If you’ve been paying much attention to the news, you’ll notice gas prices are again on the rise, and are on course to set records again this year. Even with the economy sputtering and many people out of work, fuel costs costs the average household just under four percent of their income, before taxes, according to the EIA.
…[T]he U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Monday that gasoline expenditures in 2012 for the average U.S. household reached $2,912, or just under 4 percent of income before taxes. This was the highest estimated percentage of household income spent on gasoline in nearly three decades, with the exception of 2008, when the average household spent a similar amount. Gasoline prices averaged $3.63 a gallon in 2012, according to EIA.
Market researchers blame tightening of demand, refinery maintenance, and the other usual suspects. The markets rallied around the rising crude oil prices, and drove them higher before investors decided to take profits and sell off their futures.
California is hardest hit with some of the nations highest prices. Demand is outpacing supply on the left coast, which is ironic, since California sits atop one of the largest shale oil deposits in the country. But even if that oil could be produced (technically it could, politically it doesn’t work out so well), there are no new refineries in the area to turn that crude into fuel.
Which leaves the average motorist at the mercy of the pump and stuck in traffic. Sitting in traffic is costing us 5.5 billion hours a year – and an estimate 121 billion dollars in “wasted time” and fuel. Not hard to imagine, given that any car idling in traffic gets zero mpg while it sits with the engine running.
But, you are not entirely powerless. Get creative about methods for reducing travel (is teleworking an option), share a ride when it works out, time your trips to avoid the heaviest congestion (go into the office early, and leave early if it’s an option), and when all else fails, adopt simple and effective eco-driving skills to make sure you put good use to every drop of fuel you are buying. Even if you are not “green” minded, it will make you a safer driver – which means a cheaper to insure driver, might help you become a happier person, and will certainly allow you to keep a little more of the money you earn from feeding the gas pump.
The ecodriver-project.eu study “A study on perceived usefulness of eco-driving assistant systems in Europe” released this week show there is a great deal of interest in eco-driving, good deal of belief that the benefits are real, but no interest in paying for this kind of technology/service.
While this has been our experience with a consumer-based product (like our FuelClinic), there is considerably more interest from fleets interested in incorporating similar programs into their larger operations, since the cost saving benefits are multiplied well above what your average motorist would see (in addition to the safety and collision reduction side-effects of conservative eco-driving).
So what’s the most effective way to change the behavior of motoring public at little or no cost? How about a piece of duct tape over the fuel gauge?
Re-posted from: FleetBlogs > Decision Points
While I’ve been championing “eco-driving” for the past 5 years as a tested, proven, and effective way to reduce fuel costs, for some reason it’s still a “hard sell” here in the US. While most of the rest of the world already employs some sort of eco-driving component into their driver training and fleet operations, the US seems simply not interested, even though the numbers are there to prove how effective it is.
This week yet another study, this time by a company providing eco-driving training and systems, says transit systems can reduce consumption by 18.7% by adopting simple driving techniques. Given the rising cost of fuels, the flat operations budgets, one would think any fleet manager would be interested in cutting costs.
Here are the top 5 ways to reduce your fuel costs starting today:
1) Reduce your fleet’s maximum speed. Do it now. Do it in writing, set a policy and have you drivers sign it. Test them that they understood it. Communicate to other drivers on the road with a sign on the back of your vehicles so they know why the vehicle will not be speeding. Ask them to pass your vehicle safely. Say that you will be “passing the savings to customers”, or “keeping your people employed”, or you “want to save the plant”. Doesn’t matter.
2) Train your drivers to accelerate slowly, upshift early, and keep engine RPMs as low as possible without damage to the transmission.
3) Train your drivers to anticipate traffic lights and stops, and have them slow ahead of the stop by reducing throttle.
4) Train your drivers to look for opportunities to maintain momentum as they approach red lights by slowing, giving the light time to cycle to green.
5) Keep your tire pressure and filters at manufacturers recommended conditions. Keep all equipment maintained.
If your company is rolling in cash, then by all means keep on truckin’ at full throttle, it helps stimulate all the energy infrastructure, who employ a lot of people.
If you are looking for ways to reduce operational expenses because you HAVE to, and not because you WANT to, look at your fleet fuel spend, subtract 20%. While you are at it, take a look at your fleet accident costs, subtract 10% to 20% (efficient drivers are safer drivers).
I’d imagine that money is something your company could find other uses for.
Download the new eco-driving infographic from the eco-driving experts at Ford.
