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6 tips to improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Features, Safe driving

a lorry Driver changing gear

This week (16 to 22 September 2019) is the Road Haulage Association's fifth annual Lorry Week, called #LoveTheLorry. It’s all about promoting the work of the haulage industry and professional drivers.

To support the week, we wanted to give you some top tips on how to become a more economical driver. This should help save you money on fuel whilst helping the environment by reducing carbon emissions and pollution. 

These quick and easy changes could make all the difference to your driving and fuel efficiency!

Anticipate the actions of other drivers

Driving is all about reading the road ahead and deciding what’s likely to happen. Spotting hazards earlier and allowing yourself enough stopping distance to avoid sharp braking will smooth out the ‘stop-go’ of driving in built up areas. Because you’re not braking as much or as heavily, you won’t need to accelerate as hard. Physics shows us that lots of energy is used to accelerate, so by not pushing down on the accelerator as often, your fuel consumption will reduce. 

Slow down using momentum

Did you know, when driving downhill or slowing down, a modern vehicle will usually use less fuel if you remain in the right gear but take your foot off the accelerator, rather than if you ‘coast’ in neutral. This is because modern lorries are intelligent enough to recognise when the momentum of the vehicle is driving the engine, rather than the engine driving the lorry forward.

The fuel cut-off switch usually kicks in when you take your foot off the accelerator, stopping the flow of fuel to the injectors.  A vehicle coasting in neutral would still be burning fuel to keep the engine ticking over. 

It’s worth bearing in mind however, this isn’t the case when slowing down at low revs, such as when driving through stop-start traffic. If you’re not using high revs, the fuel cut-off switch doesn’t operate and most engines will instead inject enough fuel to prevent a stall, even if the accelerator isn’t being pressed.  At low revs it is more efficient to go in to neutral or dip the clutch.


Air resistance or drag increases as a vehicle’s speed increases, so whenever a lorry speeds up, air resistance increases too.  At motorway speeds most of the fuel burned by a lorry is used to overcome drag and the relationship between drag and speed mean that relatively small increases in speed add a great deal to fuel consumption.  

Fitting wind deflectors to your lorry can reduce drag and keeping the rev counter in the green band will use less fuel than rapid acceleration.

Generally, the higher your cruising speed, the more fuel you are likely to use.

Keep your tyres inflated

As any cyclist knows, it’s harder to pedal a bike with under-inflated tyres. An under inflated tyre increases rolling resistance. 

When a lorry has under-inflated tyres the engine has to work harder to overcome this resistance, using more fuel than it would if the tyres were inflated to the correct pressure.

Remember, checking your tyres are correctly maintained should be part of your daily walk around check. Under-inflated tyres or tyres in poor condition pose a risk to anyone travelling on the road.

Don't overuse air conditioning

Air conditioning takes its power from the engine and increases fuel consumption.  And that fuel consumption can be surprisingly high! Once the internal temperature has been reduced, an air conditioning system doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain the lower temperature.

Our advice is to use air conditioning sparingly and never have it running while your windows are open. While many drivers feel they would not be prepared to stop using their air conditioning completely, you can reduce the use of your air conditioning with little or no sacrifice for comfort. This could be done by setting the climate control a degree or two higher. 

Engine Idling

Studies into the amount of fuel used by cars while their engines are idling and the fuel used when engines are turned off and then back on, suggest it’s better to turn your engine off if you’re not moving. 

Of course, it’s important to consider whether it is safe and practical to turn your engine off when stood in traffic or stopping for another reason. As a rule of thumb, if you are going to be stationary for 10-20 seconds, turning off your engine will save fuel.

I hope you find these tips useful during your everyday driving. If you have any more, please share them below for others to see.

You can also find out more about eco-safe driving by taking a training course. This will count towards your 35 hours of periodic training, part of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence. 

Remember, you should never compromise safety to improve economy.

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  1. Comment by John posted on

    I consider myself an expert on fuel saving after having run truck for 30 years. This is pretty basic stuff from the DVSA and they missed a big one - Don't use cheap fuel.
    There was a time when fuel was analyzed and the results published. That would help. .

  2. Comment by Paul posted on

    Always happy to get reminders. Very valuable tips for people who want to get better fuel consumption. Not my vehicle I don’t care normally springs to mind. If it was your vehicle then you would do it. The phrase OAPR is the best way to describe the ways to get better fuel consumption as well as comfort.


  3. Comment by paul bacon posted on

    Avoid driving that saves loads of fuel.
    Building suitable roads to cope with traffic congestion can save fuel and time cambridgeshire currently uses the stop stop method saves fuel and wastes time.
    Robots can not have email addresses only real people

  4. Comment by Lindsay Poole posted on

    Simple reminders are always useful, even when we think we know-it-all. Gratuitously rude comments are SO unnecessary.

