-  Photo:  Pavel Kubarkov  via Shutterstock.

Photo: Pavel Kubarkov via Shutterstock.

The difference between the most and least efficient drivers is a 30% difference in fuel consumption. Fuel is a fleet’s No. 1 operating expense and the best way to control this expenditure is to modify driving behavior, which is the major variability influencing fuel consumption. Even small increases in mpg can result in substantial savings when extrapolated across the entire fleet. With fuel expenditures representing 60% of a fleet’s total operating costs, what actions can fleet managers take to help mitigate the cost of fuel?

Minimize Unnecessary Idling: Reducing unnecessary idling is the simplest and easiest way for a fleet to cut fuel costs and unnecessary emissions. In addition, excess idling also causes needless engine wear-and-tear and unnecessary noise pollution. Instruct drivers to turn off the engine whenever possible and avoid long idling periods. An idling engine gets zero miles per gallon. Also, excessive engine idling doesn’t just consume fuel, it also creates engine hours, which depending on the OEM, are used to determine when the powertrain warranty expires. 

Create a Fuel Policy:  “The basics behind effective fuel cost management remain relatively the same regardless of the price of fuel or the size of your fleet. Organizations should prioritize a well-communicated, written fuel management policy to ensure drivers and fuel card users understand the expectations around card usage and fuel conservation. The policy should be supported by consistent monitoring of mpg and cpg performance across asset types along with a focused effort on creating as much visibility as possible around transactions and spending trends at the driver level,” said Andy Hall, manager, fuel & GMS products for ARI. 

Modifying Driver Behavior: The way employees drive their company vehicles can either increase or decrease fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  If you change the driving behavior of employees, you have a direct impact on the amount of fuel consumed and the amount of emissions emitted. Even small increases in mpg can result in substantial savings when extrapolated across the entire fleet. Fleet managers, who have implemented eco-driving training programs, report a 5- to 30-percent reduction in annual fuel consumption by changing driver behavior. The challenge is to make this a permanent mindset of all your drivers. Unless you have an enforcement program with incentives, the danger is that drivers will drift back to old behaviors.

Leverage Fuel Card Controls: “Companies should leverage fuel card controls, setting parameters to help prevent excessive or unauthorized spending. Fuel cards often include controls that allow you to set daily, weekly, or monthly transaction limits and place restrictions on the types of purchases and the time of day the card can be used. Controls are available to allow you to cue the fuel pump to shut off after a certain dollar amount,” said Hall. 

Minimize Fuel Card Fraud: There are a variety of controls fleet managers can implement to enforce proper fuel-card usage and prevent employee theft. When fleet managers establish controls across the fleet and for individual drivers, they can restrict the types of purchases, number of transactions, dollar limits, frequency per day or per cycle, and even the hours of purchase. These proactively help to prevent fraud and misuse, but also protect the bottom line.

Monitor Fuel Exception Reports: “Exception reporting including tank capacity violations, fuel type mismatch, non-fuel purchases, and other exceptions must be paired with an active driver for accountability. Fleets that successfully drive fuel savings initiatives keep drivers accountable for how their fuel cards are used. The opportunity to conserve fuel should also be reinforced via safety training; many of the same behaviors that are taught as safe driving techniques, such as obeying the speed limit, also support fuel conservation efforts,” said Hall of ARI. 

Encourage Drivers to be Price Conscious when Refueling: Fleets need to encourage drivers to continue to be “price sensitive” when refueling, even if prices are lower than normal. Encourage drivers to look for the best net fuel pricing to maximize the benefits of today’s lower fuel prices.

Optimizing Territories and Routes: “We continue to see customers introduce more fuel-efficient vehicles to their fleet along with optimizing territories and routes, which have a direct impact on overall miles driven,” said Lindsay Wood, product manager for Wheels.

Maintain Proper Tire Inflation: One underinflated tire can cut fuel economy by 2% per pound of pressure below the proper inflation level. One out of four drivers, on average, drive vehicles with one or more underinflated tires. When a tire is underinflated by 4 to 5 psi below the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure, vehicle fuel consumption increases by 10% and, over time, causes a 15% reduction in tire tread life.

Implement a Telematics Program: “A growing number of fleets are embracing telematics as a way to help significantly improve fuel efficiency, and in turn, reduce their fuel spend. Specific to fuel costs, telematics allows fleet operators to monitor driver behavior to ensure they adhere to eco-friendly driving habits, gauge vehicle idling in an effort to combat excessive idling and the associated fuel consumption, and provide dynamic routing to optimize productivity and fuel efficiency,” said Hall.

Keep Trunks Clean: Cars, like cargo trucks, get much better mileage when not loaded with unnecessary weight. Every 200 pounds of additional weight trims one mile off fuel efficiency. Most drivers accumulate material in their trunks, much of it unnecessary. Instruct drivers to remove all unnecessary items from the trunk, such as unneeded tools or materials.
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About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and inducted in the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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