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Money well spent

With diesel pricing continuing to rise and shippers becoming more reluctant to accept fuel surcharges unless carriers can prove they are doing everything they can to conserve fuel, dealing with this issue is becoming paramount. Whether you are...


With diesel pricing continuing to rise and shippers becoming more reluctant to accept fuel surcharges unless carriers can prove they are doing everything they can to conserve fuel, dealing with this issue is becoming paramount. Whether you are an owner/operator, a small fleet or a large one, a private carrier or a for-hire carrier, how you handle fuel management is either going to carry you or bury you.

We already saw this happen once before when spiking diesel prices in the late 90s caught carriers and owner/operators with insufficient surcharge and fuel efficiency strategies in place.

The result: owner/operator protests that in the end proved futile and the loss of about a quarter of the smaller carriers in Canada.

Over the past few weeks I have spent a good chunk of time in cabs and in simulators across the country, learning all about fuel-efficient driving techniques for an educational video we are producing on the subject.

I’ve had the good fortune to learn from expert teachers such as Allan Babbin at Challenger Motor Freight, Eric Roeder and Peter Rintoul at Bison, and Martin de Repentigny and Steve Overend at Drivewise.

From these most professional of professionals I learned the importance of having not only the skills to drive in a fuel-efficient manner but also the attitude that this is the only way to drive to be efficient, safe, and keep your blood pressure from spiking every time you find yourself on a congested highway or on a tight delivery deadline.

I learned first hand from these folks about how critical it is to understand the unique characteristics of the equipment you are driving and drive within their limits; how to conserve fuel by not misusing engine power while getting up to speed and managing space to reduce hard brake applications, how to find the engine’s sweet spot and the correct ways to use any advantages the road and the wind give you.

What they taught me is something every driver should know. It is what every driver must know. Yet, paradoxically, our annual research, conducted in partnership with the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council, shows that only 47% of drivers receive training in driving skills and only 40% receive training in fuel efficiency.

Clearly this is an area our industry must improve upon, and do so in a hurry.

Carriers must also do a better job of getting “granular” with their fuel performance. They must track and understand the driving behaviour for each of their drivers so they stand a better chance of addressing the weak spots. Owner/operators should do the same with their own performance.

But it can’t stop there.

Carriers must also do a much better job of getting the buy-in of each and every driver in the fleet; of ensuring that driving in a fuel efficient manner is always top of mind. Our annual research shows that receiving rewards and recognition for fuel efficient driving is highly important to drivers.

I would say that including such recognition and rewards for fuel efficient driving is money well spent.


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