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Eco-driving : ecological or economic driving?

Published on 15 April 2021 - 6 reading minute(s)

Heavy-duty vehicles account for 27% of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU*. On top of technological improvements, adopting the right driving behaviors can also contribute to significantly reducing fuel consumption and therefore emissions caused by trucks, but that’s not all.

Eco-driving is a set of practices and behaviors that aim to smooth down the overall driving style by making it more controlled and moderate. What for? Well, there are multiple benefits to this.

First and foremost, eco-driving reduces fuel consumption. This is both economical, especially in a context of constantly rising fuel prices, and ecological, as it reduces the CO2 emissions caused by trucks when they’re on the road. In fact, it has been shown that eco-driving can reduce fuel consumption by up to 25%*.

Secondly, eco-driving is safer. Thanks to smoother maneuvers and increased anticipation, it can actually reduce the risk of accidents by as much as 15%. And lastly, as it eases up on every aspect of a vehicle’s behavior on the road, eco-driving reduces wear and tear, especially for parts that wear out the fastest like brakes and tyres.

It’s all about safety

But what does eco-driving mean exactly? The key word here is anticipation. Primarily anticipation on the road, which means avoiding sudden accelerations and braking by always keeping an eye out for what’s coming up: a sharp curve, a traffic light, a slope or hill, etc. No more last-minute reactions. But it’s also about anticipation before taking the road, by being meticulous about vehicle maintenance. This means having good knowledge of your truck and always checking key elements such as, once again, brakes, and tyre pressure, which should be adjusted in accordance to the truck’s load. This will help to avoid unnecessary maintenance costs.

Put together, all these little gestures can make a huge difference, and even more so for companies that manage large truck fleets. Such is the case of Wincanton, a logistics company that operates the largest UK listed fleet of Heavy Duty Vehicles, with 3,500 trucks and 4,000 drivers. For Dave Rowlands, Wincanton’s Fleet Engineering Director, the principles of eco-driving are part of the safety coaching the company is constantly providing to its drivers. “Through ongoing training and mentoring, our aim is to get safety ingrained in our drivers”, he says. “Fuel savings and all the other benefits of eco-driving are a by-product of that.”

A better well-being for the truckers

Among those benefits, there is also a human element concerning the drivers: stress reduction. Knowing that what they have learnt reduces their chances of having an accident and confident in the fact their truck is well-maintained, with just the right tyre pressure and well-functioning brakes, drivers tend to be more relaxed behind the wheel, which in turn reduces the risk of accidents even more.

Measuring fuel savings with tyres

Of course, there is another very direct way of reducing the fuel consumption of heavy duty vehicles: equipping them with high performance tyres. As they offer reduced rolling resistance, “green tyres” as so-called by Wincanton, but also other latest-generation tyres can contribute to significant savings and emissions reductions. As technologies are constantly evolving, companies such as Wincanton are always on the lookout for improvements offered by new models, including tyres that last longer thanks to an improved compound design that makes them more resistant to damage, which can make a big difference when you have a large fleet to manage. Sure, high performance tyres may have a higher initial expense, but the additional cost can be outweighed by savings from reduced fuel consumption and less frequent tyre replacement.

Generally speaking, reduced environmental impact tyres offer a 20%** reduction in rolling resistance on average compared to normal tyres, which translates into a reduction in fuel consumption of approximately 2.5%***. New tyre labelling standards in Europe are designed to clearly show the value of fuel-efficient tyres in terms of rolling resistance along with other performance characteristics such as wet grip and rolling noise, helping operators make the right choice according to their needs.

Considering impact of more connective trucks

But in this day and age, mechanical and physical performance goes hand in hand with digital tools that help enhance performance. As you probably know, today more and more heavy-duty vehicles are “connected”, meaning they are equipped with telematic systems that track and monitor everything: not just their location, but also their speed, their driving behaviors such as accelerations and harsh braking, and even tyre pressures!

This is of course a very useful tool for fleet managers, but it also helps to coach and incentivize drivers. The tracking system lets them compare safety scores between colleagues and makes them want to improve their rating. And in the event of an incident, it allows them to assess what happened, including using video footage from the vehicle’s “front-facing camera”, to learn from it and possibly show they weren’t at fault.

At the end of the day, the impact of the connected truck shows on Wincanton’s safety scores, its wear & tear and overall fuel consumption. In that sense, monitoring systems are an additional tool for the implementation of eco-driving.

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