Top tips for fuel efficiency and safer driving from the AA

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Now is as good a time as any for fleet managers and business owners to remind drivers of some of the key measures to make journeys more fuel-efficient, safer and less stressful. From planning your route to packing lightly and keeping your vehicle maintained, there are several approaches you can take to improve your chances of reaching your destination in happy spirits!

The benefits of route planning

While the shortest route might be the most economical, that isn’t always the case. Travelling as the crow flies can bring with it all sorts of considerations, such as traffic, gradients, tolls and break points. Instead, a longer route, in both time and distance travelled, could feature less traffic which will reduce the time you spend idling.

Likewise, travelling at a consistent speed can be more fuel efficient than continually stopping and starting. As such, planning one longer journey can be more effective than lots of shorter ones. It pays, quite literally, to think about the number of stops on the journey and whether multiple jobs can be done on one trip.

Data from telematics and connected systems can be used to plan the most efficient and effective route from A to B (and on to C). There are also plenty of route planning tools, including the AA’s route planner, to analyse and more efficiently plot journeys. Most vehicle satellite navigation systems now also come with the option of the most direct, most economical or fastest route, so choose appropriately.

Check travel websites in advance and keep up to date on the move by listening out for traffic updates on the radio or using a sat nav or app which updates automatically. And, it almost goes without saying, but make sure you have the right postcode, so you are not driving round in circles burning fuel!

Slow and steady wins the race

Driving smoothly and managing your speed in line with the road conditions and local limits can help improve fuel consumption. Conversely, braking and accelerating harshly will reduce the distance you can travel on a tank of fuel.

Drivers should practice active driving, keeping an eye out for clues to help anticipate the actions of other drivers and potential hazards. This will allow better regulation of speed. Emotions can also impact on behaviour, including speeding and risk taking, so ensure drivers are focused on the task at hand.

Changing up a gear at low revs, driving steadily over speed bumps and maintaining a safe distance from the car in front to prevent rapid braking can all help boost fuel efficiency and ensure smoother driving.

In addition, a heavy right foot should be avoided at all costs. Drivers who put their foot down and have more maximum throttle events per journey are much more likely to have significantly increased fuel costs, as well as more crashes and higher value claims (AA and DriveTech study, 2014-2016).

Keeping vehicles in top condition

One of the best ways to ensure your vehicle is fuel-efficient and prepared for winter conditions is to keep your vehicle serviced in line with the manufacturer’s specification.

Drivers should check their tyres meet at least the minimum recommended tread depth of 1.6mm and are in good condition to ensure smooth driving. If you see uneven tyre wear, your wheels might be misaligned and may need to be corrected. The tyre’s contact with the road is dynamic and so even the slightest wear and tear can impact on efficiency.

Confirming tyre pressures are correct improves safety, performance and fuel efficiency. Underinflated tyres create more rolling resistance, using more fuel as well as increasing CO2 emissions. The weather can also impact on tyre pressure; drivers should check tyres when there are any sharp rises or falls in temperature.

It is also important, when driving with heavy loads, to make sure to adjust your tyre pressure to cope.

Vehicle load and air resistance

Avoid carrying any unnecessary weight. The more items in the vehicle, the more strain being put on the vehicle and the more fuel it will use. Think about what items are necessary to carry for the journey and remove particularly heavy or bulky items. It can seem like hassle to load and unload for each trip, but it could work out more fuel efficient and cost-effective in the long run. However, drivers should make sure to carry and have easy access to the emergencies for poor weather events – shovel, torch, blankets, ice scraper, phone charger, food and water.

While air resistance is negligible at low speeds, it increases when the speed goes up and this influences fuel consumption. Obviously, drivers should pack their vehicles according to journey needs but, at high speed, it can help to keep windows closed. Removing roof racks, boxes and bike racks when not in use can minimise drag.

Don’t run out of fuel!

The impact of a full fuel tank on efficient driving is likely to negligible but running out of fuel on your journey will cause all sorts of issues. Drivers should plan, making sure they fill up before long journeys and plotting out the filling stations on the route to stop at the most efficient points. This will improve your chances of not breaking down on a Smart Motorway.

This can also be true for electric vehicles; you’ll use less power if you plan in your EV charging stops in advance rather than having to drive around searching for them!

Extra training

Many of the courses offered by the likes of DriveTech focus on human factors, driver behaviour and safety. However, they also incorporate eco-driving elements, supported and recognised by the Energy Saving Trust. Whether driving a car, van or truck, we could all benefit from going back to school occasionally!

What else can fleet managers share with drivers?

Fleet managers can direct their drivers to or for more information.