Fleet News

Fleet funding: Eco-driving

FOR fleet operators under the constraint of budgets, every penny saved is important.

But for all the reduction in paperwork, cheaper brands of teabag and reduced pencil allowances, focusing on driver behaviour could have a massive impact on the amount vehicles cost a company.

The concept of eco-driving has been bandied around for a while, under the banners of road safety, fuel efficiency and combatting climate change. All these reasons are valid, but new research suggests that just taking a bit more care behind the wheel could save UK businesses billions of pounds each year.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard the term eco-driving. Essentially, it is what it says – the art of driving economically.

Studies by Ford show there is a strong correlation between driving style and behaviour on one side and fuel economy and emissions on the other.

The manufacturer says fuel consumption and emissions can be reduced by 25% when comparing the eco-driving style with normal average behaviour.

Drivers don’t need to make dramatic changes to their driving style to save money – just tweak a few things here and there.

Ford also recommends discretion when using in-car equipment, and care in the vehicle’s upkeep. Use auxiliary equipment like air conditioning and windscreen heaters sparingly, as excessive use adds to the amount of fuel consumed.

Switch off the engine where safe to do so – for example, when loading and unloading or when in stationary traffic. Doing so avoids unnecessary fuel consumption when the engine is idling. Check your tyre pressures regularly, and adjust them depending on the load and the speed driven. The right pressures will aid fuel economy.

Remove unnecessary cargo from the car to reduce weight and limit aerodynamic drag by keeping windows and the sunroof shut when possible. More drag means more fuel is needed to power the car.

AA Business Services says that of the 28 million drivers on the road, there are more than five million company car drivers and employees who use their own car for business every day.

David Wallace, director for AA Business Services, adds: ‘If all business drivers underwent corporate training and followed these instructions, UK businesses could save over £2.2 billion in fuel costs, based on 5.3 million business drivers travelling 10,000 miles a year at an average of 30mpg and with fuel costs at 90 pence per litre.’

Wallace added that the actual figure was likely to be even higher as many drivers more than doubled this annual average.

Matt Geddes is head of improvement projects for AA Business Services. He travels more than 20,000 miles per year, and has acted on his company’s advice by performing an experiment around Basingstoke in Hampshire in late afternoon school run and early rush hour conditions.

He drove his own Vauxhall Astra 1.9 CDTI, a typical company fleet vehicle, to see whether there would be a difference in his driving style pre and post-driver training.

Before training, Geddes drove as he normally would for his job and achieved 45.7mpg. But after a short driver training course aimed at unlearning lazy, everyday habits, he achieved 62.4 mpg, a 37% improvement.

‘I travel a lot of miles between AA offices and customers and I was interested to see what I could achieve, but I was cynical before I started,’ Geddes says. 

‘Most modern company cars have an onboard computer that shows average mpg in line with your driving behaviour. My habit was to occasionally exceed the speed limit when trying to get to meetings on time.

‘My instructor told me to leave 15 minutes earlier, to drive within the limit and watch my mpg improve while still getting to the meeting on time.

‘I was very sceptical that this could be achieved, but he was absolutely accurate and I’ve done this ever since and not been late once.’

Geddes was encouraged to learn when and how to brake and change gear approaching and pulling away from junctions, as well as watching what his left foot was doing in between. 

‘I, like thousands of drivers, tend to rest my foot on the clutch when not using the gears, which of course uses fuel, as does over-enthusiastic use of the brakes caused by approaching junctions too fast and obvious things like overuse of air conditioning,’ he says.

‘It’s not rocket science. It’s the simple things that make all the difference.’

Eco-driving tips

  • Accelerate smoothly through the gears.
  • Change gear at about 2,500rpm for petrol cars and 2,000rpm for diesel cars.
  • Maintain a steady speed using the highest gear possible.
  • Look ahead, anticipating the traffic flow and the road layout.
  • Decelerate smoothly, leaving the car in gear with the clutch engaged until you need to stop.
    Source: Institute of Advanced Motorists
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