Bottom Line
Reefer hauler relies on RigMaster to avoid idling

René Tankersley
Feature Editor

At 39, OOIDA member Don Harry Hartman of Frenchtown, MT, has been trucking 13 years, with almost three years as an owner-operator. Leased to Jim Palmer Trucking out of Missoula, MT, he hauls produce and frozen foods in the Midwest and East Coast.

The reefer is pulled by his 2000 Freightliner Classic powered by the Cat C-12 engine and an Eaton 10-speed transmission. He has logged 324,380 miles on the truck.

Hartman swears by his RigMaster generator set. He believes everybody should have one to avoid idling. “Idling uses 1.8 gallons of diesel per hour,” Hartman said. “My generator can run for six hours on one gallon of fuel.” Compared to other gen sets, he says RigMaster is “the best” because its radiator is self-contained while many others use the truck’s radiator.

Hartman boosted his fuel mileage by changing his driving habits. He says he only averaged 5.8 mpg at first, but now gets 6.7 mpg by keeping his speed at 62 mph. “I use my right foot like there’s an egg sitting on my foot,” Hartman said. “Speeding is harder on tires, fuel prices are high, plus you get there at the same time as those who pass you five times along the way.”

To keep his engine running smoothly, Hartman uses Shell Rotella 15/40 oil because it’s “good quality oil.” He drains and analyzes the oil every 25,000 miles. Hartman says oil analysis could save a motor. “It tells you how much shavings you have in your oil, tells you what’s in that motor. It lets you know when you’re going to lose a motor,” Hartman said. “Even the finest metal shavings will show up, and it lets you know your viscosity.”

He knows plenty of drivers who drain the oil every 10,000 or 15,000 miles without an analysis because they say oil is cheap. “Oil may be cheap,” he says, “But you can use it by running it longer. Even at 25,000 I check my oil and it’s perfectly fine. By testing, you’re obviously going to see the consistency in your oil. The guy that doesn’t believe in it is going to blow a motor and that’s worth more than a $15 sample.”

His favorite shops for oil analysis are the Five-Star Truck Wash & Lube in York, NE, Flying J and Speedco. The Five-Star sends their oil samples to Denver for analysis and faxes him the results, while Flying J and Speedco’s onsite tests give him results in five minutes. Hartman does some of his own maintenance, including checking and adjusting belts and greasing every 12,000 miles, according to the owner’s manual. For major repairs, he takes his truck to the Peterbilt dealership in Missoula.

Most recently, Hartman added the XM Satellite Radio, which was offered to OOIDA members at a discount in the December/January Land Line. He raved about his new gadget, “Now, I’ll never miss my NASCAR or football.”