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Fuel costs represent about 60% of a fleet’s total operating budget, according to Automotive Fleet, making it a top management priority. While fuel prices have been relatively stable over the past few years, that doesn’t mean that they will remain that way forever. Fuel cost management will continue to be essential until electrification becomes commonplace.
Let’s take a look at five ways to improve your service fleet’s fuel efficiency using telematics and other technologies.Fuel costs represent about 60% of a fleet’s total operating budget—here’s how to reduce your fuel costs and save! Click To Tweet
#1. Improve Driving Behavior
Obeying the speed limit and gently accelerating and braking can improve fuel economy by 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which can have a significant impact on fuel costs. While driver training is a good first step, in-vehicle feedback has been shown to improve fuel efficiency by 6.6%.
In addition to hurting fuel economy, poor driving behaviors can increase wear and tear on vehicles. Sudden braking wears out braking pads and rotors, abruptly shifting from reverse to drive strains the drivetrain and driving on an empty tank causes excessive heat on the fuel pump—all of which can lead to worse fuel economy over time.
Telematics solutions make it easy for businesses to track excess idling, speed and aggressive driving behaviors rather than relying on derivative measures like miles per gallon (mpg). You can retrain employees that speed or engage in aggressive driving tactics while rewarding good driving behavior to incentivize better fuel economy across the fleet.
#2. Monitor & Maintain Vehicles
You cannot improve what you don’t measure. That’s why every company with a vehicle fleet should—at a minimum—track miles per gallon (mpg). While mpg readings are available in each vehicle, telematics solutions can make it much easier to remotely gather the information across an entire fleet. You can also generate useful comparisons to identify abnormalities in specific vehicles.
Driving behavior may influence mpg to a large extent, but maintenance issues can lead to a sudden and insidious drop in fuel economy. For instance, dirty fuel injectors, misaligned tires, or bad spark plugs can lead to a drop in fuel economy without necessarily triggering any conventional in-vehicle maintenance alerts, silently hurting your fuel economy.
Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid these issues. With telematics, you can schedule maintenance based on more than just raw mileage, incorporating drive time, driver behavior and the vehicle’s past issues. These efforts can help lower costs by scheduling repairs in advance, keeping fuel economy optimal and avoiding on-the-road emergencies.
#3. Consider Fleet Upgrades
A vehicle’s miles per gallon (mpg) is a significant factor when building a fleet. As new models come out with higher mpg ratings, companies can reduce their fuel costs by simply cycling out older model years and replacing them with newer model years. Businesses should take advantage of opportunities to upgrade when the right incentives are in place.
The rise of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles has had an especially significant impact on mpg. For example, plug-in hybrid vans can provide 30 to 40 miles of zero-emission driving range and more than 300 miles of total range. Newer fully electric vans are expected to hit the market in 2022 with more than 125 miles of range (average commercial vans go 74 miles daily).
Of course, fleet or operations managers are often under a lot of pressure to keep aging vehichles on the road and new purchases are often deferred as long as possible. Vehicle conversions, retrofits and repowers can be used to modify existing vehicles to use alternative fuels and other advanced technologies, which may be a lower-cost way to improve fuel economy in some cases.
#4. Plan Better Routes
Another logical way to reduce fuel costs is to simply drive less, and you can do that by planning more efficient routes. For example, if you have a combination of scheduled and ad-hoc assignments, job site visits or deliveries, you can improve efficiency by incorporating the ad-hoc assignments into the normal schedule rather than at the end of a route.
Telematics solutions can help improve dynamic routing with real-life insights. If routing software relies on posted speed limits, telematics can improve estimates by taking into account rush hour traffic, a driver’s average speed and other factors. Avoiding heavy traffic can help alleviate excess idling. These efforts can both minimize the number of miles driven and ensure that schedules are realistic.
In addition to optimizing routes, telematics solutions can also identify when individual vehicles deviate from a planned route and where they spend their time. You can identify employees that are taking excessive breaks, running personal errands or making other unauthorized vehicle use or unplanned stops, which can both eat into fuel efficiency and cost the business money in other ways.
#5. Control Fuel Spending
Fuel cards are an easy way for businesses to manage fuel and maintenance expenses. They make it easy to control employee spending, identify fraud or misuse, track purchases online and provide discounts at the pump. Many fuel cards even enable businesses to access detailed reports on fuel costs and spending to identify ways to save.
In addition to saving at the pump, businesses may want to consider optimizing routes around low-cost fueling stations. There are many different resources to help identify the lowest cost gas stations in a given area. Planning routes and topping off fuel at these locations can help significantly lower costs over time and optimize station-specific rewards.
The Bottom Line
Fuel costs represent more than half of a fleet’s overall budget. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce these costs, ranging from improving driver behavior to planning better routes. Telematics solutions are at the core of these capabilities, enabling businesses to track everything from miles per gallon to unsafe driver behaviors.
PowerFleet provides a wide range of telematics solutions designed to help you measure and reduce fuel costs. The technology can be added to any vehicle to add detailed telematics, enabling granular analysis of fuel trends and helping you identify ways to save—including using many of the tips that we’ve mentioned above.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you!