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5 driving techniques to save fuel

As the owner or manager of a transport fleet, you tend to keep an eye on fuel costs. Fuel has always been one of the highest operating costs for fleets, a fact underscored by rising prices in recent years. Studies show that fuel represents up to 38% of a fleet’s total cost of ownership.

Although fleet owners and managers have no influence over prices at the pump, they can gain better control of how their fleets use fuel. Driving behaviour is one of the areas that owners and fleet managers should evaluate in depth, as it can be a game changer when it comes to saving fuel.

Below are the five most effective driving techniques to save fuel. And since fuel-saving success ultimately depends on driver participation, we also offer ways to empower your drivers to adopt these fuel-efficient driving styles. We will also explore additional strategies that can help you maximise your fleet’s fuel efficiency.

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Which driving techniques help to save fuel?

1. Cruise control

Changing the driving speed frequently increases fuel consumption. Using cruise control, on the other hand, can save 5-10% on fuel. By activating cruise control as often as possible, your drivers can maintain a constant speed and avoid wasting fuel. Cruise control is best suited for driving on motorways, where road conditions and speed limits are relatively predictable and constant.

2. Reduce driving speed

The most fuel-efficient speed for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles is between 40 and 50 miles per hour (this speed range may vary depending on the vehicle). If you drive faster than 50 mph, the aerodynamic drag increases, which means that the fuel consumption also increases. That’s why eliminating speeding is one of the most effective ways to cut your fleet’s fuel costs.

3. Appropriate gear shifting

The key to shifting is to avoid over-revving, which is revving a vehicle’s engine above a normal or acceptable level of revolutions per minute (RPM). Over-revving consumes a lot of fuel. It can also damage a vehicle’s engine. Proper shifting helps keep RPMs at fuel-efficient levels while protecting engine health, which is also necessary to save fuel. A good practice is to upshift early in the acceleration process, around 2000 or 2500 RPM (on the RPM, see the ‘Advising fuel efficient driving techniques for your fleet’ report from the Department of Transport, available from Energy Saving Trust).

4. Limited idling

Many drivers power up their computers and refrigerators by leaving the engine running. It’s common, too, for drivers to idle while they wait for heat or air-conditioning to reach the desired temperature. Drivers should of course enjoy in-cab comfort—that’s central to their well-being on the road. It’s a matter of balance and smart alternatives. As simple actions like parking in the shade and using curtains can help control in-cab temperatures and reduce idling by 20%.

5. Coasting

Coasting is releasing the accelerator pedal while leaving the vehicle in gear, gradually decreasing the speed through the engine. No fuel is consumed since no fuel is injected into the engine. Coasting therefore helps a great deal in fuel-efficient driving, as the driver anticipates and responds to circumstances. In approaching congested traffic or pedestrian areas, for example, drivers can release the accelerator and coast. If it isn’t necessary to brake, the driver can then recoup vehicle speed without much acceleration and fuel use.

6. Gradual acceleration

Rapid, aggressive acceleration can significantly increase fuel consumption—by roughly 40%.  When a vehicle accelerates more steadily, the engine doesn’t have to work so hard to maintain the increase in speed. Which translates into needing less fuel. You can get far with improving fuel efficiency by practicing smooth and gradual acceleration. Whether you’re running a fleet of one vehicle to a hundred, the savings can make a huge difference for your bottom line.

Fleet manager coaches driver about driving techniques to save fuel

How can I empower drivers to adopt fuel-saving driving techniques?

Adopting a fuel-saving driving style across your fleet may take some patience but is worth every penny. Strong collaboration with your drivers is essential—they’re the ones behind the wheel. Engaging them through trainings and showing appreciation for their fuel-saving contributions can be effective.

  • Coaching and training – A performance tool can make a huge difference in empowering your drivers. With our OptiDrive 360, fleet managers can analyse fuel-consumption patterns historically and in real time. They can also spot trends on an individual driver basis, making it easy to determine which drivers could improve with personalised coaching or even group trainings around fuel-efficient driving. OptiDrive 360 also sends real-time feedback to drivers, enabling them to adjust their driving behaviour in the moment.
  • Incentive programmes – Showing drivers appreciation can go a long way in encouraging them to practice fuel-efficient driving. Does your fuel consumption data show that certain drivers are reducing their fuel use? Be sure to acknowledge their efforts. If you have a rewards programme for drivers, consider offering gifts or bonuses for those who meet your fuel-saving criteria.
  • Optimised planning – According to information from the TomTom Traffic Index, traffic jams affect 24% of all driving time. This means that each driver is unnecessarily stuck in traffic jams for an average of eight days a year. That adds up to a whole lot of fuel spent on idling. Even the most experienced drivers can’t prevent idling in traffic jams. Help them avoid congested roads with optimised route planning based on reliable GPS and updated traffic information.
  • Regard them as valued stakeholders – Drivers understand the importance of keeping a company viable (they rely on a steady paycheck, after all). Let them know how much fuel-efficient driving matters to the success of the fleet business. Brainstorm about fuel-saving possibilities with them. Since they’re behind the wheel every day, they may have surprising insights about driving behaviours or in-cab power use to share.

More fuel-saving techniques for your fleet

Here are some additional strategies that can help you maximise your fleet’s fuel efficiency.

Regular vehicle maintenance

A roadworthy vehicle is a more fuel-efficient one. Keep your vehicles in the best condition by  checking and replacing air filters, spark plugs and fuel filters regularly. Preventative maintenance helps ensure engine health while enabling you to proactively tackle  potential issues that could lead to fuel waste.

Tyre maintenance

Having the right tyre on your vehicle can make all the difference in reducing fuel costs. Maintaining the right tyre pressure also influences fuel efficiency. Slow leaks in tyre pressure or improper tyre pressure add up over time to increase fuel consumption. Aim for optimal fuel economy: monitor tyre pressure and alignment for every fleet vehicle.

Telematics and fleet management software

Manually tracking fuel usage across your entire fleet is a time-consuming operation. A fleet management system with powerful reporting capabilities can make your job a whole lot easier. Telematics makes it possible to connect your vehicles to software so you can benefit from fuel-saving insights. For instance, you can analyse your fleet’s fuel consumption data historically and in real time, allowing you to spot patterns and improve fuel efficiency.

Looking for an integrated solution to simplify your driver and fuel management? Learn how Webfleet can help.

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