It looks like we started a craze a couple of years ago when we started publishing the fuel efficiency results of some of our customers – some of those same case studies are still being reproduced in the current magazines to inspire others to get started.

Managing fuel efficiency is both easy and difficult…

It is easy as it is a way to help you bring all of your goals for your business into something that you can involve your drivers in and it becomes a core theme for doing things right. It is always easier to work on something that you are passionate about than something you are told you “should do” but you aren’t yet completely convinced why.

But it’s hard because sometimes things happen that you can’t explain, and in those moments, it can all seem too hard.

One of our first fuel efficiency case studies that we published got results by only focussing on speeding and idling. This was JPM Holdings who achieved 13% savings. This case study has been reproduced by EECA and also forms part of an NZTA study on fuel efficiency. The simplicity of this exercise has seen its ongoing publicity.

Stick with the stuff that makes sense, that you genuinely believe in. Yes it’s true that everything in your business contributes to fuel efficiency – truck specifications, maintenance routines, etc etc… but our experience shows that if you take on too much, your day job gets in the way and the whole project gets dropped. In my book, a little progress is better than no progress, so never forget that it is OK to take things slowly and achieve a little more each year.

I’ve spent the last few months of this column highlighting the pitfalls that need to be avoided with measuring speeds, but idling is a silent festering hole all of it’s own.

Here are the basics:

1.    Running all day

Years ago, trucks took ages to get up to temperature and build up air pressure. This is no longer the case, but a few drivers still go by the old principles – turn your truck on in the morning, off at night, and don’t touch the ignition in between times. We need to find these guys and help them update their processes.

2.    PTO’s etc

Some trucks have various gadgets hanging off them which requires the engine to be running whist the vehicle is loading or unloading – PTO’s are a prime example.

3.    Not all trucks are created equal

A task that one truck needs to be running for, a similar truck may not need to be. Swing lift container trucks, and refrigeration units come in two breeds –

  1. those that run off the truck motor (so the truck must be left running to swing a box, or run the fridge), and
  2. those that have an independent motor (so the truck can be shut down whilst the boxes are swung on and off, or the fridge is left running).

4.    Electronics

Electronic scales and electronic self-levelling suspension, music radio, RT’s, job screens, and handsfree phone kits all vary in the way they work – whether the engine needs to be running, or only the electronics need to be live, or they can operate when the truck is completely switched off, will all vary by device.

5.    Smart trucks

Despite what the driver tells the truck to do, trucks increasingly manage themselves. Examples include:

  1. Idle timers that turn the truck off if it is left idling for more than a few minutes, and
  2. turbo timers that leave the engine running for a few minutes even though the ignition has been switched off.

The definition of idling in terms of how your GPS system normally measures it is: vehicle is not moving, engine running.

So here’s a quick quiz. In each of the 5 situations described above, which would a standard GPS system report your truck as idling?

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. It depends
      1. Yes
      2. No

Twice in the last month I have had operators approach me to discuss their idling reports having just installed their GPS system into their fleet.

“Damn! Why didn’t you ring me two months ago?” is my usual response – getting your idling data correct, is best sorted at install. The GPS system isn’t to blame, but its support staff should have discussed it with you.

The key to getting idling reporting correctly is to know which of the above 5 are factors in your fleet.

The GPS systems needs to know two things:

  1. Is the truck moving?
  2. Is the engine running?

The first question is a basic GPS function. The second needs to be carefully thought about.

If you say nothing, your GPS installer will probably use the ignition as the input that tells the GPS if the engine is running or not.

Situations where this will just not work for you include: idle timer has shut down the truck, truck is parked up but the driver is listening to the RT / music radio, hazard lights are needed whilst unloading. It will also report valid unloading activity like pumping concrete (PTO) and using a PTO-powered swinglift as unproductive idling.

Talk to your maintenance provider about the best source of engine on / off input for your GPS system as the “key” thing to remember is that the ignition key is not the thing to use.

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