As prices on everything continue to soar, fleet managers and owners everywhere are looking for any way possible to get a fuel discount at the pump. Thankfully, there are more ways to do this than you might think.
In this article, we discuss the best ways to get a fuel discount when it’s time to fill up and to keep your fleet running for less.
Table Of Contents
- Identify Fuel Discount Options With A Cost Analysis
- How To Save On Fuel
- Fuel Discounts Through Driving Behavior
Identify Fuel Discount Options With A Cost Analysis
One of the best ways to find fuel discount options for your business is to start with a cost analysis of each fleet vehicle. How does such an analysis contribute to paying less at the pump?
It all goes back to the adage, “You can’t control what you don’t measure.”
Conducting a cost analysis can reveal standard fees, operating procedures, habits, and other driving behaviors that can have a dramatic effect on the amount of money your fleet spends on fuel.
With that knowledge in mind, you can choose the best plan of attack to get a fuel discount at the pump. In the process, you can also identify where it’s possible to reduce fuel consumption so you’re not trying to squeeze more fuel economy out of a process that has nothing to give.
To get the most from your cost analysis, start with the two most important metrics: total cost of ownership and vehicle cost per mile.
Total Cost Of Ownership
Calculate the total cost of ownership for each vehicle in your commercial fleet with the following formula:
Total Cost Of Ownership = Fixed Vehicle Costs + Variable Vehicle Costs
When using this formula, be sure to specify the time period you’re examining — you can do it for any length of time you choose — and make sure that none of the costs fall outside that range.
It can also be useful to make a separate list of all costs — fixed and variable — as well as what you’re spending on those costs for the time period under analysis.
The formula listed above uses the total fixed and variable vehicle costs, but listing the components of those totals can help you recognize where there’s room to reduce spending (and where there isn’t).
For example, let’s say that you want to calculate the total cost of ownership for one of your work vans.
First, you would add up all the fixed vehicle costs (e.g., payments, insurance, registration, and permits) you pay in one month to operate the work van. In this example, we’ll say it’s $1,000.
Next, you would add up all the variable vehicle costs (e.g., fuel, tolls, and maintenance) you pay in one month to operate the work van. In this example, we’ll say it’s $3,000.
Finally, plug those numbers into the equation, and you get:
Total Cost Of Ownership = $1,000 + $3,000
Total Cost Of Ownership = $4,000 per month
Keep in mind that you can customize the equation to reveal your expenses for any amount of time you choose (e.g., three months, four months, six months, 12 months) by adding together the fixed and variable vehicle costs for that period of time.
Vehicle Cost Per Mile
After you calculate the total cost of ownership, the next metric in your cost analysis is the vehicle cost per mile.
The formula is:
Vehicle Cost Per Mile = Total Cost Of Ownership / Total Miles Driven
Continuing with the example from the previous section, you examine your records to discover that the work van covered a total of 8,000 miles last month.
Plug that number into the equation along with the total cost of ownership, and you get:
Vehicle Cost Per Mile = $4,000 / 8,000 miles
Vehicle Cost Per Mile = $0.50 per mile
Armed with this data, you now have a benchmark against which to measure the success or failure of the other tips on this list.
Examine Fixed And Variable Vehicle Costs
With total cost of ownership and vehicle cost per mile metrics in hand and serving as a benchmark for any changes you make, go back through your fixed and variable vehicle costs to identify areas in which your business can improve.
For example, can you reduce your loan or lease expenses by consolidating separate payments into one lump sum with a smaller monthly value? Or, can you negotiate lower insurance premiums for your commercial fleet?
Doing so can decrease the fixed vehicle costs as well as the total cost of ownership and the vehicle cost per mile.
Similarly, can you find ways to cut any of the variable vehicle costs on your list? Perhaps you could direct your fleet along routes that don’t require tolls. Or, perhaps you could invest a bit more in vehicle checkups in order to prevent more expensive breakdowns.
Just as it did with the fixed vehicle costs, identifying areas where you can reduce expenses can decrease the variable vehicle costs and have a trickle-down effect on the total cost of ownership and the vehicle cost per mile.
When you’ve got all your ducks in a row — fixed vehicle costs, variable vehicle costs, total cost of ownership, and vehicle cost per mile — use the ideas in the remainder of this article to get a fuel discount at the pump.
How To Save On Fuel
1) Use An App To Find The Cheapest Fuel
The pain of discovering a lower fuel price a few minutes down the road from where you just filled up is very real.
You can avoid paying more than necessary by using an app to find the cheapest price along your route.
In conjunction with that, train your drivers to:
- Fill up before the tank is empty so they’re not forced to stop at the closest station
- Look across state lines where the price may be significantly less
- Avoid filling up at stations just off the highway where the prices tend to be higher
2) Skip The Premium Option
Most stations sell fuel in a variety of different grades and at a variety of different prices.
