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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Keep on Truckin’ for Fuel Efficiency

Air Date: Week of

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Carl Krites is a trucker with Con-Way Freight in Ohio. (Photo: James DeCamp and Con-Way Freight)

The EPA and Department of Transportation are considering new standards to make the latest trucks more fuel-efficient. But some truckers already know how to keep their emissions in check. Host Bruce Gellerman talks with Carl Krites—a super-efficient truck driver from Ohio.


GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Bruce Gellerman. Within a few years, medium and heavy-duty trucks in the United States could be rolling down highways and byways using a lot less fuel, and emitting a lot less greenhouse gases. The EPA and Department of Transportation have proposed new standards set to go into effect in three years. If the new regs are adopted, the agencies estimate the new fleet of fuel efficient trucks will provide more than 40 billion dollars in benefits over the lifetime of the vehicles.

However, to get those savings will take a hefty dose of high tech: expensive new engine designs, drive trains and streamlined aerodynamics. But according to a recent study by the National Research Council there’s a lot truckers can do right now to cut fuel consumption and curb tailpipe emissions at little or no cost. When it comes to driving efficiently Carl Krites is what you might call the MVP of MPGs. He’s a trucker with Con-way Freight in Ohio and this year’s National Truck Driving Champion. Mr. Krites, congratulations. Welcome to Living on Earth.

Carl Krites accepts his award for this year’s National Truck Driving Champion. (Photo: James DeCamp and Con-Way Freight)

KRITES: It’s quite a pleasure.

GELLERMAN: You’ve been driving for what, 31 years?

KRITES: 32 as of the first of September.

GELLERMAN: Huh. I guess over the years you’ve put on a few miles in your time.

KRITES: Right at three million miles without a chargeable accident.

GELLERMAN: Phew, that’s a good record. What kind of truck do you drive?

KRITES: Right now I work for Con-way Freight and we pull doubles, we haul LTL freight.

GELLERMAN: 18-wheeler, I guess?

KRITES: Yes, sir.

GELLERMAN: So do you have special techniques that you use to save gas?

KRITES: My biggest thing is, and especially with Conway Frieght, we’re real conscious about fuel economy and stuff. Our trucks are all governed at 62 miles an hour. And, you know, they put out the numbers as to how much fuel we save going from 62 instead of 65, and that itself is astronomical money savings in our fleet. And not only that, but, just the fuel savings.

GELLERMAN: Yeah. I was reading that you go from 70 miles to 65, you save eight percent right off the top.

KRITES: Exactly. I get called a dogger because I shut my cruise at 60. To me two-miles an hour isn’t going to make that much difference, but you actually save a little more fuel.

GELLERMAN: A dogger? Is that what they call you?

KRITES: They call me ‘dog-ing it’.

GELLERMAN: (Laughs). So if you have an 18-wheel, you’ve got a lot of tires there… I know you’re supposed to keep your tires inflated. Do you keep your tires inflated?

Carl Krites is awarded a trophy for having an impeccable safety record and for driving efficiently. (Photo: James DeCamp and Con-Way Freight)

KRITES: Yeah, we do a pre-trip inspection and then our units RPM maintenance regularly and I do a thump test every morning, you know, just to make sure I don’t have a low tire or something because that does make a big difference. You know, I had a guy explain to me the amount of fuel savings you can get just from keeping your tires inflated right. People just don’t realize it.

GELLERMAN: What about shifts? How many gears do you have?

KRITES: I got a ten-speed.

GELLERMAN: A ten-speed. How do you make sure you’re in the exact right gear? Because I was reading that if you shift one gear down you can increase your fuel consumption by 15 percent.

KRITES: Right. You know RPM range for mine is like around 1250 and I usually run right at around 1100 RPM’s and stuff, just a little below max. I like to have something in reserve in case you need a little extra throttle to get out of a situation or something like that, you don’t want to be max-ed out.

GELLERMAN: Do you do double clutching with ten gears? I would guess you would have to at some times.

KRITES: (Laughs). Uh, to be totally honest, I use a clutch when I stop and start and otherwise I just use synchronized shifting.

GELLERMAN: You’re kidding. You just push it in.

KRITES: Never touch the clutch once I pull away from a stop sign or stop light.

GELLERMAN: And, does that save you gas?

KRITES: Yes. It saves you foot power, it saves you wear and tear on the clutch and the modern transmissions are so synchronized that if you use your RPM range like it’s recommended, it’s synchronized so well that it just falls right out and right into the next gear.

GELLERMAN: What about pit-stops? I was reading that if you consolidate your stops for food and fuel and so on, you can really save quite a bit of gas. I guess a third of a gallon of gas is used by truckers just to return to a highway speed.

Carl Krites is a trucker with Con-Way Freight in Ohio. (Photo: James DeCamp and Con-Way Freight)

KRITES: Right. And also, you know what a lot of guys don’t realize, if you idle your truck for one hour, you burn a gallon of fuel.

GELLERMAN: I understand why Con-way would do it. They’re saving a lot of money on gas, on fuel.

KRITES: Absolutely. We run 4,400 line-haul, on what we call line-haul runs every night, across the United States and Canada. And, if you can save two percent of fuel on each unit at 4,400 units running up and down the highway at night, you’re saving a lot of money and you’re saving a lot of fuel.

GELLERMAN: Are there other drivers who are as conscientious as you at Con-way in terms of fuel efficiency?

KRITES: Uh, yeah. Actually there are. There are some of the old-school guys that, you know, haven’t really caught onto it yet. But there are several of us that, you know, you look at it and the thing with us is that— and maybe this is a little self-centered— we do a profit sharing at the end of the year, so anything we can do to help save money for our company, you know, there’s a big bonus for us.

And not only that but it’s just the wear and tear on the vehicle’s less if you’re conscious, cause if you’re trying to be fuel efficient and save fuel, you’re driving in a better manner all the way around. And the biggest thing to me is we reduce our reliance on foreign oil and, you know, the safety factor, you know, and the reputation of the drivers overall. Through a period of time where the reputation of a truck driver wasn’t real good, but now the positive light- I know the numbers are out and over 80 percent of the amount of the American public has a positive attitude toward truck drivers because they’ve realized it’s not just a job anymore, it’s a profession.

And, we take pride in what we do. And, you know it’s not different from a doctor going to work and taking pride in what he does, you know. We all try to do that.

GELLERMAN: So how long do you plan to drive?

KRITES: (Laughs). My goal, my goal is 58, and that’s eight years from now. I just turned 50 this year. I’d like to get to four million miles.

GELLERMAN: Do truckers still use CB radios?

KRITES: Oh yeah, yup.

GELLERMAN: So what’s your handle?

KRITES: (Laughs). Uh, my handle is Skeeter.


KRITES: Yes sir. And I’ve had that since I was very small. My grandfather always told me that I buzzed around like a blank skeeter and the name just stuck. I guess I could never sit still.

GELLERMAN: (Laughs). Well, Skeeter, ten-four.

KRITES: Well thank you Bruce, it’s been a pleasure and quite an honor.

GELLERMAN: Carl Skeeter Krites is the 2010 National Truck Driving Grand Champion. He drives with Con-way in Ohio. How do you save fuel? Let us know and if we pick your idea and put it on the air, we’ll send you a shiny blue Living on Earth tire gauge. Email us at comments at L-O-E dot org. That’s comments at L-O-E dot O-R-G. Or post your idea on our Facebook page. It’s PRI’s Living on Earth.



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