Along with insurance, tax, maintenance and servicing, paying out for fuel is a necessary if unwanted expense for any fleet vehicle operator. This continuous outgoing shows no signs of getting cheaper either and has caused several businesses to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy during the global recession.
Even though signs of recovery are becoming more apparent, fuel prices remain an ongoing issue. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to make this expense a little bit more bearable. From vehicle-based changes such as regular checks and everyday maintenance to educating drivers about the rewards and ramifications of fuel-efficient driving, any fleet manager can make positive steps towards improvement.
What’s more, environmentally friendly vehicles with low CO2 levels can also reduce insurance contributions, excise duty and corporation tax. Therefore, you can ill afford to disregard or ignore the following advice.
1. Purchase fuel efficient vehicles
Ideally, one of the best ways to keep fuel expenses down is by having an efficient fleet of vehicles. Today, manufacturers are striving to create the most economical engines possible, as this has become a priority for everyday customers and commercial clients.
Thankfully, technology is improving all the time and modern vehicles are far more frugal than older models. Not only will you need to fill up the tank less, vehicle excise duty is bound to be more affordable too.
Even though purchasing a fleet of fuel-efficient vehicles could be quite expensive, it might be more cost-effective in the long run if you consider the potential money saving benefits.
2. Maintain tyres
Seeing as your vehicle fleet probably spends a lot of time on the road, certain parts will undergo a fair amount of wear and tear too, most notably tyres.
Under-inflated tyres have more rolling resistance and require greater effort to keep moving, which burns fuel. On top of that, wheels that aren’t aligned properly also make the engine work harder and will result in poor fuel economy.
A study by Athlon Car Lease has revealed how fitting the right tyres, inflated to the correct pressures, can cut fuel consumption by up to 15 per cent*. Therefore, always make sure tyres are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressures and whenever the vehicle undergoes a service, be certain that wheels are correctly aligned and perfectly balanced.
3. Fine tune engines
Installing a high tech chip or remapping your vehicle’s in-built computer are fairly extreme steps to take in the pursuit of greater fuel efficiency. While these measures work to a certain extent, a few simpler tuning tips can make a noticeable difference.
As oil becomes older it also gets thicker, doesn’t work as effectively and can lead to breakdowns. Therefore, think about changing the oil every 3,000 miles or so. Try to use synthetic oil whenever possible as it has a more durable composition, is better for the environment and has been found to last three times longer than conventional oil.
You may also want to change a vehicle’s spark plugs, as misfiring engines can decrease miles per gallon by seven per cent. Thankfully, these are very easy to change and won’t cause a vehicle to be off the road for much more than an hour.
4. Clear clogged air filters
Yet another simple bit of vehicle maintenance that can make all the difference, cleaning clogged air filters will result in a more efficient vehicle.
This is because a dirty filter will restrict the flow of air into the engine, resulting in substandard economy. Luckily, you can improve an air filter’s performance without having to buy a replacement.
Locate your air filter, remove it from the engine and look for dust or grime. Vacuum the inside of the chamber, wipe off any excess dirt and put the air filter back in place. You might not notice much change in terms of economy, but it is bound to be making a difference, which could save a substantial amount of money over time.
5. Remove unnecessary load
This next step might not be possible, as a lot will depend on the type of vehicle and its intended purpose. But if you can remove any unnecessary load, such as roof racks or boxes, efficiency is sure to increase.
Even though modern roof racks are lightweight and aerodynamic, they create resistance and increase drag. This makes the engine work harder and the vehicle will burn more fuel.
Therefore, try to carry tools, equipment and accessories inside the vehicle or remove roof racks when they’re not being used. After all, the manufacturer will have spent a huge amount of time perfecting the aerodynamics of a vehicle to help consumers with issues such as fuel economy.
6. Use air conditioning sparingly
On hot and humid days, air conditioning can feel like a godsend. Unfortunately, this luxury uses up a tremendous amount of power and fuel.
In fact, when the air conditioning is on it can consume up to 10 to 20 per cent more fuel, which has the potential to make a significant difference when filling up at the pumps. Therefore, it is important to educate drivers about when is best to use this refreshing feature.
