by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow
Real-time feedback to drivers can help them improve their fuel efficiency and safety. The results of a recent UMass Amherst field study on the Effectiveness of Eco-Driving: Real-Time Feedback and Classroom Training, were presented at the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, by UMass-Amherst graduate student Tao Jiang.
The presentation summarized an UMass-Amherst study undertaken as part of MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning, Research Section and funded with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) State Planning and Research (SPR) funds. UMass-Amherst Professors, and UMass Transportation Center Research Affiliates, Dr. Daiheng Ni and Dr. Song Gao, oversaw the study. The goal of the project was “to identify and test techniques for modifying driver behavior to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and improve safety, in furtherance of the mission and goals of the GreenDOT Implementation Plan.”
Motor vehicles are major contributors to air pollution, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are responsible for close to half the volatile organic compounds that create smog, more than half the nitrogen oxide emissions, and approximately half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the U.S.
As discussed in the research report, three major characteristics of driving behaviors to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve safety are:
- Driving smoothly without much acceleration, idling, or traveling at very low speeds (such as in congested stop-and-go traffic).
- Anticipating traffic and being vigilant about other vehicles in traffic with you and other drivers’ behaviors.
- Following speed limits on highways and adjusting speeds as needed for adverse conditions.
The study was conducted with 133 MassDOT-owned vehicles (heavy vehicles excluded) and the employees who drive them. The study included two types of interventions to modify driver behaviors. The first was the installation of an in-vehicle device that provided real-time feedback, including weekly emails, on each driver’s performance over a two and a half month period. The second was a 1.5-hour classroom training on eco-driving. There were four participant groups: one that received both interventions, one that received real-time feedback only, one that had the classroom training only, and one that had no intervention. Participants’ driving behaviors were evaluated before the intervention phase, during the intervention phase, and afterward.
Major conclusions from this research were as follows:
- Real-time feedback had a significant impact in reducing speeding and aggressive acceleration.
- Combined effects of real-time feedback and classroom training contributed to a 0.89 mile per gallon improvement in fuel economy.
The study recommended that both real-time feedback and training, as well as periodic follow-up and monitoring, will maximize the effectiveness of such eco-driving interventions.