You can get a fuel discount right off the bat by skipping the premium grades and filling your tank with the lowest-priced option that works for your fleet van or work truck (e.g., 87 octane for gas-powered vehicles and Diesel #2 for diesel-powered vehicles).
While the higher grades do offer some benefits in certain situations — Diesel #1 performs better in cold temperatures, for example — you’ll be paying extra for something you don’t necessarily need.
3) Fill Up Early In The Week
Fuel prices tend to be the lowest after the weekend rush on Mondays and Tuesdays. Timing fill-ups to coincide with the start of the week instead of the end of the week can provide a very real fuel discount for your fleet.
Depending on workload and distance traveled, filling up early in the week may not always be possible. But, doing so even once or twice a month can significantly reduce your fleet’s total fuel expenses over the long term.
4) Pay With Cash
Some fuel stations charge a lower price per gallon if you pay with cash instead of a credit card. This can provide a large fuel discount if you’re willing to give your drivers enough money to pay for all the fill-ups they’ll need along the way.
That said, many fleet managers are hesitant to do this — and for good reason.
At current prices, filling up a van or work truck with a 30-gallon tank can cost $150 or more. Filling up a semi-truck with two 150-gallon tanks can cost well over $1,500.
For safety reasons, it’s seldom a good idea to let your drivers carry that much cash at any one time.
It is a viable option if your drivers are going straight from home base to the station, but it’s less than desirable if they’re making stops or driving long distances before filling up.
5) Maintain Correct Tire Pressure
One of the easiest ways to get a fuel discount before you even have to pay is by maintaining the recommended tire pressure for each vehicle.
An under-inflated tire increases the rolling resistance placed on the engine and forces it to use more fuel to maintain forward momentum.
On an improperly inflated tire, you’ll fill up more often — and pay more in the long run — because the vehicle uses more fuel to get where it’s going.
You can avoid this issue by equipping every vehicle with an air-pressure gauge and training your drivers to check the tire inflation before starting a trip and every time they stop.
6) Lighten Your Vehicles
The more weight your vehicles carry, the more fuel they’re going to consume.
Even as little as 100 pounds of extra weight can reduce fuel efficiency on most vehicles. And, when it comes to tools and equipment, it doesn’t take long to accumulate that much weight (and even more).
To lighten your vehicles, perform an audit of everything they carry on a regular basis and remove anything that isn’t necessary to get the job done.
7) Invest In Aerodynamics
Adding aerodynamic controls to your fleet vehicles can result in a significant fuel discount over time.
Most work vans are already aerodynamically efficient, but adding a curved cap to the top of a semi-truck or an air dam on both sides of the trailer it pulls can reduce drag enough to improve miles per gallon considerably.
8) Join A Fuel-Stop Rewards Program
In some cases, you can realize a fuel discount by joining the rewards programs offered by the stations in your area or along your route.
Each program is different and has its own set of rules (e.g., how much you can save and what you have to spend to get the savings), so be sure to do your research before enrolling.
But beware: As beneficial as these fuel discount programs can be, they sometimes cause more harm than good.
For example, drivers may have to travel out of their way to get to these stations, which, in turn, may increase the miles traveled, reduce the miles per gallon, and negate any savings you could achieve.
9) Use A Fuel Card That Offers Rewards
Instead of restricting your drivers by joining specific fuel-stop rewards programs, consider using a fleet fuel card that offers its own set of rewards.
- Discounted per-gallon fuel costs
- Additional discounts when you shop with preferred partners
- Statement credits just for signing up
But take note: Many fleet fuel cards that offer large rebates have complex tiers and rules in place that cardholders must adhere to and satisfy in order to actually get the reward promised.
For example, one fleet fuel card may only offer rewards for a short period of time, such as the first six months after you start using the card. Another fleet fuel card may only offer rewards on a specific amount of fuel purchased, such as the first 100 gallons per statement period.
In addition, some restricted-use fleet cards may only offer rewards on certain brands of fuel.
When shopping for a fuel card, always read the fine print and choose one with no time limits, no gallon limits, and no brand limits.
It’s also essential to partner with a fleet fuel card that is open loop rather than closed loop. Open loop fleet fuel cards can be used anywhere you’d use a Visa card. Closed loop cards can only be used at select locations.
Open loop cards provide much more flexibility and allow your drivers to fuel up at any point along their route and wherever the prices are lowest.
10) Right-Size Your Fleet
Fielding the right size fleet is another great way to get a fuel discount for your business. For example, when you examine fleet activity, you may discover that you’re doing the bulk of the work with only 10 of your 13 vehicles.
Those three extra vehicles, though, are still contributing to the total cost of ownership that we discussed at the beginning of this article and pushing your fuel cost numbers up.
Consider reducing the total number of fleet vehicles to also reduce fuel costs throughout your business.
Fuel Discounts Through Driving Behavior
1) Plan The Shortest Route
Planning the shortest routes possible is one of the best ways to get a fuel discount before your vehicles even reach the pump.
