Saving fuel is important for many reasons, especially as a means of limiting its effect on the environment but also it can have a huge impact on your bottom line. There are many things to make your fleet aware of order to make sure your drivers become more fuel-efficient and once these skills are picked up, they become habit.
Despite being in the hands of your drivers, as a business owner or fleet manager it is ultimately your responsibility to improve fuel efficiency. The time it takes to inform and manage your drivers into implementing these behaviours more than pays itself off in how this is reflected in overheads. Fuel efficient drivers have the potential to reduce their fuel usage by up to 24% which quickly adds up to a figure not to be sniffed at over the course of even a few months.
There are various techniques which can help drivers be more economical when it comes to fuel consumption that should be shared with them in team meetings and can also form part of their CPC training courses
- Vehicle Checks
The first step drivers can take to be more economical when it comes to fuel is to make sure their vehicle is up to scratch. If there are any damages or issues with the vehicle it could impact fuel consumption more than you may think, so thorough vehicle checks can help reduce fuel consumption. Driver’s should be on the lookout for which can have a huge impact on efficiency:
- Any loose bodywork and protruding panels as well as torn or insecure curtains on commercial vehicles.
- Damage to the tyres or incorrect tyre pressures and missing valve caps.
- Fuel leaks or insecure fuel caps and any issues with the fuel tank in general.
- Protruding load or an unsecured load.
- Correctly set aerodynamics for the vehicle and trailer where applicable.
- Issues with start up such as unusual mechanical noises or excessive black or white smoke.
- Issues when moving off such as dragging brakes, steering pulling or obvious tracking issues.
- Positive Attitude
Encouraging your drivers to have a positive attitude and to drive defensively is a great start to improving fuel efficiency. Driving defensively makes drivers more aware of what is happening around them which in turn enables them to anticipate road situations and drive with precision, control and planning. This in turn leads to smoother driving, less repeated acceleration, and reduced wear on the vehicle overall. Plus, a defensive driver is also a safer driver.
- Fit to Drive
In line with the previous point, safe driving can only be possible when drivers are fit to drive. It is potentially dangerous if a driver is not in a good condition to be on the road. A tired or stressed driver is one that won’t be capable of driving in a fuel efficient or even safe manner. Fatigue causes more accidents than drink driving and is incredibly dangerous; make sure your drivers are aware of the signs whilst on the road and take the necessary precautions and that they feel comfortable raising any issues. Tell-tale signs of fatigue are;
- Lapse in memory.
- Micro sleeps.
- Muscle aches.
In addition, stress can also impact the way people drive as it causes a lapse in concentration. It can be incredibly distracting and cause you to focus on other things such as the actions of other drivers as opposed to your own actions.
- Maintaining Awareness
Awareness is essential for drivers to maintain economical fuel consumption levels. In any traffic situation drivers need to stay aware and in control, and planning to prepare for any potential hazards which they may face. This level of awareness allows drivers to plan ahead and stay safe on the road; being prepared reduces sudden actions which in turn saves fuel.
- Speed Awareness
Driving at high speeds has a drastic effect on fuel consumption. Even the smallest reduction in speed can reduce fuel consumption by a significant amount. A reduction from 56mph to 50mph can have a massive reduction of 22%. Naturally, it is essential to obey the speed limit; to avoid potential safety issues and to abide by the law.
As your drivers will be well aware, getting a vehicle moving requires a large amount of fuel. Therefore, wherever possible stopping entirely should be avoided; for example, when approaching traffic lights slowing down can mean that drivers don’t have to fully stop and then in turn less fuel is used to get going again. On the other hand, momentum can be used when going downhill to avoid using the accelerator.
Unnecessary braking should be avoided at all times, whenever the brake is used the vehicle loses speed which then must be gained by using the accelerator and therefore extra fuel. If your vehicles have an exhaust brake, drivers should use this where possible.
- Cruise Control
Drivers who have cruise control in their vehicle should use it to their advantage but not abuse it. Cruise control is especially useful for reducing fuel consumption as it helps drivers to maintain a steady speed with minimal need for acceleration and braking. It is important when using cruise control that drivers maintain aware of their surrounds and still manoeuvre safely.
- Gears and Clutch
Moving up gears improves fuel consumption; each time you move up it can improve by 10-30%. It is important a modern vehicle that drivers don’t double de-clutch as this wastes energy and uses unnecessary fuel. They should use “block changes” or “skip changes” whenever possible.
Whilst drivers may not always be able to entirely plan the route they’re going to take, they can plan ahead of time and consider the route which would use the least fuel. For example, motorways and A roads are general the best option as they are much more fuel efficient than rural B roads or urban roads.
- Avoid Idling
An average large goods vehicle will consume fuel at a rate of 2 litres per hour when ticking over so it is important drivers don’t let their engine idle as this wastes fuel unnecessarily.
If there is anything protruding from the vehicle it can cause drag which in turn uses extra fuel. Some vehicles have built in aerodynamic attachments which can help improve fuel consumption and reduce drag. These aerodynamic aids can save up to 15% on fuel consumption.
- Loading the Vehicle
Overloading and poor positioning can have a detrimental effect on fuel consumption; and on top of that, overloading a vehicle is illegal so drivers should be aware.
- Arriving Back at Base
At your base you should check for any specific regulations regarding manoeuvring. By ensuring drivers park their vehicles so they will not have to be manoeuvred in the morning with a cold engine you can be certain vehicles will be ready to just drive off; which will save fuel. Also, it is important to encourage drivers to fill up at the end of the day, as this avoids queuing at the pumps at the start of the next day with a cold idling engine. Make sure drivers are aware their fuel cap should be tight at all times to save fuel; loose fitting fuel caps on goods vehicles are the cause of up to 30 gallons of lost fuel each year!
Make sure drivers report vehicle faults to avoid unnecessary fuel consumption.
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