14 Ways to Improve Fleet Fuel Economy

14 Ways to Improve Fleet Fuel Economy

14 Ways to Improve Fleet Fuel Economy

With average fuel prices becoming more unpredictable in recent years, more supervisors want better fuel economy out of their fleets. Fleet managers must actively seek out ways to get the best fuel mileage possible. It turns out that the most effective solutions are also some of the simplest.

These 14 approaches to improving commercial fleet fuel efficiency will help you reduce costs and downtime. Use a few of them or completely overhaul your fuel policies to increase your profits.

1. Use Fuel Tracking Technology

Specialized fleet management software like FUELChex monitors your fleet's fuel usage. FUELChex gives you real-time access to information about every gallon of gas your fleet consumes. It includes features such as:

FUELChex Fleet Management Software

  • A secure web portal: Access data from anywhere so you can improve efficiency wherever you go.
  • Tracking fuel usage by job: Discover which assignments have the highest fuel costs so you can reroute and budget accordingly.
  • Fuel fraud risk reduction: Catch unusual-looking fuel transactions and hold your drivers accountable.
  • Exportable data: Create an Excel spreadsheet in a few clicks for advanced analysis.

To get the most out of your data, use strategies like:

  • Comparing usage by driver: How do your drivers' fuel consumption patterns differ on similar routes? Determine who uses the most fuel when you take other factors into account.
  • Examining each vehicle's fuel efficiency: Find out which vehicles in your fleet have the lowest MPG so you can tackle the problem at the root. Certain vehicles could have mechanical or design issues you haven't caught.
  • Pinpointing inefficient routes: Factors besides distance can interfere with your mileage estimates. Discover which routes have the best fuel economy.

2. Choose the Most Efficient Routes

Fleets that follow set routes for purposes like public transit and delivery shouldn't overlook the importance of optimal routing plans. Managers working with these vehicles have ultimate control over route efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Instead of mainly relying on routing software to pick your itineraries, you can also use common sense and collect data.

While we have more advanced logistics technology than ever, it doesn't always consider factors like:

  • Distance vs. efficiency: Just because you found the shortest path by distance doesn't mean it will use the least fuel. Road quality, traffic conditions, and speed limit also influence your MPG.
  • Idling time vs. driving time: Whenever one of your vehicles idles, it has a mileage of zero MPG. While you can't entirely avoid idling, you want to reduce it as much as possible. Remember to take busy times of day and stoplight frequency into account when you create a route.
  • Your fleet's MPG vs. average MPG: The data from software like FUELChex reflects your fleet's fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, GPS and routing technology base their information on the average user's fuel efficiency.
  • MPG on flat vs. rough terrain: According to the EPA, its vehicle tests assume operation on flat ground, not hills or bumpy roads. A route with more challenging terrain will use up more fuel than the same one with flat ground.

MPG on Flat vs. Rough Terrain

3. Discourage Aggressive Driving

One way fleet drivers can use less fuel is to avoid aggressive driving. Your drivers may try to travel at faster speeds or pass cars as much as possible to make their driving more efficient. However, aggressive driving practices actually decrease MPG. Driver monitoring and training that encourages them to drive sensibly reduces the risk of accidents and makes them accountable for their fuel consumption.

Promote wise driving habits such as:

  • Less frequent acceleration
  • Smoother braking
  • Efficient shifting techniques
  • Following the speed limit
  • Limiting four-wheel-drive usage
  • Reducing idling
  • Using cruise control on highways

It takes an investment to implement driver training or monitoring, but you'll soon find the returns worth it. The data out there suggests that an extensive driver training program could improve your fuel efficiency by as much as 20 percent. You may be surprised by the impact that factors such as acceleration, speed changes, and braking have on MPG.

 

Whether or not you decide to pay for a training program, you can also install electronic engine monitors. These devices track performance and driving behaviors for each vehicle. Use the data provided by engine monitors to incentivize smart driving or guide future training sessions.

4. Eliminate Extra Weight

Heavier vehicles and cargo also weigh down your MPG. You want your fleet vehicles to have the lowest weights possible to maximize their fuel economy. Make your fleet lighter by:

  • Getting rid of unneeded items: If your drivers use their vehicles regularly, they can accumulate extra tools and materials. They need some of these items to do their jobs well, but anything else must go. Instruct them to check their vehicles every now and then, or schedule regular cleanouts to make it easier for everyone to remember.
  • Reducing cargo weight and drag: When you load your vehicles with cargo, you have to consider both weight and aerodynamics. For example, the same weight of cargo will strain your MPG less when placed in the vehicle instead of on top. Use your fuel consumption data to see how you can distribute cargo weight among your fleet to maximize fuel economy. Remove external containers when not in use to lower wind resistance.
  • Swapping in lighter vehicle parts: Depending on your budget and vehicle models, you can replace certain parts on your vehicles with lighter models. Many of these models come in aluminum, which can reduce your vehicle's weight significantly.

