Improving Fuel Mileage
For many fleets, fuel represents the second highest operating expense.
With fuel prices on the rise, now is an opportune time to review practices
— and implement new ones — to improve your fleet’s
efficiency. Here are some active ways to lower fuel’s impact on your
Practice good vehicle maintenance. Staying on top of maintenance is critical to keeping trucks
running efficiently. The better vehicles are maintained, the more miles per
gallon they will achieve.
Maintain tires. Poor tire condition and improper inflation are major
contributors to reduced fuel mileage as they cause tires to not roll as
smoothly or as easily as they were designed to, which increases rolling
resistance and tire wear. This adversely impacts fuel economy, as well as
handling, traction, braking and load carrying capability. Be sure your drivers are checking the condition of their
tires and wheels as part of their daily vehicle inspection.
Pay attention to vehicle write-ups. Be alert for vehicle condition reports that relate to a
truck’s performance, as these problems may be impacting fuel mileage.
Consider using synthetic lubricants. Synthetic lubricants offer performance advantages over
conventional mineral lubricants. Synthetics have the ability to
remain stable at high temperatures (under which conventional oils begin to
break down) and remain fluid at low temperatures (under which conventional
oils begin to thicken). This improved lubrication reduces wear for a
cleaner, more efficient engine.
Repair body damage. Any
body damage should be repaired, and any loose fairings or panels tightened,
so as not to cause additional drag. Drag, or air resistance, is produced by
a moving object as it displaces the air in its path.
Slow down. Vehicle
speed has the single largest impact on how much fuel is consumed. The
faster a truck runs, the more fuel it burns because more horsepower is
needed to overcome air resistance. This aerodynamic drag is a function of
the size and shape of the vehicle and goes up exponentially with the
Trucking industry studies have found that going from
60 miles per hour to 65 miles per hour decreases fuel economy by 6.4
percent. Fuel economy decreases 10.9 percent when going 70 miles per hour
compared with 60 miles per hour.
Higher speeds also increase engine, vehicle and tire
wear, leading to higher maintenance costs and increased downtime.
Consider aerodynamic device add-ons. All vehicles experience aerodynamic drag when moving through
air. Fitting aerodynamic devices can help streamline a vehicle, enabling
the air to flow around it more smoothly and causing less drag. Thus, less
energy is needed to move the vehicle, so fuel consumption is reduced.
Plan routes. Double
check routings to make sure they are optimized for productivity, as well as
for fuel mileage. It doesn’t make sense to save a few miles if a
truck will use more fuel getting from one stop to another.
Buy fuel wisely. There are
many fuel card programs available for those fleets that don’t have
their own fueling. These typically provide access to a wide network from
which to pinpoint low-priced fuel options.
Track fuel mileage. Track
your drivers’ fuel mileage and usage, and provide them with feedback
on how they are doing. Keeping fuel mileage records allows you to identify
drivers who are getting poor mileage, giving you an opportunity to help
Driver incentives. Most
drivers appreciate incentive programs and bonus opportunities. Creating
incentive programs that reward drivers for achieving specific fuel economy
targets can be an effective way to increase fleet fuel economy.
Equipment specification. The
ideal time to start saving fuel is at equipment acquisition. Decide upon
the fuel economy expectations and requirements for your vehicles. Then
review your current and previous equipment specs to see which have been
effective in maximizing miles per gallon.
Knowing how to squeeze more miles from each tank of
fuel will help reduce operating costs and improve your profitability.
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator, keynote
speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned as an Honorary Colonel on the
Kentucky governor’s staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he
actively participates in trade associations and reports news and
information about the trucking industry for broadcasting and print media.
The driver remains the most important factor in
cutting fuel consumption. Poor driving habits waste fuel and can offset any
gains obtained from investments in fuel-efficient components, aerodynamic
add-on devices or programs.
Here are some driving techniques to share with your
drivers to help them get more miles from each tank of fuel:
Start at the slowest engine speed that will move the load.
Use the minimum rpm, minimum power and fewest shifts
necessary when accelerating.
Run the engine in its peak torque range.
Use progressive shifting — shift at low rpms in
low gears and at higher rpms in higher gears.
Block-shift (for example, going from third to sixth
gear) when appropriate.
Coast whenever possible.
Use the engine brake, if a vehicle is so equipped.
Use cruise control whenever possible.
Accelerate or decelerate well in advance of the need
to speed up or stop.
Anticipate traffic flow to avoid frequent slow-downs,
stops, starts and speed-ups.
• Limit unnecessary engine idling. Turn the engine
whenever possible, for example when waiting to load/unload, while
loading/unloading, stuck in a traffic jam, etc.