Fleet Performance: 3 Benefits of Vehicle Idle Reduction
At first glance, vehicle idling may not seem like a big deal. And perhaps it’s not on a small scale, when you’re dealing with just a handful of vehicles. But it becomes a serious issue on the macro scale.
According to the US Department of Energy, “Researchers estimate that idling from heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles combined wastes about 6 billion gallons of fuel annually.” Not only is this detrimental to the environment, it’s a huge financial drain and can be harmful to a vehicle’s engine. So vehicle idle reduction is something every fleet manager should be serious about.
Here are three key benefits of vehicle idle reduction, along with specific tools to lower your fleet’s idling to the absolute minimum:
1. Lower Fuel Consumption
Fuel is one of the biggest expenses for today’s fleets. In fact, research has found that 28% of overall fleet spending goes toward fuel — second only to depreciation at 36%. And this isn’t surprising given how much gas costs these days.
The average gas price as of September 2021 was $3.18 per gallon across the US. However, in the western part of the US, it was considerably higher and ranged from $3.56 to $4.39 per gallon.
Rising gas costs can be problematic on an individual level. But it can really add up when there’s a large number of fleet vehicles putting on miles and miles every day. Excessive idling can rapidly increase your fuel consumption and take a chunk out of your profitability. But by getting your vehicle idling under control to an acceptable level, you can significantly diminish fuel consumption and spend dramatically less on gas.
Just how much can you save with vehicle idle reduction?
On average, companies that use cutting-edge tools like vehicle optimization software save 6 to 10% on fuel within the first month. A real-life example involves the nation’s fifth largest commercial fleet that makes thousands of daily service calls to homes and businesses in over 40 states.
After running a pilot on 150 cargo vans and 300 similar vehicles using VQ Efficiency to optimize the idle RPM of their fleet vehicles, they were able to lower their fuel costs by 9% for a grand total of $7.5 million in savings in fuel costs the first year. Given the massive success they’ve experienced, they now plan on using the software across their entire fleet of 18,000 vehicles.
If you’re spending far more on gas than you should, vehicle idle reduction should be top priority because the impact can be dramatic.
2. Fewer Harmful Emissions
Any time a vehicle is running — whether it’s moving or not — it’s producing emissions. Excessive idling is a key factor in the reduction of air quality and contributes heavily to climate change. To quantify, the US Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program found an idling vehicle wastes up to half a gallon of gas per hour and releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon of gas burned. So it’s easy to see how much this can add up with a large fleet of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of vehicles.
Excessive idling is a significant source of concern from an environmental standpoint, and many cities are cracking down on it. Taking steps to reduce unnecessary vehicle idling, however, can lead to a substantial reduction in harmful emissions.
One particular type of platform a growing number of businesses are using to combat this problem is vehicle optimization software. VQ Efficiency, for instance, involves using engine calibrations to reduce the idle rate of a vehicle without negatively affecting its ventilation or heating performance. Installing the software takes just 30 minutes, but it can create a dramatically more eco-friendly fleet.
It also provides you with near-real-time data on the idle performance of individual drivers, as well as your fleet as a whole. The platform ranks idle performance by driver, displaying how many minutes each one spends idling and ranking drivers from high to low. In turn, this provides educational opportunities so you can continually refine driver behavior. If a clear pattern emerges where certain drivers consistently idle to excess, you’ll know who to focus on to promptly correct the issue.
Besides the ethical implications of being eco-friendly, it should also be noted that this can be a great move from a brand loyalty standpoint. According to recent data, 70% of US and Canadian consumers believe it’s important for a brand to be eco-friendly and give preference to these companies over their less sustainable counterparts. So placing an emphasis on lowering emissions also has the potential to make your brand more desirable among your customer base.
3. Longer Vehicle Lifespan
Finally, idle reduction plays a critical role in making your fleet vehicles last longer. While it may not be immediately obvious that excessive idling is harmful to engine performance, it’s a much bigger concern than you may think.
“Excessive idling can damage your engine’s components, including spark plugs, cylinders, and exhaust systems,” explains E3 Spark Plugs. “Because your vehicle’s engine is not operating at its peak temperature when idling, fuel is only partially combusted, leading to a fuel residue buildup on cylinder walls. This is the gunk that can foul your spark plugs and muck up your exhaust systems.”
And that’s problematic for two main reasons. First, it reduces the average lifespan of your fleet vehicles. Rather than getting year after year of quality performance, your vehicles may give out earlier than they should. This, of course, means you’ll need to replace them more frequently to keep your fleet up and running.
Second, you’ll likely have to make significant repairs on your fleet vehicles at a higher frequency. Because engine complications often require serious repairs, this means you have critical vehicles out of commission while they’re being worked on in the shop. And this can often have a ripple effect where you’re unable to keep up with customer demand like you normally would, which can further diminish productivity and sour the customer experience. Just imagine what would happen if you have to consistently delay or reschedule appointments because of significant vehicle repair. It would be an ongoing source of friction.
The bottom line is that vehicle idle reduction has been proven to improve engine performance and lengthen the lifespan of fleet vehicles. Therefore, it’s definitely worth your attention.
Tools for Achieving better fleet performance
Earlier we touched briefly on some tools that can be used to lower the vehicle idling rate across your fleet. But let’s close by discussing that in a bit more detail so you’ll know precisely what your options are. There are multiple idle reduction technologies (IRTs) on the market, but one of the best is VQ Efficiency.
It’s an ultra-simple software that’s quick and easy to install. As we mentioned before, the entire process can be done in just 30 minutes and involves a handheld programmer being plugged into a vehicle’s OBD-II port. After optimizing the engine control settings, it’s ready to go.
After implementing VQ Efficiency, you should see a substantial reduction in the idle rate of your fleet vehicles without creating issues with ventilation or heating. Most customers save up to 10% each month on fuel, and it should greatly decrease your carbon footprint. So if you’re looking for a straightforward solution with a fast ROI, this technology is certainly something to consider.