Today’s vehicles are becoming more efficient, but that doesn’t mean that your fleet is making the most of that efficiency.
Getting the best economy out of your vehicles is a process that has the driver at its centre. As the one at the wheel, the driver is the person with the greatest control over a vehicle’s efficiency. An investment in training your drivers to drive efficiently could make a difference when added up across your fleet, and your drivers could see a financial benefit when undertaking private journeys as well.
Eco driving courses generally focus on making drivers reduce fuel use by making small adjustments to driving style.
Some courses put an emphasis on classroom education, looking at the theory behind eco driving, while others will get drivers into a vehicle for assessment as soon as possible.
Whichever way a course operates, the aim is the same. An increase in fuel economy means a corresponding reduction in fuel spend.
While environmental concerns or corporate social responsibility may be part of the reason to send drivers on an eco driving course, cost reductions will almost certainly be the primary decision-making factor.
Eco driving principles
1. Look ahead and anticipate traffic flow
Looking ahead makes it easier to react to possible incidents and slow down more naturally without braking so heavily.
2. Check tyre pressures regularly
Low tyre pressure can cause safety problems, and will also increase fuel wastage.
Avoid dead weight
Removing junk and unnecessary items from a vehicle will reduce the weight being carried, improving efficiency. Roof racks should also be removed when not in use.
The European body for efficient driving, ECOWILL, offers a free online driver assessment at ecowill.org. Drivers are asked 23 questions about their driving behaviour, on a scale from ‘almost always’ to ‘almost never’. It could be an easy way for your fleet to screen driver attitudes before they attend an on-road course.
The driver training arm of the AA offers a substantial full-day eco course. It begins with a theoretical classroom-based session, before four drives along a prescribed route – an assessment drive, then a demonstration drive by the trainer, before the driver takes over again to put their new techniques into action.
The driver is then debriefed by the instructor, before a final drive during which progress is summed up and any final tips are given.
Drivetech quotes a 10-15% fuel saving, and the cost of the course is dependent on the number of drivers being trained.
Automotional’s eco driver training offering caters for four drivers per day – either in four individual sessions, lasting an hour and a half, or 2:1 sessions lasting a morning or afternoon.
Each session begins with a briefing, followed by on-road assessment and training.
Training costs £220 per day, working out at £55 per driver, and the company needs to provide an insured vehicle capable of displaying and recording fuel consumption figures.
Automotional also offers a Fuelsave module as part of its wider e-Learning package.
The Eco Driving course offered by DriveSense follows a similar structure to the old Smarter Driving programme offered by Energy Saving Trust.
Nine drivers per day can go through the training, with a 50-minute session per driver. All training is vehicle-based and DriveSense recorded an average 17.11% improvement in MPG after the training, producing an average annual fuel saving of £330.70 per driver.
More than 30,000 drivers have been through the programme in the past five years.
A day’s training for up to nine drivers costs £225, subsidised by the EST scheme, and is hosted at the client’s premises. A free pilot session is available.
Ecosafe Fleet Driver Training offer two types of Fuel Efficient Driving course – for both, reducing fuel use and spend is the focus.
Both courses take place in the driver’s own vehicle, on a one-to-one basis. A 1.5-hour course, catering for four drivers per day, costs £67.50 per driver, while a three-hour course is £135. Both are EST subsidised.
Ecosafe says drivers can reasonably expect a fuel saving of 10-15%.
Primarily focusing on van and commercial vehicle training, Fleetmaster offers a one-on-one fuel-efficient driving course.
Taking place on the road and lasting two hours, the course assesses the eco driving technique of the driver and ensures they are working towards safe and efficient driving principles.
The driver training division of RoSPA (the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents) offers an eco driving course, available in half-day or full-day durations. Taking place either on site, or at RoSPA’s Birmingham training centre, it is offered on a one-to-one or paired basis.
RoSPA says drivers can expect to make a fuel saving of at least 10%. For drivers of larger vehicles, the course can count towards Driver CPC, like the IAM offer.
Costs of the course are dependent on the number of drivers and location.
Approved driving instructors can register with the DVSA (formerly the DSA) as fleet driver trainers. The scheme has nearly 2,500 registered instructors nationwide.
A good fleet driver trainer will be able to tailor a programme to meet the needs of your business and your drivers, perhaps on a more individual basis than a pre-formulated course.
The DVSA holds a database of independent fleet driver trainers online - accessible at www.fleetnews.co.uk/dvsa-trainers.
Approved driving instructors are now graded by letters – either A or B – rather than the previously used Grade 1-6 programme.
IAM Drive and Survive
As the commercial arm of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, IAM Drive and Survive offers a range of driver training courses for fleets and businesses.
‘Eco Driving for the Professional Driver’ is offered as a half or full-day programme and delivered on site for up to 20 drivers at a time.
The company also offers a Fuelwise full-day course, which is designed to target specific drivers as and when required.