The operators of corporate and government vehicle fleets can achieve big savings in fuel and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by sending their drivers to eco-driving school, Waterloo researchers have found.

While the savings for each vehicle are small, the benefits over time for large fleets can be significant, says Jean Andrey, professor in Waterloo’s School of Geography and Environmental Management.

traffic jam with exhaust billowing around cars

The study was conducted for the City of Calgary by Andrey, Michelle Rutty, Lindsay Matthews and Tania Del Matto. The City of Calgary had a sample of their drivers attend a course that focused on smart driving:

  • gentle acceleration
  • following speed limit
  • anticipating traffic flow
  • coasting to decelerate
  • combine trips to shorten the distance driven in a day.
  • reduction of unnecessary idling

Changes in behaviour that directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save fuel were noted after the municipal drivers were given eco-driving training:

  • Gasoline powered cars saved, on average, more than $150 per year
  • Hybrid vehicles each saved approximately $90 per year
  • Over the course of a year, the fleet of 15 vehicles saved over 1500 litres of gas
  • Carbon dioxide emissions dropped by more than 1 kg daily per vehicle

The study was done in three phases. In-vehicle monitoring devices, or CarChips, were installed in the 15 vehicles used by members of the city’s development and building department, and the fuel-consumption data was downloaded after one month.

Then, the drivers attended an “eco-driving” seminar, most for one hour while some took the more intensive three-hour training. Then it was back on the road, and after another month the CarChips data was downloaded again.

 “My sense is that more is achievable, but this is a good first step,” says Andrey.

Between 2009 and 2011, Rutty, Matthews and Del Matto, conducted a similar comparison study of the drivers and the vehicle fleet at Blue Mountain Ski Resorts in Collingwood, with similar results. That study caught the attention of city officials in Calgary, so the students were enlisted to see if they could comparable results would be seen in Alberta.

“The City of Calgary has been very keen to take a role in environmental initiatives,” says Andrey.