HOT AIR: Espar's Airtronic system is one method of reducing fuel consumption and ultimately saving money.
OTTAWA, Ont. – With fuel being a volatile expense for every fleet and owner/operator, it’s critical to monitor its consumption and be aware of the benefits from doing so.
Fuel is quite often within the top two operating costs for fleets and more often than not, the number one cost for owner/operators, said Lynda Harvey, senior manager for the transportation program at FleetSmart.
Some are better at monitoring fuel consumption than others.
Last year, Bison Transport was honoured at Canada’s Energy Efficiency Awards ceremony in Ottawa, Ont. for its efforts to raise awareness that energy efficiency is a key part of Canada’s response to climate change.
Bison’s Tatonka Fuel Management Skills Development Program teaches drivers about progressive shifting techniques, the value of reducing idling and managing speed and space effectively through instructor-led discussions, computer-based modules and a full-motion vehicle simulator.
By taking advantage of available technology and information, any fleet or owner/operator can be as fuel-conscious as Bison Transport.
FleetSmart, which is part of Natural Resources Canada’s initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, has a number of programs on the go to entice the trucking industry to turn off the engine and maximize fuel.
Fuel Management 101 is a relatively new program that gives fleet managers and business owners a crash course in how to get started in managing their fuel costs.
“This one-day seminar helps fleet managers devise a business plan dedicated to fuel management and it helps them figure out where to start,” said Harvey.
The FleetSmart rebate program is back for another year.
As a further commitment to cleaner air, the government of Canada is rebating up to $350 for a cab heater and up to $1,400 on APUs to buyers who have purchased a system as of Aug. 12, 2003.
“We had a great response the first year and we were hoping we could continue the program and we just recently got word that it will continue through to March of 2006. And if there is a good uptake in the program again this year, it could go even further,” said Harvey.
FleetSmart and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. are working together to marry their anti-idling and fuel management solutions so that carriers can get seamless recognition for their efforts both north and south of the border.
“Our sister program is called the Smartway Partnership and they are embarking on a similar journey. We’ve done all this background work and so they are keen on picking up on it. They have explored the technologies more than we have and so while they are hoping to pick up on our experience with the driver training side and awareness programs we are going to pick up added research on the technology side,” said Harvey.
The Smartway Partnership is also looking to pick up some pointers about FleetSmart’s idle-free zones as well.
Every fall for a 10-week period, participating truck stops across Canada implement and enforce an anti-idling Quiet Zone, which not only helps the environment, it helps truckers get a good sleep.
“The truck stops tell us that drivers like having these quiet zones and we hear drivers tell us how horrible the air can get at a truck stop if every truck in the parking lot is idling and they are breathing it,” said Harvey.
For the most part the trucking industry has a greater awareness of GHG emissions than it has had in the past, said Harvey.
“In general, we are much more aware of climate change. We just have to look at what has happened as an indicator. Hurricane Juan last year in the Maritimes and White Juan in the winter time, a crack in the polar continental shelf that has never happened before, the forest fires in B.C., the tsunami in Asia – no one knows how much of this is driven by the earth growing up and how much is driven by greenhouse gases but there is an awareness that there is a change going on, and it is touching people’s lives,” she said.
There are some tips that a driver should practice on the road in order to maximize fuel and keep unnecessary idling at a minimum, said Harvey.
* When accelerating, bring the vehicle up to the highest attainable gear or speed using moderate acceleration.
* Use the momentum that builds to coast to a stop instead of braking into the stop.
* A rule of thumb is one second of visual lead time for every 10 feet of vehicle because the proper distance improves reaction time and gives more opportunity for momentum.
* Anticipation is key – use the stale/fresh pedestrian signs as a signal, look way ahead and expect the unexpected.
* Coast into the turn and accelerate when coming out of the turn when the wheels are straightening.
“When I learned how to drive a truck, you would rev the engine to the governor and rev it as high as you can and then shift. Well those days are long over because every time you go over the necessary rpms, you’re wasting fuel,” said Kim Richardson, president of Kim Richardson Transportation Specialists (KRTS) in Caledonia, Ont.
Fuel savings come with professionalism, added Richardson. Good eye lead time allows you to react quicker and make better decisions with the transmission and that has a big effect on fuel economy.
“It’s all about professional driving. It doesn’t start with the throttle; it starts with the mind,” said Richardson.
Richardson said there are a number of things that he teaches drivers at his training school with fuel economy in mind.
“The first thing I tell them is to read the manual. Find out where the peak torque is on the engine, find out where the engine is going to work best. There is a term called the sweet spot and find out where that is – and they do differ depending on how the engine is broken in. Education is key because a Cummins engine doesn’t work the same as a Detroit or a Cat and the driver has to understand that,” said Richardson.
Progressive shifting and skip shifting are two techniques that drivers are taught at KRTS.
“They are both a little controversial because some carriers don’t like drivers using them, but if done properly, they can save a lot of money in fuel,” said Richardson.
A really good truck driver hardly uses the truck’s brakes; he uses the transmission, said Richardson. This results in an increase in tire treads and decrease in pad wear because they aren’t applying the brakes as much. Ultimately there are fuel savings as well because every time the foot hits the pedal fuel is used and every time it doesn’t, fuel is saved.
Of course the number one fuel management solution is to turn the key and stop the engine from idling.
One way of doing that is to invest in an auxiliary bunk heating unit.
“You’re not going anywhere when you run the engine so why run the engine?” asks John Dennehy, vice-president of marketing and communications for Espar Heating Systems.
A bunk heater can cut GHG emissions by 12 to 15 tonnes annually and auxiliary power units (APUs) can reduce GHG emissions by 16 to 19 tonnes, Dennehy said.
These units provide creature comforts for drivers while helping to clean up the air at truck stops, he said, and a customer generally sees a return on investment within the first year of purchase.
Emissions legislation and anti-idling laws are continuing to grow in the U.S. and fines are significant, said Dennehy, so much so that engine manufacturers are beginning to build in warranties for certain idling limitations.
Espar is working through the Freight Sustainability Demonstration Program, which is another anti-idling initiative where the federal government funds any project that can be proven to reduce GHG emissions.
The transportation sector is the largest contributor to GHG emissions so for every litre of fuel you burn you’re putting out 2.8 kilograms of greenhouse gases. By 2020, this sector will emit 212 megatonnes of GHG e
missions into the environment if programs aren’t implemented to encourage anti-idling and proper fuel management, said Dennehy.