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Tools and services to boost fuel efficiency (2/4): Training driver well

Renault Trucks offers Optifuel Training as part of its Optifuel Solutions. Developed by Renault Trucks, this consists of an instruction program in economic driving dispensed by the manufacturer's own experts. Because having a truck with low consumption is good, but knowing how to drive it so that it consumes even less, is better.

For Long Distance hauliers, fuel is the company's second largest item of expenditure. In the world of Construction, it can even be the largest item of all. The key elements of consumption do of course include the truck, but also the driver. This is why Renault Trucks has spent more than 30 years developing its own training in economic driving. Initiated in the 1980s, it has been continually adapted to customers' evolving needs, keeping pace with technological innovations (the increasingly widespread use of robotised gearbox for example). As a manufacturer and trainer, Renault Trucks has a comprehensive knowledge of all its products. Its "in-house" instructors are therefore best qualified to exploit the benefits offered by Renault Trucks vehicles to the full. At the end of 2011, more than 21,000 drivers had already followed the Optifuel Training instruction program.

In most cases, the instruction in economic driving takes place on the customer's premises and uses their own vehicles. This makes it easier to take into consideration drivers' assignments and the conditions they have to contend with. "Consumption depends hugely on a number of factors: the truck, the load, the climate and also the traffic conditions," explains Jerome Oliver, in charge of driving instruction at Renault Trucks. "Our aim is to focus on the drivers, show them that they play a role in the vehicle's consumption, but cannot be held entirely responsible for it as some tend to think. We want drivers to adopt a responsible attitude to driving and certainly not make them feel guilty," he concludes.

The instructor's first move is to check that all the tools available to the driver are being correctly used. "In many cases, several of the vehicle's functionalities, such as the speed regulator or even the retarders, are ignored," stresses Jérôme Oliver. "And these have a fundamental impact on the consumption."

Then, the driver and the instructor go on a typical journey of about two hours, at the end of which they carry out an analysis of the consumption using the Optifuel Infomax software. These objective results, taking into account the various conditions which cannot be controlled, enable instructors to have an objective conversation with drivers and make them aware of the areas in which there is room for improvement. "This isn't about teaching drivers how to drive," Jérôme Oliver asserts. "It's about showing them what they need to do to reduce their fuel consumption."

The instruction continues with a presentation of the theoretical data concerning rational driving: switching off the engine if stationary for more than 3 minutes, anticipating obstacles on the road to avoid having to stop and restart or make sure the green zone is being used as much as possible. The green zone on the DXi 11 and DXi 13 is the engine speed zone between 1,000 and 1,500 rpm. This is of course the zone in which consumption will be the lowest, but not only that. In order to also enjoy maximum mobility, the "engine" cartography has been designed to ensure that at the same time this zone is the one in which maximum torque and the greater part of the power are available.

At the end of the training, drivers and instructors take to the road again to apply these principles and carry out another analysis with Optifuel Infomax. Generally speaking, when travelling over the same route, reductions in consumption of around 10% will be recorded. However, Jerome Oliver does have one word of warning: "There shouldn't necessarily be a specific consumption objective to reach. It's more important to have a target consumption that takes into account what the truck is used for and the assignment it is given."  Furthermore, before the training, many drivers think that economic driving involves a passive approach which results in losing time. Whereas in fact, it is quite the opposite. All tests show that, not only does economic driving not make journey times any longer but in most cases it actually shortens them. By better anticipating stopping and restarting, drivers stop less frequently and thereby save time. There is nothing passive about this style of driving, since it is essential for drivers to stay alert and anticipate obstacles at all times.

Similarly, all drivers who have adopted economic driving acknowledge that it means they have to be suppler and less stressed. They therefore enjoy greater comfort and at the same time improve both their own safety and that of other road users. From a haulier's point of view, apart from the lower fuel consumption, having well-trained drivers enables them to make substantial gains in vehicle maintenance. For by being thoroughly familiar with their vehicles and using them to best advantage, these drivers do not put any excessive strain on their trucks' mechanical parts. And since this means that they use the brakes, clutch and tyres more sparingly, servicing can be carried out less frequently. Renault Trucks aims to highlight all these advantages to as many people as possible via its Optifuel Training programs during the coming years.

A unique offering: Optifuel Programme
Renault Trucks is the only manufacturer to offer such a comprehensive instructional program which includes, in addition to economic driving, full command of the consumption measurement and analysis Optifuel Infomax software. This unique, dual phase training is called Optifuel Programme. It is particularly designed for fleet managers and driving instructors, who can not only train their drivers in economic driving but, above all, use the software to detect any anomalies and also maintain the effects of this training program in the long term.

Reducing fuel consumption is not something to be improvised or imposed. A precursor and leader in this field for many years, Renault Trucks has a global approach to this issue embodied in its Optifuel Solutions.

In order to achieve substantial and sustainable results in this area, Renault Trucks recommends users to correctly configure their vehicles, particularly their mode of propulsion, train their drivers properly, carefully measure and analyse their consumption and then optimise their fleets by regularly maintaining and updating them.

Optifuel Solutions are one of the cornerstones of Renault Trucks' All For Fuel Eco approach, which aims to mobilise the energy of the manufacturer's entire workforce, from the design stage right through to vehicle sales or repair. As a result, it will be possible for customers to be offered concrete and efficient ways of continually driving down their fuel consumption.

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