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.
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!
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A final day should mean exactly that, the end — no more — learning opportunities that had been available no longer exist. The clock has run out. Hopefully, there is a final day designated for trainees at your agency, a time where you draw the line and make a decision, because, as we all know, not everyone can operate a bus. For the trainee, the final day is the most pressure-packed day they will spend on the training bus. Any student entering their final day should be well-prepared and fully aware of what they are faced with, as all of the requirements should have been clearly covered as part of their first day orientation. Remember, no surprises!