It’s April. Conexpo-Con/AGG 2011 is over and the industry has turned back to normal. Or has it? The Highway Bill has been extended again, through September 30 2011 and there are promises of better things for transportation infrastructure yet to come.
An endless number of new products will have been introduced at Conexpo but unfortunately, I’m writing this before the show actually starts so you will have to wait until next month to read about the hot product introductions. This past December we started running products that exhibitors said they would have at the show. We continued to add to the list through the March issues and have included some in this issue. As you can imagine, the hot items aren’t unveiled until the show doors open. Some of these showstoppers did make it to our Site-K Construction Zone website. If you just can’t wait to see what the industry has to offer visit Site-K.
The last Conexpo was three years ago. No one needs a reminder of happened in the months that followed. This time all indicators are that we should experience slow but steady economic growth. Don’t expect any dramatic changes and be prepared for higher than normal fuel prices. Currently diesel prices are running between a low of $3.81 per gallon and $4.12. In the months following Conexpo 2007 diesel prices were averaging $2.66 per gallon and hitting an average high of $4.70 per gallon in July of 2008.
High fuel prices will have an impact of the economy increasing transportation costs and operating costs. Implement fuel savings policies for your operation and it would probably be a good idea to develop incentive plans for operators who cut fuel consumption on their machines.
Minimize idling. Idling wastes tremendous amounts of fuel. Frequent restarts, during the day, on today’s equipment are not harmful if the machine is well maintained and is not operating in a below-freezing environment.
Make certain that all ground engaging tools are sharp and not in need of repaid. Blunt or rounded cutting edges require more energy and fuel.
Proper tire inflation and track tensioning can go along way to decreasing the volume of fuel a machine consumes.
Proper maintenance will insure the optimum performance from your equipment and that translates to better fuel use. Clogged air intake system filter and fuel filters can up your fuel consumption costs.
Fitting the machine to the job will make better use of the fuel — machine to big, underworked wasted fuel; machine too small, overworked excessive fuel consumption.
Avoid spinning wheels or track, over-reving the machine and overloading buckets and beds. Equipment is designed to perform best within specific ranges. Operating within these defined ranges will give you your best fuel consumption to production ratios as well as minimize wear on the equipment giving you your best return on investment.
Take advantage of operator assistants – machine controls, site management programs, laser alignment devices – that can help make your operators more efficient. There are packages on the market that can make novice operator function like an old pro in some applications.
There are more tips and information on operating more fuel efficiently. Contact your local equipment dealer and ask for their help. In fact, consider having someone from their operation come out a put on a training program for your operators. Get your operators involved and ask for their suggestions. Remember, they’re on the machines all the time and know them and how they meet the demands of a particular application.
No matter how you approach it there are several key components that will make a difference in how fuel-efficient your operation is:
- The quality of your maintenance
- The skill of your operators
- The condition of your equipment
- The equipment fit to the job
- Employee involvement
- Management commitment
If you want an effective fuel management program it has to involve everyone starting at the top. The number one person in the operation has to be as committed to the program as the operator and everyone has to know that top management is a believer too.
Note: As I post this fuel prices have topped $4.00 a gallon for regular gasoline and diesel is pushing the $5.00 level.
Note: This appeared in the April 2011 issues of the Associated Construction Publications.