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.
When official-plated transit authority vehicles were scarce and basically reserved for those in upper management to go about their daily business to and from meetings, etc..., road control would be the responsibility of the “fixed-post foot dispatcher.” Not all of these positions have been eliminated, but I wonder if any readers remember the stability and sense of control that was present while the foot dispatcher was on post?
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."
Bus operators are not blindfolded. Operators are trained and required to identify potential hazards, based on their forward planning skills. With regard to left turns, these so called “blind spots” are really areas behind the left A-pillar/mirror that are “temporarily” obstructed to the operator, not blind to the operator. The key here is for the operators to utilize their observation and forward planning skills to minimize the time that their vision is temporarily obstructed. The pedestrian that regrettably becomes a victim of bus contact should be in the clear view of the operator long before arriving at the location where the contact occurred. Pedestrians are not “coming out of nowhere!"
The world is a very busy place. We rely on our eyes to provide us with information that will keep us from harm as we operate our vehicles. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of effective scanning in order to recognize potential hazards early enough so appropriate action can be taken to avoid conflict. As a result, we spend a lot of time advising operators how often they should scan their mirrors, where to look for hazards, and how to bring objects into view that may be temporarily obstructed, and so on.
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.