Fuel is one of the greatest operating costs for any contractor who owns heavy equipment and/or trucks. Working in a way that can save fuel can end up saving a lot of money.
"To reduce fuel use, you have to know how and when fuel is being wasted," says William "Bernie" Bernhard, technical and safety services manager for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).
Start by examining top fuel usage influencers in off-highway applications. "Machines equipped with telematics can provide actionable data by tracking dozens of data points so that workers can gain valuable insights to help save fuel," says Bernhard.
Idle time – a key factor
Idle time is often the largest contributor to fuel inefficiency and a good start to manage fuel consumption.
To decrease idle times, operators can take advantage of fuel-saving technology, such as auto-idle. Also popular is auto-shutdown where a machine can idle for a preset period of time.
Examine the patterns in your machine's idle times. If a machine idles for short periods of time (a few seconds to a few minutes) frequently throughout the day, that may mean the machine is at a bottleneck in the workflow.
An example is an operator having to wait for another operator to complete a task before continuing work. In this case, either machine selection, material location or some other jobsite factor needs to change to reduce idle time.
However, if a machine idles for several minutes at a time or more, infrequently throughout the day, that probably means the operator is not shutting down the machine when on break or on the phone, when exiting the machine, or when having their work interrupted for a longer period of time.
In these cases, a discussion is needed with the operator regarding company expectations, to take the necessary steps to decrease idle time.
How an operator uses a machine can influence fuel efficiency. Small changes in behavior can have large effects on fuel use.
One easy way that operators can save fuel is by using the appropriate work mode, which makes it easier for operators to match the power needed to the application at hand.
In order to set up a jobsite to optimize fuel use, a company needs to examine data related to jobsite workflow, including equipment capacities, the number of each machine on site, equipment and material locations, terrain and more.
Maintenance is also an issue, for example, checking fuel filters on the machines, from your suppliers, the storage tanks at your jobsites and your base fuel storage facilities, according to Bernhard.
"By tracking how much fuel is used in applications, the amount and type of idle time, and analyzing other machine data, you can get a good picture of when fuel is wasted," he adds.
"Combine this with fully understanding and using the fuel-saving features of your machines, and you will be able to get the most out of each gallon."
Visit aem.org (safety & technical/end user resources) for fuel-related best-practices, including "Get CLEAN on Fuel" information to protect Tier 4 engines.