Fuel costs always make up a large portion of a fleet’s budget, but it’s a situation that has worsened in recent months. Given that higher fuel prices might not come down for some time, it’s important for fleets to take action now to improve fleet fuel consumption.
Purchasing fuel makes up at least a third of a fleet’s operational costs – more in many cases – making it one of the biggest areas of spending for any fleet. Fortunately, there are proven ways to reduce fleet costs that help each individual driver improve fuel economy (the distance a vehicle can cover on a set amount of fuel).
It’s an important issue to focus on. According to Automotive Fleet’s annual operating cost survey, fuel costs make up 60 percent of a fleet’s total operating costs. And that survey occurred before the recent upward spiral of fuel costs. Getting these costs under control is imperative for fleet managers.
Tips to Improve Fleet Fuel Consumption
One of the most impactful approaches to improve fleet fuel consumption and increase fuel economy involves tracking driver behaviors that lead to burning more fuel, then taking steps to reduce or eliminate them. Fleet managers can also take steps on their part to better manage fuel consumption, including incorporating sophisticated software systems into daily operations.
Better Manage Driver Behavior
Drivers can unknowingly engage in behaviors that, over time, add up to substantial increases in fuel costs. By tracking how drivers perform, managers can better determine where they need coaching.
- Excessive idling. One of the biggest contributors to fuel waste, idling can burn up to a quarter gallon of fuel per hour. Turning off and restarting a vehicle only requires about 10 seconds of fuel.
- Aggressive driving. Driving aggressively is a sure way to burn extra fuel. Aggressive driving includes speeding, sudden stops, fast cornering and excessing lane changes.
- Maintain tire pressure. Simply maintaining proper tire pressure can cut down on fuel costs, as every one pound per square inch drop in tire pressure can lower gas mileage by 0.2 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
In all these cases, telematics systems can help fleet managers better monitor driver behaviors and take steps to correct them.
Use Technology to Manage Fuel Costs
Innovative technologies can automate tracking of fuel consumption. They also can provide data analytics on specific vehicles, drivers and routes, all of which helps dispatchers better control fuel costs.
For example, Vnomics specializes in advanced fuel analytics through its True Fuel system that allows fleet managers to find opportunities to get the highest fuel economy from every vehicle. It also provides real-time, in-cab coaching to drivers. Another example is Derive, a system installed in a vehicle that automatically reduces fuel waste by cutting down on bad driving behaviors such as idling and speeding, keeping drivers in compliance with company policies.
Fleet Manager Actions to Lower Fuel Costs
Fleet managers can also act on their own to lower fuel costs beyond tracking driver behavior and fuel costs. Telematics systems offer support in all these areas as well, using systems that automate tasks such as route optimization.
- Choose the best routes. Fleet managers can use advanced software to choose delivery routes that require less fuel-consuming stops and idle time. Shorter routes with better roads also help lower fuel costs.
- Match vehicle to route. By knowing the fuel consumption rates of each vehicle and how they perform based on distance and route, dispatchers can better match the right vehicle to the right route.
- Keep to a maintenance schedule. Getting each vehicle into the shop for maintenance keeps engines performing at maximum efficiency and improves fleet fuel consumption. This is another area where connected systems can automate schedules, keeping fleets on track for routine maintenance.
- Use fuel cards. A driver fuel card makes fuel purchases convenient while also allowing fleet managers to easily track fuel purchases. This data also helps managers understand the true miles-per-gallon for each vehicle, as well as collect data on routes that require the most or least amount of fuel.
- Lighter loads. Lighter vehicles achieve better fuel economy. By ensuring that vehicles only carry what is absolutely necessary to complete a delivery, fleets can lower fuel consumption.
By putting telematics systems to use, fleet managers can improve fleet fuel consumption and better control one of the biggest expenses in their operations. That commitment to achieving fuel economy will eventually pay dividends for both large and small fleets.