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Driving Economically

Safe driving usually goes hand in hand with good fuel efficiency. With ever increasing fuel costs, now more than ever is fuel economy front of mind.

Listed below are two different sets of hints and tips to improve driving economy: produced by the London Boroughs Transport Committee and the Huddersfield University Transport and Logistics Unit. Both are useful in different ways and make similar suggestions.

London Boroughs Transport Committee

The measures listed below are indications of ways in which the environmental impact of vehicles can be reduced:

  • Give written vehicle routing instructions to drivers 
  • Smooth and progressive acceleration and braking - make use of the vehicle momentum wherever possible, avoid unnecessary stops and breakneck starting 
  • Do not unnecessarily rev the engine, especially in built-up areas 
  • Check and correct tyre pressure frequently 
  • Choose a flat route instead of a hilly one if possible 
  • Always "drive on the green" in the power band. Many trucks now have a green sector marked on the rev counter and the indicator should be in this sector as much as possible to reduce noise and fuel consumption 
  • Quiet loading and unloading and quiet closing of doors 
  • Reduce use of refrigeration equipment in built-up areas 
  • Eliminate engine idling at loading and unloading points

Huddersfield University - Transport and Logistics Unit

There are three themes to improving fuel efficiency. The first is ensuring that you have accurate fuel consumption figures. The second, getting the best from your present fleet. The third, making fuel-efficient purchasing decisions when buying new or second hand equipment. The following advice is designed to provide a basic guide to operators who want to reduce their fuel bills without spending too much money.

1 Accurate Data

  • Check that weekly or monthly averages are produced by total distance divided by total fuel used rather than average of daily averages. Quarterly summaries (using average of the averages) have been found to be inaccurate by as much as half a mile per gallon. 
  • In most cases there is a seasonal pattern to mpg, peaking in July and August and bottoming out in December and February. This is very important if you are going to test products that claim to improve mpg. 
  • When you find a large discrepancy in daily mpg investigate it, don't just average it or ignore it. Take measures to prevent it from happening again. 
  • If you want to accurately determine the effect of different equipment under controlled conditions, then enter the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) fuel trials that are run every year in June. It is a lot cheaper than hiring a facility on your own and you get the benefit of mixing with like-minded fleet managers and engineers.

2 Optimise Fuel Consumption in your Present Fleet

  • Driver training consistently achieves better mpg but it needs a reinforcement mechanism otherwise it will fail. 
  • Reinforcement mechanisms for fuel-efficient driving can be simple feedback on a notice board, individual letters to drivers, or a fuel bonus. However, whilst an annual bonus can use the annual average mpg, shorter-term bonus systems (e.g. weekly or monthly) should not use the annual average mpg. 
  • The first person to be trained in any company should be the most senior person with an LGV licence. 
  • Identify the most fuel-efficient vehicles and if possible, bearing in mind other operational factors, place them on the routes that use most fuel. 
  • Think of aerodynamics. For example, ensure that the gap between the back of the cab and the front of the trailer is minimised to reduce aerodynamic resistance. Tippers with easy-sheets should have them closed when empty to prevent airflow hitting the inside of the tailboard. 
  • If adjustable air deflectors are fitted, get the drivers to adjust them for maximum effect. If the deflector is too low you will see a tide mark on the front of the trailer. 
  • Specify the correct bodywork, it should be no higher or wider than the job requires. 
  • Monitor maintenance records. Poor mpg and short brake lining life are good indicators of driving style.

3 Optimising Purchase Decisions

  • When buying new vehicles, calculate which is best over the life of the vehicle. Is it a better residual at the end of its life from a large engine, or reduced fuel costs from a smaller engine that is just as capable of doing the job? Remember to include the effect of the fuel escalator in the fuel costs. 
  • Specify trailers or bodywork with rounded leading edges (minimum 200 millimetre radius) 
  • Aerodynamic aids may not be cost-effective on vehicles that do not undertake long high speed journeys as part of their regular work. 
  • Beware of claims made for aerodynamic equipment tested at 56 mph and translating the saving to your vehicle(s). Aerodynamics is highly sensitive to speed. As a rough guide calculate the average speed of your vehicle(s) and ask for test results conducted at that speed. 
  • Specify and activate an engine limiter. Some vehicles have them fitted as standard. 
  • When buying a secondhand vehicle take it for a test drive and note the engine speed at 56 mph. If the vehicle is being purchased for medium or long distance work you do not want to purchase a vehicle that is geared for local work. If you get it wrong you will end up cruising at too high an engine speed and subsequently wasting a lot of fuel. 
  • When purchasing a new vehicle get the manufacturer to provide free driver training. Most do now, so take advantage of it. Look out for further information and conferences on the Huddersfield University Transport and Logistic Units website. 


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