Cutting the amount of money you spend on fuel each year can have a significant positive impact on how much profit your business generates.
- Fuel expenses have a big impact on the budgets of businesses that operate a fleet of vehicles.
- Some simple strategies, like checking tire pressure and replacing oxygen sensors, can help your business become more fuel-efficient.
- GPS fleet tracking software and telematics can be a big help in cutting down on your fleet's fuel consumption.
- This article is for business owners and fleet managers who are looking for ways to reduce their fuel costs from company vehicles.
Fuel is a critical component of operating a fleet of vehicles. Without fuel, your trucks aren't going anywhere, so it's no surprise that fuel is a fleet's second-largest annual expense. Research shows that fuel costs can constitute 60% of a company's operating budget.
Knowing the impact fuel costs have on the bottom lines of businesses that operate a fleet of vehicles, it is important to find ways to cut down on these expenses. Here are 10 strategies you can implement to reduce fuel costs for your fleet.
1. Keep tires properly inflated.
According to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ensuring that vehicles have properly inflated tires can improve fuel efficiency by an average of 0.6%, up to 3%. Vehicles lose 0.2% in fuel efficiency for every 1 psi below the recommended tire pressure.
Since outside temperatures affect commercial vehicles' tire pressure, drivers need to check their tire pressure regularly when there are changes in the weather and temperature. There can be significant variations in tire pressure in both cold and very hot climates. Drivers and maintenance professionals should check the tire pressure before trucks go out on the road and as part of regular maintenance.
Did you know? Overly cold and hot weather can both affect tire pressure. Cold weather causes the tires' PSI to drop, while heat causes it to increase.
2. Maintain the oxygen sensor.
All vehicles manufactured since the 1980s are equipped with oxygen sensors. These devices analyze the oxygen concentration in the vehicle's exhaust gases, and send the data to the engine's computer to calculate the amount of fuel required for every combustion cycle. Like any equipment, oxygen sensors will break down over time, which means they must be replaced at some time in the vehicle's life.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing or repairing the oxygen sensor can improve fuel efficiency by up to 40%. Your fleet's maintenance department should set up notifications to identify and repair faulty oxygen sensors before the vehicle returns to the road.
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3. Drive on smooth roads.
The quality of the road surface can have a significant impact on fuel efficiency. The vehicle's engine creates kinetic energy to produce forward momentum. Uneven road surfaces will bounce and shake the tires (and vehicle), which disrupts the kinetic energy produced by the engine, making it less fuel-efficient.
While your drivers cannot control road quality, they can avoid uneven roads as much as possible. Planning out the vehicle's route and using GPS devices with route suggestions will help your truck drivers avoid bad roads that can reduce fuel efficiency. It can also help them avoid traffic congestion. According to a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), traffic congestion due to gridlock can reduce a vehicle's fuel economy by 20% to 40%.
Tip: GPS technology, such as GPS fleet tracking software, can help you plan your drivers' routes to avoid bad roads and traffic congestion as much as possible.
4. Avoid unnecessary idling.
Vehicles that are started more often throughout the day use more fuel than vehicles started fewer times. At the same time, idling vehicles waste fuel for no reason and accumulate unnecessary costs. These wasted expenses can add up across your fleet to be a significant drain on your bottom line.
Train your drivers to turn off their engines if they expect to be parked or standing for a while. This will result in short-term and long-term financial savings in terms of fuel consumption and engine wear. Drivers should also learn to change gears sooner to lower their overall rpm, which can also reduce fuel consumption.
Use telematics software to alert your drivers to turn off the vehicles when they have shifted into park, and review the software's reports of which drivers idle the most to work on changing this habit.
5. Set speed restrictions for drivers.
Speeding wastes fuel and is potentially dangerous, particularly for truck drivers. According to the UMTRI study, driving at high speeds can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 30%. Set speed restrictions for your drivers to reduce fuel consumption as well as safety risks.
GPS fleet tracking and telematics can also track fuel usage and remind drivers of when to slow down and drive within the speed limit, which will further reduce fuel consumption. You can use the software to create reports that determine which drivers are not following the company's speed restrictions.
6. Train drivers to avoid aggressive driving.
Much like speeding, aggressive driving can increase fuel consumption. Aggressive driving includes accelerating too rapidly, speeding, braking too quickly and taking corners too sharply.
Your driver training program should include teaching drivers to curb aggressive driving habits, as this will reduce fuel consumption and improve road safety. You can also use telematics to send drivers reminders to avoid aggressive driving.
Did you know? According to UMTRI's study, aggressive driving from your team can reduce your fleet's fuel economy by 20% to 30%.
7. Match the vehicle and engine to the route.
It's important to match the vehicle to the task when possible. It is not fuel-efficient to transport a small load across a short distance in a 45-foot tractor trailer. A smaller, electric vehicle might be the better option for transporting this type of load. Lighter, gasoline-run vehicles would also be better for longer routes.
Transporting goods in vehicles with smaller engines can be more fuel-efficient. Many transport trucks are overpowered for the routes and deliveries they take. Try to match the trucks and engines to the routes rather than sending whatever truck happens to be available.
8. Ship lighter loads when possible.
In addition to matching the vehicle to the route, lightening the truck's load can improve fuel efficiency. Heavy vehicles use more fuel than lighter ones. It's the main reason that vehicle manufacturers use composite body parts in new cars, as this decreases the vehicle's weight and makes it more fuel-efficient.
To improve fuel efficiency, ensure that your trucks only carry what is necessary to ship cargo to its destination. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each additional 100 pounds on a vehicle can reduce its fuel efficiency by 1%. Carrying open cargo (i.e., on flatbeds) is also less fuel-efficient than carrying cargo inside a closed truck.
9. Convert to electric vehicles or alternative fuels.
Electric vehicles are obviously more fuel-efficient than gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. Switching to vehicles that run on alternative fuels can also lower your fuel costs, as they cost less to operate per gallon than trucks that run on diesel or regular gasoline. For example, biodiesel is a renewable fuel based on vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled cooking grease, which is used in diesel vehicles.
While comparable electric vehicles cost more upfront than diesel- and gasoline-run vehicles, electric vehicles cost less to maintain. They have fewer moving parts that will break down with repeated use, as well as fewer parts to maintain or replace.
10. Partner with a telematics provider.
GPS fleet tracking software enables you to track your vehicles' performance and maintain driver safety. It can monitor driver routes and patterns, fuel consumption, and other metrics. This technology also helps you comply with state and federal regulations, including the requirements for electronic logging devices, the International Fuel Tax Agreement, and driver vehicle inspection reports. Partnership with a telematics provider will ensure that you equip your vehicles with the right systems for your needs.