The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Fleets Controlling Costs With Driver Training and Rightsizing

Emkay’s Brad Vliek outlines how the four fleet cost centers — fuel, tire replacement, maintenance, and preventive maintenance oil drains — have influenced the way fleets have done business in 2012 and what to expect in 2013.

December 2012, by Mike Antich and Chris Wolski

Emkay's Brad Vliek outlines how four cost centers are influencing how fleets do business.
Emkay's Brad Vliek outlines how four cost centers are influencing how fleets do business.

At a Glance

Over the past 12 months, fleets have seen their four primary cost centers — fuel costs, replacement tires, maintenance repairs, and preventive maintenance oil drains — swing wildly.

Brad Vliek, vice president − service solutions for Emkay, outlined several ways fleets have been coping with today’s volatile marketplace, including:

Rightsizing to take advantage of fuel-efficient technologies, weight reductions, higher-speed transmissions, and appropriate drive types.

Using synthetic oils to increase oil drain intervals.

Taking advantage of competition in the tire market.

If there was a word that could describe fleet costs in 2012, it would be “volatile.” This is particularly the case with fuel prices, which have swung wildly throughout the past 12 months due to supply-and-demand imbalances, natural disasters, and the political instability of oil-producing countries in the Middle East.

But, the other three operating cost centers — replacement tires, maintenance/repairs, and preventive maintenance oil drains — have also seen their ups and downs.

Automotive Fleet recently spoke with Brad Vliek, vice president − service solutions for Emkay, about the ongoing challenges of operating fleets in today’s volatile marketplace, how they have been coping, and how they have found ways to increase productivity while saving money and improving the company’s overall bottom line.

AF: What key differences have you observed in the fleets you manage concerning the impact of gasoline/diesel costs on fleets in CY-2012 compared to CY-2011?

VLIEK: Emkay has experienced average diesel fuel cost increases of approximately 9.45 percent (September 2011-August 2012 versus the same period the year before) and gasoline prices have increased 7.67 percent.

Consumption by gallon has decreased 7 percent for diesel and 3.72 percent for gasoline, while mileage accumulation has increased 11.98 percent overall. These statistics suggest the utilization of newer vehicle technologies, implementation of appropriate driver behavior measures, and the rightsizing of corporate fleets.

AF: What are some of the steps fleets are employing to mitigate the cost of fuel?

VLIEK: Fleets are rightsizing their vehicle selectors to take advantage of fuel-efficient technologies, weight reductions, higher-speed transmissions, and appropriate drive types to meet business necessities. Furthermore, the importance of driver behavior is essential. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a driver can impact fuel efficiency as much as 33 percent [due to the way they operate their vehicles].

The implementation of driver behavior training to reduce speeds, idling, accidents, rapid deceleration, etc., continues to gain momentum within the industry. When paired with technological GPS solutions, route optimization can reduce miles driven, scheduling, speed, and personal use.

AF: What is your forecast of the cost of fuel and its impact on fleets in 2012-2013?

VLIEK: The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects Brent crude oil prices to fall from their recent highs for the remainder of 2012 and average approximately $111 per barrel through the end of the year and $103 per barrel in 2013. 

[Editor’s Note: Brent crude is a type of oil sourced from the North Sea. It is used to benchmark prices of European, Middle Eastern, and African oil exported to the West.]

Higher crude oil prices, refinery outages, pipeline disruption, and concerns over August 2012’s Hurricane Isaac’s impact on the Gulf Coast (the United States’ major refining region) contributed to higher gasoline prices in the second quarter. The EIA expects retail gasoline prices to begin declining as the gasoline market recovers and transitions from summer-grade to winter-grade gasoline specifications.

Forecasts suggest regular gasoline retail prices will average $3.58 per gallon over the fourth quarter of 2012 and $3.43 per gallon in 2013. These fuel prices can continue to be offset by several defensive and strategic tactics that include but are not limited to vehicle selection, driver training, telematics, and proactive operational consulting.

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