Better Driving, Improved Fuel Efficiency

Driver-trainer Mohammad Haneef instructing Star Bus drivers on better driving and improved fuel efficiency

With input from Umang Jain

The Delhi Government introduced a new scheme to improve the operation of bus services where existing routes, 650 in total, were classified into ‘clusters’. This scheme envisaged concurrent operations of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and private operaters in each cluster under a unified time-table, subject to terms and conditions laid out in the agreements for each cluster. Star Bus was awarded the first cluster. They started operations in May 2011, and currently operate 100 buses on 5 routes.

As is the case with all public road transport agencies, fuel constitutes almost 50% of the total operating cost, and is therefore a major cost component. Star Bus operates low floor, rear engine, automatic transmission Tata Marcopolo buses which were procured in May 2011. In the first year of operations, the fuel efficiency of the buses was an average of 2.5 km/kg of CNG. As the buses grew older, the fuel efficienct began deteriorating, and presently is approximately 2.4 km/kg.

In August 2012, as part of its FedEx-supported Bus Karo Plus programme, EMBARQ India organised a ‘Talking Transit’ workshop on Driver Training and Fuel Efficiency in Vishakapatnam, drawing on the experiences  of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC), that has been achieving an efficient 5.22 kilometers per liter (kmpl) of diesel on its city routes over the last decade. The workshop was attended by over 60 representatives from bus-based transport agencies from around the country, including Star Bus.

EMBARQ India’s Bus Karo Plus programme has three components – ‘Talking Transit’, a workshop series, ‘Mentoring Transit’, assisting agencies in impleneting pilot projects, and ‘Learning Transit’, developing and disseminating training material.

As part of the ‘Mentoring Transit’ initiative, after the workshop in Vishakapatnam, Star Bus invited EMBARQ India to assist them in improving their fuel efficiency. In partnership with Mohammad Haneef, a former driver-trainer at APSRTC, EMBARQ India conducted training sessions for the drivers of Star Bus. Based on a preliminary analysis, 40 drivers were selected for the training that was focused on improving fuel efficiency and safety. These drivers were divided into two groups, based on their fuel efficiency rankings.

The training consisted of a four-day programme, from 8th – 11th January 2013, at the Millennium Depot in Delhi. The drivers were divided into two batches and underwent classrom instruction as well as practical training along their regular routes.

The classroom instruction covered an overview of automatic transmission technology; measures to prevent air leakage and engine oil leakage; and the relationship between acceleration and fuel efficiency.

As part of the practical training, the drivers were made to drive under supervision of the instructor, who gave them continuous feedback and tips towards improving their driving skills. In order to measure the fuel efficiency, the fuel tank of the bus was filled to capacity, and the reading on the odometer was noted before the field training. After completing the day’s training, the quantity of fuel consumed was measured and the fuel efficiency calculated. The fuel efficiency recorded ranged from 4.86 to 5.06 km/kg. The drivers were pleasantly surprised by these results. The drivers and the administrative staff at Star Bus agreed that even after adjusting for increased passenger load during actual field conditions, an average of 4  km/kg is achievable. This workshop brought to light the importance of proper training, the appropriate use of technology, and the strong linkage between driving habits and fuel efficiency.

While the training programme resulted in generating enthusiasm amongst the drivers and other team members at Star Bus, sustaining the fuel efficiency achieved during training will be a challenge over time. It would require certain mechanisms to motivate the drivers to continue to perform better. Certain strategies towards this were defined, including fixing a benchmark for fuel efficiency on each route, daily monitoring of data, and offering incentives for drivers with best fuel efficiency each month.

Additionally, assigning drivers to the same routes and the same buses has been found to impact fuel efficiency owing to the familiarity with the driving environment. It was also recommended that the administrative staff be part of the incentive scheme and that regular training programmes be undertaken towards achieving a common goal.

EMBARQ India will continue to support the Star Bus company to enable them to measure and monitor their fuel efficiency standards and help implement the incentives scheme.

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