PIT Group, a research and engineering group focused on improving fleet maintenance and operations in the North American transportation industry, presents study results indicating that driver fuel efficiency and safety training is only effective if it includes refresher courses and the use of in-vehicle technologies to regularly reinforce good practices and address weaknesses, ideally in real-time.
“While vehicle technology designed to improve fuel economy continues to advance, driver training is the element that shows the largest impact on fuel consumption,” said Yves Provencher director, market and business development at PIT Group. “Our studies show that various ways to train drivers, including classroom, in-cab and simulator training, all have their advantages.”
“However, the lessons and techniques they teach don’t last without monitoring behaviours that impact fuel use and safety,” Provencher continued. “Providing refresher training and in-vehicle coaching technologies that address bad habits and reinforce effective skills is what’s needed to maintain and improve fuel efficient and safe performance on a regular basis.”
In one study on fuel efficiency performance, PIT Group compared 47 control and 38 test long haul drivers before and after simulator training that focused on specific elements, including speed, boost pressure, braking, acceleration and RPM. Initial baseline performance measures were established over a period of two months before test drivers were trained. After training, evaluations were performed at one, three, six and nine months.
“The largest impacts on fuel consumption in long haul operations were the use of cruise control, proper acceleration and maintaining the correct engine and road speed,” Provencher related. “With close monitoring and communication with drivers, including frequent reminders of how efficiently they were performing, the test data show that long haul drivers operating a truck an average of 250 000 kilometres (156,000 miles) per year could save 10 000 litres (2,640 gallons) of fuel annually.”
Provencher also reported on a PIT Group test that illustrates the value of employing advanced fuel saving technologies. In particular, a group of 35 regional haul drivers were monitored for nine months, including 22 operating a manual transmission and 13 an automated manual transmission.
In this case, the drivers with manual transmissions would shift in the most efficient range (1,000 to 1,400 RPM) 55% of the time while drivers with automated transmissions were in the most efficient range 78% of the time. Additionally, the average RPM for drivers with manual transmissions was 1,316 versus 1,240 RPM for drivers with automated manual transmissions. The result, Provencher reported, was a 5% fuel savings in favour of automated manual transmissions.
“What these and other studies tell us is that training is only effective if it is reinforced with new ideas and structured to include regular reminders,” Provencher stated. “Many companies make the mistake of providing the same training year after year without focusing on weaknesses or adding new ideas to make the lessons more interesting and effective.”
“Regardless of the type of training and its initial effectiveness, it is human nature to revert to old habits unless we are constantly reminded what works best,” Provencher added. “In the end, the type of training really doesn’t matter as much as the monitoring that takes place afterward.”