If your business depends on a company fleet, you’re no stranger to living with uncertainty. Besides worries about breakdowns and accidents, you may feel like your bottom line is at the mercy of fluctuating gas prices. Thankfully, fleet fuel management can help reduce this uncertainty.
While you can’t do anything to control the cost of fuel, there’s a lot that you can do to control how much fuel costs you. Overseeing fleet fuel usage and spending is one of the most important responsibilities of a company fleet manager.
By being proactive to make your fleet operations more fuel-efficient, you’ll have greater peace of mind that your business is protected from any shifts in energy prices.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 strategies for managing your fleet’s fuel usage and costs better.
How To Improve Fleet Fuel Management
From a 30,000-foot level, fleet fuel management breaks down into strategies for getting more efficiency out of your vehicles, strategies for getting more efficiency out of your drivers, strategies for saving when purchasing fuel, and collecting data to make sense of it all.
1) Choose The Right Vehicles
Most people who hear the term “fleet vehicle” probably think of some type of truck or van, but for some businesses, the company fleet might mean aircraft or even bicycles — although we assume you aren’t reading an article about fuel costs if you have a bike messenger service!
The point is that “fleet vehicles” is a very broad term and could mean something very different to one business than it does to another.
Running an efficient fleet starts with picking the right type of vehicle for your needs. So, make a detailed assessment of your business’s vehicle needs before acquisition.
Generally speaking, smaller vehicles tend to be more fuel efficient, but whatever vehicle you choose has to have enough hauling capacity to get the job done.
Ideally, you’ll do this assessment before acquiring a fleet. But if you already have a fleet, consider whether it makes economic sense to change vehicles, or see if you can improve efficiency by expanding or downsizing the number of vehicles you operate.
2) Optimize Your Vehicles
Even with the “ideal” vehicle for your business’s needs, there are simple steps you can take to make your fleet even more efficient.
One of the easiest and yet most effective things you can do is keep your fleet’s tires well inflated. It’s not something many of us think about unless we see a warning light go off or notice a tire looking flat, but it pays to check tire pressure.
According to the Department of Energy, keeping your tires inflated to the recommended pressure can improve fuel economy by 3%. That may not seem like much, but if you have multiple vehicles going through one or more tanks of gas each week, it adds up.
Another way to optimize fuel management for your existing fleet vehicles is by optimizing the loads they carry. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook: Lighter vehicles get better mileage.
Of course, there are certain things your fleet simply has to carry in order for work to get done, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth analyzing your fleet loads to see if there’s room for cutting excess weight. The back of a company vehicle is not a substitute for warehouse space.
3) Maintain Your Fleet
Regular maintenance doesn’t just protect you from expensive emergency breakdown repairs; it saves you money in day-to-day use as well.
Clogged filters reduce air and fuel flow. Using the wrong grade of oil puts extra strain on the engine, especially in cold weather. Improperly maintained cooling systems also force the engine to work harder. All of these have a negative impact on fuel efficiency.
Making sure your fleet vehicles are getting all of their manufacturer-recommended regular maintenance will pay off in fuel cost savings.
4) Train Good Driving Habits
The mileage any given vehicle gets can vary greatly depending on how it’s driven. Inefficient driving habits can lead to wasted fuel and, therefore, wasted money.
This is one reason why it can be a good idea to have prospective drivers take a road test during the hiring process. It’s easier to teach good driving habits than it is to break bad ones.
Not leaving the vehicle idling, using cruise control, making smooth stops and starts, and letting off the gas going down hills are just a few of the positive driving habits that can improve mileage.
5) Pick Efficient Routes
Depending on the business you’re in, your fleet may visit the same destinations regularly. For any destination, there will probably be multiple possible routes available.
If possible, try to plan routes that avoid drivers having to reach remote destinations without also taking care of others along the way. Steer clear of high-traffic areas and rush hour trips that will force fuel-inefficient stop-and-go driving.
The use of modern GPS navigation tools greatly simplifies the challenge of picking the most fuel-efficient routes for wherever your fleet needs to go. So, if you’re not using them, you probably should be.
Both job efficiency and fuel management can be improved by making sure that fleet drivers and fleet managers are always on the same page, especially when plans change.
Keep in touch with your drivers while they’re out on the road so you can update them about things like new jobs or changes in scheduling, and they can keep you apprised of unexpected job delays or traffic.
Maintaining effective two-way communication will reduce the chances of your fleet making inefficient, unnecessary trips.
7) Use A Fleet Credit Card To Save
A fleet credit card, sometimes also called a fuel card or a gas card, is a specialized type of company credit card used only at service stations. Its purpose is to allow employees to fuel up company vehicles on the go
Depending on which specific card you pick, fleet fuel cards can give you access to discounts, rebates, or other rewards, which can become more and more valuable the more you use the card.
Another way that fleet credit cards can indirectly help you manage fleet fuel expenses is by simplifying the administrative work involved in tracking how much you’re spending. Centralized transaction reporting eliminates the need to save and collect receipts.
8) Fill Up At The Right Time
Many people aren’t aware that there is a correlation between the day of the week and gas prices.
Prices tend to be at their highest on the weekends. But Monday tends to be the cheapest day of the week to fill up. Although it may not always be possible to refuel your fleet at the “ideal” time, paying attention to these patterns can still help you save.
9) Use Telematics
If you want to take your fleet fuel management to the next level, consider using fleet telematics.
Fleet telematics is the use of applications and services that provide near real-time data about vehicle activity, location, and condition. Specifically, fleet telematics utilizes GPS, wifi and cellular communication, and your vehicles’ built-in computerized diagnostic hardware.
Analyzing the data from telematics can help you identify ways to improve the efficiency of your fleet operations in areas like:
- Fuel consumption
- Vehicle maintenance
- Routing and dispatch
- Time in transit
- Driver behavior
10) Be Safe
If you’ve researched ways to reduce fleet fuel costs before, you may have come across some pretty dubious “tips.”
For example, some sources recommend telling your drivers to put the vehicle in neutral while coasting downhill. Aside from the fact this doesn’t actually save fuel, it’s hard on the vehicle’s transmission and can be extremely dangerous.
Another “tip” you may come across is to forbid your drivers from using the air conditioner, if not mechanically disable the air conditioning altogether. This will have an obvious negative effect on employee job satisfaction and staff retention, and in hot weather, it can be downright unhealthy.
When discussing the management of fleet fuel expenses, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Saving money on gas is important, but nothing is more important than safety.
Any cost-cutting strategy must be considered in light of your concern for your staff’s well-being, the well-being of the people they share the road with, and your company’s reputation.
Fleet Fuel Management Is Worth The Work
Although taking on the challenge of fleet fuel management may seem daunting, the payoff for your efforts is more money to put into other areas of your business and better preparedness for unpredictable changes in energy costs.
The Coast fleet and fuel card can help businesses of any size get a handle on their fleet fuel expenses with Visa acceptance, rebates with no cap or minimum spend, and real-time transaction reporting.
To find out more about how Coast can help optimize your fleet operations, visit CoastPay.com today.