Top ten tips for fuel economy

As fuel prices around the world hit a record high, every business is looking for ways to squeeze as many miles as possible from every precious gallon, especially those with a fleet of large, thirsty OB vehicles. How do you stop your fuel overheads rocketing and eating in to your hard earned profits? Recognising that fuel is not exactly a discretionary purchase, systems integrator Broadcast Networks has been giving this issue some serious thought and has come up with a list of top ten tips to help OB companies – and their clients – keep their fuel bills to a minimum.
“Reducing fuel consumption is better for the environment and better for broadcasters’ profit margins,” says Managing Director Tom Haye. “In recessionary times it pays to think about how you can cut fuel costs – and it’s surprising how following our simple tips will really help keep fuel overheads down.”

Here, then, are Broadcast Networks Ten Top Tips for fuel savings. Happy motoring!

1. Pick the right vehicle for the job
The larger the truck, the more fuel it needs. Yes, this is stating the obvious but it is still worth saying. If the event you want to cover can be captured using a smaller, lighter vehicle, send that one instead of deploying your largest truck. A small vehicle will be much more fuel efficient than a large, heavy one, even if it has the same size engine because it is carrying less weight. These days there are many OB options on the market to suit all requirements – we’ve just launched a very small, fuel efficient OB vehicle that is built inside a Land Rover Discovery. These nippy vehicles, kitted out with the latest high tech equipment, are the future of OB for many broadcasters and are well worth investigating for the long term.

2. Tighten up your fuel cap
One of the easiest ways to save fuel is to prevent evaporation caused by the heat of the engine or the outside air temperature. All fuel, but especially the high octane ones, will vaporize when exposed to heat. To reduce evaporation, keep your gas tank under pressure by fully tightening the fuel cap (to the second click) every time you fill up.

3. Service your trucks
Regular services will keep your engine in tip top condition and ensure your truck is running at its highest efficiency. The more efficient the engine, the less fuel it will use. This is especially important for vehicles with larger engines because a poorly tuned engine will use more fuel and produce more emissions.

4. Check your tyre pressure
In order to move a vehicle forward you need energy to overcome the rolling resistance of the tyres. If your tyres are under-inflated it will take more energy – and therefore more fuel – just to get you started. All vehicles come with a tyre pressure that has been carefully calculated by the manufacturer to ensure the least rolling resistance. When tyres heat up, the pressure alters, so make sure your tyre pressure is spot on by checking them when they are cold. Do this at least once a month or before the start of a longer journey. Properly inflated tyres will not only last longer but they could also make your vehicle up to 3% more fuel efficient – and that, over time, could amount to a big saving. Also, special tyres are available that are designed to improve truck fuel mileage. Single-wide tires can improve gas mileage by 4 to 8 percent because they are lightweight and designed to have lower resistance on the road. They also have lower repair costs and require less maintenance.

5. Drive slowly and smoothly
It’s a fact – rapid acceleration and hard braking eat fuel because they make bigger demands on your engine. Accelerate and brake gently and try to leave some distance between you and the vehicle in front so that you can slow down gradually or even roll without stopping. Frequent starts and stops due to failure of anticipating traffic flow may also cause excessive fuel consumption. It’s also a good idea to watch your speed. According to Department for Transport figures, driving at 70mph (112kph) uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph (96kph) and up to 15% more than at 50mph (80kph). Therefore don’t be tempted to put your foot down on the motorway because the faster you drive, the more fuel you will use. Additionally, drivers can save considerable fuel by driving the engine with lower revolutions per minute. And it’s worth avoiding frequent or improper gear shifting – that eats up fuel as well.

6. Don’t be conned by your air con
Air conditioning, in-cab heaters, demisters and rear window heaters all use up extra fuel, so only use them when you really need them. According to the AA, using both front and rear demisters can increase your vehicle’s fuel consumption by as much as 6%. Don’t leave your vehicle to idle while your heaters clear your windscreen as this is both a waste of fuel and causes more pollution. Instead use elbow grease, a cloth and de-icer to clear frost and condensation. Using air conditioning to cool you down at low speeds is less economical than opening a window, but if you are on the motorway air conditioning is more cost effective because open windows cause drag, which can have a greater impact on fuel consumption. Finally, make sure your air con is serviced regularly as this also cuts your fuel bill.

7. Watch your weight
OB trucks are, by their nature, heavy because they contain so much equipment. But it’s worth remembering that every extra 100 pounds carried reduces fuel economy by roughly 2%. Therefore avoid carrying any equipment that you don’t need for the job. Also, try to compact the entire production system into one vehicle so that you can do away with the need for a tender truck. We did this with OB-TEAM HD3 – their 16 camera OB has all the production equipment it needs in the front of the trailer and plenty of storage space in the back for equipment that would normally go in the tender. This means they only have to drive one vehicle to an event rather than two.

8. Don’t be a drag
Keeping windows closed when driving at speed will reduce resistance and save fuel. A properly designed OB vehicle will be sufficiently aerodynamic to reduce drag to a minimum so it is worth investing in the best coach build you can afford. At Broadcast Networks we are working with coachbuilder to see if trailers can be more aerodynamically designed and these may have an impact in the future.

9. Plan your route
Getting lost or getting stuck in road works will raise your fuel bill as well as your blood pressure. If you want to stay cool, calm and fuel efficient, plan your route in advance and use a sat-nav with realtime traffic alerts so you can avoid unnecessary traffic jams. Big OB trucks should also avoid hilly terrain as this drags down fuel performance, even on the best vehicles. If you do get caught in a queue for more than a few minutes, turn off the engine because a typical 420hp heavy-duty truck engine consumes fuel at the rate of around two litres an hour when left idling and stationary.

10. Be smart when you buy
Fuel prices vary from filling station to filling station so it pays to shop around. This can be tricky when filling up en route but there are specialist websites that give accurate area by area fuel prices. It is worth bearing in mind that you get what you pay for – cheap fuel gives worst economy and rougher running, whereas premium fuels give smoother running, better performance and are likely to give a better return on your mileage. Driving around with a full tank increases the weight of your vehicle so, unless you are on a motorway where fuel prices are much higher, apply the little and often rule when it comes to filling up.

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