feature story

Cut the delivery drain: Get the most gas mileage

Give this list to your drivers to make the most of every drop of fuel (download the PDF here).


On the road
• Slow down. Of course you’re following the posted speed limits—it’s the law. But if you’re tempted to cheat a bit to make your rounds faster, think again. It pays to plot your route with adequate time to obey the signs, particularly at speeds more than 60 mph, when gas mileage for most cars decreases quickly.
• Lighten up. Be diligent about removing excess items from the delivery vehicle—the rental pedestals that didn’t get back into storage from last weekend’s wedding, for example. The smaller the vehicle, the more that extra weight will reduce its miles per gallon.
• Take it easy. Keep it smooth when you’re stopping and starting. Anticipate the traffic flow, and avoid “jackrabbit” starts. This will also help your blood pressure.
• No idling. It may seem like a pain, but if your delivery will take more than a quick run to a home’s door—think deliveries downtown or to large office buildings—turn the vehicle off. It takes less fuel to restart than it does to idle for more than a minute. Plus, it’s illegal in some places to let a car idle unattended.
• Use the cruise. If you deliver long distances and your routes include highway travel, engage the cruise control and overdrive gears when appropriate. Cruise control helps maintain a constant speed, thereby saving gas, and overdrive gears reduce the engine RPMs without reducing the speed, thereby decreasing wear and tear and improving gas mileage.
• Keep your cool. When dealing with florists’ living cargo, this is often non-negotiable, but as much as possible keep the air conditioning off.
• Roll ’em up. Driving with the windows down, especially at high speeds, increases drag and can decrease your fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent.

Off the road
• Consolidate. It’s worth the time spent planning your delivery routes before you get in the car to avoid backtracking and to combine what could be several short trips into one long trip.
• Plan your fill-ups. As you make your rounds, keep your eye out for low-priced gasoline; if the price is right and you have less than half a tank and time to spare, fill ’er up. Or keep your eye on online sites such as gasbuddy.com and gaspricewatch.com, where consumers constantly post prices to show where to find the lowest in your city.
• Go by the book. Drivers and shop owners should be highly familiar with the manufacturers’ suggested maintenance schedule. Consider following the severe driving conditions schedule because most delivery vehicles spend much of their lifetime being driven in town in stop-and-go conditions.
• Tune it up. Keeping the vehicle properly tuned can save as much as 4 percent in gas mileage. And tune-ups help identify more serious maintenance problems, fixes for which can save even more on your mileage.
• Keep your spark. Change your spark plugs regularly. Dirty spark plugs will misfire, which wastes fuel.
• Replace your air filters. Checking the air filter can be as easy as lifting your vehicle’s hood, and replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage up to 10 percent and protect your engine.
• Tighten that gas cap. Damaged, loose or missing gas caps allow the fuel to vaporize before you can use it. The Car Care Council notes 17 percent of vehicles on the road have such problems, which equals a loss of 147 million gallons of gas each year.
• Stay inflated. Check the tire pressure regularly, such as with every fill-up, and keep the tires inflated to the correct PSI.
• Use the right oil. Choosing the improper grade of motor oil, one not recommended by your manufacturer, can cost you up to 2 percent in gas mileage. Fueleconomy.gov also recommends looking for the words “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol on the label, which means it contains friction-reducing additives.

In the market
When buying your next delivery vehicle, consult the Fuel Economy Guide at
www.fueleconomy.gov, which has gas mileage estimates for vehicles from 1985 to the current model year. The site notes that the difference between a vehicle that gets 20 mpg and one that gets 30 mpg is $550 per year (assuming 15,000 miles driven annually and $2.20 a gallon fuel). Smaller vehicles and manual transmissions generally yield better fuel economy.

Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, www.fueleconomy.gov; The Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov; The Car Care Council, www.carcare.org; www.gasbuddy.com.

You may contact Amy Bauer by e-mail at abauer@floristsreview.com or by phone at (800) 367-4708.

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