Geoff and his mean, green training machine

By Geoff Watkins

Hi, I’m Geoff and I’m an Advanced Driving Instructor, registered Fleet Driver Trainer, and now an Energy Saving Trust Smarter Driving trainer.  Quite a mouthful – but the basic gist is, I work to help organisations and individuals cut carbon and get more bang for their buck on the roads. 

A few months ago, I was invited to take part in a pilot for a new scheme that was being launched in parts of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. I had already been delivering my own eco training to members of the public for a while, and I thought Smarter Driving would be a great way to develop this further. 

At first I was a little sceptical.  Could driving instructors really save every day motorists the equivalent of 20p per litre of fuel, just by showing some simple and easy to follow techniques?  When they managed to significantly improve my fuel economy in the course of a few minutes, when I was convinced I was driving as economically as humanly possible, I was sold! 

So, how does the training work? 

The training can be done over one or two hours, and all trainers are fully qualified driving instructors and approved by the Energy Saving Trust to deliver the training.  

The training can take place in your own vehicle or the trainers own tuition vehicles, depending on your preference, and if your car has the ability to record average speeds and fuel consumption. 

The general format of the training will start off with the client driving a pre-determined route, of varying road conditions, in their normal driving style.  During this drive, the average speed and average fuel consumption data is recorded and will be used for the calculations at the end of the session. 

After observing the drive, the areas identified where you can make the greatest improvements in fuel consumption will be highlighted, and discussed in some detail to prepare you for the next portion.  I always use this time to mention any other safety issues I may have noticed during the drive, as I feel this is just as important a saving fuel! 

Now we’re ready to go off and repeat the exact same route as before, but this time with a little coaching and prompting to help put into practice what has been discussed.  During this drive, we again record the average consumption and speed of the vehicle for analysis at the end.  By the end of this drive, I make sure the client is able to make the adjustments to their driving style independently and most importantly, safely. 

Now comes the moment of truth!  The trainer will input the results into a computer, and a certificate is automatically generated and sent out.  The certificate will highlight your individual performance results and outline how much money and carbon dioxide you will save per year if you maintain the driving style you were able to demonstrate on the day. 

Statistics indicate an average saving of around £250 per year is possible.  In reality, my clients from all across Medway have saved on average in excess of £300, and around 450kg of CO2.  This has been an average reduction of around 15 per cent.  It has also been great to show people that safe, economical driving is no slower than normal, as proved by the average speed results. 

What I have found to be just as pleasing and rewarding, is the fact that every client has left the session having really enjoyed the experience, and with a whole new outlook on the way they drive their cars. 

There’s an added bonus to all of this too.  The side effect of improved forward planning, and increased awareness of your surroundings, is a massively reduced risk of accidents.

My most memorable moment so far has been going BBC Radio Kent’s headquarters to meet Mr John Warnett, presenter of The Breakfast Show.  

Doing the training in an unfamiliar town, having the session recorded by the producers, and the fact John was a very good driver in the first place really put the pressure on.  However, by the end of the hour, I had managed to reduce John’s fuel consumption by 19 per cent, reducing his annual fuel bill by over £500.  The next morning, a great feature was run which included large portions of the in-car session. 

Now we are a few months in, and I am really enjoying being a part of this fantastic scheme.  I cannot wait to see it being rolled out to more areas in the future, and all the benefits it will bring to those who feel up for the challenge of being a Smarter Driver! 

The Energy Saving Trust’s scheme for individuals to get Smarter Driving training is currently available in Kent, Sussex and Surrey. For more info, visit the transport website.