“I know what my rpm needs to be, and it takes me a little longer to get going, but it saves fuel,” he says. “I see guys mashing it in every gear and I know they’re sucking fuel. Just gradually put your foot into it and that should help a lot.”
Schneider encourages drivers to use skip-shifting methods, which take advantage of momentum to skip gears that would force higher rpm levels. “You can save fuel by not going through every gear,” Bethea says.
Albert drives as if there’s an egg between his foot and the fuel pedal and uses what he refers to as “momentum management,” he says. For instance, when possible, he stops at truck stops on hills to slow him down on the way in and propel him on the way out.
Manuel Espinosa, safety director at the 37-truck Custom Pinestraw fleet in Brandford, Fla., says maintaining an extended following distance can prevent unnecessary acceleration and deceleration. “It will help you a lot in saving fuel and it won’t seem like people are in your way,” he says.
Anticipating lights and other stops can help maintain momentum, too, Albert says. “If there are eight cars already stacked up at the red light, a lot of people will come in on the throttle then have to back out and hit the brakes hard,” he says. “If you can, try to roll through lights without losing momentum.”
Plan your route
Espinosa recommends meticulous route planning – taking traffic jams and construction into consideration – to minimize starting and stopping. “Neither is good for fuel mileage,” he says.
Albert says that if time allows, he won’t leave during morning rush hour. “I might decide to sit down and eat breakfast for an hour rather than going to sit in traffic.”
Out-of-route miles present a two-fold loss, says Bethea. “You’re not getting paid for them and you’re burning fuel. You can spend a couple of grand there in just out-of-route miles if you do it often enough.”
GPS units with route-planning software can help you avoid unnecessary miles, and some offer subscriptions to real-time traffic services. Checking conditions online on sites such as traffic.com can help you avoid construction zones and traffic jams, too.
Act on mileage data
One of the best ways operators can improve fuel mileage, Albert says, is to keep tabs on your fuel efficiency and use that information to test changes in your equipment or operation.
Getting that data starts with tracking every tank.
Albert keeps a clipboard and paper in his cab and calculates his mpg for the previous tank each time he fills up. He averages 9 mpg in his current truck and holds an 8.6 mpg lifetime average.
“Everyone I’ve talked to that started keeping track started seeing improvement,” Albert says. “I sort of make a game out of it. If I turn a good number, I see what I did right and what I need to do more of. If you do something wrong, it magnifies it and teaches you not to do it again.”