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Step 5 - Explore other options for saving fuel

You can also save fuel by fitting certain ‘aftermarket’ features to your truck. Commonly available extras include:

Aerodynamic aids

Air deflectors can save you fuel, especially if you do a lot of driving at speeds of 80 km/h or above.

Information technology systems

Route planning systems and satellite navigation (Sat Nav) equipment may be a worthwhile investment if you often make deliveries to unfamiliar locations/customers. Taking the long way around wastes fuel!

Ancillary equipment

Extra equipment such as mounted cranes and refrigeration units will increase the amount of fuel your truck uses. If you need special equipment on your truck, make sure it is properly matched to the size of your engine. For example, a fridge motor that is too large may cause your truck's motor to run much harder than it is designed to. Dealers and aftermarket suppliers can help you make the right choice.

Fuel efficient driving techniques and idling reduction

Driving smoothly and carefully can lead to reductions in fuel consumption of 5-10%, and in some cases as much as 30%. Having a good understanding of how driving styles affect fuel consumption can help you save on fuel and maintenance, as can aids such as gear-shift indicators.

Unnecessary vehicle idling is a common problem in many truck operations - reminding your drivers to ‘switch off’ can save you money. Good day-to-day management of your drivers can improve your bottom line.

There are also a number of other ‘intangibles’ you might want to keep in mind when making a choice, like the location of your dealer to minimise travel for servicing and the likes and dislikes of your drivers.

Aerodynamic features

Aerodynamic body styling can save fuel, reduce emissions and improve the handling of your truck. Aerodynamic features are most useful for truck that regularly travel at high speeds (80 km/h and above).

Air deflectors (often referred to by the brand Nosecone) are cost effective and one of the most popular aerodynamic features fitted to small trucks in Australia. These look like a plastic bubble and are fitted to the truck's exposed front area on a box or curtain-sided body just above the cab of the vehicle.

As shown below, there are other aerodynamic features that you can fit to your truck - including cab roof deflectors, side fairings and body panels. These are worth considering if you spent a lot of time driving on high speed roads. In most cases these features will be fitted by a separate specialist as an aftermarket product.

Common Aerodynamic Features

exploded diagram of truck and aerodynamic features

Source: Department for Transport UK, Freight Best Practice: Quick Guide to Truck Aerodynamics

The frontal area of a truck has a large effect on fuel consumption, as does the gap between the cab and body of the truck. Making sure that the gap between body and cab is small and that the cab itself is no larger than you need helps fuel efficiency. Don't add a bull-bar to your truck unless you absolutely have to. Their presence on the front of the truck disrupts air flow and can impact on fuel efficiency.

Information technology systems

There are a variety of IT tools that can help you save fuel, including vehicle tracking, routing and scheduling programs, electronic proof of delivery and satellite navigation (Sat Nav). Route planning systems and Sat Nav equipment could be worthwhile investments if you often make deliveries to unfamiliar locations/customers, as they can reduce ‘lost running’ time and save you fuel.

Ancillary equipment

Ancillary equipment is any equipment that extracts power from a truck to help move or maintain the condition of its cargo.

The most common types of ancillary equipment include loading/unloading machinery (e.g. cranes, tail lifts, ramps and pumps) and fridge motors for temperature-controlled bodies.

You should start thinking about your need for devices like these early in the process of buying a vehicle as they can have a major impact on fuel use. Work with your dealer/supplier to make sure they are the right size and are properly matched to your truck's engine.

Fuel efficient driver training and idling reduction

One of the most effective means for using less fuel is the way you drive your truck. Improved driving technique can reduce fuel consumption by up to 5 - 30%. Fuel efficient driving involves a range of elements including:

  • forward planning - looking at conditions ahead so that braking is minimised;
  • keeping the truck moving and maintaining momentum wherever possible;
  • avoiding jerky patterns of acceleration and deceleration;
  • keeping the engine speed within the ‘green band’ and always using the highest possible gear (lower rpm means lower fuel consumption);
  • changing gears as few times as possible.

Hot Tip! Unnecessary vehicle idling is a major problem in many truck operations. Many drivers leave engines idling unnecessarily as they think that engines need to be warmed up at the beginning of the day—the reality of modern technology means this is no longer necessary for all but very old vehicles. Remind your drivers to switch off when they make deliveries and stop for short periods. Technology such as speed-limiters and engine cut-off devices can also help.

For further information about fuel efficient driving techniques and efficiency programs, contact an accredited vehicle training provider or see the signposts on the ‘Want to know more?’ page.

Other ‘intangibles’

Choosing a dealer: Visit a number of dealers and make the most of their knowledge. If the prices and/or vehicle options between dealers are similar, consider other ‘intangibles’ such as

  • The size of the dealer and who else buys from them. Talk to others who also operate small trucks and ask for recommendations
  • Dealer location—remember maintenance costs are not just what you pay to have vehicles serviced and repaired. You should also factor in the time needed to travel to and from the dealer
  • Dealer support—It is important that the dealer is able to demonstrate clearly that they are able to support the truck they are going to sell to you e.g. does their workshop look well managed? Any time that your truck spends in repair or waiting for repair is downtime for your business.

Other factors: Other factors like driver preferences are also important. If your drivers feel safe and comfortable in your truck, they are more likely to drive it in a fuel efficient way. Think about things that could make life easier for your drivers. For instance extra mirrors can be helpful for operations needing a high amount of manoeuvrability. If you have staff, make sure you involve them in the vehicle selection process—they are the ones who will use vehicles on a everyday basis and have a major impact on your operating costs.

Before finalising your decision, make sure you:

Consider other factors which could impact on the amount of fuel you use in your operation, such as:

  • aerodynamic features,
  • IT systems,
  • ancillary equipment,
  • driver training and idling reduction
  • Other ‘intangibles’