Improving your fuel efficiency has a lot of financial and environmental benefits, but it’s not always obvious how to make meaningful changes. Luckily, saving a few dollars at the pump isn’t hard or complicated. Make every gallon count with these 10 tactics to reduce your cost-per-mile.
1. Cut engine idling
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour.
If you’ve got heavy-duty trucks, the numbers are even worse: 0.8 gallons of fuel per hour. A long-haul truck idles about 1,800 hours a year, using up 1,500 gallons of diesel.
Additionally, in certain cities it’s illegal to idle for periods of time, sometimes for as little as under one minute. Fleet managers can reduce fuel and oil waste by giving their drivers the following idling guidelines:
- Turn off the engine while waiting or making deliveries.
- Turn off the engine while stuck in traffic.
- Do not idle to warm up the engine; simply start driving.
The right GPS-based fleet tracking tool can monitor vehicle idle time, providing you with specific data to better address the wasteful habit.
2. Monitor driving patterns
In a 2014 report, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted that driver behavior is by far the largest single contributor to improving fuel efficiency. “There can be as much as a 35 percent difference in fuel consumption between a good driver and a poor driver,” the report explained.
Speeding, braking and acceleration patterns all play a role in fuel consumption, and fleet-tracking technologies like telematics can help optimize driving techniques. If you have difficulty getting your drivers on board with the cause of fuel efficiency, try taking the safe-driving track. More eco-friendly driving habits are also safer in general — and most drivers can agree safer is better. Also ensure your delivery or service windows allow for ample transport time, to discourage drivers from speeding due to lateness.
It is important to note that not all monitoring happens with a GPS or log. Often, looking at gasoline consumption can help business owners determine whether drivers are using good practices on the road or whether they’re operating inefficiently. Get the most out of your fleet by gaining more insight into your fleet fuel costs and your expense per mile.
3. Proactively maintain your vehicles
Fleet owners can further reduce costs by adopting a proactive maintenance schedule. A properly tuned engine can help increase gas mileage by an average of four percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Fleets with reactive maintenance are more likely to suffer costly breakdowns — and it’s not just the repairs that are expensive. It can also cost you in wasted drive time, lost employee wages and disrupted delivery schedules.
4. Plan driver routes
Your fleet should be leveraging GPS technology to determine the best routes possible, ideally combining pick-up and drop-off schedules to minimize driving and save on fuel.
Also make sure your drivers have access to the directions and audio instructions so they don’t get lost or distracted by looking at a map.
5. Get a fuel card
Fuel cards can help your business better track and optimize vehicle-related expenses. Many fuel card offerings include discounts on gas from approved suppliers, which can lower your fuel expenses. Cards can also help prevent fuel theft, a costly business problem.
6. Reduce out-of-route miles
With fleet-tracking software, business owners can regularly review a report of actual miles driven compared to the reported miles for each trip. Wherever possible, out-of-route miles should be identified and reduced. Business owners can instruct drivers that they must find meals within a specified radius of the route and deploy GPS technology to find the closest gas station.
If possible, business owners should consider switching to onsite fueling, to eliminate drivers making fueling stops themselves. Fleet managers can also coach drivers who frequently get lost to improve their familiarity with the area or their routes.
7. Avoid unnecessary weight
An extra 100 pounds in a vehicle can increase gas costs by up to $0.03 cents per gallon.
While that may not sound like a significant amount in and of itself, extrapolating these costs over hundreds or thousands of gallons across multiple vehicles over an entire year can result in a major added expense. Ensure vehicles are kept clear except for the necessary packages or equipment, and never load up more payload than what is required for that trip.
8. Encourage off-peak driving
In some locations, rush-hour traffic can double or even triple travel time, and stop-and-go traffic is particularly bad for fuel efficiency.
Work with your team to plan as much driving as possible during off-peak hours when traffic is lighter. Trips during early mornings or late evenings will experience less idling and reduced fuel consumption, saving your business money and time.
Remember, though, that road construction tends to be scheduled at night — so ensure your dispatchers or operations managers take any ongoing work into account when selecting routes.
9. Dispatch the closest vehicle
Real-time vehicle tracking across your entire fleet will allow you to dispatch the closest vehicle to a new delivery or appointment, in turn improving margins for your business.
Advanced fleet-tracking programs can fully, or partially, automate this kind of dispatching and routing. A human dispatcher can also be taught to take proximity and driving efficiency into account when dispatching for a new order or appointment.
10. Regularly check tire pressure
According to a study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, under-inflated tires significantly lower a car’s average gas mileage. Vehicles with tires inflated at 75 percent of the recommended pressure use up to three percent more fuel, and vehicles with tires inflated at 50 percent of the recommended pressure level can use up to 10 percent more fuel.
Checking your fleet’s tire pressure regularly will improve your cost-per-mile, and prevent unsafe situations from developing in your tires. It’s a good idea to make tire pressure a mandatory part of every driver’s pre-trip safety check. This includes keeping an eye on the vehicle’s tire-pressure monitoring system, but also visual checks to identify anything missed by the electronic equipment.
Use these 10 techniques to ameliorate your vehicles’ fuel efficiency — and save you money, too.