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Owe Carter

Simple steps for economical van driving


Fuel isn’t cheap, as anybody involved in transit-reliant business will know.

Yellow van driving

It’s increasingly common for fleet operators to put their drivers on training courses, not only to minimise accidents, but to maximise fuel efficiency. And it’s equally important for small business operators and tradespeople to reduce costs.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a few simple tips which should hopefully help keep your miles per gallon high, and your fuel consumption low.

Efficient route planning

This may sound obvious, but smart route planning is a key factor in keeping fuel wastage to a minimum. 

You may have routes you’re used to taking, but are you sure they’re the most efficient? Check out The AA route planner or Google Maps to find the most direct route, or get sat nav. 

Also, if you’re driving an unfamiliar route, proper route planning will minimise your chances of getting lost and hence driving needless miles.

Driving in heavy traffic leads to greater fuel consumption, due to all the stopping and starting. 

So it’s best to avoid congested areas where possible by checking traffic news, registering for traffic alerts, or listening to local radio stations for updates. Better sat nav systems will be able to tell you the routes to avoid too.

If you can combine multiple trips rather than making them individually, then this will help as well. So, for example, if you needed to pick up or drop off equipment at several different places, see if you can do it all in one run. 

Not only will this ultimately reduce the number of miles you travel, but it will limit cold starts as well, which also guzzle fuel.

Stay streamlined

Get rid of any excess weight where possible. Have a quick scan of the van before you make a journey, and offload anything you won’t need. This includes things on the exterior such as roof racks, which contribute more drag to the van.

Driving style

High-speed driving obviously burns more fuel, so it’s a good idea to temper your speed. Not only that, but you’re less fuel efficient if you accelerate and brake hard. 

So if you keep it smooth, then you’ll keep your consumption down. Plus, as soon as you can without causing any strain on the engine, shift up a gear – the sooner you can get higher, the better.

Don’t coast

Taking the van out of gear when going downhill or approaching a junction isn’t advisable, as you compromise the control you have over the vehicle. 

In addition, due to updated fuel systems in modern vehicles, doing this won’t even save you fuel anyway.

Switch it off

Any electrical equipment you have running off the van will push the fuel gauge closer to ‘E’. With this in mind, turn off your rear-windscreen heaters, headlights and so on if you don’t need them.

Air conditioning is more of a drain at lower speeds. So if you’re feeling a bit on the warm side, it’s better to wind down a window if you’re using urban roads, but to use the air con if you’ve got your speed up on the motorway.

Although it’s usually better to keep the engine rolling rather than switching it off and on again, if you’re stuck in traffic deadlock and you’re unlikely to move for three minutes, then that might be a good time.

Keep the van in good nick

Regular servicing and using the correct grade of engine oil will keep your engine in tip-top shape, so it’s well worth keeping on top of that. 

You should check your tyre pressure frequently as well. Under-inflated tyres are less safe than properly-pumped ones, and they also create more resistance which leads to – you guessed it – greater fuel consumption. 

Not only that, but under-inflation can significantly reduce the tyre’s lifespan. Also be sure to adjust the pressure to allow for the load you’re carrying. The correct levels will be in your manual.


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