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There are several ways to save fuel while operating a fleet of ready-mix trucks.

Usually, writers look for a “hook,” a line or two to pull the reader into a story. With diesel fuel well above $4.50 per gallon and possibly headed toward $5, all we need to do is mention “fuel savings,” and we know we have your rapt attention.

Here are a few ideas adapted from some members of the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) who have large fleets and operate very fuel-efficient operations.

Fuel savings come from several activities: planning, driving, equipment, and maintenance. Planning involves route selection and fuel purchasing. Driving includes various techniques and habits you can learn and unlearn. Equipment involves selecting and applying fuel-efficient components and accessories. Maintenance keeps what you have operating as it was designed.

Let's consider the laws of physics affecting fuel economy. The energy your truck uses comes either from burning fuel or plugging in to shore power for electrical energy. Energy that is created and thrown away wastes fuel. Energy that is reclaimed saves fuel.

Second, higher speeds need more energy and consume fuel at a higher rate than slower speeds. Speed is a major contributor. As speed increases, aerodynamic resistance increases with the square of the speed. While driving 60 mph instead of 50 is 20% faster, wind resistance is 44% greater, so about 15% more fuel used to go a given distance.

Planning

Fuel management involves speed control, and that starts with route planning. Calculate your route to avoid traffic lights, grades, and other impediments to steady driving. Plan your speeds for maximum fuel economy leaving time to make appointments.

Plan your fueling stops. If possible, do not carry more fuel than you'll use before it is convenient to refuel, plus a safety margin. Diesel weighs 7 pounds/gallon, and fuel mileage is directly proportional to weight. Do not carry any more cargo than necessary. There are Internet sites that list the current fuel prices. Use them to determine where and when to fuel. If possible, join a fuel purchasing group to get discounts.

Driving

Don't rush from red light to red light. At a TMC meeting recently, member fleets with a large base of drivers reported mpg differences as much as 35% between their most and least fuel-efficient drivers.

These were slip seat operations, so equipment differences were factored out. At $4.50/gal, the difference mounts quickly. Of course, those are the extremes, but they illustrate the importance of good driving techniques.

What can a driver do to control fuel use? Jim Booth is a small fleet, and was a development driver for Caterpillar before retiring. Booth was known as the most fuel-efficient truck driver in America. Here are his 10 Commandments for fuel economy.