Fuel prices are always a top concern for fleet managers. But with prices currently through the roof, focusing on fuel efficiency is more important than ever for running a profitable fleet and protecting your bottom line.
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as of March 2022, the price of diesel was at the highest level since 1994 — topping $5.00 a gallon. Considering current global events, a significant price drop is not likely in the cards.
Improving Your Fleet’s Fuel Efficiency
There is good news for fleet managers despite record prices: It’s never too late to take steps and make investments to improve fuel efficiency and lower fuel costs.
Fuel efficiency does not begin and end at the pump. It begins with your drivers and vehicles. To that end, let’s take a look at:
- Fuel efficiency tips to pass along to your drivers.
- Steps and investments to ensure your vehicles get optimal mpg and you get the most from your fuel dollars.
Drivers are the number one factor in fuel efficiency and controlling fuel costs. According to the EPA, drivers can impact fuel efficiency by as much as 33% and drivers with the highest skill can get 35% better mpg than those less skilled.
For fleet managers, the message is clear — getting greater fuel efficiency means ramping up driver training. It also means investing in technology such as in-cab cameras that monitor drivers. With cameras, you can identify behaviors that waste fuel and take immediate action to correct them. Here are the top two offenders:
Speed has a huge impact on fuel consumption. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), a truck traveling at 75 mph consumes 27% more fuel than one traveling at 65 mph. Generally, every mile per hour over 60 mph reduces fuel economy by one-tenth of a mile per gallon.
Additionally, traveling at inconsistent speeds and continuously slowing up or down is a fuel efficiency “no-no.” When possible, lock into a safe speed and stick with it. Also helpful is using cruise control to maintain a constant speed and avoid starts/stops.
Idling is your fuel dollars wasted on going nowhere — as in zero mpg. Plus, idling increases engine maintenance costs, shortens engine life, and harms the environment.
Investing in a telematics solution that provides idling data can help prevent excessive idling. Or you may find fleet management software and GPS tracking software that shows where vehicles have traveled and how long they were at each location to be more effective.
A good rule regarding idling vehicles is for drivers to shut their vehicles off when they leave the vehicle. A half-hour of idling can reduce mpg by around one-third and waste up to a gallon or more of fuel per hour.
As fleet inventories grow, so can the number of vehicles that are rarely used or are unsuitable for current applications. Managing fleet size by rightsizing is a proven way to improve fuel efficiency. Methods include:
- Replacing older vehicles with newer/fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Choosing lighter vehicles.
- Using alternative fuel vehicles.
- Purchasing vehicles with smaller/efficient engines.
Another investment worth considering is route and scheduling software to improve routing efficiency, reduce empty miles and increase fuel efficiency. For long-haul trucks, trimming just 1% of empty miles from one truck can save over 100 gallons of fuel, improve productivity, and improve customer satisfaction.
Additionally, vehicles can be more fuel-efficient by:
1. Reducing Vehicle Weight
Every 10% drop in weight reduces fuel use between 5 and 10%. You can drop the weight by choosing lightweight components made from aluminum, metal alloys, and metal matrix composites. For example, choosing cast aluminum wheels can drop vehicle weight by 160 lbs. (40 lbs. x 4), while downsizing to a lighter-weight and smaller engine can drop 700 lbs. from vehicle weight.
2. Keeping Tires and Tire Pressure in Check
Keeping tires properly inflated is key to fuel efficiency and tread mileage. For example, tires underinflated by 20 psi will lose 2% fuel efficiency and increase tread wear by 25%.
Outfitting vehicles with low-rolling resistance tires is another way to increase fuel efficiency. Made with less tread rubber and formulated for greater stiffness, less energy is required to keep them rolling. Less energy means less fuel burned. To gain a fuel efficiency advantage, bear in mind that low rolling tires must be properly inflated at all times as their performance is greatly influenced by the pressure of the air in them.
Proper alignment is also key to fuel efficiency. Aligned axles reduce fuel consumption and tire wear. This means you save on fuel costs and tire replacement costs.
3. Switching Engine Oils
Lower viscosity engine oils reduce viscous drag on moving parts, which allows the oil to flow more efficiently through the engine. This also reduces any parasitic losses than can affect fuel economy. As a result, your engine does more with less, completing more work cycles through longer drain intervals. This keeps vehicles on the road longer and saves money by reducing downtime and providing a 1 to 2% fuel economy optimization.