Driving Your Way to Better Fuel Economy

Is your driving style costing you money? Are you sending dollars out the tailpipe without even knowing it? For years experts have been telling us that driving techniques can make a difference, but most are still unaware of the effect they can make in fuel economy -- and in your monthly transportation expenditures. Now, after Ford Motor Company took a long, hard look at the issue, its findings are eye-opening. Fuel economy improvements by as much as 50 percent were noted after typical drivers received training in “eco-driving.”

Eco-driving refers to specific driving behaviors that can improve fuel economy, save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote safe driving. Ford and Phoenix-based Pro Formance Group teamed up to pilot an eco-driving program for its fleet customers. The program employed certified master trainers to deliver hands-on coaching to maximize mileage in everyday driving. Over a four-day period, Ford and the Pro Formance drivers conducted validation tests using volunteers from Phoenix, who were given individual instruction on specific driving behaviors. The Sports Car Club of America verified the results, which showed an average 24-percent improvement in fuel economy as a result of hands-on eco-driving training. 

Not all drivers were able to achieve those results, however. The 48 drivers who took part in the validation tests saw results ranging from six-percent fuel economy improvement to more than 50 percent, depending on their driving style and ability to master eco-driving behaviors. Eco-driving instructors coached drivers to employ smoother braking and accelerating, monitor their RPMs and drive at a moderate speed -- including driving at 55 mph, instead of 65. Keeping tires properly inflated at the recommended pressure and eliminating prolonged idling were other recommended techniques.  

“By working with Pro Formance to conduct validation testing, Ford is proving that eco-driving techniques are teachable and work across a broad spectrum of vehicles and drivers,” said Drew DeGrassi, president and CEO of Pro Formance Group. “It’s a great initiative for Ford to lead in this country. It’s not the end-all solution for America to obtain energy independence, but it is an important part of it.”

Eco-driving training was launched by Ford in Germany in the 1990s in cooperation with the German Road Safety Council. In the only industry-based drivers’ eco-training course, specially trained and certified instructors run programs for several target groups, including fleet drivers and customers. Several of the master trainers recently traveled to Ford in Dearborn, Mich., to teach the coaching techniques to drivers with the Pro Formance Group. Germany’s eco-driving expertise will help to leverage Ford by developing a pilot program that certifies eco-driving instructors to train Ford’s fleet customers. Hands-on instruction is critical for achieving full potential of eco-driving: Instructors must observe individual driving habits and then customize coaching for more fuel-efficient driving techniques.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the U.S. uses close to 150 billion gallons of gasoline annually. If every American practiced eco-driving and got the EPA-estimated 15-percent benefit in fuel economy, more than 22 billion gallons of gas would be saved.