Article

121 Ways to Save Fuel: Drivers

From the equipment you spec and maintain, to the fuel you buy, to driver training and incentives, you’ll find tips for nearly any type of fleet.

June 2014, TruckingInfo.com - Feature

by HDT Staff

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83. Keep in touch with drivers about mpg

“Make sure your drivers know you are constantly monitoring fuel efficiency and remind them periodically, even when the numbers are good, by calling them and saying, ‘I noticed yesterday your fuel mileage was 7.85 mpg. How did you do it?’” says Peter McManus with B&C Chandler Trucking and Five Star Freight Management in Madera, Calif.

“Research suggests the overwhelming biggest impact on fuel efficiency is driver attitude and by tapping into that it can result in great gains.”

84. Make sure drivers understand why trucks perform differently

When changing the ECM settings from factory-specified performance-enhanced settings to those based on fuel economy goals, the equipment will react differently to routine driver input, notes FleetAdvantage. Drivers may believe, incorrectly, that the truck is under-performing or needs service.

What is really needed is for the driver to be retrained on how best to drive with the new engine and transmission settings. OEM field representatives are often available to give an illustrative presentation at driver meetings.

85. Use in-cab fuel economy coaching

When drivers can see how they are performing in terms of mpg, they are more likely to become better drivers. There are many devices that measure mpg and display that information in the cab to the driver.

For instance, LinkeDrive’s PedalCoach, a cloud-based application, displays that information on a smartphone or in-cab device. Drivers can see instantly what they are doing in mpg, using a simple fuel gauge graphic, red/yellow/green lights and a “cha-ching” sound to help keep drivers aware of their fuel economy.

Con-way Freight recently began deploying the Vnomics system, which calculates fleet fuel mileage potential and communicates optimal practices and techniques to operate vehicles based on equipment, road, load and environmental conditions — all in real time.

86. Invest in driver training

The difference between your worst and best drivers can be as much as 30%. Automated transmissions can certainly help bring poor to mediocre drivers up to near expert level, but shifting is only one part of a driver’s duties. Fleets that forego aggressive driver training programs in favor of automation are missing out on many other fuel-saving opportunities.

87. Make it a competition

Mesilla Valley Transportation started providing information to drivers about how their fuel economy compared to other drivers back in the 1980s. “We find a lot of people really want to be at the top — and even more importantly, they don’t want to be at the bottom,” says MVT executive Scott Webb.

88. Use scorecards

An old business adage is that before you can manage something, you have to be able to measure it. One of the ways fleets use the data collected by their telematics system is to develop scorecards for drivers, vehicles, terminals and fleets.

Fleets can use their technology to control fuel use by managing things such as idle time, speed, and driving habits. Scorecards show drivers where they rank according to company standards for idle time or mpg, against other drivers within their group or terminal, and across the whole fleet.

Ryan Barnett, director of market development, XRS Corp., says scorecards are powerful tools. “It’s amazing how fast drivers will change their behavior when they are able to see how they rank among other drivers.”

Scorecards can also be used for driver managers to see how their groups compare to other groups within the company. Some fleets have competitions for the most fuel-efficient terminal. Fleet-wide scorecards can show fleet managers how their operations compare to industry benchmarks.

Go beyond using scorecards as simply a yardstick and use them to coach and train drivers. Fleets gather data on their speed, idle time, hard braking or other information and develop a scorecard that shows the driver the areas in which he or she needs improvement.

Rick Ochsendorf, senior vice president, operations and product management at PeopleNet, says there’s a lot of work being done with scorecards and real-time alerts that give fleet managers instant notification of an excessive speeding event, for instance, which allows for immediate coaching of the driver.

89. Give away big prizes

Some fleets have had success with giving away a big prize, such as a Harley Davidson or a car, each quarter to the driver with the best fuel economy. In 2005, MVT started doing this, as well as $25,000 cash for the driver with the best fuel economy for the year.

90. Try a video-based in-cab safety program

Many of the same driving habits that lead to safer drivers also help save fuel, such as controlling road speed, leaving enough following distance, avoiding hard acceleration and hard braking, and approaching turns carefully, notes Adam Kahn with SmartDrive.

