A Comprehensive Approach to Fuel Efficiency
Fuel Efficiency = Fleet Efficiency
One of the largest line items on a fleet manager's budget is fuel. In fact, Automotive Fleet Magazine reported in 2019 that fuel costs represent 60% of a company's total fleet operating budget. That means that if a fleet manager wants to keep their fleet budgets from getting out of hand, managing total fuel costs is crucial. The more fuel efficient your fleet is, the easier it is for you to manage your fleet budget.
But to make your fleet more fuel efficient, you have to start somewhere. In this article, we will offer a comprehensive approach to fleet fuel efficiency by looking at these key factors:
- Driver Behavior and Training
- Measuring Vehicle Performance with Data
- Routine Fleet Vehicle Maintenance
- Continuous Improvement
1. Driver Behavior and Training
When it comes to a commercial vehicle fleet, fuel efficiency is everyone's goal, from the drivers and maintenance crews all the way up to the fleet managers and company executives. For drivers, it starts with good driving habits. And for the fleet managers, it starts with providing proper training. Here are a few driver behaviors that can improve fleet vehicle fuel efficiency:
- Avoiding aggressive driving: Hard acceleration, braking, and speeding can all reduce fuel efficiency. A trained driver can learn to anticipate traffic and avoid sudden acceleration and braking, which can help save fuel.
- Maintaining a steady speed: Driving at a steady speed, especially on the highway, can help improve fuel efficiency. Drivers can be trained to use cruise control when appropriate and avoid unnecessary speed changes. Additionally, driving above the speed limit should be avoided as much as possible since running vehicles at higher speeds makes them less fuel efficient.
- Reducing idle time: Idling a vehicle unnecessarily wastes fuel. Drivers can be trained to turn off the engine when parked for extended periods of time.
- Efficient route planning: Planning a route that minimizes traffic and maximizes efficiency can help save fuel. Drivers can be trained to use GPS devices and traffic apps to find the best route.
2. Measuring Vehicle Performance with Data
One of the biggest challenges in improving fuel efficiency across a commercial vehicle fleet is measuring fleet vehicle performance. While it is important for a fleet manager to take the appropriate steps to improve fuel efficiency, they need to be able to accurately measure the progress of their efforts and determine whether they're working or not.
Before implementing any changes that may affect fuel efficiency, it's important to set a benchmark by measuring the current fuel efficiency of a fleet. A simple way to do this is to compare the total gallons of fuel purchased in a year to the total miles driven by all the vehicles in the fleet.
Try our free fleet ROI and sustainability calculator to see the difference fuel efficiency makes for your fleet.
After applying changes to improve fleet fuel efficiency and keeping them in place for a year, the same calculation can be made to determine if the changes were effective or not.
Measuring vehicle performance with data can help with identifying inefficiencies in fleet vehicle performance, such as excessive idling or speeding, as well as identifying and optimizing routes for each vehicle to minimize total miles driven.
Fleet managers can also collect data by monitoring vehicle maintenance, such as oil changes and tire pressure checks, to ensure that vehicles are operating at peak efficiency and using fuel effectively. By analyzing data on vehicle performance, maintenance needs can be predicted and scheduled in advance, reducing the risk of breakdowns and keeping vehicles running at peak efficiency.
3. Routine Fleet Vehicle Maintenance
Routine vehicle maintenance can help keep fleet vehicles in good working order and optimize their performance, which can lead to cost savings and a more fuel efficient fleet. Here are two examples of vehicle maintenance tasks every fleet maintenance crew should perform at regular intervals for each fleet vehicle:
- Regular vehicle inspections: Fleet vehicle drivers should inspect the vehicle they drive every day before starting their route. Fleet maintenance crews should also do a more thorough inspection of each fleet vehicle on a frequent basis. Regular inspections can help identify potential problems before they become more significant issues that can affect fuel efficiency.
- Proper tire inflation: A vehicle's tires are, quite literally, where the rubber meets the road. Underinflated tires can increase fuel consumption by about .2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of each tire. That may not sound like much, but it can add up quickly for an entire fleet of vehicles. Regular tire maintenance, including proper inflation, can help reduce this effect.
- Regular oil changes: Regular oil changes can help ensure that the engine is running smoothly, which can improve fuel economy. Fresh oil lubricates the moving parts of the engine better than old oil, so the engine doesn't have to work as hard to run. This leads to better fuel efficiency for the vehicle and the fleet as a whole.
4. Continuous Improvement
Fuel efficiency isn't something a fleet manager can set and forget. It's a continuous process that involves researching current efficiency, discovering new technologies, measuring the progress of implemented changes, adjusting strategies, and some trial & error. What works for one fleet may not work for another, and what works for a fleet one year may not work the next year.
Once the effectiveness of a fuel efficiency improvement strategy has been evaluated to determine successes, barriers, and areas of improvement, fleet managers should go back to the drawing board and revisit their planning process to develop new strategies.
Achieving fleet fuel efficiency requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses various strategies and tactics. Fleet managers must take a holistic approach to reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and costs. By prioritizing fuel efficiency in their operations, fleet managers can not only save money and reduce their environmental impact but also improve their bottom line and competitive advantage in the long run.
If you're looking to improve the fuel efficiency of your fleet and want to know where to start, talk with an expert at Derive and learn more.