A proven way to reduce costs throughout your fleet is with fuel management strategies. With the right set of policies, procedures, and practices in place, your business will enjoy lower fuel consumption across the board and the savings that go with it.
In this article, we discuss some of the best fuel management strategies to reduce expenses and keep your fleet running smoothly.
Fuel Management Strategies
1) Step Down To Smaller Vehicles
One of the first things to check when you’re considering ways to improve your fuel management is whether or not it’s feasible for your drivers to use smaller vehicles. Dropping a size in this way can significantly reduce fuel consumption over the life of your fleet.
When investigating a change in vehicle size, start by moving one class down — e.g., from a one-ton pickup truck to a three-quarter-ton pickup truck — so you don’t lose the functionality and performance that your drivers need.
Moving from a one-ton pickup to a half-ton pickup or from a full-size sedan to a compact may be too big of a jump and leave you with a vehicle that makes the job more difficult.
If, for example, your fleet consists of several Ford Transit cargo vans, could your drivers do the same tasks with a Ford Transit Connect cargo van? The former is more akin to a full-size van, while the latter is more akin to a minivan or SUV.
Try renting a smaller vehicle for a few weeks or a month, and have a driver put it through its paces to see if it works for the common jobs in your business.
2) Reduce Total Vehicles
Reducing the total number of vehicles in your fleet is another great way to improve your fuel management overall.
In some cases, you may have multiple vehicles for a single territory when you really only need one. A branch office may keep an extra vehicle or two in use for various company errands.
Or you may have surplus vehicles — both in service and out of service — that you can sell to reduce total business costs.
Getting your fleet down to just the right size can help you save more than just fuel. It also saves on the costs associated with registration, insurance, maintenance, and repair. Those numbers can quickly add up and take a big bite out of your budget.
Take the time to analyze your fleet’s activities, and talk to field managers to ensure that the number of vehicles equals the number of drivers and that all vehicles are being used to their full capability.
3) Clean Vehicles Regularly
At first glance, cleaning your vehicles regularly may not seem like it belongs on a list of fuel management strategies — but it does.
A build-up of dirt, oil, grease, and grime 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.
4) Use A Fleet Card For Fuel Management
One of the best ways to improve fuel management in your business is to issue a fleet card to all of your drivers.
Fleet cards (a.k.a. gas cards, fuel cards, fleet fuel cards, or fleet gas cards) provide many benefits over the traditional reimbursement system.
With the right fleet card, your business will enjoy:
- Lower at-the-pump fuel costs
- Spending controls
- Driver satisfaction
- Reduced administrative paperwork
- Universal acceptability
- Safety and security
All of these benefits can help your fleet function smoothly, but the first two will directly impact your fuel management. Even a one- or two-cent discount at the pump can significantly reduce the total amount your business pays for fuel throughout the year.
And, with top-of-the-line fleet cards, you can set the spending rules for each vehicle to better accommodate drivers with different responsibilities and distances to travel.
For example, for cross-country trips, you can allow spending on fuel, maintenance, repairs, towing, and even perks such as food and lodging. On the other hand, for cross-town trips, you can restrict spending to fuel only.
5) Monitor Tire Inflation
Proper tire inflation is an essential component of getting the most out of the tire itself, maintaining the life and safety of the vehicle, and improving fuel management.
An under-inflated tire increases the rolling resistance of the vehicle and forces the engine to use more fuel to maintain forward movement. Under those conditions, miles per gallon can fall by as much as 3% (or, about $0.09 per gallon). For a 40-gallon tank, that’s an extra $3.60.
If a vehicle goes through a tank of gas every day, five days a week, for 42 weeks out of the year, you’ll pay $756 more than you would if you had maintained correct tire inflation. And that’s just for one vehicle.
Multiply that $756 by the number of vehicles in your fleet and you can see how much of an impact monitoring tire inflation can have on your bottom line.
One simple solution to this issue is to make sure that every vehicle comes with an air pressure gauge and that drivers check the tire inflation before starting out on a trip and every time they stop.
6) Adopt Preventative Maintenance
A regular preventative maintenance schedule can go a long way toward reducing the fuel management issues that each vehicle faces.
If some part of a vehicle isn’t functioning properly, the engine has to work harder — and use more fuel — to keep things moving. Older vehicles are especially susceptible to this pitfall.
Regardless of the age of the vehicle or how long it’s been in service, create a regular maintenance schedule and stick to it.
Be sure to check and change:
- Oil levels
- Fluid levels
- Wheel alignment
- Tire inflation
- Air filters
- Fuel filters
Even ensuring that technicians use the right weight of motor oil, for example, can reduce the miles per gallon it takes to get a vehicle from point A to point B and back again.
7) Cut Weight
The more weight in a vehicle, the more fuel the vehicle is going to use. And it’s not just about the snow and ice we mentioned earlier. This principle also applies to the tools and supplies your drivers carry with them every day.
Just 100 pounds of extra weight can impact fuel efficiency for the worse. It doesn’t take long to accumulate that much weight when you’re talking about ladders, power tools, spools of wire, and other gear that may be necessary on the jobsite.
The best way to cut the weight your vehicles have to carry is to conduct an audit of everything in the vehicle while it’s on the road.
Is all of it absolutely necessary? Could the driver get by with two spools of wire instead of four? Could the driver use a single ladder instead of two?
Any excess weight you can remove from the vehicle can improve fuel efficiency and overall performance.
8) Incorporate Aerodynamic Controls
Depending on the type and size of vehicles in your fleet, incorporating aerodynamic controls can help improve fuel management and efficiency.
For example, adding a curved cap to the top of a box truck helps the vehicle cut through the air more efficiently, reduces drag, and results in improved fuel economy overall.
New vehicles, to some extent, are already aerodynamically efficient. But older vehicles and trailers can usually benefit from some relatively inexpensive aerodynamic upgrades that result in a significant rise in miles per gallon.
Fuel Management For The 21st Century
Whatever strategies you choose to improve your business’s fuel management, the Coast fleet and fuel card can help.
With Coast’s online platform, you can see the details of every purchase right down to the line item so you can maintain profits for your business in real time. And you’ll be able to close your books quickly and easily thanks to integrations with QuickBooks, Xero, and others.
To learn more about how Coast can streamline your fuel management and improve your fleet activities as a whole, visit CoastPay.com today.