If you own a fleet of construction equipment, fuel is likely one of your top expenses every month. Diesel rates and equipment usage fluctuate constantly, and without the right tools, it can be difficult to track, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to limit your fuel costs where you can.
Even with diesel prices down about 16 cents per gallon compared to this time last year, it’s worth considering the ways you can improve fuel efficiency on the job site to improve your bottom line.
Unfortunately, we can’t control the price of fuel, but we can provide some helpful tips on ways to reduce your monthly fuel expenses, as well as some noteworthy solutions currently available today.
Strategies for Reducing Heavy Equipment Fuel Consumption
Right Size Equipment Using equipment that isn’t suited to the application is an easy way to burn excess fuel. Take a John Deere 450K Dozer, for example, with an 80hp engine. It is best suited for light- to medium-duty clearing work on a construction site. If you were to attempt to use that same machine in a mining application, it would be working at max RPMs and wasting fuel.
It’s also important to consider how equipment is paired up on a job site. A small dozer won’t be able to keep pace with a heavy-duty wheel loader, and as a result, your wheel loader will waste fuel idling while waiting for your dozer. Pair machinery that can keep working at the same pace whenever possible.
Idle TimeFor every hour equipment idles, up to a gallon of fuel is wasted. When you multiply that by the number of hours per day of idle time for every machine in your fleet, those fuel costs add up fast. Not only does unnecessary idle time waste fuel, but it also adds hours to the machine, wears on components, and burns through your warranty.
Even a small reduction in idle time can make a big impact. Use these tips to reduce idle time on your job site:
- Limit engine warm up to a maximum of five minutes.
- Limit shut down time on older equipment to two minutes, not necessary on newer equipment.
- Make sure equipment is shut down during breaks.
- Make sure equipment is shut down anytime operators are waiting more than five minutes to load or unload.
Preventative MaintenanceSticking to the manufacturer’s preventative maintenance schedule can significantly improve the operating efficiency of your equipment and the amount of fuel your machinery consumes. Regular fluid and filter changes not only improve day-to-day fuel economy but will reduce the need for major repairs down the line.
If you don’t already have a tire maintenance system in place, we highly recommend you start one. Tire pressure should be checked every week using a pressure gauge (not a visual-only inspection) to ensure equipment tires are properly inflated to the recommended psi. According to fueleconomy.gov, gas mileage can be improved by 0.6% on average (up to 3% in some cases) by keeping tires inflated to the recommended pressure. Underinflated tires lower fuel economy by approximately 0.2% for every one psi drop.
Operator TrainingAnyone with some time in the construction industry can tell you that a skilled operator is worth his weight in gold. Experienced operators know how to maneuver equipment safely and effectively, limit idle time and wasted fuel consumption, and curb wear and tear on the machine.
With the construction job market as competitive as it is these days, you may not be able to hire operators with the preferred amount of experience, but the good news is that you can train them.
Provide thorough training for all new hires on safe operating practices, including guidelines on speeding, rapid acceleration, hard braking, and sharp turns. On-going training throughout the year will reinforce good habits.
Additionally, equipment manufacturers are continuing to develop new technology and streamline equipment operation to make it easier for less experienced operators to operate machinery as well as, or more efficiently than, operators who have been running equipment for decades. John Deere’s SmartGrade™ technology, for example, simplifies and automates some of the controls for precise grading work at the push of a button. It comes standard on new John Deere motor graders, but can also be added to older grading equipment in your fleet.
Telematics TechnologyOne of the many benefits of a telematics technology solution, like JD Link™ from John Deere, is actionable data and insight into fuel utilization and idle time. JD Link ™ telematics monitors fuel consumption on every John Deere in your fleet, and the data can be segmented by machine, by the hour, or combined to see your entire fleet at once.
The platform is easy to use and can is accessible from anywhere, so you don’t have to be on the job site to know exactly what’s happening with your machines. Having this type of fuel usage data in hand empowers equipment owners to identify problem equipment or operators and allows them to make necessary changes before a major issue arises.
Hybrid or Electric ModelsAs the equipment in your fleet needs to be retired, or your business grows, consider adding hybrid or electric construction equipment to your fleet. Models like the 644K Hybrid Wheel Loader from John Deere use approximately 25% less fuel than their diesel counterparts.
Today’s hybrid models don’t sacrifice power for reduced fuel usage. The hybrid technology enables the engine to recycle energy to power the machine at the same horsepower it operates at while using diesel power when being powered by the battery.
Equipment manufacturers regard this equipment segment as a quickly growing category and are heavily invested in research and development to continue bringing even more efficient models to the market.
Combining these strategies to reduce your heavy equipment fuel consumption by the hour will greatly impact your profitability and extend the life of your equipment. For more tips on reducing your equipment operating costs, contact the experts at your local John Deere dealer, Papé Machinery Construction & Forestry.