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Posted on: August 17, 2015 2:33 pm


Industries and businesses of all sizes need heavy equipment to make their progress happen. Whether your equipment consists of a fleet with hundreds or a few key machines, chances are you look for ways to save money and time, increase efficiency and improve safety.

Most contractors and owners know the competitive-bidding environment well, with its ultralean, low-bid characteristics and stories of $400 and lesser amounts making the difference to win jobs. Fuel is essential for the work you do with heavy equipment, and it becomes a cost of doing business that is often grabbed and then forgotten as soon as the tank is full.


Fuel of all kinds is expensive and can represent up to 50 percent of a machine’s operating cost, and one nonproductive hour of run time uses about a gallon of fuel. It’s fair to picture dollar signs going out the exhaust pipe of your machine anytime it’s running but not producing results.

Unnecessary idling creeps in and not only burns a lot of fuel you could be saving, but also causes premature wear and tear, results in lower resale value, pushes warranties to expiration sooner and emits needless exhaust. Idle time can account for as much as 40 to 50 percent of machine run time. Depending on the machine but based on one that runs 2,000 hours a year for five years, idle time can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 per machine, per year.

It literally pays to know as many big and small strategies as possible to help cut your fuel and equipment costs. Here are 70 fuel-saving tips for equipment that will help you save money and increase efficiency.

Control the Idle, Save the Fuel: Ways to Cut Fuel Costs

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  1. Know the amount of idle time needed before shutoff. Old machines may need only two minutes, and new machines need little, if any time.
  2. Park unneeded machines out of the way of other equipment active on the job site so they won’t have to be moved or run when they’re not working.
  3. Limit the amount of time a machine warms up to a recommended three to five minutes.
  4. Instill the standard that drivers turn off a truck engine anytime they’ll be waiting more than five minutes.
  5. Engage the automatic shutoff feature if possible and available.
  6. Insist that the engine be turned off during breaks, lunch and any other times equipment is not being used. One business owner demonstrated his point by starting employees’ personal vehicles about 10 minutes before their shift ended to let them idle.
  7. Enhance engine-power density to get higher performance in a lighter weight that will ultimately use less fuel.
  8. Compare the benefits of a bigger tank’s capacity against a smaller tank’s lighter weight.
  9. Set benchmarks of current usage; then establish goals and measure progress and results.
  10. Install a lockup clutch torque converter to save fuel, yet achieve even the toughest production.
  11. Check into hybrid systems that save money and fuel by storing excess hydraulic energy.
  12. Count on Caterpillar® to deliver the innovative technology and industry expertise in well-designed, integrated-performance power trains and equipment.
  13. Get joystick controls for ease of use and faster, more efficient operation.
  14. Equip your business with machines that have load-sensing hydraulics that send optimal flow by sensing work conditions.
  15. Operate the machine in economy mode whenever possible to use, in most cases, up to 6 percent less fuel.
  16. Discourage gas-sucking activities like revving and hard braking.
  17. Monitor systems remotely to check idle time or other performance and condition indicators.

