Equipment is a major part of conserving fuel. However, according to fleet professionals, using a more efficient vehicle won’t be enough for significant savings unless the people behind the wheel change the way they drive.
Speaking at yesterday’s second FleetOwner “Survivors’ Guide to the Fuel Crisis” webcast, Don Osterberg, vp of safety and driver training for Schneider National, and Jim Booth, fuel economy consultant and owner & president of Fifth Wheels Plus Inc. spoke to the different methods that can be implemented for optimal fuel conservation.
“Fuel has become our number one cost, but it has never been lower than number two,” Osterberg said. “Carriers have long focused on fuel management. The recent uptick has just caused us to further refocus our efforts.”
According to Osterberg, to achieve maximum fuel efficiency drivers need to monitor their truck’s tire pressure, do routine maintenance, avoid unnecessary starts and stops, reduce idling and more efficiently brake and shift. In addition, they should turn off engine retarders except when in mountains, as these can degrade miles per gallon up to 12%, he said.
Another way Schneider is saving fuel is through driver training simulators, Osterberg said, which saves 2.25 gallons per hour, which with an average of 15 hours per student has saved 750,000 gallons of fuel over the past two years. In addition, drivers with simulation training rather than on-road training improved MPGs by 2.8%, according to a University of Utah study.
More fuel efficient drivers are also safer, Osterberg said, noting that the company’s best 100 drivers by MPG had a 37% lower accident rate than the 100 worst MPG drivers.
“There are always a few drivers in meetings that think [fuel efficiency training is] a bunch of baloney,” Booth said. “But after a while, the driver who was being so negative begins to change their mind and pretty soon, before the presentation’s over, they’ll be going along with you.”
Booth added that drivers need to know that the techniques used in the past may not work today, and that each fleet must look at its own operation to see how to best optimize fuel.
In the end, although both experts mentioned offering benefits, drivers have to want to improve efficiency. “It is important you create positive energy around fuel management, and make it a ‘want to’ instead of a ‘have to,’” Osterberg said.