How Tyre Pressure Affects Fuel Consumption

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For owner drivers and haulage company bosses, there’s no hotter topic than the cost of fuel and the rate of its consumption. Fuel (in whatever form it comes) is, quite literally, the lifeblood of the transport industry; the issue of how to get the most out of a vehicle or entire fleet’s mileage is the eternal question.

With fuel costs on the rise, small and medium sized transport businesses wage a continual battle to reduce overheads, improve performance and keep clients happy. Implementing practices like taking on return loads can go some way to reducing empty mileage, but there are myriad other practical ways drivers and fleet managers can work towards making their vehicles work smarter, not harder. One of them is monitoring tyre pressure.

The Importance of Tyre Pressure

Checking tyre pressure should be a regular part of any driver’s weekly or even daily maintenance schedule, depending on the mileage and weight your vehicle undertakes (it’s important to factor in any unexpected return loads as well). But this simple act that takes a matter of minutes can make a huge difference to safety, the performance of your lorry and, crucially, the vehicle’s fuel consumption.

Why is the Correct Pressure So Important?

Here’s a fact: more than 20% of a HGV’s fuel consumption (and, in fact, any car’s) is down to what’s called ‘rolling resistance’ which is the force resisting the action of the tyre as it rolls along the road. What this means is that one in every five tanks of fuel is basically left on the road and when you look at it in those terms, there’s a fairly big motivation to reduce this as much as possible in order to conserve the bottom line.

Here’s the next fact for you to consider: under inflated tyres increase rolling resistance.

The Cost of Under Inflation

In the UK alone it’s estimated road users waste upwards of 370 million litres of fuel annually due to under inflation of tyres. When translated into a tangible cost that comes to close to £450 million and, broken down, it means that every motorist in the UK spending, on average, £2,500 a year, is wasting at least £150.

For commercial operators the numbers are even more alarming, with one survey’s findings stating that a company had the potential to save up to £65,000 a year simply by maintaining the correct tyre pressures across their fleet. The same survey also found that by this action operators would also reduce their carbon emissions by a staggering 117 tonnes every year.

Little Numbers, Big Results

A 15% under inflation of tyres leads to approximately 6% more fuel consumption, not to mention greatly reducing the life of the tyre due to increased braking distances, poor road holding and vastly excessive wear and tear. All this leads to increased running costs, so changing a few little numbers on the tyre pressure gauge can make a huge difference to those numbers of that all important bottom line. But correctly inflated tyres not only increase fuel efficiency; they also offer improved stability and less resistance on the road, thereby reducing the risk of accidents.

All in all, it’s a pretty compelling argument to ensure the correct tyre pressure.

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching loads and return loads with available drivers. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

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