Fuel efficiency is the silent killer of a fleet’s bottom line. Stats suggest it accounts for about 30% of a fleet’s total operating costs - a huge sum in many cases - so it’s vital to reduce fuel burn in every way possible. Fleet managers use strategies like deploying hybrid-powered vehicles and implementing fleet management software, both of which can be used to great effect. But they sometimes overlook one tactic that is essentially free to implement - driver education.
A well-informed driver can reduce fuel by focusing on his or her driving behaviours and understanding the bigger picture - that less fuel improves job security by making the firm more profitable. With that in mind, here are our top tips for drivers that can be used as part of a driver education program to minimise fuel use, and save on the bottom line.
What lies ahead?
Be laser focused on upcoming traffic conditions. This will help anticipate having to slow down and it’s more efficient to keep the vehicle moving than to start from a complete stop. Doing this also reduces the number of fuel burning gear changes needed. Drivers should also check for hazards, both for safety reasons and to improve efficiency and also use route planning optimization software, which can help avoid congestion and identify the most efficient path from one job to the next.
No need for speed
Speeding is a nightmare for fleet managers. It causes stress to an engine, increased accident risk and speeding fines. And of course, it also decreases the fuel economy of a vehicle. One study reports that every 5 mph driven over 65 mph represents a 7% decrease in fuel economy. This means significant savings can be made by drivers that stick to the speed limit. Mobile platforms can support drivers in this. They tap into real-time traffic data and can alert drivers if they deviate from the speed limit, while GPS fleet tracking can record and report on fluctuation in speed to help manage driver behaviour.
The momentum your vehicle collects on the flat can be used to great effect. You can get over hills more economically, roll to a stop at traffic lights and avoid heavy braking, which in turn reduces the number of gear changes you need to make, stopping the risk of a shifting load. By removing your foot from the accelerator, the engines in many modern vehicles stop using fuel at all, providing even more savings.
Older trucks with crash gearboxes required double-clutching. But for most modern vehicles it’s unnecessary, potentially damaging to the gearbox, and wastes fuel. Clutching intelligently also means minimizing the number of gear changes you make, skipping gears where possible. Remember, with every gear you change up, fuel economy is improved by almost 30% each time.
Get cruising and fix your deflectors
Cruise control can be useful on long journeys, particularly on motorways, to maintain a steady, economical and safe speed. Use it, but don’t let your mind wonder off the road! And if a truck has roof-mounted air deflectors, then adjust them to guide the air over the highest point of the vehicle; ideally this should be right at the front if there is an uneven load height.
Don’t overfill and underinflate
If a tank is filled to the brim it can easily overflow when the fuel is heated, either by the sun or fuel returned by the engine. This is not only dangerous to other road users, but also wasteful. And what’s one of the simplest but most common fuel wasters? Failing to keep tyres at the correct pressure. Getting this right helps improve fuel economy, improves the life of the tyre and reduces the chance of an accident.
Watch your downtime
An idling truck consumes about a gallon of fuel every hour. That can quickly add up. Pause to check if you really do need your engine running and if you don't? Turn it off. And if you're stopping for the night, park your vehicle so that you will not have to do a lot of manoeuvring in the morning with a cold engine, as this can use a lot of fuel.
It’s in the game
Fleet managers can reward economical driving by measuring fuel use across an entire team and working out which drivers contribute most to fuel efficiency. It can actually become a fun challenge to see who the most fuel-frugal driver is. In fact, there are platforms that use leader boards to help fleet managers inspire mobile workers to drive efficiently and safely using positive reinforcement, and team spirit. And of course, a bit of friendly competition.