As a fleet owner or manager, you’ll realize that fuel costs take up a significant chunk of your overall business spending. According to The Washington Post, fuel accounts for approximately 40 percent of fleet management expenses. Cutting down on fuel consumption is a sure way of countering the effects of increased fuel prices, but it is not the only option. There are several ways to minimize fleet fuel costs through better vehicle and driver management.
Tips on How to Reduce Fuel Costs
Fleet expenditures rely largely on efficient fuel utilization. Here are a few ways to reduce fuel costs across your entire fleet.
Tip #1. Improve Driver Behavior
Bad driving habits such as speeding, harsh braking, and quick acceleration can seriously impact a vehicle’s fuel consumption. Train your drivers on fuel-efficient driving habits to save money and enhance road safety.
Several fleet training suppliers are currently offering Energy Saving Trust-approved courses meant to improve driver behavior. Eco-driving techniques focus on the following:
- Smooth driving in anticipation of different situations ahead, to avoid harsh braking and unnecessary acceleration.
- Slowing down or taking the foot off the gas when going downhill.
- Switching to a higher gear early, and skipping gears when necessary.
- Driving at reasonable speeds.
Tip #2. Create Preventive Maintenance Schedules
Low tire pressure is directly affiliated with increased vehicle fuel consumption because more acceleration is required for under-inflated tires. With a proactive approach to fleet maintenance and regularly scheduled inspections, such issues can be addressed efficiently. The result is saving on fuel, as well as other avoidable maintenance-related expenses.
Where there is no proper preventive maintenance plan, mechanical problems can easily pass undetected for long periods. These problems escalate to more significant and more expensive issues in the long run, subjecting vehicles to unnecessary downtime. In a survey conducted by Autoglass, 40 percent of fleets surveyed were unaware of the costs associated with having a vehicle out of operation.
Implementing a reliable fleet management system with robust telematics reporting is essential for working out the right times to schedule checks and servicing. Telematics helps fleets obtain accurate data about every trip undertaken by a vehicle.
Tip #3. Track Fleet Fuel Usage
Tracking vehicle fuel usage is simple and can easily be done through a fuel card program. Using fleet fuel cards comes with a host of benefits, including minimal paperwork, discounts, automatic invoicing, and protection from fraud.
Choose a card provider wisely, as there are many fuel cards around. Ideally, go for a card that guarantees prompt reporting tools to give you accurate data on fuel consumption, with additional information like odometer readings, fuel cost estimator, and miles per gallon.
Some fleet management systems have additional provisions where they can readily integrate with fleet fuel cards to provide a more detailed picture of fleet fuel consumption. In these cases, fuel consumption data is availed alongside other essential vehicle data such as service history, maintenance records, and total ownership cost.
Tip #4. Plan Better Routes
Having prior knowledge of less busy routes enables drivers to reach their destinations faster. Spending more time stuck in traffic only increases fuel cost, and causes unnecessary delays that hurt business.
Enable vehicle tracking to facilitate better route planning and consequently shorten the overall driving time. Reducing mileage not only cuts fuel costs but also proportionately lowers carbon emissions.
By using GPS tracking software, fleets can identify the best routes for drivers to use to save time and fuel. There are mobile traffic apps that drivers can use to beat traffic in real-time.
Tip #5. Use Fleet Data Insights
Fleet management tools help in centralizing vehicle data. If the tools used are powerful enough, you can create custom reports instantly to help you with decision-making for improved fleet management.
Regular reporting goes a long way toward helping you identify possible anomalies among your fleet. Telematics data can inform you how your drivers are performing, so adjustments can be made in any area, including those that affect fuel consumption.
Fleet data insights will also help you check for inflated fuel card transactions which may indicate fraudulent usage. You can look out for shared fuel cards, or multiple pump purchases happening simultaneously. Fuel fraud is a prevalent vice in fleet businesses, and finding ways to tame it can reduce fuel costs by a large margin.
Tip #6. Replace Older Vehicles
Evaluating the total cost of ownership for each vehicle from time to time is a good practice. Ownership costs can be significantly higher than the buying price of a vehicle. Costs of maintenance, taxation, insurance, and fuel consumption should all be factored into the calculations.
When it is deemed economically viable to do away with some fleet vehicles, and replace them with more efficient options, do it. Newer vehicles often have a higher mpg rating, allowing you to reap the long-term fuel cost benefits.
Tip #7. Use Seasonal Driving Techniques
Different times of the year demand varied driving techniques. Drivers must find a purpose to apply suitable driving techniques accordingly. During fall and winter, cold weather techniques apply, while warm weather techniques should be utilized during summer and spring. In addition to the seasons, drivers should know how to adjust their driving habits based on current weather conditions and road situations as well.
Tip #8. Use the Right Vehicle for Each Job
To achieve specific fuel-saving goals, factor in vehicle specifications. Several other hidden areas should be considered besides depreciation.
Considerations such as vehicle weight, engine power, and torque are often overlooked when buying vehicles, yet they are crucial. Selecting an engine with too little or too much power leads to fuel economy inefficiencies. Similarly, a smaller engine with limited power results in lower fuel economy when carrying heavy cargo.
Drivers play a prominent role in reducing vehicle fuel consumption. In addition to technical measures like vehicle tracking tools, managers and fleet owners may need to train drivers on the need for saving on fuel cost. Drivers can learn some of the practices mentioned above through practice, and rewarding them for a job well done is one way to ensure that they remain on the right course.