Fuel Efficiency Guide for Heavy Equipment

Fuel Efficiency Guide for Heavy Equipment

Fuel expenses can make up 30% to 50% of heavy equipment operating costs. Various factors influence your machine's fuel efficiency, including:

  • Operator technique and driving habits
  • Idle times
  • Equipment type and configuration for a given project
  • Technologies
  • Maintenance efforts
  • Carrying loads
  • Job site and work day setups

It's important to analyze these elements in your worksite and find opportunities to reduce fuel consumption. You can then make the necessary changes and adjustments. Whether your crew uses excavators, dump trucks, backhoes, bulldozers or a combination of machines, ensuring good fuel efficiency across your fleet is crucial. Discover fuel efficiency tips for heavy machinery in this guide.

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Benefits of Fuel Efficiency for Heavy Equipment

Practicing good fuel efficiency habits offers numerous benefits for your heavy equipment. Here are three advantages of a fuel-efficient machine:

  1. Cost savings: Lower fuel usage means less money spent on fuel each year, potentially saving you thousands of dollars over time.
  2. More environmentally friendly: Fuel emits greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that can harm the environment. The more fuel-efficient a machine is, the less gasoline or diesel it requires to travel a given distance. By using less fuel, heavy equipment can produce less pollution and toxic emissions.
  3. Better equipment performance: Over time, excessive fuel waste can strain the engine and damage inner mechanisms. By improving your heavy equipment fuel efficiency, you can help your machines run more efficiently. You can also prevent costly downtime and repairs, and better machine performance usually indicates a longer life span.
Benefits of Fuel Efficiency for Heavy Equipment

How to Reduce Heavy Equipment Fuel Consumption

From operator training to regular machine maintenance, many practices can keep fuel consumption at bay. Explore the best practices for heavy equipment fuel efficiency.

1. Reduce Idle Times

Idling contributes to over 6 billion gallons of lost gasoline and diesel combined annually.

Idling contributes to over 6 billion gallons of lost gasoline and diesel combined annually. Even when fuel prices are as low as $2 per gallon, this wasted fuel can account for over $11 billion each year. Besides driving up your fuel costs, idling a machine for extended periods of time can wear out components and ultimately shorten engine oil life.

Idle reduction technologies can help lower these costs and improve fuel efficiency significantly. Some construction machines are equipped with auto-idle features. After the machine remains stationary for a certain time, it automatically lowers the engine's revolutions per minute (RPM) to reduce fuel burn.

You can also enforce an idle policy for drivers and monitor it with reporting technology. These regulations might include:

  • Allow a maximum of five minutes for the engine to warm up.
  • Limit shut-down time to two minutes for older equipment.
  • Keep equipment off during breaks, or when workers are waiting over five minutes to load or unload.

Note idle reports from your monitoring system and instruct crews to minimize idle times when necessary. By following these simple practices daily, your team can save on fuel costs considerably and preserve the integrity of your equipment.

2. Prioritize Maintenance

Regular inspections and tune-ups can increase fuel efficiency and extend machine life. Adjusting belts to their proper tension, lubricating machines and adjusting track tensions can enable smoother movements and reduce fuel usage as a result.

Following recommended maintenance schedules can help your equipment achieve peak performance. A poorly maintained piece of equipment will use more fuel than a well-maintained one, even when they perform the same amount of work. Preventive maintenance measures can reduce long-term fuel and repair costs, increasing both machine productivity and life span.

Consistent equipment maintenance should include:

Tire treads can affect fuel economy since 35% to 50% of rolling resistance comes from tire tread.
  • Tire checks: Tire pressure that is too high or low can weigh heavily on fuel efficiency. Tire treads can affect fuel economy since 35% to 50% of rolling resistance comes from tire tread. In addition, underinflated tires can affect machine performance. Make sure that tires are professionally inspected, adjusted and inflated regularly to improve fuel efficiency. A specialist can also identify wear or damage and make repairs accordingly.
  • Sharpening cutting edge and teeth: A dull blade edge or bucket teeth can reduce machine performance and drive up fuel consumption over time. Equipment with dull bucket teeth or blades has more resistance and can't cut through material as efficiently.
  • Oil changes: Fresh oil lubricates metal components as it flows through the engine, helping a machine run more efficiently and use less fuel.
  • Air filter changes: A dirty air filter restricts airflow in the engine, requiring it to work harder and use more fuel. A telematics monitoring system can tell you the number of hours since you last replaced the filter.

Replacing machine fluids according to maintenance schedules is another best practice to improve fuel efficiency. Use the recommended fluids, such as hydraulic and engine oil, to ensure your equipment receives the proper type and amount.

You should also keep an eye out for excessive tire slipping. When a tire slips frequently, the machine consumes more fuel, significantly straining the engine. Sufficient ballast — heavy material like gravel, sand or metal used to provide equipment stability — can prevent tires from slipping often. Ensure proper rolling resistance to improve fuel efficiency. Additionally, you can remove ballast when transporting lighter loads.

