If you’re here, odds are a significant portion of your budget is going toward your fleet’s fuel. But there’s some good news. You really can slash the cost of fuel without hurting your business or your drivers. Even a small fleet can save big money. All it takes is a little technical help and knowing the right levers to pull. Here’s what we’ll be covering in this guide to help you improve your overall fleet fuel savings:
- Benefits of Fleet Fuel Economy
- Training Drivers to Save Fuel
- Choosing the Most Efficient Routes
- Eliminating Extra Weight
- Reducing Trips
- Maintaining Fleet Vehicles
Benefits of Fleet Fuel Economy
Naturally, you’re going to lower your operating costs when every truck in your entire fleet uses less fuel. That’s the biggest and most obvious benefit of improving fuel economy. But that’s not the whole story. Here are a few extra benefits that often slide under the radar.
Less Environmental Impact
If your fleet is like most others, it’s likely you already have targets and goals in this arena. The first step you take might not be to rush out and replace your entire fleet with electric vehicles. However, optimizing and focusing on better fleet fuel economics and fuel-efficient practices can help reduce oil consumption and may even perhaps minimize your total cost of ownership.
Become a Company Thought Leader and Hero
A key performance indicator for many fleet managers is fuel consumption. When a fleet manager significantly cuts costs, he or she gets noticed. Fuel spending is a significant portion of most fleet management budgets, and coming under budget is a key part of any fleet manager’s job. It’s a metric most of us are trying to hit, and it’s absolutely possible.
Alex May, Senior Fleet Manager at Rollins, Inc., says, “I am evaluated on whatever I can throw to the bottom line. Right-sizing the fleet. Adding telematics. Maintaining functionality while decreasing costs.”
All fleets have fuel economy targets—whether driven by cost or corporate carbon footprint reduction targets (or both).
Increase Your Budget to Address Other Key Concerns
Because your fleet is using less fuel and saving money, you’ll be able to use your increased budget to address other key areas of the business. These extra dollars from your fuel savings mean you have bigger and more opportunities to improve other fleet initiatives and employee retention efforts. You’ll be able to reduce worker complaints by purchasing the latest, high-quality gear or perhaps launch a brand new program that hones in on other KPIs.
Training Drivers to Save Fuel on the Clock
To ensure drivers are minimizing the use of fuel and getting the most out of their gas mileage, they need to all be trained on the same set of driving standards. Let’s review some basic tips and tricks to save fuel on the clock. Your drivers will eventually be able to increase fuel efficiency and cut down on vehicle maintenance costs, too.
- Avoid aggressive driving. The US Department of Energy reports that aggressive driving (speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, sudden braking, and acceleration) can lower your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and 5% at local (non-highway) speeds. That’s a range of 18 cents to $1.19 a gallon. No need to peel out from a stoplight or driveway. Aggressive driving is not only a quick way to deplete fuel, it increases liability and the likelihood of accidents (and therefore, insurance costs).
- Take it easy on the brakes and gas pedal. Researchers at the Department of Energy say speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking increase fuel consumption in light-duty vehicles by about 10-40% in stop-and-go traffic and roughly 15-30% at highway speeds. Over the course of a year, a single pickup truck is looking at an average of $2,300 in fuel costs. By driving safely and eliminating the added costs from sudden braking and acceleration, pickup trucks can save up to an annual $230-$920 in that stop-and-go traffic and approximately $345-$690 on the highway.
- No idling. Most people believe idling saves gas and extends the life of the starter, but it’s not true. Idling wastes fuel and adds wear and tear to the engine. Idling actually uses up to a quarter to a half-gallon of fuel per hour. It’s best practice to simply turn off the engine when parked.
- Use cruise control on highways. Set the cruise control at the speed limit and avoid the speed creep that has drivers suddenly slamming on brakes. Not only does cruise control help drivers regulate their speed, cruise control is reported to decrease fuel consumption up to 5-7%. On average, that’s over $100 a year per pickup truck.
- Stay within the speed limits. Speeding is a common way of eating through fuel unnecessarily fast. It’s reported that each 5mph driven past 50mph is equivalent to paying up to an additional 19 cents per gallon. Drivers should also be encouraged to find the sweet spot between getting there on time, staying within the speed limit, and saving money on gas.
- Track your metrics. How will you know if drivers are doing what they’re supposed to? There are several fleet management software programs that show you everything you need to know about each vehicle: where it’s located, how fast it’s moving, and whether your drivers are rolling stop signs or skidding around corners. They even show your vehicles on the road in real-time. Here are some popular fleet management software:
The Department of Energy reports that using a driver feedback device or a fleet management solution can help the average driver improve fuel economy by about 3% and gas mileage by about 10%. That equates to about $100 to $200 per pickup truck.
