Smooth ride saves money

Scania’s driver training is an eye opener even for very experienced drivers. Belgian driver Danny DeRuyter gained many new insights and learned how to save fuel by 15 percent.

TEXT: ROB SHOEMAKER

“Now let go of the accelerator, Danny, we’re nearly at the top, says Chris Vermeiren, responsible for driver training at the Scania Academy Benelux. “Use the momentum.” Vermeiren is pointing forward, toward the path that the Scania R 480 instruction truck, loaded with 26 tonnes of gravel, is to take. As it glides effortlessly to the top of the slope, Vermeiren explains, “That can save fuel. Economical driving is the sum of small parts.”

Recording the fuel consumption

Driver Danny DeRuyter, 33, of Transmet Hauliers, is making his second run on the special circuit near Heverlee in Belgium, laid out by the Scania Academy team. On his first run, DeRuyter drove the circuit – some 40 kilometres – in his own driving style. At the end, just after he parks the truck at the starting point, Vermeiren goes through the run with him.

The Interactor, an on-board computer, has recorded the average speed, fuel consumption and driving time for the run, and how many full stops were made. And Vermeiren has carefully monitored how DeRuyter drives.

The instruction truck is equipped with Scania Opticruise automated gearchanging system, but although DeRuyter knows how the Opticruise works, he still prefers driving in manual. He explains: “I have a sporty style, and I’m used to a manual shift. That’s why.”

Optimize for economical driving

Vermeiren replies, “A manual shift is no problem, but if you learn to use the Opticruise properly, after a week you will never look back. It is less tiring, and you can concentrate more on the traffic. And optimum driving with the Opticruise does not mean you always use the automatic function. Depending on your judgement, you can shift manually, too. You are still the boss of the vehicle. I did note that you tend to drive at high revs, and the Scania engines deliver most torque at a low engine speed, in the economical zone between 1000 and 1500 revs. You do anticipate well. In other words, when you come up to a junction or traffic lights, you reduce speed in time.”

Driver training – in theory and in practice

After the initial practical part, the course has a theory section during which Vermeiren explains how taking roundabouts, traffic lights, bends and gradients influences fuel consumption. He also explains how DeRuyter can save fuel by correctly using the various systems and instruments in the vehicle. He focuses particular attention on the retarder, the hydraulic auxiliary braking system that relieves the truck’s service brakes. “The greatest savings can be made by using the vehicle’s mass smartly, by letting the truck roll,” he says.

Save fuel by 15 percent

Danny DeRuyter then starts the second circuit with Vermeiren occasionally offering such useful tips as: keep the revs down, shift up two gears at a time unless you are on a very steep gradient, let the vehicle roll, avoid braking as much as possible and avoid having to stop.

At the end of the second run, DeRuyter takes just a minute longer to complete the same circuit, despite making one additional full stop. But it also turns out that after the second circuit he has reduced his total fuel consumption by more than 3 litres.

He is impressed but still has his doubts. “Amazing,” he says. “It’s a very new way of driving. For me, it saved almost 15 percent in diesel. But can I achieve similar savings on my own 420 hp truck?”

Driver training makes a difference

Vermeiren is prepared for the question. “Yes,” he says. “The advantage is in your driving style. Rolling to a stop, driving at optimum low revs, anticipating …. You are in charge at the wheel. And you’re already relaxed when you drive. But I guarantee you that if you drive according to these new rules, you will be even less stressed – with practically the same driving time. The new driving style is better for your truck, your boss, road safety, the environment and even for you.”


8 tips on how to drive eco-friendly

Drive in the green zone
  • Start without accelerating, and move off gently. Use the lowest possible gear to save fuel, and avoid wearing the clutch.
  • Try to shift up to the highest gear at the lowest possible engine speed. Drive as much as possible in the green zone, preferably the E-block.
  • Do not run the engine warm unnecessarily long. Do not leave the engine running in idle unnecessarily during loading and unloading.
Avoid braking
  • Shift down as little as possible, and try to avoid braking. Use the rolling capacity of the truck. Keep your distance so you don’t need to accelerate and brake as much.
  • As far as possible, drive at a constant speed in the highest possible gear. Avoid excessive cruising speeds.
Check tools and tyres
  • Check tyre pressure at least once a week.
  • Use tools such as cruise control and on-board computers.
  • Reduce wind resistance with well-adjusted spoilers. Avoid unnecessary accessories.