1. Have Drivers Ensure Tires are Inflated to the Correct Pressure

This is the cheapest and easiest way to control fuel expenses and the one most often overlooked. If your drivers don’t have a tire gauge, it is worth the expense to buy them one so they can ensure that tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended level. One underinflated tire can cut fuel economy by 2 percent 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, let’s say by 4 to 5 psi below the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure, vehicle fuel consumption increases by 10 percent and, over the long haul, will causes a 15-percent reduction in tire tread life. Check the vehicle’s doorpost sticker for minimum cold tire inflation pressure.

2. Get a Fleet Fuel Card

A fuel management program helps avoid unauthorized purchases by allowing you to control exactly what drivers’ purchase. Limiting the type of fuel purchased is an easy way to control costs. A fuel card can restrict driver purchases to only regular unleaded gasoline, not more expensive premium and super-unleaded grades of gasoline.

3. Clean Out the Trunk and Eliminate Unnecessary Weight

Cars, like cargo trucks, get much better mileage when they’re not loaded with unnecessary weight. According to AutoZone, every 200 lbs. 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.

4. Avoid Long Idling

The worst mileage a vehicle can get is 0 miles per gallon, which occurs when it idles. Idling for long periods of time, whether at a railroad crossing or pulling off the road to make a cell phone call, consumes gas that could be saved by simply turning off the engine. Restarting an engine uses about the same amount of gas as idling for 30 seconds. When idling for longer periods of time, shut off the engine. Prolonged idling creates excess emissions and wastes fuel. However, turning off the engine may disable vehicle features including safety features like airbags. Drivers should be certain to only utilize this strategy in situations where there is no possibility of collision.

5. Don’t Buy Premium Fuel

Use a high-quality fuel with the lowest appropriate octane rating. Check the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation. There is no benefit to using premium gas in a vehicle calibrated for regular. Resist the urge to buy higher-octane gas for “premium” performance, unless your car requires it. Octane has nothing to do with gasoline performance, merely its volatility factor in the combustion chamber. Unless the owner’s manual of your vehicle specifically requires it, don’t use premium fuel. Most fleet vehicles are designed to run on unleaded regular and filling up with premium only increases cost, not performance. Your fuel cost could go down as much as 10 cents per gallon if you use regular fuel instead of premium.

6. Monitor Preventive Maintenance Schedules

Proper maintenance will increase a vehicle’s fuel economy. For example: Keep the wheels aligned. Wheels that are fighting each other waste fuel. Keep the air filter clean. A dirty filter clogs an engine’s air supply, causing a higher fuel-to-air ratio and thereby increasing gasoline consumption. Replace the air filter as recommended — always consult the owner’s manual. Use good quality, energy conserving (EC) oils that have a viscosity grade consistent with the manual. Look for bottles marked with the symbol ECII, which is the American Society of Testing Materials logo for fuel-efficient oils. This will ensure that your car’s engine will operate at maximum efficiency, thus providing the best fuel economy.

7. Use Fuel with Detergent Additive

Use a fuel with good detergent additives – to keep the vehicle engine clean and therefore, performing efficiently.

8. Make Drivers Energy Conscious

Similar to turning off the lights in unoccupied rooms at home, your drivers should practice energy conservation habits in their vehicles as well. If a vehicle has a trip computer, encourage drivers to use the “instant fuel economy” display to refine driving habits.

9. Use A/C Sparingly

Use the air conditioner only when needed. The air conditioner puts extra load on the engine, forcing more fuel to be used. An air conditioner is one of the biggest drains on engine power and fuel economy. It can reduce gas consumption by 5 to 20 percent, depending on the type of vehicle and the way it is driven. Don’t use it as a fan to simply circulate air. If it’s just too hot to bear without A/C, try to keep it set at around 72 degrees. Minimize use of air conditioning. Use the vent setting as much as possible.

10. Encourage Carpooling When Appropriate

Encourage drivers to carpool when they know that they will be in the office all day, for meetings or catching up with paperwork.