At slow speeds, having the windows open is the best option, as aerodynamic drag is minimal. But for motorway driving use the air conditioner instead, as this is more fuel-efficient than having the windows down.
7. Driver behaviour
Even if your driver has a time sensitive job or needs to complete an urgent assignment, behaviour behind the wheel can have a considerable impact on economy.
In a manual vehicle, drivers should change gears early to keep the revs down. Constantly accelerating and stopping makes a difference too, so it is important to identify upcoming hazards and predict potential situations. Smooth driving results in better fuel economy.
Speed can also effect fuel consumption, so think about imposing restrictions or installing limiters. It has been found that driving at 50mph uses 25 per cent less fuel than 70mph, while travelling at 90mph consumes 60 per cent more.
8. Gather data
In the past, trying to improve fuel economy for your entire fleet was a bit of a guessing game and it was difficult to single out inefficient vehicles or drivers. Not anymore…
With advanced management technology, you can receive an abundance of information relating to every aspect of your fleet. Live data, speed analysis reports and information about driver behaviour can be relayed to your computer screen via software installed on the vehicle.
This can be viewed in real time or analysed retrospectively to gain an all-encompassing overview of particular employees or entire fleets. From there, you can update vehicles or change routes in order to save more money on fuel.
9. Driver training
Even if you have an experienced and skilled pool of drivers, there is no harm in training them to be even more fuel efficient behind the wheel.
Thanks to the aforementioned fleet management software, you can identify exactly which drivers require further education. Although this will avoid the possibility of wasting money on employees that don’t require training, you might have to think strongly about whether the cost of training and tuition is worth it.
But additional training can also improve other aspects of your employee’s skillset. So along with becoming a more fuel conscious driver, there is every chance they’ll be much safer and cautious on the roads too, lowering the risk of accidents or vehicle damage.
10. Reward fuel efficient drivers
Every now and then, an organisation’s workforce needs some motivation and incentives to carry out the best job possible. After all, it is in the company’s best interests to keep employees happy and hungry in their chosen occupation.
When it comes to something like fuel-efficient driving, there is nothing stopping you from providing a reward to careful and conscious personnel.
Whether it is an annual award or monthly bonus for the driver that returns the best MPG, use your imagination to come up with something that employees would actually work towards. Just make sure you don’t give out more than you’re actually saving.
11. Efficient routes
In an ideal world, your fleet of vehicles will be constantly moving and getting the most out of their fuel tanks. However, this is never the case, as traffic jams and congestion means vehicles are often at a stand still.
Therefore, think about investing in some GPS devices or satellite navigation systems that feature life traffic data and information about planned road works.
Drivers will be able to avoid problems and keep moving, as a stationary vehicle is incredibly bad for economy. Furthermore, they might come across alternative routes that are quicker and easier than they’re used to.
12. Downsize vehicles
Again, a lot will depend on the type of business, but running a fleet of vehicles that are unnecessarily big could have huge repercussions in terms of fuel efficiency.
Small vehicles are much more economical and will probably be less to insure and tax as well. Manufacturers are well aware that both individual consumers and commercial customers want more for their money, so you might be surprised at just how spacious some smaller vehicles are.
If you do decide to downsize, be certain that the vehicle is up to the job, as it is much easier to have excess room than not enough.
Fuel efficiency summary
Keeping up with ongoing and costly fuel payments for your fleet of vehicles can often feel like an uphill struggle. Seeing as fuel is an absolute essential, it is easy to shrug off the notion that money can be saved and simply keep paying for this inevitable expense.
However, by looking at and scrutinising every single factor that effects fuel economy, a substantial and significant difference can be made. While some of these measures require a financial outlay, the potential savings could quite easily make it worthwhile in the future.
Replacing your entire fleet or downsizing certain vehicles might be too much of an upheaval, so concentrate on proactive initiatives such as fleet management software and driver training. However, don’t snub or shun minor measures such as everyday checks and regular maintenance, as these can result in a reduction in outgoings too.
*Information sourced via TomTom