5. Cool Down Wisely

You may often hear about efficiency in the winter when you research ways to improve fleet fuel economy. Our behavior in the colder months does have an impact on fuel usage, but so do our summer habits. Both rolling the windows down and turning on the air conditioning can lower MPG.

However, you want your drivers to feel comfortable when they do their jobs. Consider these solutions:

  • Increase A/C efficiency: Teach your drivers how to cool down with air conditioning in fuel-efficient ways. If your vehicles let you set an air conditioning temperature, ask them to aim for about 72 degrees. They should also use the vent setting as much as possible and keep the A/C off whenever they don't need it.
  • Crack open the windows: Just like external containers, open vehicle windows increase wind drag and lower MPG. So, they can have as much of an impact on your fuel economy as A/C usage. Tell drivers to try cracking open the windows slightly and setting the A/C to "vent" and "outside air."
  • Encourage hydration: If possible, make cold water easily available to your drivers. They won't feel the need to use other cooling measures as often.

Increase Air Conditioning Efficiency

6. Fill Your Tanks at Cardlock Stations

Fueling your vehicles at cardlock fueling stations like the ones provided by Shipley Energy can save you money and help you control your fleet's fuel usage. The advantages of our program include:

  • Convenient locations: You'll find our cardlock fueling stations at strategic locations in the regions in which your drivers operate. Save time and mileage traveling to a different gas station. Thanks to our partnership with Pacific Pride, you will also find thousands of their locations across North America.
  • Comprehensive purchase history: Every time someone purchases fuel through your cardlock account, you receive a detailed summary of the transaction. No need to shuffle through different receipts — you can find it all in one place. If you suspect one of your drivers steals fuel, you can use your records to pinpoint the issue. Or, you can find trends to curb spending where you don't need it.
  • Multiple payment methods: Our cardlock stations accept a wide variety of fleet fueling cards such as the PrideAvantage card. You can choose whichever compatible program you want, to get their benefits and ours.

Cardlock Fuel Card Transactions

7. Carpool Whenever Possible

If you have a business fleet for a company that's not focused on driving, you have more control over the way your employees use your vehicles. When your fleet serves as the foundation for your business, such as in trucking or transport, you generally have one driver for each vehicle. However, offices and other companies without these kinds of activities can efficiently manage who rides each vehicle.

Get the most mileage out of your fleet with the following strategies:

  • Carpool to company trips: Encourage your employees to ride together in company vehicles when they go to conferences and other business events. If logistics become an issue, make it as easy as possible for your staff with flexible hours and other accomodations.
  • Treat mileage reimbursements as you would fleet costs: If you reimburse your employees for their commute or travel to appointments, promote efficient gas usage. Incentivize practices like carpooling and scheduling appointments around shared travel.

8. Stick to Regular Fuel

The type of fuel you use for your fleet has a significant impact on your ROI. Just because you pay more for a certain kind of fuel doesn't mean it will give you the best MPG. Meanwhile, choosing the lowest octane rating actually enhances profitability. Premium additives make fuel more volatile — they don't necessarily make it more efficient. So, they don't increase performance in vehicles meant to run on regular.

The majority of fleet vehicles have a design meant to take regular, unleaded gasoline. Read the owner's manual for every vehicle model in your fleet before filling them up with premium fuel. While some vehicles require premium gas to run well, many more do not. Only use premium when you absolutely must. An on-site fleet fueling service like Shipley Energy can help you manage your fuel prices with flexible packages based on current pricing.

On-Site Fueling Services

For added performance, you can choose a fuel with detergent additives. These types of gas keep your engine clean and let it work more efficiently with less strain on fuel levels. They also prevent dirt from building up and causing major engine problems that will cost you more in the long run.

9. Pay Attention to Traffic

We touched on traffic monitoring in a few previous sections, but it has such an effect on fuel economy that it deserves its own section. Both you and your driver can keep traffic in mind while doing your jobs to ensure you maximize your MPG. Fleet managers can factor traffic into their fuel efficiency plan by:

  • Designing routes based on traffic patterns: Traffic greatly varies by location and time of day. While one area could have high congestion in the morning and afternoon due to rush hour, it could have virtually no traffic during the workday. Rural areas high in traffic can cost you more than urban areas without. Look at data on traffic patterns and decide accordingly.
  • Taking holidays into account: While the end of the year comes to mind first when scheduling around holidays, don't forget family gatherings for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Even federal holidays like Presidents' Day can increase traffic if the area has a large number of government employees. Holidays that fall near a weekend may have impact traffic more than those that don't.

Meanwhile, your drivers can take traffic into account with the following approaches:

  • Looking ahead at traffic and signs: Understanding the flow of traffic reduces a driver's chance of sudden stops and starts, which use more fuel. They should look at the next few cars on the road to anticipate when to brake. Signs also serve as good predictors of when potential stops could happen.
  • Reviewing traffic patterns and construction areas: Instruct drivers to check for traffic and construction alerts before they depart for the day. While some routing software will get around these issues, they can't avoid every high-traffic area. Checking ahead of time ensures that they feel prepared to deal with congested roads.

