Fleet News

Fuel management: Education adds up to economy

DRIVER training and incentives can make as much difference to a fleet’s fuel economy as the introduction of control methods such as fuel cards.

Fuel cards offer well-documented benefits of control but altering driver attitude and behaviour can provide the greatest rewards in the long run.

Speed, gear changing and braking habits can make substantial differences to mpg but drivers may need to be educated or persuaded to follow fuel efficiency guidelines.

The Driving Instructors Association (DIA) says gradual braking and minimal use of gears will save fuel, generally with only one gear change necessary once a car has decelerated to a suitable speed for a junction, roundabout or bend.

A DIA spokesman said: ‘Changing gears can make a big difference to fuel consumption and gear change timing is critical.

‘The correct moment to change gear is when the speed reached can be maintained in the next gear without pressing down on the accelerator.

‘Fifth gear is intended to give motorists optimal fuel economy when cruising at high speeds but changing gear too soon can waste fuel.’

It may be worth implementing driver training.

A spokesman at driver training company Driving Services said: ‘The manner in which fleet vehicles are driven can increase fuel expenditure. By adopting an all-round safer attitude to driving, drivers will be less likely to drive erratically and travel at unnecessary speeds – the main contributors to poor fuel economy.’

Airmax, a UK-based vehicle telematics company, has calculated the CO2 emissions of its customers to establish a link between driver training, driving style and CO2 emissions – and therefore fuel efficiency, intrinsically linked to emissions.

The research, part of a study with Cranfield University, investigates the correlation between driver training and driver monitoring as well as researching the effects of driving style on CO2 emissions from cars.

Ashley Duddle, Airmax’s managing director, said: ‘We have seen up to 30% reductions in harmful emissions based on good driver techniques.

‘What’s better, though, is that you can see the emissions in real time and calculate the actual total tonnage of CO2 per fleet.’

Alistair Darling, Transport Secretary, recently announced a £1.3 million scheme to train 200 instructors who will in turn offer training to 3,500 van drivers across the country.

The Safe and Fuel Efficient Drivers (SAFED) Scheme aims to encourage safer, cleaner and cheaper driving and follows a successful trial which showed cash and environmental savings from the use of advanced driving techniques with no effect on delivery times.

A van driver covering 20,000 miles a year could cut fuel use by 10%, saving £500, and should have fewer accidents, with lower insurance and lower maintenance costs, according to the Government.

Apply these statistics to a 1,000-strong fleet and it could save the firm half a million pounds annually.

Methods could include monitoring drivers exceeding a pre-agreed miles per gallon (mpg) figure or those with excessively high fuel bills. Regular driving tips could be posted on a company intranet or emailed to help curb drivers’ bad habits.

But it is one thing preaching better, more fuel-efficient driving styles – getting drivers to follow this advice is quite another.

Incentives can be introduced to persuade staff to drive more efficiently or opt for more economic vehicles. Offering encouragement and rewards can help reduce the overall fuel bill and a review of vehicle policy can provide savings.

Garry Hobson, managing director of Masterlease, said: ‘One of the hardest obstacles is convincing employees to leave their powerful, fuel-thirsty cars behind and to start driving more economical equivalents.

‘One way to encourage employees is by offering incentives to take a greener option. For example, give money back to those who drive vehicles that emit lower levels of CO2.

‘A benchmark is set such as 32 miles per gallon and drivers get money back for every extra mpg they achieve. This encourages not only the use of economical cars but also more sensible driving.

‘We also see companies that effectively reward drivers of bigger cars by compensating them with higher rates of mileage payment to allow for the higher fuel consumption. Getting rid of this higher reimbursement could help dissuade people from taking higher fuel consuming vehicles.’

Training and rewarding drivers can help reduce the annual fleet fuel bill but this could still be counteracted by unscrupulous drivers fiddling the fuel system.

It would help fleet managers to get a better understanding of what their ‘real’ fuel bill is, says Adrian Waters, head of commercial sales at AA Business Services, or risk employees exaggerating fuel claims by as much as 25%.

Waters said: ‘It is part of a fleet manager’s job to check that mileage claims are accurate but in an increasingly administration-heavy job, there often isn’t the time.

‘Fleet managers could issue an approved mileage sheet for frequent journeys, such as trips to office locations across the country. This means there should be no discrepancy in mileage claims for standard journeys.

‘Another way of controlling this is by introducing fuel cards. This ensures that the business can get a detailed weekly report of fuel being purchased by each driver, as well as details of where they are filling up and how much they are paying.’

