The finals of the first edition of the Optifuel Challenge, a European eco-driving competition organised by Renault Trucks, was held in Seville on 19 October. 33 drivers from 16 countries took part in this event on board the new version of the 430 hp Premium Optifuel. The event was won by a Spanish driver, with entrants from Finland and France in second and third places.
It was on the Monte Blanco track, close to Seville (Spain), that the 33 European drivers taking part in the finals of the Optifuel Challenge 2012 met up on 19 October. This is an event created by Renault Trucks to raise the profile of economic driving and fuel saving. The competition took place in two parts. First of all, there was a theoretical test, consisting of a 35 item questionnaire designed to test drivers' knowledge on the principles of economic driving. After this, the contestants had to complete a 40 min journey on the open road at the wheel of a 430 hp Premium Optifuel. On arrival, their driving, speed and consumption were analysed by Optifuel Infomax, the Renault Trucks fuel consumption measurement and analysis software. Consumption and average speed were the two main criteria used for assessment during this practical phase of the competition.
To make sure all entrants competed under the same conditions, the eight vehicles being used were all fine tuned to deliver the same performance during the days leading up to the Optifuel Challenge. A ninth vehicle also accompanied each group of drivers to take into account the various elements which could impact the driving and compensate for any variations in traffic volume throughout the day.
On the track, the day was also marked by the various workshops organised around Renault Trucks' Optifuel Solutions. This gave drivers and managers from the haulage companies accompanying them an opportunity to take part in workshops devoted to Optifuel Solutions and fuel saving. They were able to become familiar with the tools Renault Trucks makes available to help them optimise their trucks' configuration (Optiroll, OptiTrack, etc.), instruct their drivers in economic driving, carry out long-term measurement and analysis (Optifuel Training, Optifuel Infomax and Optifleet) as well as continue reducing consumption throughout the vehicle's entire operating life (vehicle maintenance and Approved spare Parts). Customers and drivers were then able to try out the principles for themselves on an economic driving simulator - which now has a free version for SmartPhones (Truck Fuel Eco Driving) available from the App Store and Google Play.
Winners of the Optifuel Challenge were announced during the closing evening on the day of the competition.
The outright winner (with 97.8 points out of 100), was Jose-Miguel Velilla from Spain, who was very moved during the award ceremony when he was presented with keys of a Renault Twizy. The haulage company he represents, Translogroño, also earned a reward: one year's full-service rental of a 430 hp Premium Optifuel.
In second place (with 95.4 points out of 100), came Paul Storhannus from Finland and hauliers Ahola transport. He won a 16 Go iPad and a Renault Trucks leather jacket. His company was presented with a set of Michelin X Line tyres and Alcoa rims for a 4x2 tractor.
The number three place on the podium was won by a Frenchman, Jean-Luc Vinet (92.1 points out of 100), a driver for the Tratel Group. He won an iPhone 5 and a Renault Trucks jacket, while his company earned one year’s insurance for a Renault Trucks vehicle provided by Renault Trucks Financial Services and a Renault Trucks Oils Eco 5 kit.
Customers involved in "Fuel Eco"
For Christophe Lecostoec, from the Tratel Group, reducing fuel consumption is a significant, overarching goal for his Group, drivers and customers: "Above all, we are focusing on safety concerns, but also on making savings," he explains. "However, saving fuel is just the visible part. Because with Fuel Eco, we also save on maintenance, there is less tyre and brake wear and also fewer accidents for our drivers. Everything is connected." Christophe Lecostoec has various means at his disposal to achieve these savings: "There are the instructors, the pilot drivers, the on-board IT and also our very good regular drivers as well as a genuine company culture involving everyone from management to operations, to the workshop, etc. Today's drivers are not like the truckers of the past, they are genuine technicians, regularly trained to use tools that are constantly being upgraded. We have also set up a consumption bonus for the drivers." What is even more surprising is that Tratel has decided to use motorways for its assignments whenever possible. "We have been making motorways our first choice for some time now. In many cases, it is not the shortest route in terms of kilometers, but we have observed that it helps us save time, consume less and improve safety."
Several thousand kilometres away in Finland, the message is the same, despite the different context: "Eco-driving has become a real way of life for our drivers," says Caj Björkskog from Ahola Transport, enthusiastically. "By raising our teams' awareness of best driving practices, we have seen accident rates dropping, and that is highly motivating for our drivers."
In Germany, Andreas Manke, fleet manager for Spedition Bartkowiak GmbH gives his point of view on the significant savings achieved by economic driving: "After having launched the idea of Optifuel in 2008, we have managed to make average savings of 5 L per 100 km. Applied to our fleet of 35 vehicles, this means reducing costs by about €100,000 a year. 80% of our vehicles are now Premium Long Distance trucks equipped with the Optifuel Pack." This is an eco-centred approach backed by ecological concerns: "We also address ecological issues, since saving fossil energy protects the environment and helps preserve natural resources for future generations." A vision which is shared by the Translogroño haulage firm based in Spain and winner of the Optifuel Challenge: "Our main aim is to save costs, followed by a determination to protect the environment." explain Santiago and Julio Gutiérrez. This firm, specialised in the Premium Long Distance, uses different tools for cutting consumption: "In particular, we carry out an Infomax analysis and follow-up every month, we are setting up ongoing training programs and are using preventive maintenance in our integrated workshop. We also carry out regular lubricant analysis using Diago Renault, which enables us to avoid breakdowns."
While economic driving enables hauliers to save money, it also offers drivers a number of tangible advantages. This is how Melanie Jasper, a woman truck driver who took part in the Optifuel Challenge, described them: "Economic driving is much more relaxing, meaning I am less tired at the end of my working day. It also makes my driving more comfortable and allows me to concentrate more on the traffic."
A groundbreaker and leader in the field of reducing fuel consumption for many years, Renault Trucks offers a global approach to this issue with its Optifuel Solutions and commitment via the All For Fuel Eco initiative. The Optifuel Challenge is a perfect illustration of this ongoing commitment in partnership with its customers.
Picture 7 and 8: Jean Mateos (with mic), Vice-President Retail developpment, Renault Trucks, with the Optifuel Challenge 2012 winner, Jose-Miguel Velilla from Spain.
Christophe Lecostoec and Jean-Luc Vinet (3rd) from Tratel Groupe, Pierre Postel, Vice-President Transport Solutions Renault Trucks, Jose-Miguel Velilla (winner) from Translogroño, Catherine Bach, Vice-Presidente Communication Renault Trucks, M. Gutiérrez from Translogroño, Jean Mateos Vice-President développement réseau, Renault Trucks, Paul Storhannus (2nd) and Caj Björkskog from Ahola Transport.