Ecodrive as a road safety tool for Australian conditions

Ecodriving involves driving more smoothly by anticipating changes in the traffic, operating the vehicle within an optimum rev range, skipping and changing up gears as soon as possible, and avoiding sudden or substantial episodes of braking or acceleration. A substantial body of literature promises mild to substantial benefits from ecodriving in terms of fuel saved, emissions reduced, and possibly crashes averted. However, many of the published trials can be criticised for various methodological shortcomings, particularly the lack of a control group, not testing in a real-world traffic environment, and limited attention given to assessment of long-term behaviour changes.

A trial was conducted with heavy vehicle drivers operating in real traffic, with follow-ups at six and twelve weeks. Comparisons were made with a control group and pre versus post training, and improvements were evident in fuel use, the number of braking applications, and the number of gear changes, without any sacrifice in overall speed or driving time. The effects were either still present three months later or in some cases progressively improving. However, the trial was not large enough to be conclusive and testing was carried out on a pre-determined route. The results do, however, warrant a larger trial, particularly a naturalistic one in which telematics are used to capture in-service data as the drivers go about their daily work.

Despite the need for further research, ecodrive holds significant promise for implementation in Australia. An ideal opportunity exists now, before widespread take-up in Australia, to a) empirically identify the critical content and optimal methods of delivery for an ecodrive curriculum; b) explore the role that technology can play in not only evaluating the impact of ecodriving but also in supporting drivers to make more informed vehicle control decisions; and c) develop a best-practice model, informed by cost-benefit analyses, that might be disseminated widely for corporate use and built into novice driver training.

Type: Research and Analysis Report

Sub Type: Grant

Author(s): Symmons M; Rose G; Van Doorn G

Publication Date: 03/06/09