11. Drive the Posted Speed Limit

Drive at posted speed limits – this is a tip that may save a life as well as fuel. EPA estimates a 10-15 percent improvement by driving 55 instead of 65 mph.

12. Use Cruise Control During Highway Driving

Unnecessary changes in speed are wasteful, and the use of cruise control helps improve fuel economy.

13. Make Your Vehicle More Aerodynamic

Wind drag is a key source of reduced fuel mileage, causing an engine to work harder, thereby reducing fuel economy. The faster you push a vehicle, the more air it must push out of the way. Even with all the talk about the aerodynamics of today’s vehicles, some trucks, vans, and SUVs have the aerodynamics of a brick. Another way to minimize wind drag is to keep the windows rolled up. This allows air to flow over the body, rather than drawing it inside the cabin and slowing down the vehicle. Wide-open windows, especially at highway speeds, increase aerodynamic drag, and the result is up to a 10 percent decrease in fuel economy. If you want fresh air, run the climate system on “outside air” and “vent,” and crack the window for additional ventilation. If you drive a pickup, lowering the tailgate creates turbulence, which makes for more wind drag, and that makes your truck less fuel-efficient at highway speeds. By leaving the tailgate up, you create a smooth bubble of air in the bed. Air coming over the cab of the truck passes over it, thus improving fuel efficiency.

14. Develop a More Efficient Routing Plan

If you are running a delivery fleet or have vehicles that follow a set daily pattern, efficient routing offers an effective way for fleets to manage fuel expenses. Not only does a routing plan make trips more fuel-efficient, but it also increases time efficiency as well. Plan and consolidate trips to bypass congested routes and avoid stop-and-go traffic.

15. When Feasible, Have Two Employees Per Vehicle

If you have several employees going to the same work location or job site, have them take one vehicle instead of driving separately.

16. Avoid Jackrabbit Starts

A car consumes extra fuel when accelerating. To maximize fuel economy, drivers need to examine their driving habits. Simply limiting acceleration and fast braking can increase fuel economy. When accelerating, pretend you have a fresh egg underneath your right foot. A light, steady pressure helps to minimize the amount of fuel consumed and maintain a more moderate and steady speed.

17. Anticipate Traffic Flow

Anticipate traffic conditions, and accelerate and decelerate smoothly — it’s safer, uses less gas, and reduces brake wear. In commuter traffic, which usually involves stop-and-go movement, look two or more vehicles ahead rather than watching the driver in front of you. This enables you to accelerate and decelerate more gradually. By anticipating a traffic light change, an upcoming stop sign, or the need to slow down for a curve, you can avoid or reduce brake use and save gasoline in the process. Like the “jackrabbit start,” the “jackrabbit stop” is a major contributor to inefficient driving.

18. Avoid Aggressive Driving

The largest fuel waste occurs with aggressive driving. Time studies show that fast starts, weaving in and out of traffic, accelerating to and from a stop light doesn’t save much time, wastes fuel and wears out components such as brakes and tires faster. By not driving aggressively, drivers can save up to 20 percent in fuel economy, advises the EPA.

19. Monitor Fuel Exception Reports

Identify drivers who purchase more gallons of fuel than the capacity of their fuel tank at a single refueling. This may indicate that a driver is fueling another vehicle or storing fuel in gas canisters for personal use. Also, monitor multiple refueling during the weekend and too frequent refueling that doesn't correspond to a vehicle's mpg.

20. Buy Fuel in the Morning

To maximize fuel economy, Kelley Blue Book suggests buying gasoline when the temperature is cold and gasoline is at its densest. Consumers are charged based on volume, not density. Buy gasoline during the coolest time of the day or first thing in the morning. Conversely, heat causes fuel to expand and overflow. Don’t completely fill the gas tank in hot weather.

Pay Attention to the Details

Some of these suggestions may seem slight in the big picture of fleet operation expenses, but paying attention to details will add up to large savings during the course of a year. According to industry experts, if a single driver rigorously adhered to these suggestions, the fuel economy of a vehicle could be increased by approximately 10 percent.

Let me know what you think.

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About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and 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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