An idling engine burns as much as one full gallon of fuel each hour, which burns fleet budget dollars. As a result, reducing engine idle time means reducing unnecessary fuel consumption and cutting energy costs.
One of the most significant keys to efficiency in any budget is understanding where the money goes. Fleet leaders often look to marginalizing smaller operational expenses to find savings. But by saving nearly $14 million dollars in fuel spend in one year solely from reduced engine idling times, Comcast proved that large savings and positive impacts can be achieved by examining fleet specific operational practices.
An idling engine can burn up to one gallon of fuel per hour, contributing to unnecessary energy costs.
To reduce unnecessary fuel consumption and energy costs per vehicle by reducing engine idling time to one hour per vehicle/per day.
Understand engine idling
Routine driving includes idling at red lights, time spent in traffic, and turning on the engine before first putting the vehicle in gear. During extreme weather, both hot and cold, engines must be idled in order to protect Technicians, their tools and the equipment. Some vehicles may also need to idle in order to perform their designed functions. Considering these facts, it is not possible to eliminate idle time altogether, but through analysis, incentives and education, vehicle idle times can be reduced enough to significantly reduce energy costs.
Develop a Baseline and Set a Goal
In order to identify a goal for idle time reduction, it is first necessary to create a baseline. Four years ago, Comcast ran a 1,200 truck GPS trial and identified an idle baseline of 1h 47min per vehicle. After identifying this baseline, Comcast sought to reduce this number to less than one hour per truck/per day.
Install Data Collecting Devices
After the trial, Comcast launched a GPS device installation program. The deployment took 18 months, during which time 28,000 devices were installed into vehicles, 18,000 of which were for Fulfillment Technicians. These devices provided the capability to collect engine data, including idle time, and track progress toward idle reduction goals.
Incentivize and Educate Employees
After deploying the GPS devices, Comcast began to educate employees and provide incentives to reduced engine idling. The incentives served as a catalyst and empowered management to begin a conversation around improved safety and lower carbon emissions. Throughout this process, the reason for high idle became clear—employees did not understand the grave impacts of leaving an engine running. Comcast employees now better understand that unnecessary engine idle is pure waste, and that turning a modern vehicle on and off multiple times a day is not harmful to the engine. After the impacts of idling were made clear, employees were more than willing to comply with idle-reducing practices.
Ongoing communication with drivers, including education and incentives, proved effective as change-management tools, and Comcast Regions that took the time to discuss environmental and financial impacts of idling were the most successful. Data collected from installed GPS devices proved that the lowest national average idle time was 40 minutes per truck/per day, surpassing the initial goal by 20 minutes and representing a 58% decrease in engine idling.
The cost to run this program for 18,000 Fulfillment Technicians trucks was $8,637,840 per year.
The average cost per gallon of fuel in 2014 was $3.43. At that rate, 1h 47min of idle equates to $109,900 in wasted fuel per day, or $21,979,440 per year.
With idle reduction practices in place, the cost of idle was reduced to $40,750 per day, or $8,149,680 per year for Fulfillment Technicians. This represents a savings of $13,829,760 per year.
Over the course of the program, there was a savings of $13,829,760 offset by an $8,637,840 operating expense, resulting in a net gain of $5,191,920.
Return on investment
The financial results of Comcast’s idle-reducing effort are significant, and the money saved is not the only return on the investment realized through this project. Along with the more than $5 million in net gains, Comcast also experienced improvements in safety and a reduced carbon footprint.
Though safety components of this project are difficult to quantify, the reduction in carbon emissions are tangible. The baseline rate for Carbon Dioxide emitted through idle was 55,050 metric tons per year before deployment. After deployment, improvements reduced this output to 20,412 a year—a difference of 34,638 or 63%.
Sustainability and Social Responsibility
Projects to improve efficiency and generate financial gains are common. Projects that also provide a chance for sustainability and social responsibility, however, are not common. Reducing engine idle time represents a rare, win-win opportunity for Fleet organizations of any size. Organizations that make the investment to educate their drivers and improve practices experience not only financial gains, but also the benefits of a positive image and better community relations.
The stellar, initial results of reduced engine idle times demonstrate outstanding financial and social ROI, and prove the benefits of reduced engine idling for any fleet organization. Through continued efforts for better fleet management, Comcast will increase savings and positively impact the environment and community.