The recent fuel hike, which reached an all-time high in June, will have a significant impact on transport companies and their customers. With the fuel price expected to increase yet again this month, the pressure is on to find ways to save fuel and reduce costs.
Innovative Staffing Solutions managing director, Arnoux Maré, says the fuel hike is particularly challenging for small and medium-sized transport companies. “They have to make administrative or operational changes every time there is a significant hike in the fuel price. For businesses operating on tight budgets – as so many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) do – this can be particularly challenging.”
Maré says the impact of driving habits on fuel consumption is often underestimated, but a few adjustments to driving behaviour can go a long way towards saving costs at the fuel pump. “By ensuring their drivers adopt smart driving habits, transport companies can decrease their fuel usage significantly.”
Innovative Staffing Solutions employs more than 5,500 drivers and outsources them to clients in the transport and other industries. After years of managing, training and supporting its drivers, the company has identified various habits that can help save fuel.
Regular vehicle check-ups
Vehicles need to be checked on a regular basis as many factors can lead to increased fuel consumption.
Maré says at Innovative Staffing Solutions, drivers are required to conduct pre-route checks of tyres, brakes, leaks and lights, amongst others. “This is in addition to the truck having been through the truck depot for fuel top-ups, tyre checks, mechanical checks and washing. I cannot stress this enough. Checking and re-checking is vital. Not only does it lead to fuel savings, it ensures greater safety on the country’s roads.”
Steady does it
Adhering to steady speeds and consistent driving behaviour on South African roads is crucial. “Constant accelerating and braking results in high fuel consumption, as does consistently driving at high speeds. While there are obviously times when these actions are necessary, evenly maintained speeds are the hallmark of an excellent driver and lower fuel consumption,” notes Maré.
Keeping tyres inflated at the correct pressure results in less resistance on the roads and less fuel usage. “Keeping wheels aligned and tyres at the right pressure not only reduces fuel consumption, it also reduces wear and tear on tyres. A good rule of thumb for transport companies is to check tyres and wheel alignment frequently or after incidents such as hitting a pothole or curb,” adds Maré.
Gearing up to save fuel
Driving in higher gears, where applicable, also reduces fuel consumption. This should not be done at the cost of placing lives in danger, straining the engine or allowing the revs to drop too much.
To use – or not to use – the fuel-guzzling aircon? This is a tricky one. Truck drivers on South African roads often have to travel in the heat of the day, which can lead to drowsiness.
Maré says drivers need to be cognisant of changes in temperature and make sure they switch their aircons off when they don’t need them. “Also, when they’re travelling at slower speeds, they can also open a window instead of using the aircon.”
The road less travelled
Most transport companies pre-plan their routes. Sometimes, however, avoiding main highways during highly congested periods – or when an accident has caused a major bottleneck – can lead to significant fuel savings, even if the trip is slightly longer. These days, technology in the form of convenient traffic apps, allow drivers to check for alternative routes when roads are chocked up.