Use modern GPS and computer-based map programs to provide your drivers with the best route to and from their destination.
For a vehicle that gets 15 miles to the gallon, shaving just 30 miles off a route can save your business almost $10. Multiply that by the total miles traveled and the number of vehicles in your fleet, and you can see how the savings start to add up.
2) Reduce Idle Time
Leaving the vehicle running (a.k.a. idling) for prolonged periods of time without forward progress consumes lots of fuel and doesn’t get you any closer to your destination. That means you’ll pay more for fewer miles traveled.
Train drivers to make sure they’re ready to go before starting the vehicle and use GPS software that warns of congested roads along the way so drivers can avoid idling in stopped traffic.
3) Accelerate Slowly
Another way to get a fuel discount through driving behavior is to accelerate slowly from a stop. The faster you accelerate — especially when carrying heavy loads — the more fuel the vehicle will use getting up to speed.
Train your drivers to be gentle on the throttle and to gain speed gradually instead of all at once. Doing so uses less fuel overall, is much easier on the engine, and is better for the extended life of the vehicle.
4) Coast More
On the opposite side of the coin, encourage your drivers to coast whenever possible.
If they look ahead for stops and turns that necessitate less speed, they can take their foot off the throttle earlier and reduce the amount of fuel the engine uses to drive the vehicle forward.
It may not seem like a viable strategy for getting a fuel discount, but, if it increases the vehicle’s mpg by just one gallon, the savings can quickly add up.
5) Set The Cruise Control
Maintaining a constant speed can be difficult, and most vehicles will fluctuate from a few miles above the posted speed limit to a few miles below.
This repeated acceleration and deceleration uses more fuel than maintaining a continuous speed throughout.
You can avoid this issue — and get a fuel discount in the process — by encouraging drivers to set the cruise control when traffic is moving well and on stretches of flat road.
This strategy doesn’t work on hilly terrain because the system will tend to downshift more often to maintain speed and will use more fuel in the process.
Using the cruise control whenever possible also has the added benefit of ensuring that the driver isn’t exceeding the posted speed limit and risking an expensive traffic violation.
6) Slow Down
While vehicles reach optimal fuel economy at different speeds, miles-per-gallon usually decreases rapidly over 50 miles per hour.
As an example, for light-duty vehicles, every five miles per hour over 50 increases total cost-per-gallon by $0.18.
Encouraging drivers to reduce their speed by just five miles per hour can improve your fleet’s fuel economy by a whopping 7-14% and give you a fuel discount at the pump.
7) Check The Fuel Cap
A simple way to get a fuel discount without having to visit a specific station is to check that the fuel cap is installed correctly and that the gaskets are still good. A bad seal allows fuel you’ve already paid for to evaporate from the tank before the vehicle can use it.
Like other tips on this list, it may not seem like a big fix right away, but checking and maintaining the gas cap can yield significant savings while your fleet vehicles are on the road.
8) Keep Vehicles Clean
Keeping your vehicles as clean as possible may not seem like it belongs on a list of ways to get a fuel discount, but it really does.
All the dirt, oil, grease, and grime that builds up on your vehicle adds weight and increases drag, thereby reducing the aerodynamics of the vehicle and causing fuel efficiency to drop.
This is especially true if your fleet operates in areas where it snows. Accumulated ice and snow on the top, sides, and undercarriage of a vehicle can add 100 pounds or more to the total weight of the vehicle.
Hauling more than necessary like this can seriously impact both the performance and the miles per gallon of your fleet vehicles.
Encourage operators to remove as much snow and ice as possible before driving during the winter months. And make it a point to run your vehicles through the car wash once or twice a month to maintain aerodynamic and fuel efficiency.
9) Use The Right Vehicle For The Job
Another way your business can get a fuel discount is to use the right vehicle for the job.
Smaller vehicles tend to get better mileage, use less fuel, and experience less wear and tear because they aren’t being pushed to haul heavy loads all the time.
Can your business operate successfully with work vans rather than semis?
Or, do your field service technicians need the cargo capacity and hauling power of a pickup truck? Could they fit their necessary tools in an SUV or minivan that comes with a lower cost of operation?
Using the right vehicle for the job can create a pronounced fuel discount from the very first trip. Compound the discount over the many trips that vehicle makes, and you’ve got yourself a significant savings.
A Fuel Discount For Every Fleet
Whatever strategies you implement to get a fuel discount at the pump, the Coast fleet card can help.
With the Coast card, you get:
- Discounts on every gallon on your statement, regardless of where you fill up
- Sign-up and referral rewards
- Universal Visa acceptance
- Easy manager access
- Advanced spending controls
- Security alerts
- Data tracking and reporting
The Coast card even provides real-time expense tracking and a powerful online management platform that puts the entire fleet in the palm of your hand and gives you full visibility of every dollar spent.
To learn more about Coast, visit CoastPay.com today.