Driving style

  • Drive smoothly and consistently. Maintain a steady pace, rather than speeding up and then slowing down

  • Maintaining concentration and anticipation will allow drivers to predict road conditions ahead and modulate their speed. They will then brake and change gear less often

  • Depressing the accelerator pedal is like opening a tap. The more you open it the more fuel you use, in any gear, so ease off the right foot

  • Cold starts – modern engines do not need to warm up. Move off as soon as is safe to do so. The engine will reach its efficient running temperature more quickly on the move than when stationary
  • Use the gearbox wisely – getting into the highest gear as quickly as possible is not always the most fuel efficient way to drive. Being in a lower gear on a light throttle is often more fuel efficient than being in a higher gear on a wide throttle opening

  • Comply with speed limits – excessive speed requires more power and more fuel. The time gain will be minimal so it is not worth it.

  • Plan journeys – with a bit of forethought and research on traffic conditions drivers can save time and money

  • If caught in a traffic jam, switch off the engine, rather than let it idle using fuel unnecessarily
    Source: Drive & Survive

    IMPROVING FUEL ECONOMY

    DRIVER EDUCATION

  • Encourage take-up of low-CO2/fuel-efficient vehicles by communicating the financial benefits to drivers
  • Educate drivers to carry out basic checks. Incorrect tyre pressure can result in a 3% increase in fuel consumption according to the RAC
  • Ensure drivers understand how to drive in a more environmentally-friendly way. Harsh acceleration from a stop can use up to 60% more fuel, while changing gear between 1,500rpm and 2,000rpm can reduce fuel consumption by up to 15%

    VEHICLE CARE

  • Ensure drivers keep vehicles properly and regularly maintained (poorly maintained vehicles are not only dangerous but have higher fuel consumption and potentially toxic emission levels)

    IMPROVED TRAVEL PLANNING

  • Record and analyse business mileage patterns to identify areas of inefficiency
  • Provide guidance on travel planning to help consider the time of travel, best route, location issues and viability of car sharing
  • Provide guidance on transport alternatives, such as video-conferencing. Advise on how to improve the environmental efficiency of core business activities. Should the company look at tele-sales or e-commerce instead of ‘on the road’ sales staff?

    IMPROVED VEHICLE AND FUEL EFFICIENCY

  • Review benchmark vehicles
  • Remove high-emission cars from fleet policy
  • Evaluate potential for the use of alternative fuel vehicles
  • Record and analyse vehicle fuel profiles – identify areas of low and high fuel efficiency for targeted action
  • Pay attention to high-mileage, business-critical vehicles – are they fit for purpose and environmentally sound?
    Source: Leaseplan

    Driver training courses that start with a lighter right foot

    FLEETS such as Anglian Water Services and Slough Estates that have put their drivers through training claim to have slashed up to 20% off fuel bills.

    Carol Green, transport co-ordinator at Anglian Water Services, which has a fleet of 600 cars and 1,000 vans, said: ‘We recognise that training brings many benefits – reduced emissions, reduced fuel costs, improved safety and, importantly, a feel-good factor for the drivers, who often believe that they are not in a position to contribute to these objectives.’

    Southern-based property developer Slough Estates estimates a 15% saving on its annual fuel bill by putting drivers through an Econo-Drive training course with Peak Performance. The firm runs a fleet of 111 multi-make vehicles, many with high fuel consumption, on an open-choice policy for middle to senior managers.

    Econo-Drive is designed to teach drivers how to drive with a lighter right foot, increase fuel economy and promote awareness. It identifies the savings that can be made through driving with increased awareness of road conditions and anticipating situations, rather than driving into them.

    The course involved in-workshop briefings and one-to-one on-the-road training with Peak Performance trainers. At the end of training, each driver was debriefed and given his or her ‘Eco-Driver’ score based on the overall performance during the challenges.

    James Sutherland, managing director of Peak Performance, said: ‘Never has there been a greater need for ‘Econo-Drive’. Drivers are being faced with a range of pressures and risks while driving on our roads and need a range of skills and techniques to deal with these.’

    David Mullins, administration manager at Slough Estates, said: ‘We wanted to ensure that drivers recognise that there are ways to emit less environmental gases, avoid traffic jams, drive less aggressively and also reduce driver stress.’

    During the first training session, driving a vehicle that normally achieved 31mpg, Mullins managed to achieve 37mpg with three people in the car, an overall saving of almost 20%.

    ‘This should produce significant savings to the company in terms of fuel consumption, gas emissions and less stress for drivers, and we are less likely to suffer accidents and time off as a result,’ he said.

    ‘The Econo-Drive course has proved very useful from an environmental viewpoint as it has encouraged people to drive more smoothly, more safely and use less fuel, and as a consequence create less carbon dioxide.

    ‘The course has been voluntary and people who have taken it have generally had a very positive attitude towards it. We as a company remain very committed to it and actively encourage our people to participate as we believe it has beneficial effects.’

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