10. Maintain Your Fleet

Keeping your vehicles in shape goes a long way towards increasing their fuel economy. Parts that don't function at top capacity lower the vehicle's MPG. Focus on maintaining the following components of your vehicle:

  • Tire pressure: You can easily reduce your vehicle's fuel consumption by making sure its tires have the right pressure. According to the EPA, proper inflation can improve mileage by as much as three percent.
  • Engine: Simply fixing an out-of-tune engine can increase MPG by four percent. Meanwhile, bigger fixes can improve your mileage at a rate of up to 40 percent, depending on the severity of the problem.
  • Oil: Just as you should with gasoline, you should use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. Oil that features the "energy conserving" API performance symbol saves you even more mileage.
  • Air filter: The benefits of replacing a clogged air filter depend on a vehicle's age. Older vehicles with carbureted engines experience improved fuel efficiency and acceleration after replacement, but newer vehicles only get increased acceleration.

Correct Tire Pressure
Regular preventative maintenance such as wheel alignment and oil replacement not only lower the risk of bigger problems, but also improve fuel economy on their own. Schedule every vehicle in your fleet for frequent maintenance to ensure peak efficiency. Maintenance costs much less than the extra fuel and repair costs associated with a lack of maintenance.

11. Choose the Right Vehicles and Parts

If you plan to add to your fleet or replace older vehicles, you have a prime opportunity to maximize your fuel economy. Current models have more fuel-saving features than ever. When you shop for new vehicles, remember to consider:

  • Aerodynamics: Reducing wind drag starts with your vehicle's design and structure. With freight trucks experiencing the most resistance, manufacturers tend to focus on their wind drag the most. However, you can find aerodynamic traits in newer vehicle models of all kinds.
  • Retrofitted parts: Newer vehicles, including tractors and trucks, have aerodynamic parts that you can add to existing vehicles. Features like side skirts and roof fairings can lower your wind resistance while costing much less than an entirely new vehicle.
  • Hybrid vehicles: While hybrid vehicles can't transport freight over long distances, they can carry people and deliveries to their destinations. They tend to come in smaller, lighter models than traditional vehicles and use electricity to raise their MPG.

12. Communicate Effectively

Clear communication between fleet managers and drivers saves the entire team money and time. Instead of running into surprise traffic or driving back to the depot for the next job, a driver can get real-time updates on their route. Meanwhile, a driver can relay important information about delays and other issues back to the head office.

Technology makes getting in touch easier than ever. If you don't already use technology to stay on the same page, consider devices like:

  • Cell phones: Fleet managers who can't afford advanced technology can keep track of each driver's cell phone number. Call and text updates between each other or use an app like Fleetio to stay on the same page.
  • Fleet management systems: Software and devices made for managing business fleets have features such as interfaces inside the vehicles and data collection. You can give an assignment directly to a driver's vehicle system so they can move on to the next job immediately. Location tracking allows you to determine which drivers have the closest locations to the next assignment on your list.
  • Tablets: Tablets have features that overlap with both phones and computers, making them a little more complex than cell phones. Teams who need to stay organized will benefit from their larger screens and touch controls. Manage deliveries and other performance indicators while communicating important updates.

Fleet Manager Tracking

13. Monitor Your Engine

An on-board diagnostics dongle can help you pinpoint vehicle issues without a high budget. If you only want to use technology to check vehicle performance, you can buy one of these devices at a low cost. Depending on the product you choose, you can get information about vehicle problems or additional data on driving habits.

To analyze the dongle's readings, you use a smartphone app meant for people of all skill levels. Then, you can use the knowledge you get from the dongle to address fuel efficiency problems like broken parts and aggressive driving.

14. Fuel Your Fleet On-Site

Have you ever considered how the time your drivers spend fueling their vehicles impacts your costs? The wages you pay during fueling don't go towards your jobs — they go towards the time used to fill up the tank. Since large vehicles take much longer to fill than standard cars, your employee has to spend many minutes off the road when they refuel.

If you want to know how much money you lose by fueling vehicles separately, use our online fleet fueling calculator.

Online Fleet Fueling Calculator

Did your result surprise you? What if we told you that you could lower that number? Coordinating your fueling saves your company from paying wages for refills and eliminates the need to go out of the way to fill up. Investing in a service like Shipley Energy's on-site fueling reduces downtime and increases profits.

Savvy fleet owners choose Shipley Energy because:

  • We lend you the equipment: You don't have to buy your own refueling equipment. Let us handle the liability.
  • You can request remote monitoring: Our mobile skid tanks feature solar-powered monitors that notify us when your fuel reaches a certain level. We'll send our dispatchers out to deliver more fuel to your business or site.
  • We work with your schedule: Schedule your refuel times whenever you don't plan on using your fleet. It doesn't matter if you need us during the day or night — we can help 24/7.

Increase your fuel savings and fleet efficiency today. Count on Shipley Energy.