Even the most experienced and skilled truck drivers can enhance their driving performance through specialized driver training programs. Training that targets fuel efficiency can help drivers recognize and change driving habits that waste fuel. Seemingly minor driving habits like setting the cruising speed too high, unnecessary idling, or driving with the engine rpm too high wastes fuel and money. For example, driving 65mph instead of 55 mph can use up to 20 percent more fuel. An idle engine burns almost one gallon of fuel per hour, and driving with the engine rpm too high can also waste several gallons of fuel each hour. Other common habits that reduce fuel economy are frequent or improper shifting, too rapid acceleration, too frequent stops and starts from failing to anticipate traffic flow, and taking circuitous routes.
Therefore, a training program that stresses a set of simple changes in driving techniques can produce sizable fuel savings. In fact, a Canadian study estimates that many fleets could achieve a 10 percent fuel economy improvement through driver training and monitoring. Another study for the European Commission estimates that an annual one-day driver training course will improve truck fuel efficiency by 5 percent.
Well-trained drivers can reduce fuel consumption by applying a number of simple techniques. These include:
· Using cruise control where appropriate
· Coasting whenever possible
· Braking and accelerating smoothly and gradually
· Progressive shifting
· Limiting unnecessary truck idling
· Starting out in a gear that doesn’t require using the throttle when releasing the clutch
· Limiting unnecessary shifting
· Driving at the lowest engine speed possible
· Reducing parasitic energy losses by limiting the use of accessories
For-profit training organizations can teach drivers these fuel-saving techniques in as little as one-day. However, many fleets are providing fuel-saving training in-house. This allows them to continuously monitor and train their drivers in areas they deem in need of improvement. Electronic engine monitors can be used to review drivers’ operating patterns and benchmark individual performance over time.
The EPA believes that for the average long haul truck, the initial cost of training and the purchase of related equipment such as an electronic engine monitor and recorder could be recouped within two years from fuel cost savings. Good driving practices also reflect well on the professionalism of the driver and his or her trucking company.