The driver’s role in conserving fuel
Any fuel economy measures that are specified will be quickly wiped out by poor driving practices. Your role as a driver in any fuel economy effort is an extremely important one. Personal efforts at high-efficiency driving can make a real difference.
There are some driving and handling techniques that should be part of your basic skills “package.” These techniques have nothing to do with a specific piece of equipment, but they do have to do with common sense, good judgment, and intelligent decision making. Driving with fuel efficiency in mind all the time can improve your miles per gallon as much as 10 percent.
TIP: Make sure drivers are aware of your company’s specific policies regarding fuel efficiency and idling.
Ways you can conserve fuel
You can control several of the factors that determine how economically fuel is used.
Let’s look at some specifics:
- Preventive maintenance — A solid preventive maintenance program helps a vehicle use fuel efficiently. Small steps on your part, such as making sure tires are properly inflated and the engine is tuned on a regular basis, can make a real difference.
- Trip planning — Besides saving time, good trip planning can save fuel. When selecting a route in a specific situation, consider fuel efficiency. Select a route with fewer stops and starts. Stop-and-go traffic or driving in small towns uses more fuel than driving a few miles out of the way to reach a controlled access highway.
- Smooth acceleration — After starting, select a gear that allows you to roll without slipping the clutch. Accelerate smoothly; uneven action wastes fuel.
- Steady speed — Maintain steady speed. Braking unnecessarily causes a loss of momentum. The only way to regain it is by accelerating, which means burning more fuel.
- Speed limits — Tests have clearly proven that every mile per hour of additional speed over 55 mph costs an additional two percent or more in fuel consumption. Faster speed also increases air resistance, causing the engine to work harder at 65 mph than it would traveling at 55 mph
TIP: If your company has any policies regarding maximum speed, or if you equip your vehicles with speed limiters, make sure your drivers are aware of the policies and understand the purpose behind the imposed limits.
- Progressive shifting — This practice reduces equipment wear, cuts down on noise, and saves fuel. By using progressive shifting, you only accelerate enough to bring RPM up to the point where you can shift. Shifting before running the engine up to the governor saves fuel by not relying on the governor
TIP: Progressive shifting works best for drivers who make stops and shift gears frequently. The advantage is less for over-the road drivers. If you employ over-the-road drivers, emphasize other fuel-saving techniques, such as idle reduction, that will have a bigger impact on your company’s fuel costs.
Use fuel efficiently
Up to a gallon and a half of fuel is burned each hour an engine idles. Keep these tips in mind to reduce wasted fuel:
- Startup — In most cases you don’t need to idle for a long time when starting your day. Starting out slowly and smoothly allows lubricants to get circulating and is sufficient with newer tractors. An engine should idle for no more than five minutes. This should be enough time to get it warmed up properly.
- Cool down — After a hard run, cool down time should be limited to two or three minutes of low RPM running under low engine load conditions before turning off the engine. If you have traveled at a slow speed for at least 15 minutes (for example, on city streets), that time should replace cool down time.
- Loading and unloading — Leaving an engine idling while loading and unloading adds significantly to fuel costs. It takes less fuel to shut off and restart an engine than it does to leave it idling.