Tap Technology to Tame Expenses

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  1. Rely on the rigorous, conscientious and scientific processes of Caterpillar as its thousands of experts test and retest to produce the most fuel-efficient equipment.
  2. Realize that it costs much more to fix what broke on a machine than to do regular, preventive maintenance and service.
  3. Check out the many options of Cat’s® equipment management solutions (EMS) program that offers five different levels of service: access, inform, advise, support and manage. The experts at Alban CAT can explain the different benefits of each choice.
  4. Use CAT ProductLink™ to monitor fuel usage, location, maintenance costs, service needs, working-versus-idle time and more. Caterpillar builds ProductLink into its machines and can retrofit others with the system that delivers information about the machine condition and status, produces reports and supplies other data.
  5. VisionLink™ brings all the data to your smartphone, tablet or computer and can tell you everything from where a piece of equipment is to when it’s time to replace the air filter. The system delivers information about your equipments’ engine, hydraulic and transmission systems as well as hours, location, diagnostic codes and more. VisionLink offers options for real-time data, and the transmitter it uses is compact and easy to access for service or adjustment.
  6. The Cat Scheduled Oil Sampling (SOS) program involves analyzing oil, coolant and hydraulic fluids for excessive wear, contamination, low levels and other conditions that can lead to damage or failure. SOS fluid analysis helps you know what’s going on inside the machine.
  7. Access the SIS Web to find a world of data including an online parts store, assembly or disassembly instructions, operations and maintenance guidelines and 17,000 Cat publications that include the latest technical specs. The SIS Web makes time in your schedule since it reduces the time spent doing research and can be used to help with personnel management and technician scheduling.
  8. Use data to track usage, record hours, monitor machine health, implement machine boundaries and keep track of emissions. Data empowers you to achieve higher efficiency, like more loads per day, less abuse and a better chance of recovery in cases of theft.
  9. Map and plan production routes using GPS or other technology to travel the shortest distance and use less fuel.
  10. Analyze fuel consumption at regular intervals to be sure you’re not losing efficiency, which could indicate a minor or major problem.
  11. Consider using cardless technology for fuel purchases to discourage and thwart theft.
  12. Opt for automatic transmissions wherever possible, which perform more efficiently than a manual, even under ideal conditions with the best of skilled operators.
  13. Don’t be tempted to skimp on quality; insist on the trusted Caterpillar name for new and rebuilt parts or other products, service and engineering expertise. Inferior replacement parts, fluids and other components don’t contain the trusted technology that comes in a Cat product.
  14. Calculate what you’d stand to save with capabilities like Product Link, VisionLink, EMSolutions and preventive maintenance plans before you dismiss the idea of adding such features. In the time you wait to add them, they could be paying for themselves. Also, when buying a new machine, it is always more economical to include features at purchase time than to add them later.

Harness People Power

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  1. Ponder the power of a good crew: Caterpillar polled a group of heavy-construction professionals about their biggest competitive advantage, and one-third of them said skilled operators top the list.
  2. Recruit and retain skilled operators, since research shows they use 10 to 12 percent less fuel than someone unskilled or not using best practices.3_Skilled-Operators
  3. Train, retrain then train some more, since studies point to training and learning new things as factors that increase work quality, employee satisfaction and loyalty.
  4. Consider an investment in new equipment since the clean, sleek, latest technology will forever be more attractive and exciting than old, uncomfortable or inefficient machines.
  5. Note the data that says operators are drawn to equipment with joystick controls, plenty of head and leg room, a panoramic view, a comfortable seat, low sound and vibration, easy access, climate control and electronic compatibility.
  6. Add technology, amenities and features to keep operation more efficient and interesting to the young people coming of age and entering the workforce, most of whom have never lived life without computers and plenty of digitized assistance.
  7. Start an apprentice program to expose trade-school or high-school students to your industry and to equipment operation.
  8. Offer incentive bonuses tied to efficiency and fuel savings.
  9. Create scorecards for each employee’s performance and fuel stewardship, then share their scores with them.
  10. Hold an orientation for new employees, have them shadow a well-trained operator and enable them to ask questions of veteran operators.
  11. Implement a work-order system in which nothing gets purchased without an approved order, which will help control expenses and cause employees to think more critically about spending money.

