Fuel-saving, safety training should be refreshed: study

MONTREAL, QC – A recent study by PIT Group has found that training in fuel efficiency and safety are only effective when it includes refresher courses, while real-time in-vehicle technologies help to reinforce good practices.

“While vehicle technology designed to improve fuel economy continues to advance, driver training is the element that has the largest impact on fuel consumption,” says Yves Provencher, director – market and business development. “Our studies show that various ways to train drivers – including classroom, in-cab and simulator training – all have their advantages.”

But the taught lessons and techniques only last when monitoring behaviors that impact fuel use and safety, he said. “Providing refresher training and in-vehicle coaching technologies that address bad habits and reinforce effective skills is what’s needed to maintain and improve fuel-efficient and safe performance on a regular basis.

Looking specifically at fuel economy, PIT Group compared 47 control and 38 test long-haul drivers before and after simulator training that focused on speed, boost pressure, braking, acceleration, and engine speed. Baselines were established for two months before the training, and compared to evaluations at one, three, six, and nine months after the training was complete. 

“The largest impacts on fuel consumption in long haul operations were the use of cruise control, proper acceleration and maintaining the correct engine and road speed,” Provencher said. “With close monitoring and communication with drivers, including frequent reminders of how efficiently they were performing, the test data show that long haul drivers operating a truck an average of [250,000 kilometers] per year could save [9,990 liters] of fuel annually.”

Advanced technologies clearly made a difference in a test that compared 22 long-haulers operating manual transmissions with 13 on Automated Manual Transmissions.

The drivers with manual transmissions shifted in the most fuel-efficient range (1,000 to 1,400 rpm) 55% of the time, while drivers with automated transmissions were in the most efficient range 78% of the time. Additionally, the average engine speed for drivers with manual transmissions was 1,316 versus 1,240 rpm for drivers with Automated Manual Transmissions. Those with Automated Manual Transmissions used 5% less fuel than their counterparts with manuals.

“What these and other studies tell us is that training is only effective if it is reinforced with new ideas and structured to include regular reminders,” Provencher said. “Many companies make the mistake of providing the same training year after year without focusing on weaknesses or adding new ideas to make the lessons more interesting and effective.

“Regardless of the type of training and its initial effectiveness, it is human nature to revert to old habits unless we are constantly reminded what works best,” he added. “In the end, the type of training really doesn’t matter as much as the monitoring that takes place afterward.”

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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