a hole in the fence at Cat Dealer Ring Power’s facility in Sarasota, Florida, rammed through a gate and fled the scene in a Cat Truck. You can bet the dealership was pretty happy that truck had Product Link, since police were able to locate and recover it right away.

Q. Some customers are even using Product Link to help with driver training—tell us about that.

A. That’s right. It’s a great way to monitor driver performance without having to be in the cab or on the jobsite yourself. You can set up what are called “driver-generated” alerts that will tell you when drivers are doing something that might hurt truck performance. Then you can follow up with the individual driver to correct the problem. Product Link will also help you spot patterns of behavior, which can indicate when it might be time for some additional training.

Product Link even GPS tags where problems occur, so you might discover it’s not the operator that’s causing a certain issue—maybe it’s something on the road or jobsite that you can fix or avoid.

Q. These are all great examples. Where else can customers learn about the specific uses of Product Link?
There’s a great overview video about how Product Link works in the Cat Truck here. And there’s a whole series of customer testimonials here—they’re machine-focused, but it’s pretty easy to see how the benefits could translate to the Cat Truck. And of course, you can always ask your Cat dealer for more details.

The Truck “Everybody” Wants To Drive

With a fleet running 10 to 12 hours a day transporting critical fuel supplies to customers throughout southern California, California Fuels and Lubricants needs trucks it can count on—and the Cat® Truck delivers.

“There really is no comparison,” says Jaime Dueñas, president of the Garden Grove, California, company, about the Cat CT660 Vocational Truck. “It’s constantly being driven and constantly doing what we expect it to do.”

That includes impressing California Fuels and Lubricants’ drivers, who average between five and nine stops per day delivering fuel to construction companies, nurseries, power companies, emergency generators and more—with loads ranging from 400 to 5,000 gallons.

“It has great steering,” says Jose Esparza about driving the CT660. “The control, the stability of the truck—when we’re fully loaded, it handles really great.”

Fellow driver Jeff Hiscock agrees. “There’s thousands of gallons of liquid in the back. You’re taking turns, you’re hitting uneven pavement, and it handles the moving liquid amazingly.”

Because California Fuels and Lubricants provides 24/7 emergency service for its customers, truck uptime is key. The company relies on a service plan from Cat dealer Quinn to keep its CT660s operating at peak performance.

“They run these trucks six days a week, so with service issues, we have to turn the trucks as fast as we can to get them back up on the road,” says Kurt Hintz, truck service supervisor at Quinn.

And when they’re on the road, finding drivers to get behind the wheel is no problem, according to Efrain Davalos, Jr., sales manager at California Fuels and Lubricants. “Everybody wants to drive the new Cat Truck,” he says. “It stands on its own.”

Watch the video to hear more from leaders and drivers at California Fuels and Lubricants—and get an up-close look at the company’s Cat Trucks in action.

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