  5. Comment by Dave Payne posted on

    Great knock it out of gear & coast downhill then if you miss a gear trying to go back in bounce the valves & blow the engine, where do they get it from ?

    Suggest someone reads the SAFED manual!

    • Replies to Dave Payne>

      Comment by David posted on

      They were saying that coasting downhill is NOT the way to do it and burns more fuel.
      A round-about way of saying its better to stay in gear. Of course it's also a good idea to stay in gear because of the points you mentioned as well.

    • Replies to Dave Payne>

      Comment by anthony croft posted on

      knocking out of gear going downhill
      I remember a fatal accident where a lorry ran down the middle lane on Wrotham Hill in neutral,repeatedly braking and ran out of air because the engine was ticking over. The first fatality was a scooterist coming up the hill,then others when the truck collided with a worker's minibus and pushed it into a field.
      It was rumoured that the parking brake had not been applied when recovered.
      There is an instuction in the vehicle that the parking brake was Not to be applied whilst in Motion.

  6. Comment by mike posted on

    It seems that the DVSA need education in respect of air conditioning.Reducing the temperature will make no difference to fuel consumption if the ac button is on, as air is still being conditioned.It is a common misconception by many that air conditioning just means cooling the air.( the clue is "air conditioning")

  7. Comment by Mark posted on

    How about both hands on steering wheel in automatic truck?

  8. Comment by BURNLEY TRUCKER posted on

    Great tips for novices,,???

    • Replies to BURNLEY TRUCKER>

      Comment by Mick. posted on

      When you say good tips for novices I hope you are not thinking that you are not a novice and that you know it all believe me my friend you will never know it all .There is always something new to learn especially in Transport .Remember the old saying you are never to old to learn.
      Keep on trucking and drive safe.

      • Replies to Mick.>

        Comment by BURNLEY TRUCKER, posted on

        No Mick,,I just think it good Advice for new drivers,,and yes trust me I will be learning till I give up,,

  9. Comment by Colin Greenhough posted on

    Poor grammar again : 'stood' in traffic . The correct term is whilst standing in traffic.
    How come we have people without our qualifications telling us how to drive a wagon???
    You want me to leave an email to prove I'm a real person ? As opposed to an alien??? Really????

    • Replies to Colin Greenhough>

      Comment by David posted on

      Have you nothing better to do

      Rather than look at fuel efficiency I would be looking at your efficiency.

      Any ideas on saving fuel at the moment are good ones.

      According to Cambridge English dictionary "Stood" past and past participle of stand. That's good grammar for me.

    • Replies to Colin Greenhough>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      I am a truck owner, and I drive lorries since 1993. The tips are very useful. If you change the driving style, you will feel more comfortable and safe on the road. Moreover reducing the maintenance costs as well (Brake Pads, discs , tires, gear box ). I can’t understand why few of you overreacting if you need to change to a better driving style . In my opinion, is more useful if you take more seriously the right tips than a grammar mistake.
      Drive Safely

      • Replies to Paul>

        Comment by Colin Greenhough posted on

        My point is why do you need someone who has never driven a wagon to tell you how to drive it. I myself have been in the industry since 1971, starting as an apprentice fitter . We worked on the old Atkinson, Guy Big J's and ERF's . No power steering , non synchromesh gearboxes and no ABS . You had to drive them gently or you'd crash. What is your pedigree?

  10. Comment by John L.Birkett posted on

    Thanks for the tips

  11. Comment by DAVID IBBOTT posted on

    I'm surprised that 'coasting' in neutral is advocated under any conditions.
    This has always been considered bad practice for a number of reasons and would be faulted in a test.

    • Replies to DAVID IBBOTT>

      Comment by Daz posted on

      If you read it properly it is not advocating 'coasting' quite the opposite,

      Did you know, when driving downhill or slowing down, a modern vehicle will usually use less fuel if you remain in the right gear but take your foot off the accelerator, rather than if you ‘coast’ in neutral.

  12. Comment by paul posted on

    do you really need to tell professional people this

    • Replies to paul>

      Comment by Nick P posted on

      Paul, take your head out of the clouds you should know that professional people wouldnt necessarily be reading this article. It is just common sense for people that dont necessarily think about it, sure the likes of you or me know this stuff but some people don't and if it helps someone then all the better.

      • Replies to Nick P>

        Comment by PAUL hayes posted on

        Fit wind deflectors to your lorry.....?
        Pretty sure that's aimed at lorry drivers