Driving Habits that Impact Semi-Trucks
The impact of poor driving habits on diesels
Fifty feet ahead there’s a pothole in the road. Do you continue going straight or change lanes to avoid it? While dodging it may not always be possible, it is best practice to try. As a truck driver, you’re in control of how your vehicle is operated and how well it sustains everyday driving conditions. Poor driving habits such as fast acceleration, hard braking, speeding and driving over potholes can greatly affect the performance, reliability and fuel efficiency of the truck. In order to keep semi-trucks running in peak condition, certain driving behaviors should be avoided when possible.
Eight driving habits that can affect a truck
The way a driver handles a truck plays a major role in vehicle efficiency and fuel consumption. Maintain heavy-duty trucks by avoiding:
Speeding is not only illegal and dangerous, but it also significantly reduces your truck’s fuel efficiency. And because the cost of fuel is one of a fleet’s biggest expenses, carriers want you to use as little as possible during transit. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have proposed equipping heavy-duty trucks with speed limiters and setting the maximum speed at 60, 65 and 68 miles per hour. According to an FMCSA article, this safety measure could potentially save lives and more than $1 billion in fuel costs each year.
- Rapid acceleration
Did you know there’s a proper way to accelerate in a heavy-duty truck? Best practice is to press the pedal gently in a low gear and then switch into high gear as you gradually speed up. Swift and powerful acceleration can strain the engine and burn unnecessary fuel.
- Excessive idling
Did you know laws and regulations exist to keep truck drivers from idling their trucks for extended periods of time? This is because idling burns fuel and extended intervals can be costly and harmful to the environment. According to Blackburn Energy, “The trucking industry spends $3 billion a year in fuel to power idle truck engines — which is the equivalent of 1,800 gallons of diesel burned and released per truck annually.” If drivers need to power their rigs longer than the allotted time, they should use an auxiliary power unit (APU) or generator.
- Hard braking
Hard braking is when a driver hits the brake pedal at the last second to avoid a collision or to stop at a red light or stop sign. While sudden stops are sometimes unavoidable, drivers can help extend brake life by practicing defensive driving and anticipating motorists, stoplights and other road conditions. Another brake-saving tactic is to coast before stopping so the vehicle slows down before you apply the brakes.
- Riding the brakes downhill
Constantly applying the brakes on steep inclines is another driving habit that causes premature wear on the brake system. When the brakes are applied, either the shoes or pads rub against the rotor to create friction. If the brakes are pressed down for an extended period, the friction creates a lot of heat without giving the brake components enough time to cool down. Too much heat can cause crystallized material to form on the pad and shoes, which hardens the surface. The hardening of the brake pads or shoes may affect the overall stopping performance and require untimely brake replacements. Instead of riding the brakes, it’s best to downshift into a lower gear and let the engine braking take over.
- Improperly warming the vehicle
Revving the engine before it reaches normal operating temperature can add unnecessary strain and tension to the engine’s parts. Before putting the truck in drive, give the engine (and its fluid) about 3-5 minutes to warm up, especially if the temperature is 32°F or below.
- Driving over potholes and other roadway hazards
Driving over potholes, cracks and other road damage should be avoided if at all possible. These hazards can puncture the tires, misalign the steering system, and damage the suspension, engine and exhaust systems. The best way to avoid road hazards is to stay aware of your surroundings so you can either change lanes or slow down enough to avoid damage.
- Driving on underinflated tires
Properly inflated tires keep you safe on the road, help carry the weight of your shipment and increase fuel efficiency. When the tires aren’t inflated to the recommended pounds per square inch (PSI), the rolling resistance increases the drag. The more drag you experience, the more fuel you waste. Underinflated tires may also cause flats or blowouts, which decrease the lifespan of your tires and can be extremely dangerous during transit. Learn more about driving on underinflated tires and how it affects your vehicle.
If you have any questions about the eight driving habits mentioned, leave a comment below and we’ll answer shortly. Learn more about FleetNet preventive maintenance solutions.