Have you ever been driving along without a care in the world, then you glance down at the fuel gauge and notice that the needle is below the empty mark? You’ve forgotten to fill-up, and you are not sure how much gas is left in the tank… you know where the next gas station is, but it’s not very close…
You lift your foot off the gas pedal a little, slow to a more gingerly pace, coast up to stop lights just hoping that it will turn green before you have to stop, then you slowly accelerate trying to get every last quarter-mile from those last few quarts of gas sloshing around at the bottom of your tank.
Congratulations! You just became an instant eco-driver, no special training required.
But you don’t have to be motivated by the anxiety of being stranded at the side of the road in order to improve your fuel mileage considerably, and as often as you wanted to. The same “techniques” that you instinctively understood would help you with a near-empty fuel tank can also help you go much further on every gallon of gasoline you buy.
Here are the top five techniques that are proven to work on every vehicle.
- Accelerate Gradually – You don’t need to hold up traffic or drive like you left your coffee on the roof. Just accelerate more gradually than normal. Be the slowest off the line, and relax knowing that you are going to get to the next stoplight in about the same amount of time as everyone else.
- Leave Your Aggression Curbside – We’ve all done this. You are in a rush, you didn’t leave early enough to give yourself enough time to account for traffic, and traffic has been slow. You are tailgating the knucklehead in front of you hoping that he’ll move out of your way. The first chance you get you dart over to the fast lane and “make up time” with a little extra lead in your foot. You may think you’re making time, but studies show that drivers who time lights and traffic patterns arrive at their destinations sooner than drivers who drive aggressively. Relax, leave a few minutes early, stop jockeying for “position” with the cars around you, and you’ll find you arrive on time, in a better mood, and with more gas left in the tank.
- Avoid Stopping – Don’t try to tell Officer Friendly that you were saving gas by rolling through stop signs, they can’t be avoided. But the proper timing of lights and traffic patterns like smoothly merging into traffic can go a long way to helping you maintain your momentum. Any amount of momentum you can keep means less work needed to re-accelerate. Avoiding having to start from a total stop will save fuel every time. This takes a little bit of practice to get right, but with a little effort you’ll be negotiating traffic like a pro.
- Loose the Need For Speed – It’s simple physics. The drag on your vehicle increases with speed. The more drag, the more work your engine needs to do to maintain or increase that speed. Work = Fuel. Sure your speedometer on your car goes all the way up to 150 MPH, and the traffic on most major highways zips along above the posted speed limit, but neither is an excuse for not slowing things down a bit if you want to save money on fuel. Stay out of the way of all those filthy rich people who have money to burn, move over to the slow lane, and enjoy the warm feeling of giving “big oil” the bird as you continue to drive to your destination – on your terms.
- No Excessive Idling – This one is a little different, and not my favorite. I don’t recommend turning your vehicle off at stop lights or when you are engaged in stop and go traffic, unless it’s clear that you are in a backup that isn’t going to be moving for many minutes on end. Even then, re-starting a car with a hot battery and hot starter can sometimes be iffy (especially in older cars). The last place you want to be stranded is in the middle of a backup. But there are times when idling is done excessively, more often out of laziness or poor planning. Idling gets exactly zero miles per gallon. Idling in a drive-thru lane is costing you money. You might want to park and walk inside instead. Idling while you eat lunch and listen to the radio is another way to waste gas. Idling to “warm up” your car is a waste, unless it’s winter, and you want the heat to work.
There you have it – five top ways to improve your fuel economy. Most drivers can easily improve 10%, some may get up to 25% or more, depending on how terrible their driving habits were to start with. You can track your progress for free on http://www.fuelclinic.com and see for yourself.
There are 15 more eco-driving tips online at: http://www.fuelclinic.com/eco-driving-tips/
And don’t let the “eco” turn you off, manly-men can eco-drive too!
Bob Stanton is one of the most forward-thinking fleet managers in the country. He runs the Polk County, Florida government fleet, and has been referenced here in Fuelishness! and BrightFleet.com several times for his experience implementing a highly successful eco-driving program in Polk County. Today he gives a insight into his motivations and successful execution of his program in an article published at Government Fleets called “Incentivizing Drivers to Conserve Fuel“.