3. Avoid Carrying Extra Weight

The heavier a machine is, the more energy it requires to operate. Heavy machines have higher rolling resistance and inertia, both of which can increase fuel usage. Loading excess materials and weight onto already heavy equipment strains the engine and fuel economy.

For every 100 pounds removed from a machine, your fuel efficiency can increase by 1%.

Reduce the weight on your equipment as much as possible, and avoid carrying heavier loads than necessary. For every 100 pounds removed from a machine, your fuel efficiency can increase by 1%. Make sure to check the manufacturer's recommendations for carrying weight limits.

4. Avoid Speeding and Quick Acceleration and Shift at Lower RPMs

Heavy equipment usually maintains optimal performance when operated at steady paces. Frequent acceleration and braking burn more fuel. Respecting speed limits, accelerating gradually and braking gently can boost fuel economy by up to 40%. Driving equipment responsibly is also safer for you and others.

When training staff on proper machine use, remind them to avoid quick acceleration and “jackrabbit starts," which can increase both fuel consumption and toxic emissions. Encourage them to operate machines at slow, steady paces to save fuel and maintain safe driving habits.

When drivers gear up and throttle down at high RPMs, they use more fuel. Remind your crew members to lower their RPMs before shifting.

5. Plan Work Days Accordingly

You can boost fuel efficiency by strategically planning work days in advance. For instance, ensure operators are using the shortest travel routes with minimal obstructions. Planning out the most efficient driving routes for equipment can do wonders for fuel economy.

Additionally, note how each machine is being used to determine if a more efficient solution is possible. For example, you might be able to use a larger wheel loader bucket or one bulldozer rather than two. During job planning, you can also factor in material staging areas and heavy equipment positions to prevent unnecessary transport and carrying loads. 

By mapping out everyday operations and identifying improvement areas, you can reduce fuel consumption and maximize equipment service life.

6. Integrate Monitoring Technology

Monitoring technology can help reduce idling and lower fuel consumption. An advanced fleet telematics system uses computerized data to preserve fuel usage and costs. In addition to machine idling, it can monitor fuel burn, operational hours, maintenance alerts, driving habits and other variables affecting fuel economy and expenses.

By implementing a telematics system for your heavy equipment, you can identify excessive fuel usage, check the status of your machines and see how drivers are operating them, then make adjustments as needed. For instance, you may not need as many machines for a particular project as anticipated, so you can reassign them to another job site.

Telematics enables you to assess how many machines are necessary for different construction projects. Limiting the number of machines at a job site can also reduce transportation costs and improve productivity. Additionally, you can use telematics to determine whether the equipment type is appropriate for its applications.

View a specific machine and its data, such as how much fuel it's consuming, via a mobile app or web browser. You can compare the amount of fuel different operators are burning, and identify trends that may be helpful during training. For instance, an operator may be using a more fuel-heavy power mode when a standard or economy mode works just as efficiently with less fuel.

Many telematics platforms are easy to use and accessible from anywhere. In most cases, you don't have to be physically at the worksite to know the status of your heavy equipment.

7. Provide Proper Training

Skilled machine operators play a sizable role in improving fuel efficiency. Integrate a thorough training program to educate crew members on proper equipment use.

Ongoing training throughout the year reinforces good operating habits, building a more reliable team.

Teach operators to drive safely and responsibly and avoid sharp braking, rapid acceleration, excessive idling, speeding and other behaviors that can raise fuel consumption. Ongoing training throughout the year reinforces good operating habits, building a more reliable team.

Operators should also be trained on available equipment modes and how they influence fuel efficiency outcomes. Set aside time to provide this additional training so they can use these modes appropriately. In most cases, standard and economy modes are best for preserving fuel. Standard mode is suitable for everyday lifting, digging and grading. Economy mode is ideal when operators need to slow the machine for precise work or are working in light grading conditions.

8. Ensure Efficient Communication

In addition to proper training, strong communication across your team is essential. Improper machine use, idling and other causes of excessive fuel burn often come from lack of communication. 

Create a solid communication system to report instances of fuel wasting and call attention to improvement areas. By facilitating communication between crews, you can minimize needless machine use, worker downtime and fuel burn.

9. Use the Right Machine and Size for the Job

Larger equipment uses more fuel, so you can boost efficiency by not using a machine that's bigger than necessary. Likewise, a smaller-than-necessary machine can overwork the engine, resulting in damage and expensive repairs. Using the wrong machine or attachment type for the project creates more work in the long run. More work translates to higher fuel usage.

Insufficient machinery for a task won't operate at peak fuel efficiency, while excessive machinery for the job is wasteful.

Insufficient machinery for a task won't operate at peak fuel efficiency, while excessive machinery for the job is wasteful. As a result, you can reduce costs and maximize performance by using the appropriate size machine for the job. When assigning equipment to certain tasks, ensure the machine is as small as possible while still being able to fulfill the job requirements.

