Efficient Driving to Conserve Fuel

Fleet managers and drivers can improve the efficiency of their vehicles, conserve fuel, save money, and reduce emissions through simple changes in driving behaviors. Analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that aggressive driving behavior, characterized by speeding and rapid acceleration and braking, can lower fuel economy by 15%–30% at highway speeds and 10%–40% in stop-and-go traffic.

Vehicle fleet managers can conserve fuel, maximize efficiency, and reduce vehicle emissions through programs, policies, equipment or technologies, and maintenance strategies. Fuel-efficient techniques for drivers are also important as every gallon of fuel saved can lead to savings that affect the bottom line for fleets.

Before outfitting vehicles with additional technologies or implementing strategies to conserve fuel, fleet managers should assess available options. The Alternative Fuels Data Center offers a collection of tools to assist fleets in evaluating energy-efficient vehicle technologies. For example, the Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET) Tool allows fleet managers to estimate the environmental and economic costs and benefits of alternative fuel and advanced vehicles, as well as idle reduction equipment.

Train Drivers

Driver training programs can help fleets save fuel and money while reducing emissions, increasing driver skills, improving driver performance, and increasing driver safety. Even the most experienced drivers can benefit from training that explains how fuel economy is reduced by idling, speeding, shifting gears frequently or improperly, accelerating or braking aggressively or frequently, and taking circuitous routes. Many fleets train their drivers to adopt fuel-efficient practices. Many companies and organizations offer training or incentive programs designed to help reduce fuel and operating costs.

Give Feedback

Fleet managers can monitor driver behavior with technologies such as telematics systems that provide feedback to help drivers reduce their fuel use. Drivers can receive real-time alerts, such as when they are accelerating too quickly, or they can access reports and graphs later to analyze their driving behaviors. Fleet managers can also access this information. Some fleets pair drivers with coaches to identify opportunities to save fuel, such as coasting before a red light to minimize the chance of stopping, minimizing shifting when possible, avoiding aggressive starts and stops, and limiting idling to 30 seconds or less. More advanced telematics systems offer features such as consumption monitoring, predictive maintenance, and route planning.

Provide Incentives

In combination with training programs, fleet managers can encourage drivers to adopt efficient driving by offering incentives, such as recognition and special privileges. In combination with other fuel management strategies, incentivizing efficient driving behaviors and offering driver training programs can reduce fuel spending. The American Transportation Research Institute houses a variety of sustainable driving practices. Fleet managers can use tools to measure fuel economy, rewarding drivers who meet or exceed expectations and providing feedback to drivers who may need to modify their habits. In another instance, Mesilla Valley Transportation offers a fuel conservation incentive program for drivers that gives them the opportunity to realize financial savings from their fuel economy improvements. Organizing a friendly competition among drivers to rank their fuel economy improvements may also incentivize efficient driving practices.

Implement Policies

Public and private organizations can implement policies to set minimum fuel-efficiency targets, require methods to conserve fuel, or establish goals to reduce emissions. Fuel-efficient driver training, for example, is often required for all drivers. Some corporate policies specify maximum driving speeds for safety. These policies can also conserve fuel because gas mileage typically decreases significantly at speeds above 50 miles per hour. Maximum speeds can be enforced through speed control modules. Fleets may also develop lists of equipment or set limitations on the amount of cargo carried in a vehicle. For example, to reduce fuel use, a fleet of delivery trucks might make stops during the day to reload supplies rather than carrying full loads for an entire shift, potentially leading to significant savings.

Optimize Routes

Planning optimal routes helps maximize vehicle efficiency by reducing miles driven, stops at signals, time spent in traffic, and the number of vehicles needed for routes. For example, fleets may make certain high-traffic routes off limits during specific times of the day to reduce idling. Many fleets use software applications and telematics to optimize their routes and avoid driving unnecessary miles. For example, the United Parcel Service (UPS) integrates fleet telematics data into its software to help determine the best delivery route for vehicles. Delivery fleets can further conserve fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions along their routes by using alternative fuel vehicles. A U.S. Department of Energy study with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and United Parcel Service (see page 164) evaluated energy savings by incorporating electric delivery trucks and parcel delivery lockers, as well as shifts in routing configuration within the City of Columbus.

Properly Maintain Vehicles

A comprehensive vehicle maintenance strategy can help fleet managers and drivers ensure that vehicles are running efficiently, conserving fuel, and saving time and money in the long run.

Properly inflated tires last longer, increase fuel economy, and are safer. By keeping your tires properly inflated, you can improve your gas mileage by 0.6% on average, and up to 3%.

Using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil in an engine can improve fuel economy by 1%–2% . Check your owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil.

Manage Fuel Use and Operations

Vehicle monitoring tools and telematics systems can track and manage fuel and vehicle maintenance costs based on fleet fuel card transactions. Fleet managers are often able to view reports based on these transactions, which provide insight into trends, such as fueling and maintenance frequencies, and identify potential areas for improvement.

Similarly, charging infrastructure site hosts, including fleets, can track and manage electric vehicle charging through networking. Networked charging infrastructure is connected to the internet and sends data to a network services provider (i.e., charging network) and the site host. Networked charging allows fleets to monitor and analyze utilization, including overall electricity use, duration, and frequency of charging, and other metrics.

Get Direct Feedback

Drivers may find it difficult to recognize opportunities to conserve fuel while driving. A 2018 study by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation found that instantaneous or in-vehicle feedback affects driver behavior and improves fuel economy on average of 6.6% and can result in even greater driving improvements when combined with other strategies, such as driver training or performance-based rewards.

Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly providing instant driver feedback through in-vehicle displays. For example, Honda's ECO Assist and HondaLink features involve a sophisticated feedback system that teaches drivers how to drive more efficiently and what behaviors affect their fuel economy. Similarly, Ford’s SmartGauge with EcoGuide feature can help drivers achieve the best fuel efficiency by anticipating future driving situations to help inform the most fuel-efficient driving behaviors. Aftermarket feedback devices are also available.