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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 25, 2003
    Orlando FL

    Default MPG better with a loaded trailer vs empty?

    Riddle me this.

    I drove from MD to NC on Monday pulling an empty trailer, truck MPG indicator, which was reset before I left the barn Monday morning, stated 12.7 MPG for that trip.

    Curious, I reset it before I pulled out of NC on Friday with one horse loaded. Drove home the same route, truck MPG indicator reported 14.1 for the trip home.

    Interesting discussion last night after unloading, but our tired brains couldn't come up with a good answer after 12 hours of driving....

    I don't think it matters, but truck is a 3500 Dodge dually, diesel; trailer is a 2011 2+1 Hawk.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 24, 2000
    Out of the loop


    Had this discussion with an automotive engineer pal. His thoughts: The weight in the loaded trailer causes it to travel straighter and more smoothly, meaning the tow vehicle has an easier job perambulating over the road, hence, higher mpg. The empty trailer will have a tendency to "bounce" over the road a little (and there was a spewing of engineering terms and formulae here that I absolutely could not follow!). This means the tow vehicle is meeting resistance in moving the trailer forward, hence, lower mpg.

    Don't know how true this might be, but this is a smart fellow who regularly hauls live and inanimate cargo behind his own truck, and it may make a degree of sense. This is also assuming no additional factors were in play during one trip versus the other, and that the mileage calculator in the vehicle is accurate and not given to fluctuation.
    Last edited by coloredhorse; Nov. 19, 2011 at 10:14 AM.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep. 28, 2001


    Was the wind a factor? Is the place in NC up in the hills, where you would be going uphill more getting there and downhill coming back?

    Incidently, IMO even 12 MPG sounds really good with that big of a rig!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr. 2, 2011


    Winter blend diesel...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2007


    It takes fuel to move weight. The more weight you have to move the more fuel you'll use. That's why a loaded Freightliner gets 5 mpg and VW Rabbit Diesel 40 mpg.

    My first explanation might be "electronic anomaly." The DIC type indicators are notorious for their lack of consistent accuracy. If you did this with a manual calculation you still have a chance of error if you're just relying on one tank full. Keep a log over a couple of dozen trips and see what the numbers show.

    Terrain, wind, and load distribution can alter mpg numbers. Speed and "driver input" are even bigger factors. So is traffic congestion (more speed up and slow down means more braking and acceleration, meaning reduced mpg).

    So maybe what you saw was real and maybe it wasn't. You need to do multiple trips to know for sure.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2011


    G is correct. One data point from each condition is nowhere near enough to draw conclusions.

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