5 Ways to Save Fuel with Your Heavy Equipment

Reader Contribution by James White
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Farms and construction sites can be expensive endeavours, even with a well-thought out budget in place. Between materials, parts, equipment and labor, things start to add up. But there’s one item that is not always correctly accounted for – the cost of fuel.

Why is it then, that a controllable substance like fuel is not often scrutinized when it comes to saving, especially when heavy equipment remains idle 40 percent of the time on average?

Perhaps it’s that regulations vary from state to state and by degrees and this undermines the importance of saving fuel. Regardless, high fuel consumption is a symptom of a much more insidious problem within the construction and agriculture industry and it affects more than just the bottom line.

A Case Study in Savings Over Time

According to findings from an investigation into clean construction from the EPA to the Associated General Contractors of America, equipment idling for 10 minutes per day wastes 24.6 gallons of fuel per year, per unit.

If for example a piece of heavy equipment sat idle for 50 percent of an operator’s shift, a 50 percent reduction in idle time over a 5-year period would cut back 500 engine hours, decrease service and repair costs by 5-10 percent, increase its resale value and generate $9,625 in savings assuming prices held at a $3.85 per gallon.

But how exactly do you go about achieving this? Well, there are a number of idle-reduction initiatives that can be employed to reduce the impact that idling has.

Essentially, you’ll need to:

1. Limit Idle Times Prior to Startup and Shutdown

The manufacturing processes that produce heavy machinery have been streamlined over the past few years to where new engines have become vastly more efficient than most previous models.

This has affected the length of time it takes for engines to warm up and cool down, and this means that machines can be put to use and/or shut down almost immediately without repercussions.

2. Reduce Driving Speeds

For construction sites to become more economically viable and environmentally-friendly, it’s important that all contractors and subcontractors realize that regulating driving speed represents a clear-cut solution to the overarching problem of excessive fuel usage.

3. Optimize Gear Up and Throttle Down

Aside from keeping machines at peak performance-level, thought should be given to the way changes in gear affect fuel consumption. By simply reducing engine RPM without overloading at ground speed, fuel efficiency can be increased by 15-30 percent at half power and 5-15 percent at 75 power.

4. Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

Like driving, tire pressure can adversely affect the fuel efficiency of vehicles and may result in a 3 percent cost increase given a pressure gauge reading just 6 psi below what’s optimal. To correct this, ensure the tires of all heavy equipment are regularly inspected.

5. Anticipate Repositioning Requirements

Arbitrarily repositioning heavy equipment due to a lack of foresight equates to improperly allocated resources. In some cases this will be unavoidable such as when new equipment needs to be called in upon completion of particular sections.

As long as other machines aren’t impeding the way or have to navigate cramped areas due to space limitations, this is a problem that can be easily fixed with appropriate planning. 

While a suitable anti-idling policy will help to keep things in check, communication will be key in implementing any of the aforementioned cost-saving measures. That said, there are many other avenues you can take.

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