In the driver’s seat

When considering driver training, we often think of it as a way to mitigate accidents and keep drivers and the public safe. But research is showing that training drivers to eco-drive – driving in a way that reduces emissions – can have an impact on both the environment and bottom lines.

Eco-driving is definitely based on science, but becoming adept at it can be a bit of an art. Meanwhile, getting drivers to consider it is about spreading the message and making it engaging.

There are three fundamental factors that affect a vehicle’s fuel consumption –the vehicle, driving conditions (both of which are outside of the driver’s control) and finally, driver operation.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation sector is the leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. If there is one thing the industry has learned, it is that every little bit helps and simply by having a driver practice fuel conservation driving habits, significant operational savings are a guarantee.

What is eco driving?

Eco-driving, in general terms, involves smooth acceleration and braking, maintaining a constant speed and avoiding excessive idling. Studies have shown that the method can result in fuel savings of up to 15 per cent, which can translate into cost savings for fleets.

In addition, eco-driving reduces emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which are significant contributors to air pollution.

According to the US Department of Energy, aggressive driving can reduce your petrol mileage by 15-30 per cent (at highway speeds) or 10-40 per cent (in stop-and-go traffic).

The World Road Transport Organisation (IRU) sees eco-driving as an important part of a fleet’s overall sustainability program, and a tested method that can be done immediately with no cost.

“While waiting for the technological maturity and operational readiness of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, road transport operators are training their drivers to drive more efficiently, which translates into fuel savings and enhanced fleet maintenance,” said the Director of EU Advocacy for the IRU Raluca Marian.

Eco-driving education

The MODALES project was an EU-funded initiative focused on reducing air pollution from vehicles by encouraging eco-driving habits. It was able to research behavioural aspects affecting emissions and come up with solutions through examining factors and solutions in driving, maintenance, retrofits, on-board diagnostics and legal aspects, to advance a user-centric method and to test it under real conditions. The results are being used to strengthen low-emission driving and maintenance behaviour, as well as driver and vehicle testing regimes.

From the research the project was able to develop a series of practical and affordable measures that any driver can apply immediately, and at all stages of vehicle operation.

The research found that the combined use of MODALES training, and its mobile application, reduced individual drivers’ emissions by up to 60 per cent for carbon monoxide, 30 per cent for nitrogen oxides and 7 per cent for carbon dioxide.

For its part, the IRU already has a risk and talent management system and an eco-driving course that teaches fuel efficiency techniques.

The MODALES project has helped the IRU expand its efforts, Marian explained.

“We joined the MODALES project as it focused on innovative and complementary solutions to enhance low-emission practices for all types of road vehicles,” she said. “MODALES allows us to address three main emission sources – the powertrain, brakes and tyres – and combines them with driving behaviour to create a more sustainable transport sector.”

The MODALES project had a number of partners analysing how typical driving patterns affected vehicle emissions and identifying the most effective practices to reduce emissions.

Among them was logistics company DB Schenker which helped produce a training video.

“Whether it is fleet electrification or exploring alternative fuels, it is equally important to be able to use these assets in the best possible way,” said DB Schenker’s Business Support Manager, Stefaan Bertels. “That is exactly why we decided to support IRU on the MODALES low-emission driving campaign, as it is not only about making your fleet more sustainable, but also about using it in a sustainable way, looking at improving road safety or reducing wear and tear through intelligent driving.”

Competitive spirit

Last year 12,000 drivers from 75 companies in Europe came together to test skill, sustainability and innovation by driving using an Eco-Driving Index. They were taking part in Sweden-based communication and connectivity company AddSecure’s pan-European Eco-driving Challenge.

Image: Addsecure.

Voluntary among AddSecure’s customers, the company analysed the data which showed that improved driving delivered major fuel savings. When comparing the 2023 results with 2017 (when the challenge started), the calculations showed that the competing companies reduced their total consumption by approximately 9.2 million litres of fuel on a yearly basis. This results in reduced carbon dioxide emissions of approximately 24,400 tonnes and savings of about 13.9 million euros.

“AddSecure’s Eco-Driving Challenge exemplifies the power of collective commitment to sustainability,” said the President of Smart Transport at AddSecure, Claes Ödman. “The impressive results of reduced fuel consumption, lower carbon dioxide emissions and substantial cost savings, showcase not just efficiency but a shared responsibility towards a greener future supported by our powerful solutions. Together, we steer towards a more eco-conscious tomorrow.”

Tips for drivers

According to Geotab, a telematics hardware provider, there are some easy ways drivers can reduce their fuel consumption, reduce exhaust emissions and vehicle wear and tear.

•Don’t slam on the brakes. Sudden acceleration and braking increases fuel consumption and can wear down your vehicle.

•Regulate your speed. According to research, if you change your speed back and forth from 75 km/h to 85 km/h every 18 seconds, you risk increasing fuel usage by 20 per cent.

• Reduce your weight. The heavier your vehicle is, the more fuel is needed to move it.

• Optimise routes. Try combining multiple trips in one and plan your route ahead of time.

•Avoid idling. Letting your vehicle idle for more than 10 seconds uses up more fuel than if you had turned your vehicle off and then on again.

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