10 fuel-saving tips for long-distance drivers

10 fuel-saving tips for long-distance drivers

By Craig Thomas on Mar 31, 2017

Fuel costs constitute the second largest cost to fleets (after depreciation), so ensuring that drivers are always striving to be more efficient is vital for any organisation. Pass these tips on to your drivers to help cut fuel bills.

1. Run the check list

Before setting off, drivers should always check tyre pressure. In the normal course of events, tyres lose pressure and also vary according to the outside temperature. If your tyres are under-inflated by just 1psi, your fuel efficiency can be reduced by up to 3%. So pump those tyres up once a week or whenever you fill up. Oil needs to be checked regularly too, so reach for the dipstick before every journey to make sure that your engine is sufficiently lubricated. Higher quality motor oils also help your engine operate more efficiently. Just replacing dirty spark plugs can reduce your fuel consumption by up to 5%.

2. Lighten the load

Carrying extra weight is another no-no for most efficient running of a vehicle – for every extra 100 lbs (45 kg) you carry, your fuel efficiency can drop by 1-2%.  So declutter as much as you can before setting off. Obviously, many fleet drivers have to carry tools, parts, orders or samples in their vehicle, so reducing weight is more challenging in these circumstances. However, any reductions you can make – especially if you’re in a company car that you also use for personal use – will pay dividends in, and on, the long run.

3. Shape up

Allied to ditching any excess weight is ensuring that your vehicle is as aerodynamic as it can be – something that can bring enormous benefits to your fuel bills. So roof racks and roof boxes are to be avoided as much as possible. Drive with your windows closed as much as possible in order to maintain maximum slipperiness through the air.

4. Plan ahead

The quickest way from A to B is the one that has been planned in advance. Before starting any trip, look for the best route, using an online route planner – but make sure to also seek out the latest traffic information for any delays from roadworks or closures due to collisions. If you have a satellite navigation with real-time traffic information, all the better: use it even if you think you know the quickest route. Otherwise, keep up to date with traffic information from the radio while in the car, to avoid any potential problems en route.

5. Get in gear

Vehicle manufacturers help to make selecting the right gear so much easier these days, with prompts to change up or down to maintain efficiency. It’s a good discipline to do so – and even better to anticipate them. Try to get a feel for the engine sound, so you know when the change-up is necessary (usually around 2,000rpm), which means you’re not looking too much at the instruments for the cue.

6. Stop/start for stop-start

Another very useful innovation in the last decade by manufacturers is the stop/start system, which automatically cuts the engine when idling at lights or in stationary traffic.

If your vehicle has this system – and most modern ones do – make sure that it’s not switched off. If you don’t have it fitted, get into the habit of switching off your engine if you’re not going anywhere for 10 seconds or longer.

7. Anticipate

Modern vehicle technology is certainly contributing to improving fuel efficiency these days, but the driver still has a big part to play. Looking far ahead when driving gives you more time and space to react to changes in traffic conditions and situations. This enables you to be smoother – lifting off the accelerator, rather than braking is a more efficient way of driving, for example.

8. Hot or cold

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) in your vehicle can have a major effect on its efficiency, so use it minimally – or even not at all. Don’t drive in discomfort, but perhaps experiment with short blasts to offset the cold/heat, depending on the time of year – and to de-mist the windscreen to ensure optimal visibility.

9. Relax

Long journeys feel even longer if you’re stressed behind the wheel, so try to stay relaxed when driving, not least because a relaxed driver is an efficient driver.

There are some techniques to make you more emotionally intelligent, which recent research shows can help counteract stress.

Try these short exercises before setting off:

Take deep breaths and clear your mind

Do some mental maths problems when driving (which keeps the logical side of your brain busy and keeps the more emotional side in check)

Practice commentary driving, an advanced driving technique that involves describing what’s going on in front and around you.

10. Stick to the speed limit

Quite apart from the need to adhere to speed limits for legal and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reasons, and the risk of penalties and points on drivers’ licences (which could lead to them losing their jobs), saving fuel is another benefit.

Exceeding the speed limit – especially on longer journeys that primarily involve the use of motorways – might save time, but the sums don’t add up. For example, if you complete a 200-mile trip at an average speed of 80mph, instead of the legal 70mph, you will save 20 minutes of driving time, but the extra fuel you burn could cost around £7. Add another £7 for the return journey and that makes £14. If a fleet driver does similar journeys every day, that’s an extra £70 a week, £280 a month or £3,500 annually. And that’s just one driver: imagine if most, or all, your drivers incur these extra costs and you’ll see the need to impress upon them to stick to the posted limits.