Writers usually look for a “hook”—a line or two to get the reader pulled into a story. With diesel well above $4.50/gallon, we just mention “fuel savings” and we know we have your rapt attention.
Below are a few helpful fuel-saving ideas gathered from members of the American Trucking Association's Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC).
PLANNING: ROUTE SELECTION, FUEL PURCHASING
Fuel management involves speed control, and that starts with route planning. If possible, calculate your route to avoid stop lights, grades, and other impediments to steady driving. Also plan routes to minimize travel distances: A circle is more efficient than a star. Plan your speeds for maximum fuel economy, leaving time to make appointments.
Fleet managers should also plan fueling. Diesel weighs 7 pounds/gallon, and fuel mileage is directly proportional to weight. If possible, don't carry more fuel than you'll use before it is convenient to refuel. But do maintain at least a third of a tank to keep the fuel pump cool.
When negotiating fuel contracts, don't sacrifice quality for price. Visit your fuel vendor and check housekeeping practices.
DRIVING: TECHNIQUE AND HABITS
Jim Booth, trucking company owner and former development driver for Caterpillar, follows the “10 Commandments” for fuel economy:
- Perform pre-trip checks (oil, water, belts, tires, etc.).
- Limit warm-up time. Two minutes in summer and less than five in winter is enough to circulate oil completely before leaving.
- Start easy. The lighter your touch on the throttle, the less fuel you'll use.
- Use progress shifting. Let the lower gears multiply available torque.
- Use terrain. Let gravity pull you downhill, and coast over hilltops.
- Watch your speed. At more than 50 mph, each mile an hour costs at least 0.1 mpg.
- Stay in gear when climbing. Plan for downgrades. When going uphill, stay in the highest gear without lugging, and coast in gear over the top. Modern engines can pull smoothly from as low as 900 rpm.
- Anticipate slowdowns and stops. Coast down and stay off the brakes.
- Use the highest gear at all times. Stay near the engine's most economical speed.
- Eliminate unnecessary idling.
Here's one I'd like to add: While at a red light, turn the engine off. If your vehicle stands for more than 30 seconds, you'll use less fuel restarting than idling.
Smoothness is also a major factor. Don't rush from red light to red light, and use cruise control whenever possible. The longer it takes to coast down to a stop, the less fuel you'll burn.
EQUIPMENT: COMPONENTS AND ACCESSORIES
Improvements in truck shape alone provide at least ¼ mile/gallon when traveling 40 mph or more. Your vehicle's shape is fixed, but any truck can be configured to improve aerodynamics.
Keep tires inflated. Underinflated tires flex excessively, absorbing energy and generating heat through internal friction.