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
by AMY BAUER
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
• Keep your cool. When dealing with florists’ living cargo, this
is often non-negotiable, but as much as possible keep the air
• Roll ’em up. Driving with the windows down, especially at high
speeds, increases drag and can decrease your fuel efficiency by up to 10
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
• 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
• 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
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,
Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov;
The Car Care Council, www.carcare.org;
You may contact Amy Bauer by e-mail at
or by phone at (800) 367-4708.
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