There are numerous strategies that fleet managers implement to conserve fuel. Idle reduction, preventative maintenance, outfitting vehicles with aerodynamic devices and monitoring driver behavior are likely the ones that first come to mind.
However, another strategy, called “rightsizing,” may not be as familiar, but can be very effective in helping fleets conserve fuel.
Rightsizing helps fleet managers build and maintain sustainable, more fuel-efficient fleets by optimizing fleet size and composition. It’s not uncommon for fleets to grow over time, and when they do, there are often vehicles that are rarely used, are highly specialized, or are no longer suitable for fleet applications. In short, the size and composition of the fleet are out of sync with the fleet’s current needs.
Rightsizing helps get the two back in sync and in balance with the fleet’s needs and objectives. It can include the elimination or reassignment of vehicles that are rarely used or are no longer suitable and/or the replacement of those vehicles for ones with a higher fuel economy.
Developing an effective rightsizing strategy begins with fleet managers taking into account the daily vehicle needs of their fleet, such as the number, class and types of vehicles, average mileage, payload capacities and fuel economy. And, based on this information, then taking a critical look at their fleet operations to identify opportunities that reduce fuel use — which vehicles can be replaced, reassigned or eliminated.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), key to this process is evaluating how important each vehicle is to the fleet’s overall performance, and how fleet managers accomplish this is by answering questions regarding their fleet, including:
- What is the optimal number of vehicles required to support the needs of the fleet?
- What tasks are accomplished by each vehicle?
- What is the daily, weekly or monthly mileage of each vehicle?
- Are vehicles the optimal type, class and size for the job?
- Are there any vehicles that are no longer cost-effective to operate or no longer fulfilling their purpose?
- Are there vehicles that are not being used or have excessive downtime?
- Can a vehicle be replaced with a lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicle?
With questions answered, fleet managers should next evaluate the business case of each vehicle to determine if replacing, reassigning or eliminating a vehicle would reduce fuel and maintenance costs without compromising fleet activities. According to the DOE, what is often required for this analysis is for fleet managers to define evaluation criteria and rank vehicles, either with their own analysis or with existing evaluation tools.
Keep in mind that what is important to an effective rightsizing strategy is keeping drivers in the loop, by asking for their input on the process. Drivers are very knowledgeable about fleet vehicles and how they are being used to tackle fleet objectives. Plus, giving drivers a voice and stake in the game can help calm any resistance or frustration with the rightsizing process, which, if fostered, could negatively affect morale and productivity.
If it is determined that vehicles need to be replaced with fuel-efficient or with alternative vehicles or a combination of the two, making smarter choices means greater ROI. To that end, let’s look at a couple of purchasing choices to help you achieve that.
- Switching to Smaller, More Efficient Engines
Smaller engines can help meet operational needs without downgrading vehicle class and often have the same horsepower as a larger engine, for example a 4-cylinder versus a 6-cylinder engine.
- Buying Lighter Vehicles
Reducing vehicle weight, reduces fuel use. For every 10% drop in weight, fuel use is reduced between 5% and 10%. So, choose lightweight components, such as aluminum, metal alloys and metal matrix composites, and avoid heavy accessories.
- Using Alternative Fuels and Vehicles
Switching to green fuels and/or alternative vehicles not only reduces fuel use, but also lowers maintenance costs and reduces operating costs, with the cost savings offsetting higher purchase prices.
To learn more about the factors that impact the efficiency of your fleet and fueling program, download our white paper today.