SmartDrive’s video-based safety program builds softer, safer driving skills by identifying risky driving, prioritizing for coaching, and delivering a workflow for effective coaching sessions.

“Simply by becoming safer and driving softer, fleets can improve fuel efficiency by 3–5% within weeks,” Kahn says.

SmartDrive even offers a fuel economy app see key metrics and trends for mpg along with the ability to drill down into the specific areas and maneuvers that negatively impacted their mileage.

91. Reduce A/C use

Driving in summer months or especially warm regions can be hard on fuel efficiency, says PHH Arval. Air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by up to 20%. But drivers can reduce the air conditioning load on the engine and save fuel by choosing the “economy” setting to circulate unchilled air, or “recirculation” setting to reduce the amount of hot outside air that must be chilled. Opening the window in city driving is another fuel-efficient alternative.

92. Unplug unused peripherals such as navigation systems and refrigerators

These make the electrical system and engine work harder, says Jeff Baer, founder of LinkeDrive.

93. Complete DPF regenerations when they first appear

Assuming you have the hours of service and a place to stop, it is always more efficient to allow a diesel particulate filter regeneration to completely finish as opposed to waiting till the next opportunity.

The goal is to keep the overall time to complete the regeneration as brief as possible. In general, these regenerations are very costly. Record and maintain a record of these events so maintenance can identify problems as they arise.

94. Keep warm-ups brief

Diesels don’t need to idle for many minutes before operation. Get the temp needle off the peg, then move out. Go easy on the throttle and by the time you maneuver your way to the highway, the engine will be plenty warm.

95. Keep cool-downs brief

Stopping immediately after a hard pull requires some idling to oil the turbo’s bearings while it cools, but five minutes is enough. If the engine’s not been working hard, shut it off sooner.

96. Observe the engine’s “sweet spot” while driving

Modern diesels make maximum power and still save fuel at 1,300 to 1,600 rpm. Keep revs there unless it’s built to “downspeed” — cruise at 1,150 or 1,200 rpm.

97. Upshift early and often

“Progressive shifting” is barely revving the engine past idle in the transmission’s lowest gears, where not much horsepower is required, then gradually revving higher as you upshift and road speed increases. Only at boulevard and highway speeds should you rev anywhere close to rated speed.

98. Let momentum do the work

The truck’s weight will push it not only downhill, but through small towns in flat terrain on two-lane highways, and over the crests of hills on the interstates. Take your foot off the accelerator as you enter a town and at least 50 feet before you top a hill.

When possible, recommend the fuel gurus at Schneider, choose break and fuel locations that have uphill ramps. Use the truck’s momentum to glide up the exit ramp. When you return to the highway, gravity helps the vehicle return to highway speed and saves fuel.

99. Let it lug

Most diesels develop maximum torque at 1,200 rpm or less, so don’t downshift until revs drop down that far, unless you’re on a steep hill and you know revs will fall off really fast.

Where speed limits are lower than your optimum engine/road speed spec, resist the temptation to run in a lower gear. Today’s engines are capable of running at lower rpm. Lugging an engine will not hurt it. Cruising at 1,000 rpm in top gear is more efficient than 1,500 rpm in the next gear down.

As long as the engine’s in its safe operating range, a higher gear will do the job more economically than a lower one.

100. Skip gears on downgrades

Unless you’ll need the engine’s retarding power, accelerating on downgrades is easy if you let gravity do the work and skip one or two gears with each upshift to keep revs in a safe area.

101. Avoid stopping for weigh stations and tolls

Transponders today allow vehicles to bypass weigh stations and drive through toll booths. Not stopping equals more saving.

For instance, studies show that PrePass carriers can save up to 0.44 gallon of fuel with each successful bypass for a slow speed weigh-in motion scale and up to 0.55 gallon on static scale configurations, according to an Iowa State University Center for Transportation Research and Education study. Further, an FMCSA study showed a single bypass made for several minutes can save $8.68 in lost time and fuel costs.

