Drivers are often told of things they can’t do. Don’t use a cell phone. Don’t follow too closely. Don’t exceed the speed limit.
But what if we we offer ideas for things drivers can do, things that would have positive consequences? A good place to start is with the concept of high-efficiency driving. Loosely defined, it’s the driver’s ability to adjust his or her vehicle so they spend more time rolling and less time stopped. When done properly, high efficiency driving cuts fuel costs, saves time, and reduces the wear and tear on vehicles. And as an added bonus, it can also decrease collision risks.
Here are a five examples of high-efficiency behaviors that can help drive positive change, if not results, through your organization:
1. Do collaborate to plan routes
In many organizations, dispatchers plan driver routes, often with the help of routing software that maps out the driver’s day. Frequently, the objective is to optimize either the miles being driven or the time required to drive the route. When drivers show up for their shifts, they are handed their routes and off they go.
What gets missed in this scenario are the real world circumstances that dispatcher might not know about or aren’t factored into software programs. For example, software that’s set to minimize the number of miles driven may send drivers through city streets instead of using the freeway. While the city route may add up to fewer miles, it’s also likely to involve more stops, driving down fuel economy. In addition, construction, road repairs, street closures for events, burst pipes and changing traffic patterns caused by new businesses are just a few of the things that pop up in real life. No one’s more familiar with those conditions on a day-to-day basis than drivers.
“The most efficient thing to do is to have dispatchers and drivers work together to improve routing,” said Del Lisk, Lytx’s Vice President of Safety Services. “Ask your drivers and listen. Have a dialogue with your drivers at the end of the shift to adjust your routes.”
2. Do make a series of right turns instead of a single left turn
UPS made headlines years ago when the company’s head of engineering, strategy and sustainability told Fortune Magazine that its routing algorithm directs drivers to make a series of right-hand turns at commercial intersections rather than a single left-hand turn. The executive, Bob Stoffel, said turning right allows UPS trucks to keep moving rather than sitting in the middle of a busy intersection waiting for an opportunity to turn left. It’s also a lot safer than turning left in front of oncoming traffic, Stoffel said.
Of course, this is not always the case. If going one block ahead and making a series of right turns involves driving an extra quarter of a mile, that might not save fuel or time, especially if the road is open and clear for a left turn, Lisk said.
3. Manage your speed
Drivers who maintain a steady speed at or under the speed limit in a metropolitan area will achieve the most efficient mileage and have longer lasting equipment than aggressive drivers. How much more? The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that aggressive driving can lower gas mileage between 15 percent to 30 percent at highway speeds, and between 10 percent to 40 percent in stop-and-go traffic. The agency also states that using driver feedback devices help improve fuel economy by 3 percent.
There are two reasons why managing speed saves money. The first is that steady speeds consume less fuel than aggressively stepping on the gas. Secondly, speeders on city streets often get thwarted by traffic lights that force them to stop and wait. “In city driving, the aggressive driver will be sitting still in traffic, going nowhere longer, and burning a nice, zero miles per gallon,” Lisk said. There’s also the cost of wear and tear on vehicles when drivers slam on their brakes to compensate for their speed, not to mention the increased risk of accidents.
“Efficient driving is pacing your vehicle in a way that minimizes abrupt actions as much as possible,” Lisk explained. “Keep the vehicle moving at a reasonable speed.”
4. Consider the destination
This is related to route planning (No. 1). Let’s say your route takes you to a coffee shop at 8 am. That’s usually when most folks go in for their morning joe to jump start their days. In other words, it’s peak coffee time, and your driver may have to wait 30 minutes before a barista has an opportunity to receive the delivery. A gym or a restaurant may have different rush hours. Again, this is information that drivers would know and can share with route planners.
5. Anticipate changes by looking farther ahead
The high-performing, high-efficiency driver looks further down the road and makes adjustments early, Lisk said. They can see that a lane is obstructed so they can shift lanes earlier and not be stuck in a standstill later, waiting for an opening to an unobstructed lane, for example. A study by Monash University in Australia found that “smooth driving,” including the ability to anticipate traffic flow in order to brake earlier and less forcefully, reduced fuel consumption by 27 percent.
“In general, drivers who are able to anticipate and respond early with modest adjustments will be more fuel efficient,” Lisk said. It’s also easier on the vehicle’s transmission, brakes and tires. “It’s the tortoise and the hare. After a period of time, one has run itself into the ground, while the other can go on for months.”