CALGARY, Alta. - One of the driving forces behind achieving an above average fuel economy for a truck is the driver. Each year billions of litres of diesel fuel are consumed in Canada. With nearly one...
CALGARY, Alta. – One of the driving forces behind achieving an above average fuel economy for a truck is the driver. Each year billions of litres of diesel fuel are consumed in Canada. With nearly one million kilometres of roads in the country, the transport industry fuels a large portion of the consumption hauling goods to their desired destination.
But increases to the cost of diesel fuel have heightened the awareness of good fuel economy practices and can be an important part of increasing a company’s bottom line.
Like any scientific experiment there are controlled and manipulated variables; and in the fine science of driving a truck, fuel economy is one variable which can be manipulated.
“There are two places where you can save money, one is maintenance and the other is fuel economy,” noted Rob Tosh, driving instructor for the Mountain Transport Institute in Castlegar, B.C. “Both of these can be controlled, whereas everything else is set in stone.”
From driving technique to keeping a watchful eye on the weather channel, there are a few proactive steps drivers can take to improve the fuel economy of their trucks.
An effective tool when trying to achieve premium fuel economy is progressive shifting. Tosh uses a grid system to map out progressive shifting to his students, with the maximum horsepower topping out at 1,600 RPM. The number is an ideal target, but it is also important to follow the engine manufacturer’s guidelines for progressive shifting, Tosh points out.
“You need torque to get the load moving and then use the full gear pattern,” explains the instructor. “Use torque to get the load to first, then from first to second is 1,100 RPM and so on. From fifth to sixth shift at 1,500 RPM and you should not be involving any shifts above 1,600 RPM. The only time you need to go above 1,600 RPM is for engine break holdback.”
When it comes to effective progressive shifting, Tosh recanted a philosophy the owner of Mountain Transport Institute, Andy Roberts, passes along to students, “do your shifting like you’re an accountant.”
Emmett Callaghan, owner of CCA Truck Driving Training in Calgary agreed with the importance of progressive shifting in efforts to increase fuel economy.
“Progressive shifting is the big thing and making smooth shifts,” he noted.
Work with the truck
Another key to fuel economy is letting the load of the truck work in your favour. Every application of service brakes and the accelerator pedal increase the fuel consumed by a truck. Using the truck’s momentum when travelling up and down differing grades can aid in increased fuel economy.
“The trucks now have fairly big power and if you use it to climb at a faster rate, you’re going to use more fuel,” said Callaghan. “It’s okay not to hold your speed on a hill.”
As well as the brakes and accelerator, shifting utilizes diesel fuel. Tosh explains it is important not to backtrack if you miss a step in progressive shifting.
“Be efficient. Every time you miss a shift or go too high with the RPMs, you just have to continue on at the next shift,” he told Truck News. “Every time you shift a puff of diesel smoke heads up the pipe. The more shifts you make the more fuel is going up the pipe.”
When it comes to slippery roads due to rain, snow, sleet, ice or any other precipitation Mother Nature hails down, controlling a truck’s fuel economy gets substantially harder.
“In slippery conditions you don’t want to be in the 1,200 to 1,500 RPM range with your shifts,” said Tosh. “Fuel economy will go out the window with slippery roads, but you can’t expect the drive wheels to do the majority of the holding back for you.”
Tosh explained ideally you want to apply as little friction as possible to the drive wheels and keep them moving to maximize fuel economy.
Poor weather conditions, closed roads, fuel station lineups, rush hour traffic – there are numerous situations to cause a truck to sit idle and although situations can not always be avoided, planning in advance can reduce downtime and increase fuel economy.
“Sometimes the shortest distance is not always the best option,” commented Callaghan.
“The whole thing is planning ahead,” added Tosh. “Being aware of conditions inside and outside of the truck, temperature and what the tires look like.”
“Tire inflation is another one that’s big,” said Tosh. “The fuel economy lost with just an under-inflated tire is huge.” Fuel economy and truck maintenance can play a positive role in improving one another. Improving fuel economy lessens the wear and tear on a truck, and saving money with improved fuel economy techniques creates more capital for truck maintenance.
“If a truck is not maintained it will cost you,” explained Callaghan. “With the cost of fuel it makes it even more critical to have your drivers drive more efficiently.”
“Trucks aren’t getting any more fuel efficient, they’re probably getting less efficient with the new technology,” noted Callaghan. “The driver is your biggest factor in fuel economy.”