Refuelling a vehicle is one of the biggest regular expenses for both individuals and businesses – where fuel costs alone can account for a fifth of the delivery industry’s entire budget.Luckily, fuel isn’t as fixed a cost as it might seem. Even a large fleet can cut back on its hefty fuel budget in a variety of ways, from using technology to simple driving improvements that add up over time.
This article covers the four biggest changes you can make for fuel economy and why they will help. Even if you don’t follow these points religiously, just keeping them in the back of your mind can encourage better driving, leading to a slimmed down environmental footprint – and a little money saved as well.
Speeding deeply impacts fuel economy. In fact, it’s arguably the biggest preventable factor behind a high fuel bill.
Why? It’s partially due to the extra wind resistance, and it’s partially because commercial vehicles are built to be most efficient at legal motorway speeds. A test from the American Trucking Association really drove home this impact – one of their trucks driving at 75 miles per hour burned through 27% more fuel than the same truck driving at 65 miles per hour.
It’s worth noting that driving significantly under the speed limit won’t help you save more fuel; it’s just driving faster than the set speed limit that’s likely to push your vehicle beyond its optimal efficiency.
To a driver, speeding might seem like a good idea. The faster you drive, the faster the job gets done. But if you’re spending over a fourth more fuel to do it, the savings don’t exactly add up.
When possible, you should make your routes more efficient by planning multiple stops into your trip.
A commercial fleet has an advantage here. Pick the right management software and you’ll automatically be shown the most optimised route at any given time, even accounting for traffic and weather conditions. It will also let fleet managers quickly connect drivers with vehicles, letting them see who’s free at a glance.
With or without software, route optimisation gets easier the more you do it, as you’ll become more familiar with common paths and traffic conditions.
Anything lower than the recommended tyre pressure will cut into your fuel economy. If you wait until the maintenance light comes on, you might be driving on just slightly under-inflated tyres for months.
The exact numbers are tough to estimate, and the difference is likely too small to notice on a daily basis, but it will add up over time, particularly for the delivery industry or a service industry where workers are constantly driving to their next job. One study puts the exact relationship at a 0.2% drop in mileage for every 1 psi lower than the recommended pressure.
Idling your engine a little is unavoidable, whether it is at a light or pedestrian crossing, or while waiting for a passenger to show up. But it uses up fuel, and some drivers may find themselves idling their vehicle for longer than needed.
A heavy-duty vehicle burns around four fifths of a gallon of fuel each running hour. Once again, this may seem small, but it adds up over time. While stopping and starting your engine does burn a little extra fuel, it’s only about 20 seconds’ worth, so if you’ll be stopped in one spot for even half a minute, you’ll save fuel by turning your vehicle off.
Granted, UK drivers are unlikely to feel this as much as US drivers, where the trucking industry burns 1.1 billion gallons annually waiting at rest stops alone. But the UK does offer another incentive to watch your idling habits: Excessive idling has been against the law since 2002. Keep idling down, and you’ll avoid a £20 penalty notice, while saving fuel in the process.
Drive to the speed limit, know your route, check your tyres regularly, and don’t idle when possible. If you can keep all those tips in mind, you’ll cut out the biggest unneeded fuel expenditures, and might save as much as 30% overall.
Add in the extra benefit to the environment as well as to your pocket, and it’s clear that running a quick fuel-focused spot check is an investment worth taking a little time to accomplish.
And of course our top advice is that there is one sure way to slash fuel bills by around 80%: switch to an electric vehicle.