How fuel efficiency techniques could save your business thousands of pounds every year

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Using less fuel can save money. That’s common sense. And when fuel represents a significant cost for your organisation, it stands to reason that reducing fuel consumption can have a positive impact on expenditure. We take a closer look at one company that demonstrated how investing in fuel efficiency can save thousands.

John Mitchell Haulage is a family-owned haulage company that operates a fleet of over 100 vehicles and covers an estimated 7 million miles every year. This meant that introducing fuel efficiency measures was an important objective for the business.

Clearly, being able to reduce fuel consumption could potentially deliver huge savings for John Mitchell Haulage, but don’t worry if your operation isn’t as large. Find out how the actions of John Mitchell Haulage, and the savings it enjoyed, can be replicated even by the smallest organisations.

Reduce idling

It’s easy to leave an engine idling. Sometimes people believe it uses less fuel than switching the engine off and starting it up again, although this isn’t the case with modern vehicles. Sometimes it’s just easier to leave it running. And, in the case of John Mitchell Haulage, some drivers start their engines in order to warm up their vehicles in the morning.

An idling engine uses a lot of fuel and, given that the fuel is intended to keep the vehicle moving, this fuel is entirely wasted. In fact, a 420hp HGV will burn two litres of fuel per hour of idling. So there’s scope for significant savings through an anti-idling policy. In fact, John Mitchell Haulage was able to save an incredible £35,000 per year.

This achievement was achieved purely through raising employee awareness: information was shared during driver briefings, and memos were handed out alongside payslips. Once the drivers knew just how much fuel was being wasted by idling, they made a conscious effort to alter their behaviour, delivering a huge saving to the business.

Achieving your environmental objectives isn’t the sole responsibility of your environmental officer or even your management team. By raising awareness of both issues and objectives, you’ll find that much of your team is willing and able to contribute to your success.

Driver training

Just as awareness of the costs of idling helped modify driver behaviour, so education helped drivers to deliver even greater savings by making changes to their driving.

There are a number of programmes geared towards teaching the principles of safe and fuel-efficient driving. John Mitchell Haulage elected to use the Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED) programme, investing in an initiative that saw instructors ride with its drivers to teach them some fuel-efficient driving techniques.

Clutch control

Double-declutching (shifting into neutral, tapping the accelerator, then shifting into the new gear) was historically a necessary technique to bring engine and transmission speeds into line when changing gear. Newer HGVs, however, feature synchromesh gearboxes, meaning that double-declutching isn’t necessary, and pressing the accelerator when the engine is in neutral simply uses fuel with no effect or benefit. It also increases clutch wear.

Cruise control

Cruise control is about more than making life easy for the driver; the technology helps the vehicle to optimise the amount of fuel being delivered to the engine, improving efficiency and reducing the amount of fuel that is burned unnecessarily.

Gear selection

Driving in the highest gear possible allows the engine to move the vehicle in the most efficient manner possible, boosting fuel efficiency. Drivers selecting the highest appropriate gear will reduce fuel consumption.

Exhaust brake

Using the exhaust brake can deliver fuel efficiencies in a number of ways. First, fuel delivery to the combustion chamber of the engine is halted when the exhaust brake is applied; any forward motion relies entirely on momentum. The combustion chamber also remains hotter than it would have if the footbrake had been used; this means that fuel combusts more efficiently when it is injected back into the engine. Finally, using the exhaust brake preserves brake linings.

Forward planning

The high seating position in an HGV boosts the driver’s ability to plan ahead. Drivers are well placed to avoid unnecessary gear changes, which can increase fuel consumption. In addition, moving the vehicle from standstill uses more fuel than if the vehicle was moving, even at a crawl. Forward planning can help a driver keep the vehicle in motion as much as possible, and avoid gear changes, that help to boost fuel efficiency.

Significant savings

Delivering SAFED training to its entire staff of drivers required an investment of £25,000 (approximately £250 per driver), more than just a driver briefing and a memo. But the savings it delivered were significant.

After the training was complete, the business recorded a reduction of 7% in both gallons of fuel used and in average MPG of its vehicles. This represented an annual saving of almost £275,000, a staggering 1,000% return on their investment.

Vehicle aerodynamics

The effects of air resistance are often underestimated, but improving aerodynamics can result in incredible savings.

Any vehicle that is in motion is pushing against the air in front of it. The harder the vehicle has to work to push aside the air in its way, the more fuel it will burn. In fact, if an HGV doubles its speed, it needs eight times the engine power to overcome the air drag.

Most cars and vans include aerodynamic features in their design. But HGVs, by their nature, aren’t naturally aerodynamic at all. However, it’s possible to purchase packages that improve the aerodynamic of an HGV, and John Mitchell Haulage invested in these packages for each of their vehicles.

This investment wasn’t small: £75,000, representing £750 per vehicle, and the largest amount spent on fuel efficiencies by far. But it also delivered the greatest savings.

Installing the aerodynamic packages reduced the vehicles’ fuel consumption by 9%, leading to a saving of almost £355,000 a year.

Contributing to success

Each of these fuel efficiency measures delivered significant savings, but the true strength of efficiency drives is in the combination of a number of different measures.

When you combine the results of John Mitchell Haulage’s efforts, they add up to an incredible £664,015 of annual savings, and all for an investment of just £100,000.

Of course, fuel efficiency savings are not just about financial cost; the reduction in the environmental impact of your organisation can be significant, and offers a potential edge over competitors: many businesses prefer to work with other environmentally-aware businesses.

On top of saving £664,015 each year, these fuel efficiency efforts reduce the business’ annual carbon emissions by an incredible 2,182 tonnes.

Environmental Management

With ISO 9001 already in place, John Mitchell Haulage is well aware of the benefits of an effective management system. If you want to deliver efficiency savings to your organisation, an Environmental Management System (EMS) can help you establish environmental objectives, identify savings, and reduce your environmental impact.

You can find out more about Environmental Management Systems, and how ISO 14001 can help you implement one, with our free online course.

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Written by Neill Gatley

EMS Scheme Manager - Experienced management systems Lead Auditor and EMS Scheme Leader. Assessing clients management systems to the requirements of ISO 14001, ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 45001, OHSAS 18001.