Ease that 'Pain at the Pump'

With the high price of gasoline and diesel fuel even higher, the cost of driving is chewing up a larger and larger chunk of everyone's budget. This applies to firms that operate fleets, as well as individuals who commute to and from work. While politicians promise they will lower fuel prices, can anything really be done in the short run? Well, actually, the answer is a qualified "yes." There is something that can be done right now to help blunt the "pain-at-the-pump."

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the way we drive affects fuel economy as measured in miles per gallon (mpg). The actual on-road mpg for every car, van and light-duty truck varies depending on how it is driven. Vehicles driven at moderate speeds (40 to 60 miles per hour) get better mpg than those driven at high speeds (70+ miles per hour). Drivers who coast into stop signs and anticipate traffic lights get better mpg than those who barrel in at cruising speed and then hit the brakes hard. Cars with tires at the recommended air pressure get better mpg than those with under-inflated tires.

Here are a few more practical tips for improving fuel economy:

• avoid carrying extra weight as heavier vehicles require more fuel

• use cruise control to help maintain a steady speed but avoid it when driving on hilly terrain

• move into higher gears as soon as possible

• avoid idling

• plan your routes in advance to avoid unnecessary driving

These are some examples of how driving affects fuel economy. None of these driving factors will double anyone's mpg. But taken together, all these little factors can improve on-road mpg by 15 percent according to DOE. That 15 percent can translate to $300 to $600 savings per year for the average driver. Anyone operating a fleet will surely benefit. Drivers should know that they can maximize their mpg by changing driving habits.

Employers can help their employees by showing them how they can control their fuel consumption at work and in their own cars. In the long run, we expect that the costs of energy will only increase. These tips will help employees and employers save money as well as preserve the environment.

About the Author

Mike King is a partner of Excal Visual LLP.

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