As the managers of
Peoria’s Fleet and Transit divisions, we know firsthand the effects wrought by
this year’s spike in fuel prices. We’ve also spent a lot of time researching
cleaner-running vehicles as part of the city’s effort to reduce its
Even before prices
jumped at the pump, we were increasing the percentage of hybrid and
alternative-fuel vehicles in the city’s fleet as a response to the Valley’s poor
air quality. And since the run-up in fueling costs, we’ve become very attuned to
the little things that, added up, can reduce the fuel consumption and minimize
the environmental impact of our vehicles.
strategies work just as well with private vehicles, we’d like to share some of
what we’ve learned.
When it comes to fuel
conservation, the most important vehicle technology by far is … the driver.
• Slow down. Speeding
increases fuel consumption and also may boost emissions.
• Do not accelerate aggressively or brake sharply.
• When traffic is light enough, use cruise control on the highway. A steady
speed decreases gas pedal activity, which saves fuel.
• Avoid drive-through lanes and, in general, limit idling to one minute.
• Lighten the load. Every additional 250 pounds causes a car to lose about 1 mpg
in fuel economy.
• Be aerodynamic. Roll up the windows. If you have a pickup truck, it’s more
fuel efficient to keep the tailgate up.
A little planning also
can go a long way toward saving fuel.
• Try to combine
errands into one trip and take the most economical route. In 2007, UPS shaved
nearly 30 million miles off its delivery runs and saved 3 million gallons of
fuel by incorporating as many right turns as possible into its routes.
• Don’t “top off” when refueling. This practice often results in spilling fuel
on the ground -- maybe only an ounce or two, but still enough to have a
significant impact on air pollution. The hydrocarbon emission from one ounce of
spilled fuel is equivalent to 88 miles of normal driving in a new car, or about
55 miles of driving in a light truck.
• Purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle.
• Take your lunch to work. That will eliminate mid-day travel and reduce the
time spent in drive-through lines.
• Consider alternatives to driving alone: carpools, vanpools or buses, as well
as motorcycling, biking or walking.
• Discuss telecommuting or an alternative work schedule with your employer.
Preventive maintenance is important, too.
• Well-timed oil changes and vehicle checks reduce wear and tear, increase
lifespan, prevent brake drag and help air pollution from increasing as a vehicle
• Replacing a clogged air filter improves gas mileage by as much as 10 percent
and keeps impurities from damaging the engine.
• Proper tire inflation yields optimum fuel economy, maximizes tire life and
improves handling, braking and comfort.
• Repair air-conditioner leaks immediately. In Arizona, we often need to turn on
our air conditioners in order to beat the heat. But if your car’s cooling system
has a leak, be sure to get it fixed immediately, because some AC units contain
toxins that are very bad for the environment.
Depending upon where
you live, what you do for a living and the type of vehicle you use, some of the
practices above may be more practical for you than others. There is no simple
answer to our energy and environmental problems. But every tip that you can work
into your daily routine will add up -- diminishing our nation’s dependence on
foreign oil, reducing pollution and saving you money at the fuel pump.
Warren Laing is
Peoria’s fleet manager and Randy Roberts is the city’s transit manager.