Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Richard Branson Challenges Truckers to Cut Back Guzzling Diesel

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  • ‘Run on Less’ contest pushes to cut fuel economy by one third
  • Tractor trailers average just 6.4 miles per gallon of diesel

Billionaire Richard Branson has long pushed Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. to cut fuel consumption in the sky. Now he’s challenging truckers to do it on U.S. roads.

The serial entrepreneur is backing a three-week cross-country competition in which seven trucking companies will outfit rigs with diesel-saving technology in hopes of bringing fuel economy one-third above the national average.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Tractor trailers are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, handling more than 70 percent of all food, clothing, construction supplies and other freight shipped from state to state each day. On average, those semis get 6.4 miles for every gallon of diesel they consume. Branson says they can bump that up to 9.

“That may not sound like very much, but considering most trucks don’t get more than five miles per gallon, it’s an amazing milestone to achieve,” Branson, who helped found one of the event’s organizers, Carbon War Room, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

The contest, Run on Less, kicks off Sept. 6 with seven companies sending out trucks from different points across the U.S., including Nussbaum Transportation Services Inc., Ploger Transportation LLC and U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. Each rig will be be outfitted with aerodynamic fins, special tires and other features to make them more efficient.

Computer sensors will track the trucks’ fuel consumption over the next three weeks as they log up to 600 miles a day hauling a variety of loads over mountains, prairies and coast lands. The event, which is also organized by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, wraps when all seven trucks pull into Atlanta on Sept. 23, for the North American Commercial Vehicle show.

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