Transit agencies are tasked with providing safe travels for riders and operators, while keeping operational and fuel costs down. We’ve found through our public transit research that safe driving and efficient driving go hand-in-hand; when you do one, you’re doing the other. As a result of this research, we’ve come up with some easy-to-follow tips that agencies can teach their operators to keep everyone safe and improve MPG by up to 19% — saving up to $3,400 per vehicle per year.
Tip #1 - Go Soft
Accelerating quickly is not only dangerous, it wastes fuel. Hard acceleration accounts for 71% of the waste, burning three to five times the amount of fuel as a smooth start. The extra minute or two an operator waits for a sufficient opening in traffic could save fuel and create a safer travel environment.
Another maneuver operators should watch for is hard braking. Hard braking is responsible for 8% of transit’s wasted fuel and could easily be avoided by anticipating stops and allowing the momentum of the vehicle to slow as you arrive. This not only saves fuel, but also provides a smoother and safer ride for your passengers. Operators should approach destinations smoothly and plan to stop.
Tip #2: Respect the Curves
Accelerating around bends and corners causes unsafe conditions for passengers and eats up 5% of transit fuel. By decelerating into the turn and smoothly accelerating out of the turn, operators can improve their driving statistics.
Tip #3: Expect Traffic Changes
No one can tell when another driver is going to run a red light or when someone’s dog might run into the road. By maintaining a proper following distance with the vehicle in front of you and anticipating traffic flow, you can minimize braking which wastes fuel. Allowing enough distance between the vehicle and the vehicle in front of them and being aware of their surroundings can help operators prepare for the unexpected.
Tip #4: Ease Off the Speed
Driving above the speed limit puts operators and riders at risk and should be avoided. And, for every 5 mph above the 55 mph speed limit, fuel burns 15% faster. Speeding can also lead to unexpected hard braking. Operators should maintain a safe, consistent speed to reduce gas usage and protect passengers as well as other drivers and pedestrians.
Tip #5: No Excessive Idling
When the vehicle is parked or an operator is on a break, they should turn the vehicle off. With days of extreme heat or cold being an exception, 15% of wasted fuel is due to unnecessary idling. Shutting down reduces emissions and saves gas.
We sum up these tips by giving transit agencies and their operators an easy way to remember the — “go GREEN to be more safe and efficient.”
We’ve make this approach and these techniques available in a free eco- driving training video that recently won first place at the APTA 2013 AdWheel Awards.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Transportation funding and service cuts affect more than just riders."
Palmer is the president of SmartDrive Systems, a leader in providing comprehensive, video-based operator performance and safety programs to help transit agencies achieve operational safety and efficiency, protect operators and the public, and lower costs overall.
Today I’d like to mention a few effective policies that were routinely utilized in the past, which were (and for the few agencies that still practice them) very effective in producing safe bus operators, including covering your right, terminal checks and company vehicles.
Operating a fixed-route bus in today’s distracted world requires high levels of focus and concentration. The brain must continually sift through loads of information during bus operation to determine what things can be ignored and what things pose a potential threat to our safety and well-being. Once the brain detects a potential hazard or threat, a specific response must occur to keep us from harm’s way. When our brains are forced to sustain this level of effort for long periods of time a great deal of energy is required.
It’s no secret that I am a firm believer in bus simulator training. I enjoyed the benefits of utilizing simulators as a supplemental training tool during my days at New York City Transit. The simulators helped us produce outstanding results by targeting specific outcomes. If your simulator training is not producing what you expected it to deliver, the answer is plain and simple: something is wrong!
One agency decided to conduct a “safety blitz” to determine whether mirrors were being set correctly and discovered, much to their surprise, that a growing number of operators were leaving the yard in a mad rush to avoid being late — deciding to adjust their mirrors at their first available opportunity. What they learned was that many of these operators left the yard with every intention of setting their mirrors correctly. However, once these operators began servicing their routes — the task appeared to "slip their minds."
In most organizations, 80% to 95% of all bus operators are found to be safe, reliable and courteous, but often, they don’t know it because nobody tells them. If safe bus operation represents a core value for your property, what are you leaders doing to encourage and reinforce the desired behaviors among your bus operators?