By only reading industry publications, one might presume fuel conservation success can be achieved by technology alone through the use of alternative fuels, hybrid, or all-electric vehicles. The Clean Air Act of 1990 certainly steered governments in that direction and now, 20 years later, it’s clear that legislation failed to achieve tangible results. Governments at all levels nationwide have collectively invested billions in technology, which at best has yielded marginal fuel conservation success, and at worst, the technology, hardware, and vehicles have been scrapped at enormous cost. A negative return on investment (ROI) is certainly hard to justify for any organization, public or private.
Mr. Stanton makes a great point, that the focus on a technology-based approach to fuel efficient fleets has nearly completely ignored the contributions of the vehicle operator to the safe and efficient use of the vehicle.
…In summer 2008, Polk County went where few other fleets have gone — to its drivers. All studies show the largest single contributor to fuel use and/or conservation is the driver. Polk County decided the quickest route to meaningful fuel conservation was to target driver behavior and modify it where possible.
A three-pronged approach was used to modify driver behavior. First, the maximum travel speed of the County’s on-highway vehicles was limited to 55 mph. An in-house Eco-Driver training program was developed to train, reinforce, and promote driving habits proven to reduce fuel consumption and assure driver buy-in, and the County added an incentive program to allow employees to share monetarily in their own conservation success.
There are numerous studies, from reputable government and industry sources around the word, that have shown a direct relationship to operator performance and fuel efficiency, with additional benefit to driver & general road safety.
As noted above, the driver is the greatest single factor influencing fuel economy. According to Bridgestone’s Real Answers magazine, up to 35 percent of a vehicle’s mpg is directly attributable to the driver.
The County endeavored to modify behind-the-wheel driver behavior by developing an in-house “Eco Driver” training program to educate drivers about the simple driving techniques that result in tangible mpg improvements.
Bob Stanton’s own project has netted Polk County significant benefits in fuel efficiency and accident reductions:
Over the two years since implementation, Polk County achieved the following results:
- Fuel consumption reduced by 13.4 percent, or 436,000 gallons.
- Reduced 6.2 million lbs. of carbon.
- Reduced preventable accidents by 22 percent.
- Crash damage severity reduced by 35 percent.
These results are irrefutable. The overall hard dollar savings seen by Polk County due to these incentives have exceeded $1.5 million. The cost of the program is minimal. Beyond the $800 decal cost and the one-hour training time, the program has cost the County nothing.
Even the incentive payouts came at little cost. The incentive payouts originated from dollars saved versus dollars spent.
As a result of its success, the Polk County School Board adopted the 55-mph restriction in May 2010 and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently studying the program for statewide adoption.
As oil prices continue to rise to pre-economic-collapse prices at the same time austerity measures are being discussed at state and federal levels, eco-driving is a proven method that fleet drivers and average motorists can take immediate action to see real reductions in both fuel consumption and accident rates.
Georgia Southern University took a step in the green direction last month as its Center for Sustainability rolled out a “Get Pumped” Tire Inflation campaign. The Center teamed up with more than 80 student volunteers who informed ~400 drivers about the benefits of checking their car tire pressure each month. Volunteers also showed them where to find their vehicle’s recommended tire pressure in the driver’s door jamb, taught them how to use a tire gauge, and gave them a window sticker to remind them of the proper tire pressure and the date to check their tires each month. If vehicle tires were low, volunteers filled them up.
Student volunteers enjoyed the opportunity. Volunteer Jade McKibben commented “I really feel that I informed a lot of people who will spread the word about the CO2 emissions and the pros of simply maintaining the recommended tire pressure.” Drivers appreciated the free service, received unexpectedly as they went to their work out at the campus Recreation Activities Center (RAC).
Southside Service Center generously trained student volunteers and K’bob Kelly’s, Sugar Magnolia, and Gnat’s Landing provided gift certificates for the volunteers who educated the most drivers. Campus Recreation and Intramurals, Physical Plant, Parking and Transportation, Marketing all helped to make this event a great success.
For those interested in learning more about how to save fuel, visit fuelclinic.com for helpful tips and an online method to track your car’s fuel efficiency. Join the Center for Sustainability’s facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=142698357289 or find our website at http://cost.georgiasouthern.edu/sustainability/ for updates on sustainability events on campus and in the community.
When on familiar roads, drive in accordance with the next traffic signal or congested intersection that you’ll encounter on your trek. We’ve found this trick to be one of the most useful (and effective) of all. It’s hard to beat the almost-magical efficiency to be found in timing smooth transitions from one set of conditions to another.
