Shell today announced that its Smarter Cab Drivers have reduced their fuel consumption by an average of 20%[iv] per driver over the past month and stand to save as much as £1,552[v] each if they can keep up the good work all year.

Based on the cabbies’ savings, an average everyday driver could save £544[vi], enough to cover the cost of road tax for two years[vii]. If all of the UK’s 34.1m drivers applied the simple smarter driving tips, they could make a collective saving of up to £18.5bn[viii].

The cab drivers smashed their initial target of a 10% fuel consumption saving by applying simple driving tips that are just as relevant for everyday drivers, such as turning their air conditioning down or off, avoiding over-revving and reducing the load in their boots.

Most improved driver, Bernie Searle, from Norwich, said:
“I looked at every aspect of my driving to see how it could be improved. I found that keeping my distance from other drivers meant I avoided harsh braking and those simple tips helped keep me in the lead throughout the challenge.”

Melanie Lane, General Manager, Shell UK Retail, said:
“We know fuel prices are high right now so it’s important that we help people save fuel and money. We’re pleased to see that our drivers have taken the challenge so seriously and on average have doubled our expected fuel reduction target. We hope this campaign can show that if cabbies can do it, all drivers can become smarter, more fuel-efficient and see the impact on their pocket.”

18 public hire cab drivers from ten cities across Britain spent a month competing to become more fuel efficient and save money by making simple changes to the way they drive. Working in collaboration with the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), the four week driving challenge applied both simple driving tips, as well as specially designed ‘nudges’, to see whether drivers could adapt their behaviour in order to reduce fuel costs.

The challenge investigated whether traditional learning methods such as Shell’s Smarter Driving tips can be enhanced when combined with the RSA’s own ‘steer theory’ techniques which are designed to reinforce long-term behavioural changes. While all participants received Shell’s Smarter Driving training and guidance, ten of the cab drivers had co-created nudges and interventions to further encourage their efforts and remind them of their training. 

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, said:
“Behaviour change can sound like a technocratic idea, but our work with the taxi drivers shows that change is something best done with people. By understanding the factors that shape their driving habits, the taxi drivers have been able to make real improvement in their fuel efficiency without having to become environmental saints.  We think this ethos is the right approach to many problems and hope to draw out some of these implications in our final report.”

The challenge, which has been supported by motoring groups[ix], assessed the cab drivers on how fuel efficient their driving was, ensured that all drivers undertook an AA eco driving course, and studied improvements they made during the four weeks.

Edmund King, President of the AA said:
“With petrol prices close to the all-time high, people are thinking twice about whether they can afford to drive.  The cab drivers have done really well to cut their fuel consumption so dramatically and other drivers should follow their lead.

“The other benefit, of course, is to the environment.  If all 18 drivers keep up their efforts for a year, they could each save more than 800 litres of fuel, thus reducing their CO2 emissions. I’m glad that the AA’s eco-driving courses helped achieve such a good result.[x]”

In a final report, to be published in the autumn, the RSA will evaluate the nationwide awareness campaign and outline the most successful ways to get other cab drivers, and drivers more generally, thinking about fuel efficiency.

Last year, Shell worked with 11 British families to help them save fuel and money by applying the Shell driving tips and encouraging them to use their cars less. Shell has trained over 100,000 people internationally on how to improve their driving behaviour to save fuel.

[i] The 20% fuel consumption saving was based on a fuel efficiency improvement from 28.7 mpg during the competition baseline period (June) to 35.9 over the course of the challenge (July)

[ii] Phillip Caston saved the most fuel throughout the challenge. He saved 21.31868 litres of fuel a week. If he continues to save fuel at the same rate all year, he stands to use 1108.5714 litres less fuel. At a cost of 140 pence per litre, this equates to a potential annual saving of £1,552

[iii] Calculation based on an average driver driving 15,000 miles per year (, with an average of 35 miles per gallon and petrol costing 140 pence per litre

[iv] The 20% fuel consumption saving was based on a fuel efficiency improvement from 28.7 mpg during the competition baseline period (June) to 35.9 over the course of the challenge (July)
[v] As reference (ii)

[vi] As reference (iii)

[vii] Based on AA figures from 2010 and the cost of road tax for a car priced between £20,000 and £32,000.

[viii] Based on 34.1mn registered vehicles (DfT, 2010) each making a £544 cost saving annually

[ix] The AA, RAC, Environmental Transport Association, the Knowledge and Institute of Advanced Motorists and others

[x] Driving at an average of 500 miles per week, the cab drivers’ 20% fuel consumption saving translates to 16 litres per week saved per driver.  Over the course of 50 weeks, this would equate to a more than 800 litres of fuel saved