In 2020, fuel costs account for around 50% of the total cost of operating construction equipment. When fuel prices are so unpredictable, yet it’s an essential resource for most operations in our industry, we tend to just close our eyes and pay the bill. But what if it doesn’t have to be that way?

Technology is changing, things are moving forward and we’re gaining more and more insight into production data. We analyze and report, and perhaps struggle more to defend the fact that things are still done the way they’ve always been done, just because. With ever-increasing demands for increased profitability and well-tuned production, we need to optimize where we can. We’ve looked at some of the reasons behind low fuel efficiency to uncover some potential money wasters.

Here are five concrete measures you can look at that can have a big impact on your bottom line:

  • reduce idling
  • improve operator technique
  • optimize travel routes
  • the right equipment selection and setup
  • take advantage of new technology

Fuel efficiency

First, let’s take a look at what is meant by being fuel efficient. Mass moved, also called productivity, is measured in tons or cubic meters. Fuel used to perform these operations is measured in liters, and the time span is measured in hours. This results in tons per liter, or cubic meters per liter.

Fuel efficiency =

mass moved in a given time period ÷ fuel used in the same time period

So it goes without saying that if you want to improve fuel efficiency, you have two options:

1. Increase productivity, without increasing fuel consumption

2. Reduce fuel consumption, while maintaining the same productivity

Idle speed

Idling is, quite obviously, one of the biggest influences on fuel efficiency. Idling is when fuel is consumed without anything productive happening.

When a construction machine idles, it’s not just production that suffers – idle time also costs you money.

Figures from the Norwegian Association of Machinery Contractors (MEF) show that construction machinery idles 30-50 percent of the working day. This extensive idling in the construction industry has negative consequences for both the environment and the economy.

Although idling is unlikely to be eliminated completely, due to the heating and cooling needs of some construction equipment, queuing and waiting, etc.

In addition to losing money through increased fuel costs from idling, there are a few other factors that can have a negative impact on your bottom line. If the engine is running without the machine being used for work, you will cause unnecessary wear to the engine. The machine needs to be serviced more often and parts need to be replaced earlier, which increases the total cost of ownership.

Idling can also reduce the sales value of a machine as the unnecessary idling hours add up on the operating hour meter. Over the lifetime of the machine, this can add up to a significant loss of value – which could easily have been avoided.


1. Review consumption data and fuel costs with drivers. Insight reports can reveal issues you weren’t aware of.

2. Limit warm-up time. This will vary depending on weather conditions, but studies show that 3-5 minutes of warm-up time is sufficient in most cases.

3. Implement a five-minute idling rule. Restarting machines uses less fuel than idling.

4. Limit cooling time. Machines should idle a little at the end of the day to clean the motor, but cool-down time is achieved in minutes in the vast majority of cases.

5. Avoid running the engine while the driver is taking a break. Coffee break? Turn off. Roommate calls to talk about dinner? Turn off.

If you can reduce idling by just 10 percent, from the industry average of around 40 percent, that’s a huge amount of savings.

Tarjei Rødset, General Manager of ACO Anlegg

The table below shows the relationship between idle reduction, fuel consumption per hour, production and fuel efficiency. In this example, a 10-ton wheel loader was used.

Idle percentage is reduced, active use is increased, productivity (tons per hour) and fuel consumption per hour increase. As a result, the wheel loader moves more load per liter and hour, which directly increases fuel efficiency.

Furthermore, we can read from the table that if we reduce idling by 10% from 50%, fuel efficiency will increase by 4%. If we reduce by another 20%, fuel efficiency increases by 8%.

The right training

The driver’s experience, technique and knowledge can have a major impact on overall fuel consumption. A study conducted by Caterpillar shows that fuel efficiency can vary by up to 40% between different operators of the same machine. By providing good training, you can ensure that all operators have the tools they need to operate as efficiently as possible.

A wheel loader driver at work.
There is probably a lot to gain in the construction industry, both in terms of the environment and the economy. Awareness-raising, courses and training are key to success.

It is important that the individual driver understands the great economic potential of fuel reduction. That’s why courses and training are incredibly important. How can you make the most efficient and economical use of construction equipment? Be it how you position the dumper? How do you position the wheel loader? The excavator?

The layout of the work

How the plant is planned and laid out also has a major impact on fuel consumption. If you have low fuel efficiency, it can often be because the route between the material to be transported and the destination is poorly planned and structured.

This is important to keep in mind when building new work. If you have a long time to build something new, many transport steps can be replaced with a conveyor belt.

Wheel loader that transports loads.
Optimizing the transport route at the plant can save time and reduce fuel consumption.


Loading on a boat: How to do it most efficiently?

Equipment selection

Using the right machine, at the right time and for the right job can save you a lot of hidden costs. Fuel efficiency can be drastically reduced over time if, for example, you use a machine that is too big for the task. You don’t kill flies with a bazooka. The same applies if you use a machine that is too small. This will require disproportionate amounts of fuel to perform the operation.

To ensure you choose the right equipment for the job, consider the following:

  • The accessories you choose can affect the performance of a machine. Avoid choosing equipment that is too small as this will affect productivity, and avoid oversized equipment to avoid increased engine power requirements leading to extra fuel consumption.
  • Application area. Different machines are designed to perform different tasks. Although some machines can perform many different operations, it doesn’t mean they should. In some cases, it may be best to supplement with additional machines to ensure the most efficient operation with the optimal machine combination. Cobbler, stay with your ballast.
  • Tire selection. If you choose the right tires, you can reduce fuel consumption by up to 10%, according to surveys conducted by tire manufacturers. In addition to this, it is important to ensure that you have the correct tire pressure. If you have too little air in the tires, the rolling resistance will increase and the machine will use more fuel.
  • Additional features. While it’s good practice to encourage operators to turn off machines when they’re not producing, it’s also good to know that there are features that can help. One of these is automatic engine shutdown.


Technology can also affect fuel efficiency. Construction equipment is constantly improving, and additional features allow you to save both money and the environment. Most motors are now designed to perform at maximum capacity with lower RPM, which reduces consumption. Hybrid, or all-electric, construction equipment has also become more common, which for obvious reasons will use less fuel.

There are also good digital tools that can give you a comprehensive overview of data from your entire fleet. Fremby offers a service that gives you information on where machines are located, where they have been, the number of hours in operation and idle, as well as how much they have transported and used in fuel. All this is available in one app.

If you want to go all in on reducing fuel consumption, it’s also worth mentioning that there are a number of alternative solutions to traditional heavy transport. For example, you can choose an electric conveyor belt to transport mass from quarry to feed station or unloader. This is clearly a much bigger investment, but one that will pay for itself in the long run.