TO REACH THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF FUEL EFFICIENCY, YOU HAVE TO WATCH MORE THAN THE GAUGE
Most owner/operators agree that the best way to protect margins is to get control of operating costs. Fuel is always one of the largest contributors to operating costs, even when diesel prices decrease. On top of the fluctuating price, fuel consumption can be impacted by many jobsite variables. To be able to manage it most efficiently, you have to monitor usage from more than one angle. Here are some quick and easy tips you can use to wrangle your fuel consumption to the most efficient level.
Make the commitment to run fuel-efficient equipment.
Before the onset of programmable engine control modules, electronic sensors and hydraulically actuated injectors, monitoring fuel was mostly a spreadsheet operation—gallons in, gallons burned, work done in between. Today, engine, transmission and hydraulic systems are all electronically monitored and controlled while displays provide real-time information about fuel usage. In addition to fuel efficiency, these machines bring the added advantage of data storage and analysis to improve overall operational efficiency.
The challenge comes in creating a well-balanced plan for integrating these machines into your fleet. Here are some key steps you can take to build a feasible plan:
- Prioritize replacement for your highest utilized machines. These will have the biggest impact on overall fuel efficiency for your fleet.
- Run some different financial scenarios considering purchase, lease and rental agreements alongside operating expenses and projected revenues.
- Add any estimated gains from running more advanced fuel-efficient equipment. Add any performance gains. Add reduced repair and maintenance cost gains.
- Evaluate which financial scenario makes the most sense for your business.
Caterpillar recently introduced a Fuel Calculator that can help you evaluate the fuel consumption and efficiency of your machines as well as compare your equipment to like models in your region. Enter the information in just a few steps, and you’ll know the efficiency of your current machine and see other fuel-efficient models that are available. Run the numbers.
Don’t overlook other critical machine specifications that can impact fuel efficiency.
As you’re planning, you also want to consider other factors that could impact fuel consumption.
- Choose the best machine for the application. It’s always tempting to go bigger, but larger machines cost more to operate. Select the right size for the work and your desired margin.
- Choose the right bucket for the application. A bucket that is too large puts additional stress on components and the extra weight decreases fuel efficiency.
- Other design features that will add to fuel efficiency include lock-up torque converter transmissions, auto-idle and auto-shut down, load-sensing hydraulics and variable speed cooling fans.
- Smart spin/slip wheel control features can also add to fuel efficiency on wheeled machines because they minimize excess maneuvering to gain traction in poor underfoot conditions. This saves energy and fuel.
- Tire selection and inflation pressures should be matched to the application so that movement is smooth and fast and doesn’t require extra power, which burns more fuel.
Empower operators to take control of efficiency.
It’s no surprise that the person in the seat has a direct impact on fuel efficiency, not to mention a large number of other factors that can impact fuel consumption and jobsite efficiency. Train your operators well and remind them often. In general, operators should try to avoid aggressive acceleration, speeding the engine, excessive travel and extended idling. Encourage operators to think about efficiency when working on congested work sites—such as travel distances and the location of material staging areas. Just making simple adjustments can help reduce travel time and fuel usage. You can also encourage them to use machine features like automatic shutdown to help save fuel during nonworking conditions.
Use monitoring technologies.
Telematics and integrated systems are becoming the standard across the industry. With GPS-based programs, you can monitor operational data and make recommendations to operators to improve machine-usage parameters, including fuel efficiency. Better yet, telematics let you keep track of operator behaviors and applications, so you can manage efficiency remotely.
Taking these steps and using these tools will help you increase both fuel and jobsite efficiency.