Look at any number of surveys asking trucking companies what their number one concern is and they will tell you: Fuel Costs. This paradigm takes an even greater significance as we move into an environment of geopolitical turmoil and rising fuel costs. With so much uncertainty in the marketplace, one can only wonder where fuel prices are likely to go in the near future. Will your fleet be prepared?
With all the question marks in the air, we wanted to take a moment to cover what some of the best ways are that a fleet can reduce their fuel costs. Sure, we have talked about this in the past, but we feel it is important to continue discussing the issue, considering fuel costs continue to be the number one fleet management concern in survey after survey. Except, this time, we are taking a different approach. We have talked about cultivating a culture of fuel savings, but we wanted to dig deeper into how fleet operating expenses can be kept to a minimal through a fleet management solution.
There are several areas where a fleet management solution can have a big impact on fuel costs:
- Unnecessary idling
- Vehicle maintenance
- Required vehicles
- Fuel slippage
Let’s take a deeper look at each of these factors individually.
Saving Fuel through Speed Reductions
If there is one sure-fire way for a motor carrier to start saving fuel right away, it is through limiting excessive speeding on behalf of their truck drivers. Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Energy, every 5 miles per hour over the speed limit that a truck driver drives equates to an additional $0.18 cents per gallon of fuel? Now, multiply $0.18 cents across the fleet for an entire year. The numbers are not small.
It is critical that motor carriers identify where excess speeding is a problem within their company. A fleet management system can help detect and record vehicle speeds and compare them to the posted speed limits within that corridor. When a transportation company identifies a problem, there are several ways they can curb excess speeding:
- Set speed limits on roadways and freeways to more than 5 or 10 mph max over the posted speed limit.
- Create alerts that allow supervisors to monitor speeding events and take specific actions to mitigate the fallout.
- Set up a program to coach truck drivers on the importance of keeping an eye on their RPMs and specific ways they can increase overall miles per gallon.
- Ensure you are rewarding and commending truck drivers who stay within a specific speed range and optimize their fuel savings.
- Invest in a solution that provides customizable reports and key performance indicators that will provide real insight into truck driver behavior.
- Set an alert threshold so that changing speed limits can be considered and data accuracy through reporting is guaranteed.
- Enable truck driver scorecards that rank and normalize good truck driving behavior.
Excessive Idling is a Problem
If there is one big enemy to proper fuel savings, it is excessive idling. According to the Department of Energy, engine idling can waste as much as one gallon of fuel per hour. Stretched across an entire workday or month, that kind of money adds up.
It has also been reported that each year, compounded between passenger cars light trucks, medium-duty trucks, and heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles, up to 6 billion gallons of gas per year is wasted when the vehicle isn’t even moving.
If a motor carrier can utilize technological methods to monitor speed and poor driving, they can also monitor situations in which excessive idling is a problem. It is important to limit idle time and set in-cab alerts to let a truck driver know when excessive idling is decreasing fuel efficiency. This data can also be used for coaching and uptraining on the best ways to decrease idling and increase overall fuel usage.
It is also important to remember that not all idling situations are created equal. There is a difference between productive and non-productive idling. A fleet must take a proactive role in managing idle time depending on the situation. Doing so will go a long way to improving what is paid at the pump.
The most important question to ask is this: How much does your fleet know about how much time their truck drivers spend idling? There are straightforward ways to identify where excessive idling has become a problem. Such situations include warming up the engine longer than is necessary, leaving the engine running during stops or deliveries, or keeping the engine running to operate in-cab equipment.
Keep a Close Eye on Maintenance
Proper maintenance is part of a good fuel management equation. If a fleet vehicle is running optimally in all conditions, it can help identify the precise best time to perform maintenance, whether preventative or otherwise. But how can a fleet establish enough notice of preventative maintenance without disrupting workflows?
An integrated fleet management solution goes a long way to automating processes that would otherwise bog down a fleet’s back-office in a ton of calculations, corroborating receipts, and figuring out better route planning. With software helping complete these tasks, a lot of manual labor (see: Money) is freed up for other aspects of fleet management.
Keeping a commercial motor vehicle in good shape can improve overall gas mileage by an average of 4%, which equates to around $0.10 cents per gallon. According to fueleconomy.gov, this only multiples over time. Average it across the fleet, and the savings become quite apparent. Other maintenance aspects to pay close attention to in order to get the most out of your fuel management measures include:
- Maintaining proper tire inflation.
- Checking for excessive tire wear.
- Keeping axles aligned and minimizing rolling resistance, as well as repairing vehicle body damage.
- Using the recommended grades of motor oil.
No matter what, a comprehensive maintenance program will not only ensure fleet vehicles stay on the road and providing revenue, but they are optimized for fuel efficiency.
Checking Navigation and Delivery Schedules
There is an interesting quote where truck driving is concerned: The most expensive mile a truck driver will ever drive is the one they did not need to. Unfortunately, this statement is extremely true, and far too often truck drivers end up on routes that are not maximized for fuel efficiency.
According to recent statistics, the operational cost of running a commercial motor vehicle averages around $1.60 per mile. If you do the math based on average driving time divided by around 100,000 miles driven per year, you are looking at an average vehicle operational cost of nearly $8,000. When you multiply that across an entire fleet, you are looking at a huge number of excess costs.
By implementing a comprehensive fleet management solution across the fleet, these costs can be mitigated. When a motor carrier integrates commercial navigation parameters into their route planning, they can have a big impact on decreasing fuel costs. Considerations that should be made in this area include:
- Real-time road network updates, including construction, potential hazards, and inclement weather.
- Yard approaches and yard exits.
- Fully customizable out of corridor alerts.
- Fully customizable points of interest to support use of preferred fueling locations.
- Truck driver and vehicle availability.
- Frequency of visits.
- Specific customer requests.
- Loading and unloading times.
These systems help take the guesswork out of scheduling and routing. An integrated software solution can seamlessly communicate with other aspects of your fleet management system. Whether it be through setting the best schedules, optimizing routes, or taking ancillary factors into account, fuel management can be better managed at the helm of keyboard.
Keeping an Eye on Fuel Slippage
If there is one aspect of fuel management that isn’t discussed enough, it is fuel slippage. As the price of oil increases, there is real opportunity for a motor carrier to become a victim of fuel theft, which manifests itself in the form of either outright theft or unauthorized purchases.
There are fuel efficacy modules that can be built into a fleet management system and used to monitor the fuel usage on a particular vehicle or fleet of vehicles. Fuel tracking can also be optimized using a fuel card. Integrating a comprehensive fuel card program into a fleet management system is not difficult. It becomes a cinch to compare where a vehicle is to what fuel was used and when.
Built in modules can track fuel efficiency and monitor a vehicle’s fuel usage. It can also be used to identify fraudulent card usage and detect abnormalities in fuel usage. Even better, it frees up your back office from having to dig out of a ton of paperwork.
A fleet management system can help with your fuel usage by reducing costs on several fronts. Motor carriers simply cannot afford to not embrace technological solutions when they can do so much good for a fleet.