- Make it worth their while. What if you can save 25 cents to a dollar for every gallon of gas just by making your drivers feel comfortable and trusted? Some drivers may dislike being monitored through telematics-tracking software, so an efficiency program will be more successful if you make it worth their while. To avoid pushback, consider offering them an incentive, like a quarterly bonus to drivers who hit a certain quota or even a competition leaderboard. A study from the Incentive Research Foundation found that incentive programs (with rewards in the form of bonuses/tangible awards) increased performance by an average of 22%. In the same study, it’s reported that quota-based incentives are most effective.
Choosing the Most Efficient Routes
In 2016, when they launched their ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation) telematics system, UPS estimated they’d cut fuel consumption by 10 million gallons, reduce CO2 emissions by 100,000 tons, and save the company somewhere in the neighborhood of $300-400 million.
Since 2017, more than 70% of the routes are now on the ORION system and have reduced up to 6-8 miles per trip. For perspective, the study claims UPS can save up to $50 million a year by reducing just one mile per daily travel route. Fleet managers around the US can emulate this same fuel-saving strategy by leveraging any of the software below. Begin optimizing routes and mapping out a driver’s schedule by checking out:
Road quality, traffic conditions, and speed limits also influence MPG and affect your fuel management strategy, so you’ll need to consider the roads drivers are traveling on.
Consider this: One of the easiest driving behavior changes UPS made to save money and minimize fuel usage was this: no unnecessary left turns. Left turns mean more wait time, idle time, and greater potential for accidents. In 2010 they started planning routes with the fewest possible left turns and banked a big difference in fuel costs.
Eliminating Extra Weight
Some upfits add a ton of unbalanced weight to your cargo van or truck. Of course, we have the answer to a lightweight, balanced load.
The DECKED Drawer System provides secure, organized, weatherproof storage and weighs approximately 400 pounds less than a traditional service body. Tools and equipment can be securely stored in two full bed length drawers, and the 2,000-pound weight rating means everything from plywood to plexiglass can go on top. Plus, the system covers the wheel wells to provide an even larger load floor in the back of your trucks.
Alex May, Senior Fleet Manager at Rollins, Inc., says, “When guys come in from the field and complain about their trucks, you realize how much time these guys spend in their trucks. If we can save our tech time to make one more stop during the day, we have won something big. So, DECKED makes your truck more organized without adding too much cost to it.”
Here’s what Doug Sanders, a gas compliance representative from PG&E also had to say about it: “We had another popular steel drawer system, but when you load them up, they get heavy and they rust…and they’re a little cumbersome.”
It’s no wonder why DECKED is the way to go. DECKED eliminates extra weight, protects your assets from theft, rust, and loss, and makes your workers more efficient.
By now, your mind is coming up with innovative ideas about influencing driver behavior and route optimization to make your fleet’s fuel management more efficient and your bottom line healthier. Now let’s talk about eliminating trips completely to save the amount of fuel being used. Here are a couple of tips to make that happen.
- Keep a fuel station on site. This is an obvious way of eliminating or reducing trips. However, it also allows you to control fuel prices by buying at strategic times. When you’ve got your own supply, the cost of fuel can shoot up without affecting your budgeting (a single truck that fuels onsite can save you up to $555 in total annual savings and a total of 17 hours in fueling time).
- Make sure your drivers know and understand their schedules. Give drivers a morning checklist to reduce making additional stops. A clear and thorough schedule eliminates any wasted time and can help avoid unnecessary backtracking or fuel-eating detours.
With the time you add to drivers’ schedules with increased efficiency, they can get more done in a day. Which may allow workers to finish faster and eliminate the need to return to a job site a second time—that’s one less trip and more fuel savings.
Maintaining Fleet Vehicles
Create and stick to a regular schedule for inspections, general maintenance, and any special repairs. These inspections don’t have to be a major undertaking but make it a regular best practice to check all your basics.
By maintaining all these parts of your fleet vehicles on a regimented basis, you can significantly cut the overall costs of any expensive repairs down the line and improve your fuel savings. In fact, AAA claims a poorly maintained vehicle can use up to 50% more fuel than a regularly maintained vehicle. Not only would regular maintenance mitigate these costs, but regular maintenance also extends the life of your fleet vehicles. That’s more opportunity for work without needing another vehicle.
Let’s Save and Let’s Go
Now that we’ve covered some of the ways fleet owners can lower fuel use, save mileage, and minimize vehicle wear and tear, take a look at our printable summary.
Fuel Saving Benefits
Fuel Saving Resources and Softwares
Fuel Saving Strategies and Tips