In addition to selecting the right machine for the job, the way you configure it can determine fuel usage. For certain tasks, you may be able to run a 6x4 configuration — a three-axle machine with a drivetrain powering two wheel ends on two of them — to minimize tire wear and conserve fuel.

Use a 6x6 configuration — an all-wheel drive drivetrain with three axles and at least two wheels on each one — only in heavy mud or other challenging conditions. By using the most compact engine size and setup possible for the job, you can enjoy better fuel economy benefits.

On top of your engine size and configuration, pinpoint other elements that may be wasting unnecessary fuel. Worn or damaged bucket teeth, dull cutting edges and clogged air filters can consume extra fuel. They can also overheat the engine, drag operations and prevent efficient workflow.

10. Analyze Your Job Site Setup

It's important to examine, assess and identify improvement areas at your job site to help enhance fuel efficiency. Workflow is key, especially when one step in the process must be completed before the next step can begin. By implementing certain measures to reduce idling, you can ensure as much fuel consumption is contributing to productive tasks as possible, improving fuel efficiency in turn.

Telematics allows crews to gather insight into how their job setup impacts fuel burn. These monitoring platforms can generate reports on idle times, work mode frequencies, travel times and other data. With this information, you can identify setbacks and make better decisions about what equipment to use for certain tasks, where they should be, how many machines are necessary and other key considerations.

11. Upgrade Your Equipment

Consider upgrading your equipment to improve fuel efficiency. Newer and higher-quality machines run more efficiently than older, worn-out or poorly maintained machinery. In addition to the latest technologies, other advancements in newer equipment models can help with fuel efficiency, such as transmissions that don't need operator intervention.

Some construction machines have built-in systems and features that can automate traction aid devices, control systems, engine-hydraulic interactions and transmission shift points, which you can use to improve both performance and fuel efficiency. Other machines have performance modes that adjust hydraulic power and speed, engine horsepower and rim pull to boost fuel efficiency. Knowing how to leverage these fuel-saving features can help you minimize burn and waste.

new advanced technology diesel is generally more fuel-efficient than older generations.

Additionally, new advanced technology diesel is generally more fuel-efficient than older generations. Diesel engines have come a long way in a short time, achieving more consistency in fuel usage. Another factor to consider is that manufacturers often optimize modern engines to work with the system's surrounding parts, so a mix-and-match approach may not be practical.

If you're looking to upgrade your heavy equipment fleet, turn to The Cat® Rental Store. Our inventory features late-model equipment from Caterpillar and other reliable manufacturers, helping you save money and complete more work in less time. Whether you need machinery for short-term or long-term projects, you can rent from a wide selection of construction equipment types.

Compaction Equipment

The Cat Rental Store dealers have a variety of compaction equipment available for rent, suited to smooth surfaces and rough terrain alike. With everything from soil and landfill compactors to double drum rollers, your local dealer can help you find the solution needed to meet your unique requirements.

The inventory of rental compaction equipment features high-quality brands, providing impressive durability and performance. The Cat Rental Store also carries lightweight compactor equipment for narrow spaces and residential projects, such as walk-behind plate compactors. No matter the conditions or applications you're working with, your local dealer has something for you.

Earthmoving Equipment

The Cat Rental Store has an extensive selection of earthmoving equipment rentals to increase fleet performance and flexibility. With backhoe loaders, dozers and excavators in various sizes and configurations, you can find earthmoving equipment that aligns with your project. Whether you need to grade a road, dig a basement or fill a ditch, browse earthmoving equipment for rent to find the right choice for your job.

Forestry and Landscaping Equipment

Forestry and landscaping businesses rely on heavy equipment daily. If you work in this industry, The Cat Rental Store dealers can help you find machinery that keeps projects on schedule and gets the job done safely and quickly. 

You can rent chippers, harvesters, knuckleboom loaders, skidders and other landscaping solutions for as long as you need — whether your project spans a day, a week or several months. When you're looking for forestry equipment to meet your requirements, The Cat Rental Store is your one-stop shop.

Material Handling Equipment

Our material handling equipment rentals allow you to load, unload, lift and transport heavy items with ease. Whether you work in a warehouse, at a construction site, on a loading dock or at another location, these machines can move materials quickly and efficiently, boosting productivity in your fleet.

Our inventory includes material handling equipment from Caterpillar and other reputable manufacturers. Your local dealer can provide weekly, monthly and long-term rental options for material handling solutions.

You can rent material and waste handlers on wheels or racks as well as straight mast forklifts and telehandlers in various lift heights and capacities. Whatever you choose, these equipment types are designed to help you get the job done with fast turnaround times.

Find Heavy Equipment at The Cat® Rental Store

Whatever your industry or applications, you can find technologically advanced equipment at competitive rates through The Cat Rental Store. With their extensive product knowledge and industry expertise, our dealers can help you make the most informed decisions when selecting equipment.

If you're ready to find high-quality machinery that meets your needs, browse our rental equipment selection today. Contact your local dealer about finding the right solution for your applications.

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