Read more at -> Top 20 Driving Tips to Improve MPG
FuelClinic.com Fleet System adds AlertDriving Web-Based Driver Training and Hazard Perception Evaluation
ORLANDO, Fla., July 6 /PRNewswire/ — Compendium Software Systems, LLC, creators of the FuelClinic.com Fleet System ( http://fleet.fuelclinic.com ), is excited to announce their new channel partnership with Sonic E-Learning Inc., creators of AlertDriving.com.
This partnership will enhance Compendium’s FuelClinic Fleet System by adding a complete predictive behavior analysis and online driver training program to help clients green their fleet and improve driver safety.
“It makes perfect sense to partner with AlertDriving, who have been hugely successful in the larger fleet market,” said Michael Bragg, President of Compendium. “We are cherry-picking the best of the big fleet technologies, combining them with our core DriveMetrics driver-behavior analysis software, and creating a complete system unlike any other currently available to small and medium-sized fleet owners.”
FuelClinic Fleet System is a complete fuel & risk reduction program that monitors real-world driver behavior, reporting problems to managers who can then take action to correct behavior, improving safety and reducing costs, fuel use, CO2 emissions, and collisions.
FuelClinic Fleet System will now encompass true predictive behavior-driver analysis with a program called Hazard Perception Evaluation that is proven to predict driver behavior. It uses a proprietary algorithm to automatically identify individual driver deficiencies, then assign specific training modules to correct identified driver deficiencies that will reduce collisions.
AlertDriving is a complete Risk Identification and Risk Mitigation program that complements the FuelClinic Fleet System to become the most comprehensive fuel and collision reducing program available.
Compendium Software Systems, LLC is a software development firm and current clients of the University of Central Florida’s Business Incubation Program, located in Sanford, Florida. Compendium specializes in advanced information systems for use in driver-behavior analysis.
AlertDriving is a global leader in fleet risk management solutions with a web-based program available to any driver from any computer. Until recently only available to the largest fleets, this new channel partner arrangement with FuelClinic.com Fleet System will help make AlertDriving training solutions affordable and available to fleets of all sizes.
As awareness of the benefits of eco-driving habits builds in the US and around the world, there is also a growing interest in incorporating eco-driving techniques in early drivers education courses.
Until recently, professional eco-driving training has been a specialty course provided to already-experienced drivers, often as a work-related program for professional fleet drivers in an effort to reduce company fuel expenses and reduce preventable accidents.
Several studies done in the last 10 years indicate a direct connection between efficient drivers and those drivers with fewer preventable accidents.
One internal study at a major US-based trucking company indicated that their top fuel-efficient drivers were squarely in the top percentile of drivers with the fewest preventable accidents. It was also found that their drivers who routinely drove in an inefficient manner were among those drivers with the greatest number of preventable accidents.
How are eco-drivers safer drivers?
By practicing eco-driving techniques motorists maintain a high level of awareness to traffic patterns and the flow of vehicles around and ahead of the driver, allowing the driver to plan to minimize the loss of momentum while operating their vehicle safely and efficiently.
Eco-driving motorists are encouraged to “de-couple” emotionally from the circumstances of normal traffic, focusing instead on a competition between “themselves and the gas pump” verses jockeying for position with other drivers around them.
By limiting the top-speed and maintaining generous following-distances eco-drivers give themselves extra time to react to unexpected changes, providing additional decision making time and a greater likelihood of maintaining control in evasive maneuvers.
This correlation between efficient driving and safe driving creates an opportunity to apply measurable indicators to driver safety.
In the past an individual driver’s skill and risk was measured by referring to DMV records to count number and severity of traffic citations, or by referencing insurance records to measure the number and severity of traffic accidents on record. “Defensive driver” insurance discounts are provided to drivers who have had fewer accidents and fewer citation – without any real data to determine if the driver is truly driving in a safe and skilled manner – or has just been lucky.
With the advent of inexpensive on-board driver-behavior data-logging devices (like the CarChip Pro) we can build software systems (like FuelClinic) that are designed to analyse real-world driving behavior based on actual data. With the proper training and monitoring programs in place, this driving data can be processed in near-real-time with timely reporting in an on-going effort to improve both fuel efficiency and safety records.
Several states are currently working to add eco-driving to drivers education, including Michigan and Florida, with RFPs seeking qualified training materials to be added to their existing driver training programs.
What do you think? Should eco-driving techniques be added to the existing driver’s ed program in your state? Comments are welcome below, or join the discussion over at our Facebook Community.