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It’s In His Hands

Many trucking industry executives still consider training as a cost, yet when it comes to fuel savings, training drivers on efficient driving practices should be seen as an investment, participants of...

Many trucking industry executives still consider training as a cost, yet when it comes to fuel savings, training drivers on efficient driving practices should be seen as an investment, participants of the recent Same Roads…New Challenges conference were told.

With fuel becoming the top cost for motor carriers, Andy Roberts, president of Mountain Training Institute in Castlegar, B. C., told the audience of motor carriers and shippers that the driver has the biggest impact on a fleet’s profitability.

“By the decisions they make on the road, they will have the single largest influence on whether their truck will make you money today. And if they make wrong decisions, the truck could be unprofitable not just for today, but for this week or even this month,” Roberts stressed.

The two-day conference was held by the SmartWay Transport Partnership in coordination with several industry groups. It brought a host of carriers and shippers together to discuss the challenges, costs and benefits of their green plans. Speakers included an eclectic mix of carriers, shippers, industry suppliers, consultants and Canadian and US government representatives.

John Cancilla, national safety, health and security consultant for Ryder Canada, suggested there are five areas where bad habits can lead to unnecessary waste and costs.

1. The pre-trip inspection: Simple things that are missed when a driver is not diligent in doing a proper pre-trip inspection can waste a considerable amount of fuel. For example, an improperly inflated tire not only wastes fuel by creating more friction with the road but that friction also makes the engine work harder, which means the engine will need more oil.

2. Idling: It’s the number one enemy of fuel conservation. Just one hour of it wastes up to four litres of fuel. And for those who think their drivers are well-trained not to idle, Cancilla asked them to consider all the five and 10-minute breaks drivers may take during the day with the engine left running. “I guarantee you, it adds up to over one hour a day,” he said.

3. Wrong perceptions about heating and cooling: Cancilla said many drivers are under the false impression that if they stop the truck for even five minutes in the winter the cab will get cold and so they either leave the engine running or turn it on after their break and leave it running for a long time. Cancilla said the cab can warm up within a minute or two and the heat returns faster if the vehicle is moving.

4. Progressive shifting: It’s a proven fact that even and steady progressive shifting in the lower RPM range saves fuel.

5. Hard braking and following too closely: If city drivers are racing from one red light to the other, or highway drivers from one congested spot to the next, they are wasting fuel and brake life. Stay away from clusters of vehicles on the highway, Cancilla said adding that “there’s no way you can keep a 115-120 km/h pace all the time. It just doesn’t happen.”

For those sold on the importance of training drivers for fuel efficiency, Roberts said it’s important to consider what is the best way to deliver that training? He said drivers being trained in a traditional classroom setting retain, on average, about 10-20% of what they’ve learned. Computer-based training has a 20-25% retention rate while simulator training can have an up to 75% retention rate.

“If you combine the above, you could get up to 90% retention of knowledge,” Roberts claimed adding that while obviously training costs would be higher, if you’re going to get the results, you need to make the investment.

Andrea Sproule, training specialist with the Canadian Urban Transit Association, attested to the savings municipalities have found by adopting Natural Resources Canada’s SmartDriver for Transit training. She said after the training municipal transit fleets are reporting reductions in fuel consumption between 5% and 10%.

Jean Francois Page a fleet manager with Transport Herve Lemieux said his data shows that if they can reduce idling by 45% for 250 of their tractors (a target he considered achievable) the annual savings would amount to $215,000.

But it doesn’t stop with the training. Cancilla pointed out that drivers already know how to save fuel. So why don’t they? Cancilla believes it’s because too often managers don’t ask them for their input and there is no incentive for them to save fuel.

“Be honest and sincere with your drivers. Tell them why you want them to do this and make them part of the team. They may have ideas you never thought of,” he said. Ryder has set fuel savings targets for its drivers and hands out quarterly bonuses based on performance.

Roberts added that some long-estab- lished industry practices, such as not considering seniority in driver pay packages and paying by the mile, must also be reconsidered because they act as a disincentive to save fuel.

“It’s a common complaint among drivers -why am I making the same as the new kid? There is nothing there driving them to do better. If they’re paid by the mile they drive hard and fast to put in as many miles as possible,” Roberts said.

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