102. Pick a gear and go for it

On regular runs you know where the upgrades are and what gear you’ll end up pulling most of the hill in. Instead of grabbing every possible gear and beating up the driveline in the process, let the truck slow down, slip into that proper gear, and ease up the hill.

103. Stay on the Interstate if you can

Two-lane roads and the towns they go through can be scenic and folksy, but the stop-and-go exercises kill economy. You’ll cruise more economically at a steady speed on the I-roads.

104. Slow down

Figure the distance from here to the delivery point and calculate the slowest possible cruising speed, and the number and duration of your stops — that will still get the load there on time. You’ll also arrive more relaxed. Fuel economy falls by 0.5 mpg for every 5 mph a truck drives over 55 mph, according to Cummins. However, that may be too slow for many highways.

You do need to balance efficiency and safe travel with the flow of traffic. When service times permit, suggest the fuel experts at Schneider, consider setting your cruise at 57 or 58 mph.

Turn to technology to help make sure drivers are traveling at a slower, more fuel-efficient speed. Using speed limiters for highway speeds is one way, of course, but there are other options.

SpeedGauge, for instance, is available through most GPS fleet tracking services. When a driver exceeds the posted speed limit, fleet managers get an alert. Fleet managers can also set customized speed thresholds in addition to using posted speed limits.

105. Keep on truckin’

Avoid pulling into truckstops for breaks because there’s always maneuvering and time consumption involved.

"Every time you stop and then have to get back up to speed it’s like pouring a gallon of fuel out on the ground," says driver Richard Archer of Paris, Texas, who with partner Robbie Edgett achieved nearly 8.1 mpg last year.

106. Respect the curves

Don’t approach turns too quickly, as this forces hard braking and wasting fuel, says Adam Kahn of SmartDrive.

107. Don’t tailgate

Allow a reasonable distance between vehicles ahead so that when traffic changes do occur, hard braking or braking too often, is not necessary. Leaving a greater space cushion between vehicles allows drivers to coast rather than brake to absorb speed differences. Leaving enough space also allows drivers to watch situations develop and slow gradually instead of hard brake applications, so they won’t need to accelerate hard to get back to speed.

108. Avoid rush hours

If you have a choice (and delivery appointments and your hours-of-service situation allow), wait for traffic to thin out before entering or trying to leave a metro area, to avoid fuel-wasting stop-and-go traffic and excessive idling.

109. Avoid using the brakes

Avoid hard accelerations and hard braking. When approaching a stop, allow the truck’s momentum to slow well in advance. By not using the brakes, kinetic energy of motion is not wastefully converted to heat.

Also, reducing brake usage reduces air compressor usage in trucks equipped with air brakes. Air compressor usage can pull down mpg by over 2%, according to Cummins.

So hang back during slow-and-go times in traffic. Leave the tranny in Low or 1st and creep along as traffic bolts, stops, and bolts ahead again. You’ll feel smugly superior and use less fuel.

110. Use cruise control wisely

Use cruise control to boost fuel economy by up to 6%, Freightliner recommends. But use it wisely. It’s an efficient tool on open, flat road, but maintaining a steady road speed in dense traffic isn’t always possible. More braking may be needed, and that saps fuel economy.

On rolling hills, use the throttle pedal to maintain speed, and let the truck slow a little when climbing a hill. It will take only a few seconds longer to climb the hill at reduced engine power than with full throttle.

Give drivers an extra incentive to use cruise control, suggests Lawrence Catanzaro, director of transportation at Kane Is Able Inc. in Scranton, Pa. Set the max speed a truck will go on cruise control higher that what the driver can achieve on the pedal. For example, set the max pedal speed at 62 mph and cruise at 65 mph.

You also can take it a step further with adaptive or predictive cruise control.
In adaptive cruise control, such as Bendix Wingman and Meritor Wabco Onguard, proximity sensors integrated with the cruise control help maintain a steady distance from traffic.

Predictive cruise control, such as Freightliner’s RunSmart Predictive Cruise, integrates the truck’s cruise control system with GPS and slope and height data. It appraises upcoming changes in road terrain and adjusts the throttle accordingly, resulting in fuel savings.

RELATED: 121 Ways to Save Fuel

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