With fluctuating fuel prices, fuel consumption is an issue of growing importance for drivers and fleet owners to understand. Even if you’re running a fleet of one, fuel is a major business expense.

These four simple tips will help fleet-owners and busy consumers alike to save cash – and also improve the driving experience as well.

Keep on top of your maintenance. Stick to your vehicle’s recommended maintenance cycle to ensure that your engine is working optimally. A dirty engine burns fuel less efficiently, raising consumption levels and increasing pollution. Regular maintenance also means that minor problems are caught before they become major ones.

A weekly inspection will also alert you to emerging problems. This should include checking for leaks underneath the vehicle and cracked or damaged wiring harnesses. Oil levels should also be checked along with filters, separators, hoses and belts for signs of wear. It also pays to ensure that exhaust connections are still solid. Finally, ensure that tyres are in good shape and are inflated to the correct level – the latter has a noticeable impact on consumption.

Minimise use of the air-conditioning.

A study by General Motors suggests that air-conditioning always uses more fuel than having the windows open, despite the increased aerodynamic drag.

Get smarter about route scheduling.

Good telematics or GPS package will help ensure that drivers are directed to take the route that uses less fuel. Reducing the number of kilometres you travel in a year will make a corresponding reduction in the fuel bill for the vehicle, a saving that both individual drivers and large fleets alike will value greatly.

Improve driver performance by changing the culture in your fleet.

Perhaps the biggest win of all comes with improved driver behaviour. Even some very simple training can earn you significant fuel savings. The difference in fuel consumption between an efficient driver and an inefficient one can be as high as 35%. Again, installing a telematics unit can help identify and implement changes to driver behaviour. Observing real-time driver movements such as over-revving, excessive braking and idle time can help give you a better understanding of how to lift your team’s performance. Once you’re regularly tapping into driver performance reports, use results to implement an incentive programme for drivers based on performance and good driving habits.

Other key techniques to reduce fuel consumption would include:

  • Driving at a constant speed. Cruise control is worth using, or even retrofitting if the vehicle does not have it already.
  • Understanding the impact of speed on fuel consumption. International studies [i]have found cars and light trucks travelling between 60 and 80 km/h tend to use less fuel than travelling at either above or below this range. Noticeably, they also use 50% more fuel travelling at 120 km/h than at 88 km/h.
  • Shifting to higher gears as early as possible.
  • Using the accelerator judiciously – the harder one accelerates, the more fuel is used. As a rule of thumb, try not to exceed 2 000 revs per minute or level of highest torque.
  • Avoid idling. Depending on the vehicle type, every 10 minutes of idling costs between 1/10th and 4/10ths of a litre of fuel. Make sure drivers switch off the truck when stopping for deliveries or pick-ups. Similarly, cut out unnecessary warming-up when a truck is first started.

Many industry insiders say that these tips can save a substantial proportion of fuel costs, with some quoting figures as high as 20%.

Educating drivers about how to maximise fuel efficiency is the necessary first step. In order to change behaviours though, it is necessary to change the culture within your driving community. This will require constant affirmation by means of incentives and, like all corporate culture, will only take root if the top managers endorse the new way of doing things and are seen to be following it.

[Compiled by Morné Stoltz, MiWay Head of Business Insurance]

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

[i] http://acrs.org.au/files/arsrpe/RS010036.pdf