New technology is improving fuel efficiency in newer trucks. But it’s meaningless if drivers aren’t given the necessary information and instruction.
Getting the most out of your fleet, when it comes to fuel economy, may depend on getting the best from your drivers. But to do that, you have to give the drivers what they need; that often means better information and instruction on the newer technology and services.
Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT) has been publishing a series of articles on the Driver Dilemma, dealing with the ongoing shortage of drivers that is so worrying to the industry as a whole. Although many of these articles deal with recruitment and retention issues, this latest article, “Fleets Can Help Drivers Maximize Fuel Economy” serves another purpose as well. The search for better fuel economy is always top of mind for both fleets and owner-operators. The price of fuel may be down now, but it’s still one of the biggest expenses truckers and fleets experience. And, like everything else you purchase, prices go up as well as down. So knowing how to maximize fuel economy when prices are low will become even more important when the inevitable increase occurs.
This rather extensive article discusses the fact that many drivers are given newer vehicles to drive without being given the instructions that will enable them to get better mileage out of the vehicle. One owner-operator is cited in the article as saying, “Giving a seasoned professional driver the keys to one of these [highly advanced] trucks is like giving a dirt track racer the key to a Formula 1 car and sending him off to the race.” No matter how experienced and how excellent a driver may be, a lack of familiarity with the newer technology is going to stand in the way of better efficiency, productivity and performance. And, as the article notes, the more experienced the driver, the harder the transition might be. If you’ve been driving a truck for years, switching to AMT might take some getting used to. Since so much of the technology built into newer vehicles is there for the express purpose of maximizing fuel efficiency, knowing how to drive these vehicles means savings that go straight to the company’s bottom line.
So how much of an impact could there be? According to HDT, it’s significant — as big as a 30% difference between a fleet’s best and worst driver. Multiply that by the number of trucks in a fleet and you can see the tremendous impact this could have. But while fleets and owner-operators are familiarizing their drivers and themselves with this new technology, HDT recommends the following well-known steps for greater fuel efficiency:
- Avoid unnecessary braking by maintaining a few miles per hour slower than the prevailing traffic.
- Don’t idle, ever. Shut off the engine whenever you can.
- Accelerate gently. Get rid of that “heavy foot.”
- Reduce the gap between the truck and trailer.
- Drive the truck. Regardless of the technology, drivers are still responsible for making the right choices when it comes to inclines and declines.