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Fontana: How truck drivers can improve fuel efficiency

Aug. 1, 2023
Fleets can do many things to improve fuel efficiency from the top down, but make sure you also inform your drivers about these fuel-saving tips.

Fleets may have no control over fuel prices, but they have a great deal of control over the fuel economy of their trucks. According to American Truck Business Service (ATBS), “Improving your fuel efficiency by 1 mpg can save you over $10,000 a year.” That figure is per truck. Multiply $10,000 by the number of trucks you operate, and you can see some significant savings from a relatively small improvement in fuel economy.

In reality, improving fuel economy by one mile per gallon is not that difficult because there are numerous ways that fleets can do so. In a recent blog, ATBS outlined the top 25 ways for drivers to improve fuel efficiency, and we know there are things fleet managers can do as well. That includes adding aerodynamic devices, spec’ing low-rolling resistance tires, and setting engine parameters for fuel efficiency.

Ultimately, the way someone drives a truck has a significant impact on fuel economy. Some industry experts believe driver actions can have a 30% impact on the fuel efficiency of a vehicle. Obviously, slowing down is a good way to improve fuel economy. According to ATBS, “Every 1 mph increase in speed results in a 0.14 mpg decrease in fuel economy.” A good way to maintain a constant speed is to use cruise control as much as possible. Braking and then getting back up to speed consumes a lot of fuel, so try to minimize unnecessary braking.

See also: Veteran drivers teach how to reach 10 mpg 

Checking tire pressure during pre-trip inspections is another great way to improve miles per gallon. Underinflated tires are a drag on fuel economy. “For every 1 psi drip in pressure, your fuel mileage can be reduced by 0.3%,” the ATBS blog stated. Also check your vehicle’s alignment periodically to minimize tires traveling sideways down the road.

Try to limit idling. Given the scorching temperatures in some parts of the country this summer, that can be difficult, but make sure to pre-cool the truck before stopping for a rest break and park in the shade if possible.

Try to plan for parking when it is time for you to stop for the day or for your 30 minute rest so that you don't end up with a lot of out-of-route miles trying to find a safe place to park.

See also: Roeth: Don't be a slave to fuel prices

Remember, you can’t monitor what you don’t measure, so keep records of your fuel mileage on a regular basis whether that be daily, weekly or monthly. Analyzing fuel mileage may help you spot opportunities for improvement.

Whether diesel is $2 a gallon or $4 a gallon, it still represents a major expense, so encourage your drivers to do what they can to help you get more from each gallon of fuel.

Gino Fontana, CTP, is COO and EVP at Transervice Logistics Inc. Prior to this, he was VP of operations at Berkeley Division and Puerto Rico. He has more than 35 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry with both operational and sales experience.

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