And they are actively searching for ways to keep those costs under control.
Of course, money isn't the only consideration. The environment is a key factor, too. Nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are produced by the road transportation sector, a significant portion of them from heavy-duty vehicles. Fortunately, there are many practical decisions you can make as a driver to be more fuel efficient.
Making smart choices
You may not be able to fight rising gas prices, but your driving habits can reduce the amount of fuel you burn. Here are some steps you can take:
- Read the owner's manual for your vehicle and follow the manufacturer's driving recommendations.
- Use summer fuel whenever possible as it can improve fuel economy by as much as 3%.
- Optimize tractor aerodynamics: reducing aerodynamic drag by 10% can increase fuel efficiency by 5%.
- Use air deflectors as they reduce air pressure on a vehicle and provide fuel savings in the 3 to 10% range.
- Consider using doubles or triples instead of single trailers where applicable.
- Use rib design tires in all positions as they are more fuel efficient than using lug tires.
- Consider using low rolling resistant tires.
- Choose lighter truck specifications where appropriate. Less vehicle weight means better fuel economy and can also offer more freight capacity increasing income per km traveled.
- Use accessories such as oil pan heaters and block heaters (to help with cold starting and hasten lubrication), fuel heaters (to prevent fuel gelling), thermostatically controlled engine fans, winter fronts, battery blankets and in-cab auxiliary heaters to improve productivity and fuel efficiency.
Caring for your vehicle
Preventative maintenance plays a huge role in maintaining the health and efficiency of your vehicle. When your truck is serviced properly, you can run more efficiently and avoid unexpected downtime. Small problems should be fixed before they become bigger - and more expensive. In addition to regularly scheduled maintenance, you should also:
- Ensure your tires are inflated according to the manufacturer's recommendations - 1% of fuel is wasted for each 10 lb per square inch of under inflation.
- Before you hit the road, make sure you've done a pre-trip inspection - not only is it the law but it can also help you avoid unwelcome breakdowns during your travels.
- Perform a post-trip inspection to spot problems that could delay you next time.
- Ensure all fluid levels are correct - underfilling and overfilling can both damage your vehicle.
- Monitor your restriction indicator for signs of the air filter becoming plugged or contaminated.
Smart driving practices
Fuel efficiency starts when you turn your engine on. Proper warm-up helps lubricate components and seals reducing wear and leakage. Starting your truck properly can save money on fuel. Keep the following in mind:
- When setting your vehicle in motion make sure you use 0 throttle and are in a gear that doesn't need any throttle.
- Don't pump the throttle of a fuel-injected engine as the amount of fuel required for starting is pre-measured.
- Let your vehicle warm up for 3 to 5 minutes - if the temperature is below 0 degrees Celsius allow it to warm up until it reaches a safer operating temperature. Don't rev it, let it warm up gradually.
- Warm your vehicle up after the initial idle time by driving gently; don't try to get too much speed out of the engine by pushing the throttle down hard.
- Use cruise control where appropriate.
- Reduce your average speed - generally, for every 10 km/h over 90 km/h you use 10% more fuel.
- Change gears smoothly - shifting professionally will result in about 30% improvement in operating costs.
- Always use the clutch, failure to do so can wear the gear teeth down in the transmission.
- Practice progressive shifting. Shifting before you reach the maximum governed RPM reduces equipment wear, decreases noise levels and saves fuel.
- Run the engine in the highest gear range to keep it in a low rev range.
- Use your retarder properly and turn it off when you don't need it - let the terrain work for you.
Idling: A special note
Idling a Class 8 truck engine burns up to 4 litres of fuel per hour at 900 rpm. Turn off your engine when you stop for any length of time - you will save fuel, reduce maintenance requirements, prolong engine life and prevent unnecessary emissions. If a 10-truck fleet were to cut idling by an hour a day for 260 days, it would save approximately 10,400 litres of fuel ($11,440 at $1.10 per litre). A 100-truck fleet would save $114,400 and a 500-truck fleet $572,000.