Located in the center of the Florida peninsula, between […]
Located in the center of the Florida peninsula, between Tampa to the west and Orlando to the east, the city of Lakeland comprises about 75 square miles. The city’s roughly 102,000 residents are served by a police force of about 250 sworn officers. The nearly year-round heat and humidity compel Lakeland’s patrol officers to keep the A/C running in their cruisers at all times, which helps prevent heat illness but significantly increases the fuel burned while the vehicles are idling.Gary McLean, the city’s fleet manager, wanted a way to reduce fuel consumption without added labor or equipment costs. An auto enthusiast in his spare time, McLean had heard about an engine tuning product from Derive Systems that could improve gas mileage for fleet vehicles, including police cruisers.The handheld programmer plugs into a vehicle's OBDII port to customize engine settings, which can reduce fuel consumption at idle without reducing performance of the engine or electrical systems. It takes about 15 minutes to load the software, and because there are no parts to install and no downtime, you don’t have to take the vehicle out of service. Installation can be accomplished while technicians are doing other routine work on the vehicle.“You just plug it in and leave it and go off and do other things,” said McLean. “It’s really no impediment to the workload at all.”McLean tested on 10 city vehicles, including six police cruisers, for seven months in 2013.
The testing yielded an average 12 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, and McLean and his team were quickly convinced.In late 2013, the city began installing the Derive calibrations on all new vehicles upon delivery, working their way through the police fleet of more than 300 vehicles by attrition.McLean says he is pleased with the solution. Derive offers additional modifications, such as and adjusting the, but the sole focus for the Lakeland fleet was better fuel efficiency. “Our No. 1 thing was to improve miles per gallon, which has definitely been achieved using the Derive product, especially with the idle reduction,” said McLean. “Our police vehicles idle a lot, and the lowered idle gives us the mpg reduction we were hoping to get.”As an added benefit, the Derive calibrations also erased a slight lag in on Lakeland’s pursuit vehicles. Officers accustomed to the immediate response of the manual throttle in the old Crown Victoria cruisers had noticed a slight lag from the electric throttles of new cruisers.
It wasn’t a problem so much as a quirk, said McLean, but the Derive installation also maximized the response time of those electronics, which made the officers happy.The calibrations are reversible, and McLean says it’s important for fleet managers to understand that recalibrating the engine won’t damage the vehicles or void the warranty.“It’s just re-mapping the computer, and you can bring it back to stock if it’s not what you want to do,” he said.McLean says the cost of the Derive solution breaks even in less than two years, and he expects that the savings margin will increase over the life of each vehicle.“Based on our data from the pilot, we’re reducing fuel cost approximately $200 per year per police vehicle,” he said. “They’re not cosmic numbers, but they are real and easily attained with a quick return on investment.”Further, he says, the calibrations provide without requiring a lot of time and effort or impacting the officers who drive the vehicles.“This is the easiest way to save a quick buck,” McLean said. “Twelve percent is tangible in a vehicle fleet, especially times 300 police vehicles that are out there idling around.”