Michael Niss of East Dundee, Illinois, keeps on trucking, plugging away at his plan to one day roll along on North America's highways in a rig that gets at least 11 mpg.
In June, Niss told The Courier-News he had taken six months off from his job as a truck driver, using his own semi running long-distance routes, in part to work on his startup project, Breaking 11.
His truck's low-ride flatbed with its lightweight tarpaulin cover has been adorned with a logo for the project and to promote a related Breaking11.com website.
Niss is gradually customizing the $200,000 vehicle with existing equipment and technologies — and a few tweaks of his own making — in an attempt to reach the goal of getting 11 miles per gallon or more in fuel efficiency.
Contacted in December, Niss said, "I'm in Wyoming right now. I went back on the road this fall. I'm in break-in mode, with 45,000 miles on my new truck," he said. "I want to get the engine to between 60,000 and 70,000 miles before I make any more adjustments. As is, I'm getting in the mid-8's for miles per gallon."
That's up slightly from the 8.1 mpg Niss said he got out of the truck he used to own, which he also modified to get better gas mileage.
Niss' truck is a 2015 Kenworth T660 Glider with an 86-inch AeroCab Aerodyne Sleeper. It is powered by a remanufactured Detroit Diesel 12.7L 60 series engine with an Eaton Fuller 13-speed transmission.
With no formal truck design or engineering on his resume, Niss said he took to his project on a route that included prior careers in working as a computer-aided design engineer for a couple of businesses, then running his own remodeling firm in his adopted hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. He got into trucking after his business took a hit during the recession, he said.
During his planning, Niss also sought out experts from whom he might get advice, including Bruce Mallinson, owner of Pittsburgh Power, a Pennsylvania-based company that specializes in diesel engines.
"The beauty of Mike is he listens, and he implements," Mallinson told The Courier-News last summer. "I think his project is great. The corporate projects aren't going up and down highways yet. What Mike is doing is the real thing. He's making it happen."
Niss said he was not phased by the fact big companies, including Peterbilt, Cummins, Daimler and Wal-Mart, are working on trucks designed to get better gas mileage, too, as the federal government has mandated 10% to 20% improvement in truck fuel efficiency by 2018.
For his effort, Niss has three corporate sponsors duly noted on his project's website and hopes to draw more business interest in the effort, which Niss calls "an info-share right now."
Niss also has a slick brochure printed about Breaking11, with three screws holding its contents together, which he gives out to interested parties.
"I'm giving it out to everyone I meet," Niss said.
The brochure notes, "We believe we have the recipe to fight the negative effects of friction. This friction is found between the road and tires, within the engine and with the air itself." It touts a "secret sauce" of 27 ingredients that Niss is using toward his quest for improved mileage.
Of course, drivers of all sorts have benefited from cost savings at the pump, where prices have dropped significantly over the course of 2015.
But Niss said the goals of promoting his learned and self-discovered fuel savings ways are to help the environment as well as to bring significant savings to drivers through using less diesel and having smaller repair bills.
These days, when not on the road, Niss said he's back living in Wisconsin. For a good part of 2015 Niss was working on his project while living out of the home where his mother, Muriel, lived before going into a senior care facility earlier this year. Niss' mother taught first grade at Immanuel Lutheran in East Dundee before retiring in 2011.
"We were able to sell the house pretty quickly, which will help pay for Mom's care," Niss said.