Many different areas of a fleet can improve efficiencies and reduce costs. From preventative maintenance to dashcams, each opportunity presents itself differently. As we examine how fuel consumption can affect a fleet of vehicles, remember that it is a highly variable component.
Each vehicle operates with a different fuel economy, and a driver’s behavior, tire pressure, and nearest gas station can all influence fuel consumption. Fuel costs fluctuate depending on environmental, political, and societal factors. When the cost of gas is low, many companies relish the immediate cost savings, but historically, prices go back to normal levels or even higher. We’ve seen some of the highest gas prices in history in the past year.
As these situations arise, it is essential to consider the numerous ways your organization’s fleet drivers can impact expenses. Whether part of a company-owned fleet or workers’ private vehicles that are reimbursed for fuel miles, the way vehicles are driven has a significant impact on fuel consumption. Given the fluctuating cost of fuel, this ultimately plays a vital role in business performance and profitability. This report looks at how drivers’ behaviors directly impact operating costs and outlines how to adjust behaviors to reduce expenses. Finally, we review how today’s latest fleet tracking solutions, like Azuga Fleet, can help you identify those behaviors and minimize their impact on your business.
Four Driving Behaviors that Impact Operating Costs
First of all, let’s pinpoint the exact definition of aggressive driving. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, or NHTSA, defines aggressive driving as “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”
The most common examples of this behavior are weaving in and out of lanes, tailgating, and blocking or cutting off other cars, but a wide range of behaviors can fall under this definition, including:
- Changing lanes erratically
- Driving on the road shoulder, in a ditch, or on a sidewalk or median
- Illegally passing other vehicles
- Driving recklessly
- Changing speeds suddenly and without warning
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Failing to obey traffic laws
- Failing to observe warnings or instructions on a vehicle displaying them
- Failing to signal
- Driving too fast for conditions or faster than the posted speed limit
- Racing other vehicles
- Turning when it’s not allowed or in a careless way
Erratic driving does not consider other drivers or cars on the road. You may be surprised to learn that aggressive driving is more common than you think. According to the NHTSA, speeding contributed to the deaths of 11,258 people in 2020. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that millions of drivers engage in these behaviors each year. Nearly 104 million drivers have deliberately tailgated, and almost 49 million have blocked another vehicle from changing lanes.1 Blatant disregard for one’s personal safety and the safety of others is a choice.
Not only does this type of behavior increase the risk of collisions, but it also reduces fuel efficiency. Energy.gov reports that aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic and roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds. When traveling over 50 miles per hour, you’re paying $0.27 more per gallon of gas. Over time, this can cause maintenance issues, such as increased wear and tear on belts, clutch burn, and reduce a vehicle engine’s lifespan. If an organization has ten vehicles on the road, losing even 10% efficiency overall is like not having the 10th vehicle at all, resulting in fewer jobs completed, more wear and tear on other vehicles, and greater risk.
Sudden Acceleration & Harsh Braking
Sudden acceleration and harsh braking are part of aggressive driving, but hitting the gas or brake too quickly can create more wear and tear on the vehicle’s engine than necessary. While fuel consumption differences are minimal during this period, consistent sudden acceleration can deteriorate motor mounts, fuel system components, suspension, and brakes. When parts are stressed, the vehicle starts to incur more damage. Maintenance takes the vehicle off the road while being repaired and may create a gap in your service.
A proper start from a stop should take 15-30 seconds to get to 50 mph. As the vehicle moves through the lower gears, it becomes more efficient. Getting up to speed too slowly can create inefficiencies as well. During stop-and-go traffic, it is best practice to look two cars ahead for more gradual acceleration and braking. Sudden acceleration is an avoidable behavior. Telematics solutions provide alerts, both in-cab and via notifications, to notify the driver and you when an incident has occurred. Being more aware of driving patterns and behaviors will help break the cycle.
Imagine if you have something in tow behind the truck. The force of suddenly accelerating or abruptly stopping can cause shifts in the trailer and its contents. If something is not secured in place, it could become a projectile and cause considerable damage. Coasting, instead of braking, can save significant fuel economies as well. Conversely, hard braking or sudden acceleration could help avoid a collision. Safety is one of the biggest concerns in acceleration and braking instances.
We mentioned how speeding affects your gas bill earlier in this report, but let’s explore more on the matter. Remember that traveling over 50 miles per hour equates to paying $0.27 more per gallon of gas. That represents a significant hike in your fuel costs. In larger vehicles, the impact of speeding is even worse. According to a study completed by Kenworth Cummings, every mile per hour over 55 reduces fuel efficiency by 1/10th of a mile per gallon. Vehicles that average 65 mph drop one mpg in fuel efficiency. This means significantly higher fuel consumption for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
While the highest fuel efficiency differs based on vehicle make and model, mileage generally suffers above 55 miles per hour. Thankfully vehicle manufacturers have committed to improving fuel economies, and we have seen significant improvements in the last 15 years, but speeding should still be cautioned for safety purposes. Learn why your drivers may be speeding in our blog article: What Unsafe Driving Behavior Says About Fleet Drivers.
Unauthorized Vehicle Use
When workers elect to use company vehicles for unauthorized use—whether for personal matters or even running side jobs—it increases company risk, vehicle wear and tear, service, and fuel costs. For companies that allow workers to drive vehicles home at night, it is crucial to ensure that the company vehicle does not turn into the worker’s personal vehicle.
Effectively monitoring off-hours movement can significantly reduce the amount of fuel consumed. Setting geographic boundaries, or geofences, can create alerts when vehicles leave and enter certain areas. The company is liable when the vehicle is in an accident, even during off-hours. When fuel cards are integrated with a telematics solution, a fleet manager can compare the miles driven between fill-ups to monitor any questionable trips accurately.
How Fleet Tracking Solutions Help You Reduce Fuel Costs
Fleet tracking solutions increasingly solve the operational problems associated with vehicle fleets as they bridge the information gap between operations management and mobile workers. The table below looks at our six problems discussed, along with the information and tools provided through fleet tracking solutions that help you control them and mitigate their impact.
- Monitor tire pressure - Properly inflated tires monitored weekly can change the rolling distance, putting less stress on the tires.
- Plan trips carefully - A warmed-up vehicle, combined with putting the farthest stop first and working your way back, is better for the engine and more efficient. According to Popular Mechanics, a fully warmed-up engine will remain at an efficient temperature even if parked for 30 minutes.
- Make right turns only - Specific to city driving, it’s been proven to save gas, even when slightly going out of the way.
- Eliminate unnecessary weight - Clean out and remove items not pertinent to everyday work from the vehicle.
Check out our blog article, “A Guide to Fleet Cost and Savings” to learn more about how to save on fuel.