Fuel accounts for 30% of the cost of operating a vehicle and in today’s sustainability-focused world, reducing fuel consumption is a must. At best, you need 26.5 litres of gas for every 100 kilometers you drive, and at worst, you need about 35 litres. This can add up to a difference of 8,500 litres a year if you’re logging 100,000 kilometres, creating an opportunity to save as much as €10,000 annually.
All truck manufacturers are focused on fuel efficiency. Especially in the last few years, there have been profound advances. Keep this in mind when debating whether you should drive your truck for another couple of years or trade it in. Even a second-hand truck with a newer model engine can be cheaper in the short and the long run.
No matter what you’re driving though, these handy tips can help you use less fuel every time you get behind the wheel.
1. Don’t start and stop your truck
Stopping and starting constantly is bad for fuel efficiency. Try to maintain a consistent speed and avoid accelerating rapidly. It’s actually better to stick to a lower speed – even if it’s as slow as someone on foot – than to repeatedly accelerate and brake to a full stop.
If possible, slow down as much as you can when approaching a red light. With any luck, by the time you reach the intersection, the light will have turned green again and you won’t have to come to a complete stop. The same goes for roundabouts and traffic jams – slow speeds can lead to massive gains.
2. Take care of your vehicle’s tires
Tires can account for 20% of a truck’s gas consumption, so keep yours properly inflated for the best performance. Driving on underinflated tires is dangerous and dropping five psi under the standard 75 psi in the pressure of your wheels can lower gas mileage by 1.5%. In fact, tire manufacturers recommend checking tires weekly or with every major shift in payload weight.
If you need new tires, invest in a good set. Not sure where to begin? Just check the rating – tires are rated from A to F, with A being the most fuel-efficient, and F being the least. The difference between these can result in a 15% reduction in fuel consumption.
3. Avoid idling an empty truck
It’s no surprise that idling an empty truck wastes fuel. You use more gas when idling for 10 seconds than you need to restart your engine. Starting up the engine to let the aircon or heating kick in can use up a lot of gas over time. When it’s chilly out, keep a blanket in your truck and use it until things warm up. In the summer, place a sun shade in front of the windshield – it can really make a difference.
Also, turn off the air conditioning if it’s not too warm and roll down the window. Running your AC when you don’t need it is worse for fuel consumption than the extra drag resulting from an open window.
4. Make maintenance a priority
A well-maintained truck consumes less fuel, so keep yours in good shape. Change your oil (and oil filter) as often as the owner’s manual suggests. Old oil can make an engine run hot and increases friction, requiring it to use more fuel.
Don’t delay when it’s time to replace things like air filters, fans and spark plugs, either. Taking your truck for a yearly tune-up can also help with problems that affect fuel consumption before they become expensive to repair.
5. Be smart about your route
Take time to consider your route and remember that the shortest way to your destination might not be the best when it comes to reducing fuel consumption. If your chosen journey involves a lot of stop signs and traffic lights, it might require more gas than a longer alternative.
Taking an active approach to reducing your fuel usage can add a really satisfying sense of achievement to your task at hand. As you reach your destination, you have not only safely delivered your cargo, but you have done so while using as little fuel as possible.
6. High gears and low loads
Driving your vehicle in the highest gear possible is a smart way to maximize fuel efficiency. When you shift down a gear your fuel consumption goes up. Make sure you use the least amount of changes to get to the highest gear as quickly as possible and shift progressively when you reach 1600 RPM. The difference in diesel usage per gear can be as high as 30%. Also be aware that you don’t always need to shift through every single gear. If you’re changing speeds, shift two gears at a time (also known as blockshifting) to reduce wear and tear on your gearbox.
Keep your truck’s load as level and low as possible. The more evenly distributed it is, the less effort your vehicle needs to get going. An even distribution will reduce the drag of your loaded trailer, spread the weight over the axles and minimize unnecessary pressure on your tires when turning.
7. Keep ’em straight
Make sure the wheels of your trailer align with the wheels of your truck. Even a small difference in angles between the axles can set you back 2.2% in fuel consumption as air and road resistance is increased and tires are worn out faster. So be sure to check this when changing trailers – but even a brand-new truck might be misaligned so take a look before leaving the lot.
8. It’s all about aerodynamics
Besides the road resistance of the tires, a truck’s air resistance is the main factor driving up fuel consumption. Simple measures can have a huge impact: Reducing the tractor-trailer gap will reduce fuel consumption by 2% for every 25 cm that the gap is closed by. Using low-air resistance mud flaps can reduce it by 3.5%, side skirts by 5%, and a boattail by another 8%. So besides looking good, these additions to your truck make a major difference to your bottom line.
Besides these mechanical ways to streamline your truck, it has been shown that driving in platoon with other trucks at a steady speed and at set intervals can reduce fuel usage up to 25%.
9. Sharing the load
It might feel like the most efficient way to use a truck is to fully load it up instead of using more than one truck. After all, this is what they are made for. However, operating at maximum capacity increases fuel consumption by quite a margin. One tonne of cargo decreases fuel efficiency by 1% alone, besides the extra wear and tear on your vehicle.
When transporting heavy loads, do the calculation and see if larger numbers of smaller trucks might be more efficient than fewer, bigger trucks. You could be surprised by the outcome.
10. Use cruise control
Whenever possible, use the cruise control setting on your vehicle. By limiting unnecessary acceleration and deceleration, this can help you save anywhere between 4% and 7% in fuel consumption on long hauls.
Get more out of your truck and save money along the way
Fuel is expensive, but using less of it can be easy. Checking in on your fuel consumption can help you save a lot, and a smart driving style alone goes a long way to make you save on gas, give your wallet a break and help the environment at the same time.