Two For One: Train for Safety, Get MPG Savings Free
As a safety manager, have you noticed that your fleets best performers in fuel savings are also involved in fewer crashes? It’s no coincidence: If you train drivers to be safer or get better MPG, you improve both.
Fuel makes up about 30% of your company's costs. So any reduction in fuel consumption will quickly reflect on your bottom line. That's why safety and heavy duty truck driver training is so critical.
Your fleet travels tens of thousands of miles per year, so even minor improvements can have a significant impact on the amount of money that you spend at the end of the year on fuel.
Tips for Safe and Fuel-Efficient Driving
- Looking ahead and monitoring traffic and anticipating to actions of other motorists.
- Keeping the vehicle moving by using observation skills and the terrain.
- Managing the vehicle’s speed and keeping to posted speed limits when conditions allow.
- The use of cruise control to allow the driver to manage the space around their vehicle, while having more time to observe other road users.
- Thorough vehicle inspections, that include checking tire pressures.
- Assign training aimed at a driver’s skill level
Keep Your Eyes Ahead, Cut Gear Shifts
Watching the traffic ahead of you can help you eliminate gear shifts. Each time a gear shift is initiated, tiny amounts of fuel are consumed. Over a 10 or 11 hour day of driving, this can be hundreds of gear shifts. So by watching the traffic ahead of you and anticipating when you have to slow down, but keep the vehicle moving, while at the same time reducing the number of unnecessary gear shifts.
This saves your brakes, and more importantly, it keeps your driver engaged in the patterns of the traffic. By constantly monitoring the traffic ahead, they’re going to see (and avoid!) the crazy little Honda darting in and out of lanes.
More Space, More Coasting, Less Fuel
Using the vehicle's momentum can also produce significant fuel savings. Getting 80,000 lbs of tractor and trailer moving from a dead stop requires a lot of energy and fuel. If you can reduce the number of times that you need to stop and start, you will reduce gear shifts and fuel to keep the vehicle moving.
The trick? Similar to before: give your truck more space ahead so you can coast without needing to stop. You’ll get better MPG averaging a steady 15 mph in bad traffic and letting gaps open ahead of you, rather than constantly stopping and goosing it up to 20 mph to stay tight on the BMW in front of you.
Plus, that extra space gives you room in case a car does something dumb in front of you. The trick, obviously, is that cars love nothing more than to jump in your extra space. It can feel frustrating, but as long as you’re still moving, you’re making time.
Among the courses that can help? The obvious answers are Fuel Management and Space Management. A less obvious answer? Road Rage. Don Osterberg, former head of safety at Schneider National, said that of all the courses ITI offers, Road Rage does the best job at changing attitudes about driving aggressiveness. "Change a driver's attitude and the improved behavior follows."
In fact, when Schneider National did their study about MPG and Safety, it was the ITI Road Rage course that caused the best bump in MPG.
A Little Faster Is a Lot More Inefficient
Speed has a big impact on fuel economy. Once you get past about 30 mph, the wind resistance starts to cost as much fuel as the load you’re carrying.
Traveling at just 5 mph above the posted speed limit can increase fuel consumption by 3 to 7 percent, depending on the posted speed limit. That could add up to more than $7,000 in fuel savings per truck per year. Depending on how you share your fuel savings with drivers, fuel savings can more than make up for any loss in mileage pay for a driver.
And going just a smidge slower gives your drivers extra time to react to cars driving unsafely and bad road conditions.
Stay Steady with Cruise Control
Using cruise control when conditions will allow, will also help manage fuel costs. Cruise control helps the vehicle maintain a steady speed, especially on long journeys, can help keep the vehicle at a safe speed for extended periods of time.
Hard Tires Roll Easier
Truck tires obviously run much higher than car tires. Part of that is weight, but part of it is for fuel economy. Hard tires take less energy — less horsepower, less fuel — to roll. Tire pressures should be checked as often as possible. In addition, driving tires on low pressure makes the rubber and the steel bands inside them flex and bend each rotation. At best, that constant flexing will lead to a broken tread and a blowout. At worst, the flexing and friction make so much heat the tire literally catches fire.
But drivers shouldn't be adding air to their tires. That should be left to a technician. A tire that fails under pressure can be fatal.
Idling: Throwing Money Away
Excessive idling burns fuel for no forward momentum. Anytime the engine is running and not being used to pull the vehicle forward hurts your fuel numbers. Drivers need to be coached to manage their idle time. Either by habit or by providing accessory power units to run cab heat or cooling.
Develop Good Habits Now, While Fuel Prices Are Low
There’s an old saying: “The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” It applies because fuel prices are currently pretty low. Now is the time to build good habits. You don’t want to be scrambling to coach drivers on fuel-savings when diesel spikes back up to $4 or more per gallon.
Plus, each of these habits also leads to safer driving. That means less money lost to crashes, lawyers, damaged equipment, and the guilt of injuries and deaths.
PRO-TREAD: More than a Dozen Safe Driving Courses
Ask any driver how they compare to other drivers, and 95% will say they’re “Above Average” or “Excellent.” But everyone needs to work on something, and that’s why PRO-TREAD online heavy duty truck driver training offers more than a dozen course on improving driving habits. Courses include basics like Speed Management and Space Management, and more advanced courses like Winter Driving and Emergency Maneuvers.
As a fleet safety manager, you’ll love the selection and depth of courses. And more importantly, you’ll find a better-trained work force has results that speak for themselves.