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Fleet Management Information for Sweeping Professionals

Tips for Minimizing Fuel Usage

You can make a difference in fuel usage by how you fill up, how you drive and by keeping your fleet in top maintenance shape.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

posted April 2008

The information in this article was gleaned from a number of authenticated, primarily government agency websites. The fuel savings the tips can contribute range from minor to significant.

Save Fuel Through Better Driving Techniques

Only about 15% of the energy from the fuel you put in your tank gets used to move your car down the road or run useful accessories, such as the heater and air conditioning. The rest of the energy is lost to engine and driveline inefficiencies and idling. That's the reason why the potential to improve fuel efficiency with advanced technologies is seen to be enormous. (source and chart:

Energy usage for vehicles

Curtail aggressive driving. Speeding and rapid acceleration and braking cut mileage up to 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent in town. Nix jack-rabbit starts in favor of slow acceleration from a dead stop.

Obey the speed limit. Speeding cuts fuel economy 7 to 23 percent, as gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 mph. Driving faster than 60 mph is like paying more than the posted amount for each gallon of gas.

Consolidate trips and errands whenever possible. Traveling at less congested times also will save fuel.

If available, use your vehicle's overdrive gear when appropriate to reduce engine speed. Use of overdrive gear saves fuel as it reduces engine wear.

Use cruise control to help cut fuel consumption by maintaining a steady speed during highway driving. Cruise controls use less fuel than someone driving manually.

Set up your routes so as to avoid left turns at intersections. This reduces idling while waiting to turn, which in turn lowers fuel consumption. In order to shave money off its annual $2 billion fuel bill, UPS has developed software that maps out driver routes to avoid left turns.

Tips on Pumping Fuel

Ideally, buy or fill up your vehicle in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground, the more dense the fuel will be. When it gets warmer, liquid fuel expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the early evening your gallon is not exactly a gallon.

The specific gravity and the temperature of gasoline, diesel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role. Service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps, so in warmer weather you don't get exactly what the pump's readout shows.

When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look, you will see that the trigger has three stages: low, middle and high. In slow mode you are minimizing the vapors created while pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some other liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less fuel for your money.

One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL/HALF EMPTY. This is especially important for gasoline-powered vehicles. The reason is that the more gas you have in your tank, the less air is occupying its empty space. Gasoline, especially, evaporates faster than you can imagine, even from a supposedly sealed gas tank.

A related tip is to not fuel up when a truck is pumping your fuel of choice into the station's storage tank. When a fuel truck is re-filling a gas station's storage tank, the fuel is likely being stirred up as the fuel is being delivered. This increases the possibility that you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.

Save Fuel Through Basic Maintenance

Keeping your vehicle properly tuned up will improve mileage by about 4 percent. Replacing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent.

Keep air filters clean to improve mileage by up to 10 percent. Replacing clogged or dirty air filters also keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine.

Keep tires properly inflated to improve gas mileage by about 3.3 percent and improve tire safety and longevity. Every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent. Having the wheels out of alignment also reduces mileage.

Do not buy "aggressive" tread tires if you do not need them. When you replace your tires, discuss treads that improve mileage with your tire dealer.

Do not use mid-grade or premium grade gasoline unless specified for your vehicle. Older vehicles may require these grades to avoid "knock" which reduces power and may damage the engine. Most newer vehicles knock only when they need a tuneup.

Do not overfill the tank. You not only pay for any fuel that spills, but it becomes air pollution as it evaporates.

Determine the mileage on all vehicles in your fleet periodically. Declining mileage can be an early indicator of mechanical problems or a need for servicing. Keep a chart on each vehicle with the fuel mileage over time. This will make it easier to spot when a vehicle needs a tuneup, new oxygen sensor, etc.

Use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil to decrease fuel consumption by another 1 to 2 percent. Look for "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol to ensure friction-reducing additives are included.

If you have questions or comments on this article, let us know and we'll post them here at the end of the article.
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