Fuel Consumption: An Update on Good and Bad Practices

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Énergir truck. Photo Énergir

For fleet managers, fuel consumption remains a major issue.

There are a host of software and hardware solutions to reduce fuel use as well as several best practices that translate into real savings. We present you some of them here. But beyond best practices, there are certain ways of doing things that should be eliminated outright, such as engine idling.

Idling – wasting fuel

Running the engine when not in use remains the worst way to consume fuel, experts say; a costly consumption that adds no efficiency to the workday.

Idling a vehicle consumes 0.6 liters of gasoline per displacement. So, on average, an idling vehicle will consume about 2.4 liters of fuel per hour

Guillaume Poudrier, Founder and President of Géothentic, one of the leaders in fleet management systems development in Quebec. Photo Karyn Plouffe

“The reality is that there is no good reason to idle a vehicle,” says Guillaume Poudrier, President of Geothentic. “An idling vehicle, whether it’s gas, electric, natural gas, gasoline or diesel, is going to consume fuel without any particular task being performed; it’s really wasteful.”

This bad habit is mainly related to the fact that the user wants the interior to remain warm in winter and cool in summer. Yet CAA’s recommendation against this behavior is clear.

“To warm up your engine gently, start the vehicle and, after a maximum of one minute, start driving at low speed. The engine and the interior will warm up faster this way than if you let it idle,” confirms Denis Pageau.

How to eliminate this bad practice? Sensitizing drivers is essential; companies such as Geothentic offer, among other things, to install a system in the vehicle that will automatically turn off the engine.

“Typically, a vehicle in its useful life is going to run 30 to 60 percent of the total time at idle. A system installed in the car is going to be able to reduce that number by 10 to 20 percent easily.”

Such a system also allows the automatic restart of the vehicle based on temperatures and voltages while taking into account the temperature of the cabin to ensure the comfort of the employee.

Finally, it should be noted that in Montreal, by virtue of municipal regulations, it is forbidden to leave a vehicle’s engine running while it is stationary.

Aggressive driving costs money in fuel

CAA offers companies training on eco-driving as well as courses on driving on ice and defensive driving, says Denis Pageau, Partner Relations Advisor for CAA’s recommended garages. Photo Denis Pageau

“What makes the difference is the user and the way he or she uses the vehicle,” says Poudrier. “Driving a vehicle more aggressively increases fuel consumption.”

The best practice, according to CAA, is to convince drivers to drive green and to drive smoothly: avoid heavy acceleration and braking, respect speed limits, use cruise control to allow the vehicle to accelerate gradually.

“Ecological driving is also about planning your route and adapting it to be as profitable as possible without having to retrace your steps,” says Denis Pageau.

Remember that an aggressive driver will never be a good advertisement for a company.

At Énergir, driver behaviour is a constant, daily concern, explains Simon Roberge.

“We have instituted a monthly driving cost report that is distributed to all managers to inform them of the speeds achieved by drivers during the month. We’re working to optimize that report and send it directly to the employee for them to use as a guide to change the way they drive.”

The manager who wishes to discourage aggressive driving can also do so through a data collection system.

“At Geothentic, this is the type of data we collect and then provide the information to companies and drivers; this data shows who drives best and how we can achieve optimal driving.”

Maintenance: an essential practice

“If we can motivate the drivers to reach the goals the company has set for itself, everyone will benefit both financially and environmentally,” says Simon Roberge, Executive Director of Buildings and Distribution Centre Fleet at Énergir. Photo Énergir

At Énergir, vehicle maintenance is basic! “Given that for a fleet manager, fuel is the main expense, we are constantly working to find ways to reduce these costs,” says Simon Roberge.

To avoid unwanted fuel consumption, maintenance must be done at the right frequency. It is not recommended to let the driver decide when to service the vehicle.

In some fleets, maintenance is scheduled at fixed intervals – every three months, for example – regardless of the actual use of the vehicle. This type of operation can lead to over- or under-maintenance.

The best practice? To have access to neutral data allowing to plan maintenance according to the real use of the vehicles.

“It is not always easy in a fleet of vehicles to follow the frequency of maintenance if we don’t have data to tell us the right time to do the maintenance according to their use,” explains Guillaume Poudrier.

Beware of accessories

The tool vehicles in a fleet are equipped with special accessories–warning arrows, ladders, etc. “At Énergir, we are looking to reduce exterior accessories in heavy transport to improve aerodynamics and reduce fuel consumption.

For example, we had ladders on the outside of our vehicles that were catching in the wind,” explains Simon Roberge. “We were planning to remove the ladder racks and find a place to put them inside instead of outside.”

The fleet manager estimates that “these technical tricks can result in fuel savings of up to 10 percent.”

The importance of raising team awareness

“The potential savings that can be achieved through awareness campaigns are significant,” says Simon Roberge. At Énergir, an internal communication document for drivers reminds them of some basic principles, for example:

  • At a speed of 120 km/h, a vehicle consumes about 20% more fuel than when driving at 100 km/h. On a 25 km trip, the difference in travel time between these two speeds is only two minutes;
  • The average vehicle wastes 300 millilitres (more than a cup) of fuel for every 10 minutes of idling.

For fleet managers, driver awareness is an ongoing process.

“People retire, the workforce changes, so it’s always starting over,” concludes Simon Roberge.


Categories : Editorial, Fleet
Tags : Gestion, Management


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