If you’ve fueled up your truck recently, you know that the cost is climbing. One year ago, the retail price for a gallon of diesel fuel was around $2.50. As of May 14, it was $3.23, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The lower fuel prices the industry has seen in recent years may have changed some driving behaviors. There wasn’t the need to keep the hyper-focus on fuel costs. The hard deadline of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, though, may be increasing speeds of some drivers, who are fighting a clock like they never have before. The result in both instances is a decrease in fuel economy, and that is a direct hit on the bottom line.
One way to use less fuel is add aerodynamic devices to the tractors and trailers. You can also spec new fuel-efficient equipment or replace older equipment with more-efficient equipment. But those options cost money many don’t have or are not interested in spending right now.
Fortunately, there are several other mechanisms in place that can lower fuel bills and those don’t require an outlay of cash. They all start with education. The path to lower fuel bills, equipment aside, really starts with driver behavior.
Start by monitoring traffic properly. By keeping an eye on upcoming traffic conditions drivers can anticipate having to slow down. It is more efficient to keep the truck moving than to start from a complete stop. It also reduces the number of gear changes you need to make.
Drivers themselves can check on traffic conditions in areas they are expecting to drive. If there is a lot of congestion, maybe there is an alternate route you can take. Some GPS systems now include real-time traffic updates, but there are plenty of tools available at low cost. Less time spent sitting in traffic means less fuel wasted and more miles.
If you drive for a larger fleet, you may have speed limiters on your trucks. With ELDs and the current state of truck parking in the country, there can be a tendency to drive faster to make up for lost time spent looking for a safe place to park. But, driving faster can lower fuel economy, so there is a tradeoff. Some of this can be minimized with better route planning that can identify possible places for overnight parking ahead of time.
If you don’t have a speed policy in place, a good guideline will be to follow what many of the larger fleets require, and that is to stay in the range of 62-65 mph because that tends to be where the most fuel savings is gained.
There are products on the market to help with this. One such product is LinkeDrive’s PedalCoach. The solution’s simple keep it “in the green” approach allows drivers of all abilities to perform better by simply operating the vehicle in a way that keeps the PedalCoach gauge in the green display area, which represents the most fuel-efficient operation of the vehicle. Every 5 mph over 65 mph, there is a 7% decrease in fuel economy. To help keep the truck at an optimal speed, utilize cruise control.
Another approach is to utilize the truck’s momentum to get up and down hills. Modern transmissions are now being offered with intelligent roadway monitoring systems that will automatically shift the engine into the optimum gear based on roadway topography, meaning if it identifies a grade up ahead, it will put the truck into the proper gear to minimize fuel speed going up and down that grade.
Drivers, though, can do much the same thing manually by observing the roadway ahead and lifting off the accelerator on downhills. Avoid revving the engine too much. Lower revs use less fuel, so minimize the power.
A few other tips include to avoid excessive idling. Idling the truck can consume up to a gallon of fuel every hour. If you must park overnight and don’t want to idle the engine, consider acquiring an APU device. There is an upfront cost, but APUs can keep cab temperature comfortable and will pay for themselves through fuel saved in short order. Also, if you can, fill your fuel tank in the morning and avoid over-filling it. Also, monitor tire inflation pressure – overinflated or underinflated tires can negatively affect rolling resistance and lead to more fuel usage.
Also maintain your vehicle, including checking for leaks, regularly changing the oil and meeting other recommended service intervals, and monitoring tires for excessive wear. Excessive wear can indicate other problems that could be dragging down fuel economy.