As the new school year nears, now is the time to start thinking about how to optimize your annual budget. And, given the fact that fuel costs represent more than two-thirds of the typical school bus fleet’s annual operating expense, improving the fuel economy of your fleet could save you dividends even if you make only a few tweaks this year.
Key Drivers of Fuel Economy
Driver Behavior – One of the easiest ways to decrease fuel economy in your fleet is through driver training. Surprisingly, drivers can impact fuel economy by as much as 30 percent by making small changes in how they drive. In your driver training, stress avoiding sudden stops, sudden acceleration and excessive idling. To help, you can even enable an idle shutdown feature, which will stop the engine automatically after a set period of idling time. This feature, along with improved driver behavior, will minimize idling and reduce your emission and aftertreatment issues. As a bonus, better driving practices will also result in safer driver practices – a win/win all around.
Tires – Keeping your tires properly maintained is crucial to increasing the fuel economy of your fleet. While fuel-efficient tires, commonly used for commercial trucking applications, aren’t viable for school buses, you can still increase your fuel economy by keeping your tires properly inflated and your axles aligned. Under-inflated tires reduce your fuel economy and misaligned axles not only decrease your fuel efficiency but also reduces the life of your tires. Plus, consider ribbed drive axle tires, which provide better fuel economy than lugged tires.
Lubricants — When possible, use of synthetic lubricant in your axles and transmissions. Since engine oils can affect fuel consumption, choose synthetic options that are more efficient and flow better at lower temperatures.
Consider Fuel Economy When Spec’ing Your Next Bus – Did you know a school bus can be spec’d in thousands of different ways? There are literally hundreds of different features that will influence the safety, performance and efficiency of a new school bus. And even some seemingly inconsequential specs can have major impacts in your fleet. For example, if you live in a colder climate, spec’ing a heated driver seat will actually cause drivers to start their routes sooner, thereby decreasing idle time during bus warmup, which will improve your overall fuel economy.
Spec’ing is a personal endeavor unique to your fleet, but there are some considerations that will decrease fuel economy across the board.
Within the diesel engine family, the new Detroit™ DD5™ and DD8™ engines are providing districts with best-in-class fuel economy. Districts today are seeing at least a three percent improvement in fuel economy compared with other diesel engines in the category. Spread that efficiency over about 12,000 miles driven per year, and a three percent improvement in fuel savings really add up.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to improve your fuel economy this year from making tiny adjustments in driver behavior to spec’ing your new school buses with fuel economy in mind. But there is no one-size-fits-all model for any two fleets, so be sure to talk one-on-one with your local dealer on how you can further optimize the fuel economy of your fleet.