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Competition drives fuel consumption down further

12 July 2007

Competition drives fuel consumption down further

Believe it or not, fuel economy measures for driving a two thousand tonne freight train are much the same as those for the family car.

"Avoid rapid acceleration, go easy on the brakes and avoid unnecessary idling. It's surprising how simple measures like that can have a significant impact on diesel consumption," says Joe Garbellini, Group General Manager of New Zealand's rail operator, Toll Rail.

Toll is about to go nationwide with a train divers' competition to save fuel.

"We use one million litres of diesel every week. We estimate that a few small changes in driving habits could save up to three million litres every year. That's good for the environment, it's good for energy usage and it's good for our bottom line."

"It will further increase rail's environmental advantages over road transport," Mr Garbellini said.

Toll has been trialing the fuel saving competition on the Christchurch-West Coast coal route. In the past 12 months, where around a million litres of fuel has been saved.

The competition is about to be rolled out nationally through Toll's 18 regional depots. There will be monthly prizes of petrol vouchers and merchandise from Toll's fuel supplier, Shell. Winners in each region will go into an annual regional draw (Southern, Central and Northern) to win a travel voucher.

Mr Garbellini said it was important to involve Toll's 420 strong drivers' team in the design of the competition.

"We needed their help and ideas. Most importantly, we needed their active involvement and enthusiasm."

Mr Garbellini says drivers have got right behind the competition.

Central to the competition is the data logger, rail's equivalent of the plane's "black box" flight recorder. Data loggers have historically recorded information like acceleration, speeds and braking.

Toll is currently in the process of commissioning a new, latest technology data logger, known as Tranzlog into Toll Rail's locomotives. Tranzlog was developed right here in New Zealand by Otari Electronics and has a whole range of new features including the ability to accurately measure fuel consumption.

"Tranzlog allows us to measure exactly how our fuel saving efforts are going and, of course, to identify and reward the winning drivers," he explains.

While many of the fuel saving techniques are common to both family cars and locomotives, there are one or two measures that are peculiar to trains. For example, from July last year, TOLL Rail introduced the shutting down of one locomotive of a two locomotive train travelling empty from the highest point of the Southern Alps through to Westport to pick up coal. The additional grunt is needed to climb to the top of the Alps and also to haul full wagons back to Lyttelton. Prior to that time, it was assumed that two locomotives working at half power were more fuel-efficient than a single locomotive working at full power.

Not so. The newly-installed Tranzlog showed that more fuel could be saved by running one locomotive on full power than two locomotives running at half power.

Mr Garbellini says the information of how to conserve fuel will be documented, shared with the other drivers and included in the curriculum of New Zealand's only train driving school in Lower Hutt.

"Fuel conservation has to be a priority for a major transport operator like Toll," Mr Garbellini says.

"We're also working with Shell to put together a plan to trial biofuel - a diesel/plant oil extract mixture - and we will be in a position to provide information on this in the near future.

"This competition is now. Thanks to our drivers, it's already reaping excellent rewards," Joe Garbellini says.


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