Improved driver practices (also called eco-driving) refers to a system of driving in which optimum fuel economy is achieved by the vehicle operator. The system incorporates a range of driving behaviours such as smoother driving (gentle acceleration and braking), driving more slowly with less idling, and looking ahead to anticipate traffic flow. These techniques can be tailored to a company’s fleet and translated into a training curriculum.

Driver training can be conducted either via advanced driving courses or simple classroom instructions. It should also include vehicle-specific training to cover the systems and characteristics of the particular trucks and the road network used. One example is an IT-based system which gives truck drivers direct feedback and tips on how to refine their driving style. However, there are also simpler approaches such as increasing awareness of the effects that bad driving has on the environment and providing leaflets, weekly tips and newsletters to employees.

While there is little doubt that the elements of improved driver practices can lower fuel consumption, questions remain about the permanence of the fuel savings after the initial intervention. Without regular practice of new skills and reinforcement by the employer, pilot programs have shown that old behaviours may resurface. Ongoing training is therefore critical to long-term success.

Application relevance

Canada and the UK are successfully running voluntary driver behaviour change programs; however, the potential to reduce fuel consumption and emissions through driver behaviour change in Australia still remains relatively unexplored.

Although some private companies are already promoting improved driver practices, feedback has indicated difficulties instigating organisational culture change and a lack of conviction in potential fuel and greenhouse savings. Driver training courses are publicly available from some commercial driver training providers.

Potential benefits

Studies show that as well as significant fuel savings, drivers have been shown to experience lowered stress levels, increased confidence in vehicle handling and greater job satisfaction. An organisation can reduce CO2 emissions, reduce wear and tear on its fleet, develop a safer culture and effectively manage risk by reducing vehicle and personal injury.

Pilot programs have seen operators experience a reduction of up to 14% in fuel consumption. In 2007, the International Transport Forum concluded that one-off campaigns to encourage fuel-efficient driving tends to deliver fuel savings of 5%, compared with programs that involve initial education, follow-up communication and ongoing monitoring and incentives, which delivered savings of up to 20%.

Key implementation considerations

Improved driver practices are subject to high uncertainties regarding actual GHG savings potential. However, the implementation cost is low compared with some technologies and alternative fuels, and cost savings begin immediately, starting with lower crash rates and fuel costs.

The retention of good employees is important—education investment and momentum can be lost if employees are trained and then depart.

Companies may wish to undertake a pilot program to clarify the benefits before rolling out the program to all staff. This can take up to 18 months depending on the size of the company. Training providers can integrate eco-driving into other compliance-based training certifications which may help to reduce costs.

Examples of implementation

International Road Transport Union

The IRU has compiled a free, downloadable reference guide that can be supplied to drivers and fleet managers and which acts as a reminder of simple eco-driving techniques. It also includes some general preventative maintenance techniques.

For more information, see IRU (2009) Eco-driving checklist for truck drivers (Opens in a new window) PDF 786 KB

Linfox

The 2009 EEO Report from Linfox discusses their eco-driving program. Linfox trained all drivers from an initial pilot of 180 over an 18-month timeframe. The early results have shown that staff demonstrated 14% fuel efficiency gains when individual vehicles have been measured.

For more information, see the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Opportunities Register.

Blue Circle Southern Cement

Monash University conducted a 12-week study of fully laden 68 t B-Double trucks, which are among the heaviest vehicles on the road. The results showed that simply by using eco-driving techniques a 27% reduction in fuel consumption was achieved. The techniques used included anticipating traffic flow, skipping gears when changing up, changing gears at lower engine revolutions, and braking less forcefully and less often.

For more information, see Monash University (2009) Driving green saves fuel and environment media release

Australia Post

This 2009 EEO Report outlines the preparations that Australia Post took to pilot an environmental driver program aimed at reducing fuel consumption through behavioural change. The pilot was implemented from August 2009 to January 2010, finalised in response to feedback from February to April 2010, and rolled out nationally from July 2010. This is a good indication of the timeframe other such organisations could adopt.

For more information, see the EEO Opportunities Register.

Toll IPEC

The WA Government’s Clean Run program, in partnership with Toll IPEC, has found that companies can save $300 worth of diesel a year and reduce diesel emissions by up to 200 L in the same period by having light commercial drivers cut idling times by three hours per week. The joint initiative was so successful that Toll IPEC has found 79% of its drivers have extended environmentally friendly practices by turning off lights as well as reducing idling when driving their cars.

For more information, see Department of Environment and Conservation (2008) Clean Run Program (Opens in a new window) PDF 651 KB

Kalari

This EEO Report outlines the measures that Kalari has taken to continually educate its staff and reinforce eco-driving behaviours taught to staff through the use of a simulator. The simulator, which can be easily transported from depot to depot, addresses fuel efficiency driving techniques, preventive maintenance and the importance of route planning. Average fuel efficiency improvement has been 5%, with some drivers achieving up to 10%.

For more information, see Kalari’s Environmental Report (2011) Driver Simulator – Drive Green Program

For the full report, see Fuel for Thought – Identifying potential energy efficiency opportunities in the Australian road and rail sectors (opens in a new window) PDF 1.5 MB.