By Claire West

Recent trials have shown fuel cost savings of 19% can be achieved simply by adopting best practice fuel saving driving styles, such as gentle acceleration and braking, optimal use of cruise control and avoiding excessive idling, according to transport management specialists Isotrak.

The 19% mpg improvement emerged in a recent Transport Efficiency Analysis (TEA) conducted by Isotrak for a prospective customer. Like all Isotrak TEAs this was based on real-world vehicles executing everyday transport operations, and clearly spelled out the bottom-line cost benefits arising from improved driving styles following a day’s training with a SAFED (Safe And Fuel Efficient Driving) instructor.

The same TEA indicated that even with a more modest 4% mpg improvement assumption, the Isotrak system would still have paid for itself in fuel savings in less than one year’s operation.

This real-world insight arrives just as Isotrak launches a new ‘Version 5’ of its Active Transport Management System (ATMS), with over 20 new ‘intelligent reporting’ features to help identify fuel-saving training opportunities and monitor training effectiveness in haulage fleets.

Isotrak’s driving style monitoring is an optional module of its standard ATMS GPS/GPRS satellite tracking system, which provides real-time visibility of whole-fleet and individual-vehicle location and execution. Using an additional CANbus engine management interface, Isotrak systems analyse millions of pieces of data from the vehicle engine management system, distilling them into simple, meaningful reports in language that transport managers and clerks understand.

Cruising to a new level of fleet fuel savings

While conducting a recent TEA, Isotrak monitored a Scania 6×2 rigid on a 336 km journey over two consecutive days. On the first day, prior to training, the driver achieved 7.09 mpg and used 29.6 gallons of fuel.

On the second day, after undergoing SAFED training, he achieved 8.68 mpg and used only 24.2 gallons of fuel — a 22.4% mpg improvement, resulting from SAFED techniques and with extensive and judicial use of cruise control.

This level of saving was sustained over the subsequent 4 days giving an average improvement of 19% compared with the benchmark taken on the first day.

Isotrak estimates that achieving even a 5% fuel saving in this way, across this type of fleet, would yield an annual saving of £173,000 per 100 vehicles, providing a very fast return on investment and illustrating the power of driving style management.

And this is before factoring in numerous additional savings that arise from transport efficiency improvements such as improving turnaround times at delivery collection, reducing plan vs. actual deviation, improving driver utilisation and minimizing time spent in restricted places.

These improvements, afforded by the valuable real-time visibility of fleet movements provided by Isotrak, are already accruing to existing customers such as Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Stobart Group, The Royal Mail and more. However, ATMS can benefit fleets of any size from 100 vehicles upwards.

Locking in benefits through training

Isotrak believes that the full fleet benefit of driving style improvement depends not only on seeing where improvements can be made, but also upon the successful application of an appropriate and effective training programme. Thanks to its long and rich transport industry heritage, Isotrak is uniquely positioned to help its customers devise, choose and implement training (e.g. SAFED) in conjunction with accredited providers.

One part of this is objective: identifying where training is needed, then monitoring its effectiveness after implementation. The other part is organisational: finding ways to get drivers and managers working together as a team to improve driving styles and save fuel.

Both aspects come together in Isotrak’s ATMS 5, whose new reports provide simple-to-read colour-coded charts showing where driving performance is good and where there is scope for improvement. Reports summarise an individual driver’s own performance on a balanced scorecard of different driving criteria, as well as providing a ranking of all drivers in an overall league table of the fleet as a whole.

Presenting the importance of driving style in a positive light helps encourage drivers to realize their own individual opportunities to improve and make a contribution to environmental and business improvements.

Additionally the system is extremely accurate, since it accounts not only for the vagaries of individual vehicle types, but also the type of route being driven, e.g. inner city, urban or non urban. As a result ATMS provides a truly objective and fair way for drivers to see precisely how they can make a difference from hour to hour and day to day, reinforcing the highly professional nature of modern HGV driving.

Because it is so simple and effective, ATMS 5 permits fuel savings to accrue from the day of installation onwards.

Craig Sears-Black, Sales & Marketing Director of Isotrak, comments: “With fuel typically costing between £35,000 and £45,000 a year per HGV, representing 30% to 35% of running costs, transport operators are under unprecedented pressure to minimise their fuel consumption. The good news is that simple ‘better driving’ can save over £8,000 of fuel per annum, when compared to bad driving. Our new ATMS 5 functionality, the result of a six-figure investment in software development, places control of fuel savings firmly in the hands of the people who can make them happen — the drivers.”