According to American Automobile Association’s Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of diesel in October 2015 was $2.51. While down from the $3.63 mark a year ago, this is still high. In fact, The Truckers Report indicates that fuel makes up about 25 percent of the operating costs of a fleet, making fuel economy a priority for everyone involved, including drivers.
In fact, many of the tips and tricks used to control fuel use apply directly to drivers. From driving behavior to idling time, drivers can do a lot to improve the efficiency of their fleets. Here are some tips to help you get the most miles out of every gallon of fuel you put in your truck.
- Slow Down
Drivers are often given incentives to complete deliveries faster, and they may become tempted to drive a little faster just to get the job done. However, driving too quickly can decrease fuel economy. The website Trucking Info indicates that every 1 mph increase in speed results in a 0.14 miles per gallon drop in fuel economy. Slowing down to 55 mph or 65 mph on the freeway can greatly increase fuel efficiency, without adding too much time to the route. Use technology to force a slower speed if you have a lead foot.
How much can slowing down save you? If the average 18-wheeler gets 5.9 mpg, and the driver decides to increase average speed by 10 mph, fuel economy will drop to 4.5 mpg. For the driver who drives 2,000 miles per week, that adds up to an extra 107 gallons of fuel per week. At $2.50 a gallon, that is over $266 in added costs per week. That is a significant chunk of money to get somewhere a little faster.
- Keep the Truck Maintained
While on the road, perform occasional checks to see if the truck is properly maintained. Keeping fluid levels topped off and tires at the recommended pressure will increase your fuel economy and limit down time. Know your truck and address maintenance concerns quickly if they occur. This will keep the truck running as efficiently as possible.
- Limit Idling Time
When you stop for mandatory or voluntary rest breaks, turn the truck off. Registered charity, The Green Action Center indicates that every 10 minutes of idling costs up to four-tenths of a liter of fuel. Running the car while stopping uses fuel, without reason. As a general rule, if you are stopped for more than 30 minutes, shut the engine off. If you need power to run your control systems while sleeping, invest in a generator, but turn the engine off to conserve fuel.
- Avoid Traffic Congestion
If you have a GPS fleet tracking system that reports real-time traffic data, use it to avoid traffic delays. Hitting the freeway during rush hour will derail your fuel efficiency, because you will spend more time sitting and less time driving. Drive around these areas to improve fuel economy. The faster driving speed will make up for a potentially longer route in most instances.
- Accelerate Slowly
When you need to accelerate, do so slowly. Rapid acceleration places undue strain on the engine and wastes fuel. Instead of flooring it, accelerate at a modest pace, and you will limit not only fuel loss, but also wear and tear on your engine.
Saving fuel is something that everyone in the fleet, from the maintenance tech to the driver to the fleet manager, needs to focus on. With a little bit of effort, you can make small changes that will improve the productivity of your entire fleet.
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies.