Sticker shock

John Randle
[email protected]

Like you, I’m watching the pump prices rise with a growing sense of dread as I plan my family’s summer vacation. With diesel prices surging to record highs nearing an unthinkable $5 per gallon and gas prices at nearly $4 per gallon, I turned to professional drivers for tips to improve my car’s mileage.

The Truckload Carriers Association, a national trade organization representing long-haul motor carriers, has compiled fuel saving tips from top drivers around the country who want to save fuel not only in their rigs but also in their personal vehicles. John Gill, TCA’s 2007 Owner-Operator of the Year, reminds drivers it’s important not to idle in either truck or car. “When you’ve got the kids all loaded in the car and you’re on your way to the beach, it can be tempting to pull up to a convenience store and leave the engine and air conditioning running while you run in for cold sodas, but don’t do it,” he warns. “The gas you’ll burn will probably cost you more than the drinks.”

Here are some more suggestions compiled from TCA, most you already use in your truck but are a good reminder for your four-wheeler, too.

  • Think aerodynamically. Keep stowed luggage as low as possible. Also, try to remove any bicycle/ski racks that you won’t be using and take out heavy, unnecessary objects before you take a trip.
  • Consider buying a Global Positioning System. This device can help you plan the fastest and most direct route to your destination, saving you time and fuel costs. If possible, drive through major cities at off-peak hours.
  • Drive the speed limit. Lower speeds reduce engine and brake wear, which cuts down on the cost and frequency of your vehicle’s maintenance. It also saves money on fuel.
  • Use cruise control to boost your fuel economy.
  • Watch how you stop and go. If possible, let up on the gas and try to coast to a stop. Or slow down until the light is green so you don’t have to stop at all. Speeding up from 5 or 10 miles per hour requires less gas than starting from a complete stop.
  • Maintain your tires. Air pressure is so critical to fuel efficiency that many trucking companies invest in automatic tire inflation systems to monitor and continually adjust tire air pressure. Car owners have to do it the old-fashioned way, with a tire gauge. Just be sure to check frequently. Adjusting air pressure regularly can increase gas mileage up to 3 percent.
  • Keep a small notebook in the car and log how many miles you’re driving and how much you’re spending on gas. This can help you spot changes in vehicle performance and help you gauge how much to budget for fuel.
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