We all like saving money, don’t we? Whether it’s looking for a lower price online or waiting for the sales to buy things, a bargain is a source of pleasure. But just as there are consumer tactics to save cash, so there are tricks of the fleet drivers’ trade to save on fuel bills. They’re not difficult, either. In fact they’re so simple, they can be boiled down to five simple practices.
1. Stay smooth
Cars don’t like sudden movements, so it’s safer and more efficient to do everything as smoothly as possible. Harsh acceleration sends the rev counter beyond the 2,000rpm efficiency sweet spot, so just gently squeeze that throttle.
The same goes for slowing down. The best thing is not brake at all – lift off the accelerator and use engine braking – but when you have to, do so gently, bringing the car slowly to a stop.
In short, stay smooth. And this is easier to do if you…
2. Create space
Creating space around your vehicle will increase your efficiency hugely.
The less space you have, the more you have to react to other vehicles, braking later and stopping more – simply because you don’t have time to plan your next manoeuvre.
Observation skills are key, so look as far ahead as possible and all around (using your mirrors), to maintain a safe gap between you and the cars around you. This will, in turn, give you have more time to plan. At the same time, it will ensure that you have space to the sides of your vehicle, giving you more options if you need an escape route.
3. Make time
Time, along with space, is another way of improving your efficiency. Make time for yourself in the vehicle by planning your journey as much as possible.
This means you won’t get impatient and make sudden manoeuvres and end up rushing to get a light and ending up waiting at the next one, alongside the car you were so desperate to overtake earlier (This is what’s known as a “Russian Waiter” – “rush an’ waiter”, geddit?)
Also, consider this. If you have deliveries to make, you wouldn’t expect to run from the vehicle to the door without spending a few minutes having a chat and being sociable with your customer/client. By comparison, that 30 seconds you may have to spend at a light is really insignificant.
4. Be organised
The saying “fail to prepare: prepare to fail” might be a cliché, but only because there’s more than a grain of truth in it.
To be a more efficient driver, it’s important to be organised about every aspect of your driving. So before even getting inside your vehicle, minimise any unforeseen problems with all the necessary checks. Remember the ‘FLOWERY’ acronym – fuel, lights, oil, water, electrics, rubber and yourself – to ensure everything is in full working order before setting off.
And make sure that you plan as much of your journey as possibleµ – the route and any alternatives; the timing of it; if you have a choice (avoiding any rush hour travel, if possible); and any stops you’ll need to make for fuel or comfort breaks.
5. And… relax
Stress is a big problem for many drivers, so do all you can to avoid it, as it causes you to make rash decisions that are usually inefficient.
Extra time and space, plus plenty of advance planning, should help alleviate much of the stress of driving. If you have time and space, you’re in a better position to anticipate the careless or reckless actions of other drivers, so you don’t get that spike of adrenaline that causes a ‘fight or flight’ reaction – the cause of decisions to accelerate or brake harshly, which reduce the efficiency of your vehicle.
And remember that other drivers aren’t doing things to annoy you – take a deep breath and don’t take their bad driving personally.
It is easier said than done, but with lots of practice, you can train yourself to be a calmer and more efficient driver.
And a more efficient driver is a money-saving driver. Even if it’s not your money, a reputation as an eco-driving guru will endear you to your bosses – and might even get you a raise. Which is more money for picking up those bargains.