Maximizing Your Vehicle’s Gas Mileage
Copy this list for your drivers to make the most of every drop of
ON THE ROAD
Make only right turns.
Take a lesson from companies with lots of delivery vehicles
(e.g., UPS, FedEx), and route deliveries to avoid left
turns. Most left turns require waiting for oncoming traffic
to pass, waiting at red lights and waiting for vehicles
ahead of you to make their left turns. This waiting wastes
time and gas. Routing deliveries so that every turn is a
right turn will make each delivery run shorter and will save
fuel. The “right on red” option in most communities also
adds to the savings of time and fuel.
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
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
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 to office buildings and hospitals—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 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
and GasPriceWatch.com (www.gaspricewatch.com/new/default_V3.asp),
where consumers are constantly posting 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 manufacturer’s 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
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 improve your fuel efficiency even more.
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 will
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 (www.carcare.org)
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
(www.fueleconomy.gov) also recommends looking for the
words “Energy Conserving” on the API (American Petroleum
Institute) performance symbol on the label, which means it
contains friction-reducing additives.
Compare gas mileage estimates. When buying your next
delivery vehicle, consult the Fuel Economy Guide at
www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm, 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.
Beware of “gas gullibility.” Be a smart consumer when it
comes to claims about “gas-saving” gadgets, the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) advises. The Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has tested more than 100 such devices, some of
which provide few benefits and some of which actually may
damage a car’s engine. A full list of tested products is
U.S. Department of Energy,
The Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov
The Car Care Council, www.carcare.org,