When every drop counts

Saving fuel has become a necessity for road transport operators.

With the massive increases in fuel prices that we have witnessed over the last few months, commercial-vehicle operators have to take serious steps to optimise vehicle fuel consumption.

The weakening of the rand against the United States dollar and the sharp increase of oil prices have been the main factors that have driven up the fuel price.

With the instability of world economies, the escalation of fuel pricing is likely to continue. If operators want to remain competitive and still generate a fair profit, they need to professionally manage and control fuel economy.

The following example illustrates the savings that can be made when a heavy commercial vehicle is driven and operated professionally.

Driver A:

Completes a trip of 600 km with an average fuel consumption of 48 litres per 100 km.

Driver B:

Completes the same trip, with the same vehicle and load, with an average fuel consumption of 53 litres per 100 km.

The difference in the fuel consumption on the trip is 30 litres. Calculated at an estimated fuel price of R15 a litre, the daily saving (assuming that the vehicle operated on the same route every day) would be R450 – or R13 500 a year, if
the vehicle operated for 300 days
a year.

It is the driver’s driving style and attitude that play the most important part in optimising fuel consumption. He or she needs to adopt an advanced driving style, continually searching well ahead while driving. Here are a few suggestions on ways they can save fuel:

• Drive within the speed limits. Speed has a major impact on the amount of fuel that the truck will burn, and keeping within the legal speed limits will reduce the fuel consumption of the vehicle and lower other operating costs.

• Drive within the green band (driving within the optimum torque range of the vehicle).

• Accelerate slowly and drive smoothly. The driving style of the driver has a direct impact on the fuel usage.

• Avoid harsh braking, excessive idling and fuel spillage.

• Avoid overloading the vehicle.

• Ensure that fuel is not stolen from the vehicle.

• Ensure that the vehicle is serviced at the correct intervals.

In addition to the driver operating the vehicle in a professional manner and the vehicle being in a sound and fit condition, there are many other factors that have to be managed in order to optimise fuel consumption.

• The tyres fitted to the vehicle and the trailer have to be inflated to the correct pressure to ensure that the rolling resistance of the wheels on the rig is kept at a minimum.

• The wheel alignment on both the truck and trailer must be correct to ensure minimum drag.

• Brakes must be correctly adjusted at all times to ensure that none of the wheels are binding.

• The vehicle must be loaded in a manner that will eliminate excess wind resistance and ensure the correct mass distribution.

• Tarpaulins must be correctly fitted and strapped to eliminate excess drag.

Published by

Vic Oliver

Vic Oliver is one of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, and has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.
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