Maintenance Holds Key to Long Machine Life

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  1. Check air filters at regular intervals, changing after 50 hours or when you note dirt in the folds. It isn’t recommended that you clean and reinsert the filter, since any of those actions – such as hitting the filter against something or blowing out the dirt – could damage the filter and keep it from doing its job correctly.
  2. Keep fittings greased correctly because the more mobility parts have, the more efficiently everything will run.
  3. Monitor tire pressure each day because just like low tires on a car will decrease gas mileage, a low tire on your heavy equipment will cause it to use more fuel.
  4. Investigate fault codes and warnings immediately, as well as other signs of trouble like excessive smoke or bad smells. Generally, the longer an issue goes unaddressed, the worse it will become and the more likely it will cause bigger, costlier problems.
  5. Find the lowest-operating RPM at which the machine isn’t straining and run it there to optimize fuel consumption.
  6. Schedule service at least every 500 hours, or use the Caterpillar levels of service that range from receiving reminders to having Alban CAT manage everything related to maintenance. 4_Service-Every-500-Hours
  7. Ensure that parts are moving and calibrated correctly to keep equipment in top-performing condition.
  8. Maintain proper belt tension, fluid levels and intervals for changing filters.
  9. Conduct a quick, daily, visual inspection of each machine to detect any leaks, cracks or other unusual situations before equipment begins its work. Make note and keep a list of items that need attention.
  10. Keep good records on everything you do with your equipment, since they will serve you well as you analyze production and expenses or track maintenance. That documentation benefits your bottom line at resale time, too, since a good record of documented maintenance boosts equipment value.
  11. Use checklists, spreadsheets, special systems and/or a great consultant like Alban CAT to get organized and optimize collection, storage, access and interpretation of the machine data you gather.
  12. Determine the difference in cost of maintenance done onsite rather than at a repair place, because often the house-call approach to regular service can cost less money than having to load and haul the whole machine somewhere while you wait and experience downtime.
  13. Be aware of Cat remanufactured parts as a lower-cost option of comparable quality to Cat Classic new parts. Both have warranties and feature Caterpillar quality, and they will fit your specific machine perfectly.
  14. Make sure you know the regeneration needs of your Tier 4 equipment and oblige them at the recommended intervals to avoid breakdowns, damage and costly repair.
  15. Pamper your tracked undercarriage since that component makes up 50 percent of the maintenance and repair cost for such equipment. Caterpillar designs its undercarriages with extra clearance, but adverse conditions affect critical parts including links, rollers, seals, segments, pins, bushings, idlers and shoes.

Ensure Efficiency at the Job Site

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  1. Analyze and optimize equipment operations across all your job sites to avoid some machines being overused while others are underused. The goal is to use all of them to full capacity, or come as close to that goal as possible.
  2. Avoid unnecessary charges for rush deliveries, emergency service or long-haul loads by planning far ahead and allowing enough time plus a contingency cushion. In some cases, these charges can add up and eat a contractor’s thin-enough profit margin before they even get paid for the job.
  3. Focus on site layout to save fuel and time, such as setting an excavator up high to increase loading efficiency and determining the bucket-fill factors, which basically involves an analysis of what you’re hauling as well as how much of it can be hauled how fast.
  4. Map out production activities and routes to make sure you achieve the most productive circulation and stage the site to your best economic advantage. Experts at Alban CAT can help you optimize movements to boost efficiency.
  5. Make full loads and use any available space in trucks, trailers or other vehicles when hauling or moving materials or people.
  6. Consider fuel purchases through strategic partners to take advantage of volume-purchase discounts.
  7. Stay in touch with Alban CAT so that you have a ready resource if you ever need to field test a piece of equipment, borrow something in a pinch or want rental or leasing options.
  8. Do performance comparisons whenever possible between your fleet and others in the region and state. Many times it depends on the type and amount of data you can access through conversations, online records, talking to your equipment dealers and conferring with other owners.
  9. Plan to fill the normal slow times with tasks such as making deliveries, servicing machines, repairing equipment, staging job-site materials, completing forms, creating schedules and doing training.
  10. Schedule administrative time to think about your business, preferably away from the chaos of daily production and for long enough to address the financial, personnel, operating, communication and other aspects of the business’s big picture.
  11. Create strong incentives for safe and efficient machine operation and reinforce best practices with positive feedback.
  12. Share data on how best practices save money and inform the workforce about the other reasons why it’s good for everyone to conserve fuel and strive for better overall efficiency.
  13. Listen for ideas and feedback that will help you save money, increase efficiency and grow to be better and better.

The goals to save fuel, run as efficiently as possible and make more money are nearly universal across all industries:

Most owners want to keep people and equipment productive, prolong machine life, prevent downtime and missed deadlines, avoid accidents and estimate revenue more accurately. These equipment fuel-saving tips can help you meet all these goals.

You can consider a number of Caterpillar strategies to benefit your business – including equipment, services, systems, parts, expertise and more – that all add up to savings and stronger business. Alban CAT can help you save fuel, money and time and could give you the edge you need to win the bid and make more progress happen.

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